Introduction into Speciality Diving – Getting personal with our students experiences
Have you ever wanted to stay down a little longer and a little deeper and reaching the limits of recreational diving but not sure what avenue to take in order to do that? Well during this blog we have a detailed overview of what you could expect from speciality diving with Big Blue Tech.
To begin we have an introduction into speciality diving, then move on to a Q & A session with our current Tech Manager Andy Campbell, who isn’t just the brains and beauty of Big Blue but the instructor that is likely to run your speciality course with one of the team; finally reviews from previous and current students who are exploring a world with endless possibilities.
Speciality diving? Well what is it? These are the courses that hone your skills and make you a better diver, they allow you to expand your knowledge / confidence / diving ability and safety… oh and can extend your dive times as well as allowing you to penetrate ship wrecks (there are still limits!) and dive in new configurations such as sidemount
That’s just the start of speciality diving, there is a world of possibilities that are open to all levels of divers who maybe once didn’t think they were capable of or maybe didn’t know existed. In Koh Tao we are very fortunate to have an abundance of dive sites and marine life our boats fin tips, as well as Big Blue Tech being able to provide certifications through SSI / TDI / SDI & PADI all of which will be covered in a little more detail in the Q&A section of this blog.
The reason we can expand our diving capabilities these days is down to the US Navy and some very intelligent men who realised what gases were needed at what depth and what could be so cool about diving with two tanks… well let’s hope we can answer all of your strange and wonderful questions about speciality diving, with the hope that you will understand that doing tech isn’t as scary or intimidating as people make out we only want to make ‘knowledgeable, confident and safer divers’. All the questions and feedback are from real students past and present that had the same questions as maybe you have about speciality diving and what it in tales.
Q&A – With Andy Campbell on an Introduction to Speciality Diving
- What are Specialties?
“The specialties or “Specs” are courses divers can take in order to further their education, they typically last 2-3 days as we add more dives than are requested by the agencies.
In general divers who have completed the advanced course are interested in pushing on to 40m or diving on Nitrox but Navigation and Buoyancy are also skills people want to take to the next level and of course the wreck course is also very popular”
- Are there any requirements for someone to start one of the specialty courses?
“Enthusiasm! As long as you have an open water certification and want to get better then we can look at many options, of course a few fun dives is never a bad thing and we’re lucky here to have great Divemasters that demonstrate just what good buoyancy is whilst leading and it’s not un-common for divers to come in and sya they want to be able to dive lie a Divemaster”
“If you wish to progress past recreational diving and into the Tech side of things then there are prerequisites and in general divers wishing to take these courses have a reasonable amount of experience”
During a course’s such as Nitrox, Deep or Sidemount what is typically required ? And what skill does it in tale?
“All three are great courses and allow you to take on more challenging diving but fundamentally they all involve an academic session Sidemount is a course where you learn to wear one or two tanks on your side instead of on your back, but all of the courses have additional focus on the bedrock of good diving – Buoyancy”
“Nitrox, used to be considered as the first step towards tech as it could extend bottom times and gives the diver a choice of breathing gases for the first time. Nitrox in itself is nitrogen and oxygen and students are trained to use between 22% and 40%, the benefits are huge but it comes with a risk on the oxygen side so divers need to be able to analyse tanks and calculate maximum operating depths, not as ominus as it sounds and actually my first spec”
- Some people find the idea of specialties daunting, why do you think this is?
“It’s natural but hopefully they’re excited at the same time, continued dive education should be challenging but rewarding at the same time and after all a majority of our customers are on vacation so it should be fun as well. After the training I’m a great believer that the customer should dive the “spec” without their instructor in order to experience it and to provoke further questions so we also have Divemasters available to dive in any configuration and on Nitrox… it’s time to reap the rewards for sure”
“We try and make the academics as straight forward as possible and to keep elope within their comfort zone, this isn’t rocket science I can assure you or I wouldn’t be teaching it! But it does need to be understood and certainly plays a large part in diver safety”
- Why should someone be interested in exploring specialties and technical diving?
“Well I guess like any other hobby and for most people diving is a hobby each time you go diving you either want to become a better diver or see something different or just chill out. Specialties allow you to extend from the basic courses of open water and advanced adventure towards the limits of recreational diving, so deep diving allows you down to 40 meters; Nitrox which will allow you to stay longer at a given depth and wreck where we can teach you limited wreck penetration”
“But in order to go beyond recreational limits by going deeper and staying longer then technical diving is the extension from recreational diving that will allow you to do so”.
- What are the benefits to moving from recreational diving to technical recreational diving?
“I would like to think that you’re not moving from one to the other, I still go out and recreational dive, still have fun diving on a single tank. However if the dives I want to do entail going beyond the recreational limits then it’s into technical diving”
“Of course the obvious benefits of Tech are extra depth and time but it’s based on additional knowledge and skill sets some of which are challenging but very rewarding. The dive day changes as does the approach to planning and executing dives but the fundamental reason we do it does not change… it’s a great way to spend time!”.
“So for me it’s like having the right tools in the toolbox do to the dives that you’re interested in and that also requires keeping skills competent and up to date. Refreshers and pool training no matter where you are is a valuable part of preparation for that vacation”
7.What are the costs of the courses?
“Like anything else they can vary and some are more expensive because there are more dives involved and the courses are longer or more equipment is required, so the more intense the course the more it’s going to cost but the more you are going to get from it as well”
“The basic courses at Big Blue Tech specialities start from 5,500 baht; and increase to 8,000 Baht. However you have to look at what you are going to get from it and certainly here with Big Blue Tech we try to maximize this and can tailor packages to suit everyone.
- Most people are not technically focused i.e. mathematical or scientific.. baring this in mind how is the theory side of the courses, and how can that be focused around people who maybe need a little more time understand the theoretical and technical side of the course.
“The internet is a wonderful thing. We now have the majority of our courses available through SSI, TDI and SDI with e-learning so you can do the academics before you arrive and work with your instructor online. You can approach Big Blue Tech and we can sign you up and we can get the online training done before you arrive this gives people time to understand it rather than trying to do it over a limited period of time, when after all they’re on vacation”
“So my advice would be if you want to find out more about the theory of specialty and technical diving then get in touch with a technical diving instructor, I personally spend quite a lot of my time answering questions online from email inquiries and fully encourage anyone to explore this avenue”.
- What is the greatest benefit you can get from just doing one speciality course?
“Experience! But you will only get experience if you take your speciality course and dive it, you could do a buoyancy speciality for instance and then if you don’t dive again for a year you will probably remember some of it but not all of it. So it’s about doing it at the beginning of the vacation and then getting your fun dives in and practicing the skills you learned”
- What’s the difference between TDI, SDI, SSI & PADI in relation to speciality and technical courses?
“Okay so, SDI and TDI which we offer at Big Blue Tech are part of the same family. TDI is technical divers international and SDI is scuba divers international. SSI is scuba schools international and they offer specialities in both recreational and Tech under the TXR an EX brand, whilst PADI also offer specialties and Tech with Tech falling under TecRec”.
“Customers can choose to mix and match with all certs recognised worldwide, so no issues there”.
- What is the philosophy behind technical diving at Big Blue Tech?
“Safety has to be the foundation underpinning all the courses and training we offer, after that the creating sharing knowledge and making sure our students use this, one quote shown to me during my training has stuck with me and I mention it at the start of all my courses”
“The key piece of equipment is a knowledgeable and thinking diver”
“all of the training we conduct is based around this and we encourage continued discussion on completion, I don’t believe our duty of care ends on certification and if a past student seeks clarification then it is always welcome, if in the future they feel they can add something then that’s also part of my own education”.
- Do I need to supply my own set of equipment?
“Nope, we can supply all of the equipment you need at Big Blue Tech. However by the time you get to the level where you want to do tech courses we do expect you to have some basic equipment and there is a small additional rental fee for some basic equipment”.
- What is the best piece of advice you can give someone looking into specialty or Technical diving courses diving
“Look around and challenge the people that you want to train with, if they don’t have time to answer your questions now then maybe they won’t once you arrive. It’s not all about the price like everything else in life, you can get good value for money…but would you buy a cheap parachute?”
- What are the general course durations?
“Anything from one day, to multiple days or even weeks for some packages depending on the speciality and time frame you are working with”
- Are wrecks scary to penetrate?
“The word scary no, I would say it’s more exhilarating”
“If you have got to the point where you want to penetrate a wreck, then I can almost guarantee your first dive will be amazing, when you go into the overhead environment for the first time, everything comes alive! You know your somewhere you want to be”.
“That’s why you do the training,the big thing about doing this type of speciality is the preparation and the understanding of the environment you are going into whether its wreck or cave”
- Do you need specific technical courses in order to do other tech courses i.e. do you need to do your nitrox in order to do your advanced nitrox?
“Yes there are pre-requisites and they are laid out by each of the agencies. They are fairy similar although not all tech certifications from different agencies are equal but you will find any technical instructor that you talk to or will talk you through the pre-requisites. But yes if you want to become an advance nitrox diver you need to be a recreational speciality nitrox diver”
- What course spec bundles is big blue tech currently running?
“We are very fortunate at Big Blue Tech that we have our own boat, but also we have several instructors teaching the bundles. So normally we are in a position to bundle a package to cater for someone’s needs.
If someone comes in and doesn’t want to go deep but wants to go nitrox and penetrate the wreck we can teach that bundle”
“If someone comes in and go all the way through to advance nitrox and deco procedures then we can do a bundle to fit the time scale that they have. But they should have a reasonable amount of time because again in between different courses we want them to do some fun dives in before they move to the next level”
Hear from the students themselves, what they did and how they found doing speciality courses
TOM – DMT
Course – Wreck & Nitrox
Tom said the reason that he wanted to get his specs for nitrox is that he would want to expand his knowledge and extend his dive times when doing his next speciality which was the wreck course. During the course: Andy’s teaching was outstanding, he was direct, through funny and really got you involved. What stood out the most with my course is that Andy really helped me understand in detail things I didn’t understand before about the theory and practical of these speciality courses.
Tech career continued – Tom will further his career with tech specialities by going on to deco and advance nitrox – as he wants extended range on his dives and get a deeper knowledge of the subjects in order to make him a better diver during his career.
Andy’s funniest moment with his student: “Tomathy as he is known in the tech shack… great student lots of interesting questions. Worked really well with Mike both have now slowed down and learned how to ‘not’ penetrate prematurely and enjoy the moment… wreck diving have become a passion for them”
NATHAN – DIVEMASTER
Course – Nitrox, Deep & Sidemount
Nathan was introduced into tech by seeing a couple of Big Blues instructors doing sidemount and the way in which they were diving they seemed to be kicking their fins and gliding with very minimal effort which sparked his interest into how they were able to do it, and if he would be capable of becoming that skilled and become a safer diver. Nathans thoughts on the courses were that Andy was very detailed in his teaching and pedantic. He makes you think that you are your own worst critic and only you can be the best you can which encourages you to be the best you can be.
Signs / signals and instructions in and out of the water were very clear and understandable. If you had issues under the water with a skill or somewhat it is dealt with then and there, you do not dwell on it when you get back on the boat you only look at ways to improve yourself for your next dive. Ideally when you have someone who you dive with who is just as passionate about diving and side mount and enthusiastic to learn and develop their knowledge and skills as you are it makes the experience so much more enjoyable. One of the best moments I’ve had was being able to have a 124 minuet dive at Sail Rock (one of Thailand’s best dive sites) diving sidemount with nitrox, without the skills and certifications I would never be able to have that experience
Nathan has completed a 124 minute dive at Big Blue – In his top 5 best life experiences
Tech career continued: Nathan would follow through with every tech course possible trying to add a new one each time he visits Thailand and Big Blue his quote “keep learning, keep diving keep practicing your skills”
Andy’s funniest moment with his student: “Nathan what an amazing diver – with one of the best buddies ever with Angelika. Will always be remembered for the ‘Nathan check’ please ask him about this”.
“Memorable moment was the 124 minuet dive at sail rock with Tim – a true gentleman”
AMYE – DIVEMASTER
Courses – Deep, Nitrox and Sidemount
Over the past few months I took several courses, I began with nitrox, continued with my deep certification and became hooked on the more technical side of diving. Learning to dive sidemount was always a goal for my diving career. At first I felt overwhelmed with the transition
From recreational with one tank to a completely new style, technique, and equipment that was entirely foreign to me.
Andy was a phenomenal instructor, not only does he teach but he pushes you to be your absolute best, no excuses. The more you dive with him gives you more of a reason to continue with your certifications because he becomes both your instructor and also a mentor. At first tech diving seemed to be entirely too intimidating, but it has made me a far better divemaster and diver. You understand the science of diving more thoroughly and you fall more in love with it as you can begin pushing the limits of both yourself and the possibilities.
Tech career continued: Amye continue in tech with a wreck certification and explore advanced nitrox and deco diving.
Andy’s funniest moment with his student: So many funny moments and such growth in someone’s diving ability. She has plenty of character & has an awesome mother who has just done her open water. 40 meters deep dive in zero viability and sitting in a ball of fish who knew not where they were.
A must have for all rebreather divers
The TDI Preflight Check List holds the essential standardized steps that must be completed for safety on a rebreather directly before entering the water. After assembling a rebreather based on the manufacturer’s recommendations using their check list, the rebreather may sit turned off while in transit to the dive site.
This “preflight check list” adds a short sequence to go through in order to make sure necessary components of the unit are on and functioning directly before entering the water. The TDI Rebreather Preflight Checklist can increase diver safety by making sure the user does not skip vital steps before entering the water.
We have also created a library of rebreather check or build lists to make it easier for TDI Rebreather divers to have access to their checklists on the go.
Click on the Rebreathers below for their unit specific checklist.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Big Blue Tech observed the Thai navy sink one of their own ships today on Koh Tao to provide an artificial reef and wreck diving resource just off the shore from our resort.
The HTMS Sattakut was origionally owned by the US Navy. During World War II USS LCI(L)(G)(M)-739 was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater and participated in the assualt and occupation of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945.
Plans to dive the new wreck are already underway with undoubtedly hundreds of divers just waiting for the conservation society to finish counting the sea stars and let us have at it. We’re expecting a chance to dive it within the week.
The ships unique bow design allowed troops to assault beaches in the security and shelter of it’s forward guns and Armour. This gives the wreck an unusual appearance.
Displacement 246 t.(light), 264 t. (landing), 419 t.(loaded)
Length 158′ 5½”
Beam 23′ 3″
Draft Light 3′ 1½” mean, Landing, 2′ 8″ forward, 4′ 10″ aft, Loaded, 5′ 4″ forward, 5′ 11″ aft
Speed 16 kts (max.), 14 kts maximum continuous
LCI(L) Complement 4 Officers, 24 Enlisted
LCI(G) Complement 5 Officers, 65 Enlisted
LCI(M) Complement 4 Officers, 49 Enlisted
LCI(L) Troop Capacity 6 Officers, 182 Enlisted
LCI(L) Cargo Capacity 75 tons
Armor 2″ plastic splinter protection on gun turrets, conning tower and pilot house
Endurance 4,000 miles at 12 kts, loaded, 500 miles at 15 kts; and 110 tons of fuel
LCI(L) Armament five single 20mm guns, one bow mounted, one each port and starboard forward of wheelhouse, one each port and starboard aft of wheelhouse, on some LCIs two .50 cal machine guns were added
LCI(G) Armament two 40mm guns, four 20mm guns, six .50cal machine guns, 10 MK7 rocket launchers
LCI(M) Armament one single 40mm gun, forward, four 20mm guns, three 4.2mm chemical mortars mounted in three 4ft x 4ft wooden walled 2″ x 6″ high sand boxes on the well deck with the three tripod mortar tubes in position to fire forward over the bow, No. 2 Troop Compartment (under well deck) converted to a magazine
Fuel Capacity 130 tons, lube oil 200 gal.
Propulsion two sets of 4 GM diesels, 4 per shaft, BHP 1,600, twin variable pitch propellers
Koh Tao, Thailand
Big Blue Tech hosted a technical diving discovery day for 8 future technical divers during a day long event conducted by TDI Instructor Ash Dunn and PADI TecRec Instructor Matt Rolph and assisted by future BSAC Technical Instructor Ian Jordan.
The purpose of the day was to provide an introduction to technical diving for some of the recent graduates from the islands monthly IDC and MSDT programs at Buddha View, a PADI CDC Centre based on the southern side of Koh Tao. Buddha View PADI Course Director Mark Soworka helped organize the event to give his graduates and interns a greater knowledge of the booming technical diving industry so his candidates would be better educated in the ever changing and growing scuba diving industry.
Big Blue Tech try to help the local diving comunity by creating fun and unique events to help the next generation of diving professionals get the knowledge and experience of the technical diving sport.
The day began with some videos and theory and then progressed into hands on interaction with the equipment the divers would be using that day.
After a lunch break the divers and instructors headed out on our dedicated tech boat “Nauty Buoy” where all the cylinders, backplates and wings were waiting to take the group of 10 divers underwater.
The divers were shown the features and assembly of the typical technical diving gear and then taken for 2 shallow dives around Koh Tao.
Skills like lift bag deployment, bouyancy, gas shut down, out of air and propulsion techniques were demonstrated and practiced.
The students said they all really enjoyed the day and had a great day being shown something different.
We look forward to seeing the gang from Buddha View back again in the future for some more PADI TecRec Diving.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Big Blue Tech is proud to announce the graduation of a TDI Sidemount diver conducted by Ash Dunn over a 3 day period.
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.
Dive Rite released the Transpac which was able to be converted for sidemount diving, and then later followed it up with the Nomad.
Expansion of tec rec sidemount into recreational and open water courses now occurs in several countries globally. Note that sidemount configuration is not just a positional concept only – correctly matching technical (or even recreational) rigs together with sidemount harnesses is different from merely shifting tank postions using standard recreational gear for convenience, (which is not true sidemount). Sidemount may be split into basic sidemount (single tank – left or right positioned, but nominally left), and advanced sidemount (dual redundant tanks and regs, one left post and one right post).
“Recreational” sidemount unmodified rigs should not be used for tec rec activities, particularly in overhead environs. Further, standard reg configurations, split-fins and other recreational equipment is unsuitable for profile manoeuvres, S-drills and other safety skills which necessarily require advanced sidemount configuration. Instruction in sidemount is not just for skilled enjoyment, but for diver safety. This is further explained in a number of international instructional sites.^^
Big Blue Tech announce the graduation from a TDI Intro to Tech course by instructor Ash Dunn
The TDI Intro to Tech course is the perfect course for divers who have heard about technical diving and want to find out more about this exciting branch of advanced recreational diving. This course walks students through the special techniques, planning procedures and skills that set technical diving apart from traditional sport diving. It will show them how to improve their dive planning methods, in-water skills and streamline their existing gear configuration, in a non-threatening and fun learning environment.
The specific skills this course will highlight are:
Advanced Buoyancy Control
Gear Configuration and Selection
And Many More!
TDI’s Intro to Tech course is a useful stand-alone course for the diver who wants to become a more skilled, more proficient diver regardless of if he intends to move on to technical diving. The course may also be used as an introduction to the TDI Advanced Nitrox course and the TDI Decompression Procedures course. And finally, it is also a good refresher for certified technical divers who may want to refresh their skills or have them re-evaluated by a TDI technical instructor.
Day 1: Theory, technical gear selection and fitting, and tech terminology
Day 2: 2 dives
Day 3: 2 dives
QUALIFICATIONS OF GRADUATES
Graduates will be qualified to enroll in technical diving classes such as advanced nitrox and decompression procedures.
PREREQUISITES FOR ENTERING THE COURSE
Diver Certification. The preferred minimum certification level is NAUI Advanced Diver or higher.
Experience: Documentation of diving experience with a minimum of 50 logged open water dives. Dives shall be varied in environment, depth and activities.
Once you have completed the TDI Intro to Tech Course you may want to continue your exploration of technical diving by taking the TDI advanced nitrox and decompression procedures courses.
Maximum depth for the course: 130 feet.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Big Blue Tech is happy to announce the release of the TDI (technical diving international) Sidemount Course available to divers and instructors around the world.
This new course replaces the SDI Sidemount which will now be exclusively used for open water applications and not for technical diving combination.
This course is designed to teach certified divers how to safely utilize side-mounted primary cylinders as an alternative to the traditional back-mounted configuration.
This course provides the training required to allow candidates to competently and safely use sidmounted tanks to execute none overhead dives to a maximum depth of 45m. The course follows the advanced nitrox outline. The objective of this course is to train candidates in the proper techniques, equipment requirements and hazards involved in Sidemount diving for recreational and technical scuba. This course is run over 3 full days including academic presentations, equipment configuration workshops, 4 training dives and a final exam.
The other benefit of doing your course with BBT for your sidemount training is that we’re registered DiveRite Nomad Instructors AND Diverite distributors for Thailand. So when it comes to sidemount we have you covered.
All sidemount equipment for our training.
Whats is sidemount?
Side mount diving is increasing in popularity in both overhead and none overhead environments. Sidemount diving originated from the Sump diver across Europe who need to transport gear through dry passages and don the equipment again to pass the next Sump. Cave divers and wreck divers all over the world are now adopting this style of diving to open up access to challenging dive sites and for increased flexibility and comfort when traveling and diving tech.
Check out our website for more info at http://www.bigbluetech.net
Koh Tao, Thailand
Big Blue Tech is proud to announce the recent addition to the Big Blue Tech family in Thailand of Matt Rolph who is a highly experienced technical diving instructor from the UK.
Matt has been on the technical diving scene in Thailand for more than 5 years being one of the original resort based tech operators on Koh Tao. Matt, affectionately refered to as medic matt is also trained emergency medical technician, dive medic and British Army Medic.
When not diving Matt is also a volunteer for the emergency response service on Koh Tao. Matt also brings a PADI – TecRec representation to the team as a PADI Tec Trimix Instructor. One of Matt’s first goals will be to cross-over to TDI and BSAC like the rest of the team but Matt will be focusing on PADI courses as that is where the bulk of his experience stems from.
Those of you who already know Matt will know he’s an intelligent, friendly and honest individual and we’re proud to have him join our team.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Big Blue Tech took out some eager and lucky divers on an afternoon of discover technical diving in the ocean around Koh Tao Island.
Technical divers are elite scuba divers in a league of their own and tech diving is surely not for everybody.
But if you are a sophisticated and adventurous diver who is looking for a challenge with calculated risks it might be just the thing for you.
However, before you go on a shopping spree and buy all this exciting tech equipment and enroll in a thrilling tech dive course we give you the opportunity to conduct a DISCOVER TECH DIVING program with one of our experienced tech dive instructors.
This day includes theory, equipment introduction and 2 dives around Koh Tao from our dedicated tech boat.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Big Blue Tech recently completed the training for Janine Tate from her Compressor Operator, Gas Blender, Service Technician and Oxygen Service Technician Course conducted over several days at our technical diving school at the resort on Koh Tao Island.
The compressor operator course trains scuba divers in the s operating and serving of a scuba diving compressor for filling scuba tanks. After that course came the skills for filling scuba tanks with nitrox or enriched air nitrox. This method includes many different skills with partial pressure, continuous flow, oxygen handling and operating.
After all the hot and sweaty compressor work was completed Janine moved on to servicing and cleaning scuba diving regulators and further regulators designed for use with technical diving including oxygen cleaning.
The service technician course introduces students to trouble shooting, stripping and fixing regulators.
Janine, who is already a Divmaster took this training to learn more about the back of shop skills and how to service her own regulator after having poor servicing in the past. Undoubtedly these skills will enhance her employment and her resume/cv in the future.