Thailand – Australia – United Kingdom

SDI Sidemount Open Water Diver Course

Side mounted cylinders provide technical range and access with perfect trim and control.


Koh Tao, Thailand

Big Blue Tech recently completed the first SDI Sidemount Dive Course after receiving approval from SDI/TDI to conduct the course (authored by Big Blue Tech Staff) and finally getting the shipment of Nomad sidemount BCD’s from DiveRite.

Big Blue Tech is the only Diverite dealer in Thailand so we have been eager to get the new sidemount gear and see how it performs in our environment.

Sidemount is a scuba diving configuration which has tanks mounted alongside the diver, below the shoulders and along the hips, instead of on the back of the diver. It is a popular configuration with advanced cave divers, as smaller sections of cave can be penetrated and tanks can be changed with greater ease. Sidemount is also growing in popularity with divers who have difficulty handling the heavy double tanks commonly used by cave divers. Shortcomings of this diving style include a greater difficulty in sharing air while diving with team members using backmounted tanks.

Sidemount diving began in England, where it was originally used in partially submerged caves. It was an easier method of transporting diving gear between totally submerged sections of the cave (sumps). Americans began using sidemount in the mid seventies for the same purpose. In the early eighties, Wes Skiles, and other Florida cave divers began to use sidemount to explore cave passages that were too low for conventional back mounted tanks. They quickly found that the British style of sidemount didn’t work well in low passages, and slowly developed a “Florida style” form of sidemount. Today, the British refer to this “Florida style” diving as “American sidemount”.

Most sidemount rigs used to be home-made as there were no commercial production of kits like there were for standard scuba rigs. One of the later “pioneers” of sidemount diving was Bill Rennaker, who started making kits available with sidemount accessories such as a custom butt plate.

he SDI Sidemount Diver Course is designed to train certified divers how to safely utilize side-mounted primary cylinders as an alternative to the traditional back mounted configuration.

Diving in sidemount configuration basically means you take one or two cylinders and place them on either side of your body, rather than mounting them on your back, which is traditionally known as backmounted. So is it just a change in equipment configuration then? That would be correct; however you will find that with the right training it will be much more than that.

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