A few weeks ago I ran a Sidemount Distinctive Specialty Course. This was the 5th course I had taught since I became a Sidemount instructor back in March last year.
Sidemount Diving is one of the newest and most exciting ways to dive. It takes the concept of technical diving, utilizing two tanks, and simplifies it for recreational diving. So not only does this give you much longer bottom times on shallower dives, but it also adds extra conservatism to the dive as you have air redundancy. This allows divers to enjoy their diving even more as they can go to places that one tank previously would not take them, and spend more time enjoying things they could previously get to. With Sidemount diving, a specialized BCD with rails and clips on the back allows you to clip one tank on each side of the body. This creates a more streamlined position in the water and allows divers to swim and hover with ease.
The first day of the course was taught out at Bare Island and proved quite a challenging day as conditions were a little bumpy and we had a large amount of surge on the right side where we were trying to enter and exit. With a little careful planning and excellent timing, we managed to negotiate the waves, and execute giant stride entries with all our gear on. Once in the water we spent some time perfecting weighting, buoyancy and trim. We then completed a range of skills including safety drills, hovers, out of air swims, and tank valve shutdowns. We then spent some time swimming and getting used to tank positioning. Like the entry, the exit also proved interesting. We picked a calm spot and swam up to the edge of the rocks where we could stand up and remove our gear. The second dive was similar to the first and allowed the students to spend more time adjusting to the equipment and practicing skills.
We completed the second day of the course on the wreck of the HMAS Adelaide. This was the first time I had taught the course on the Ex-HMAS Adelaide and proved to be a very worthwhile experience. The boat dives allowed us to enter the water without our tanks and then clip them on in the water. This is one of the great benefits to Sidemount diving. Not only is it more comfortable to dive, you can easily carry your equipment to the edge of the water where you can jump in without the tanks, and then clip them on after – no more carrying heavy equipment on your back – awesome! We descended to 5m, carried out our safety drills and then continued down onto the wreck. The students told me it was a great feeling to be down on the wreck with two tanks as they knew they could spend longer with more air, and that they had the added air redundancy if a problem was to ever occur. At the end of the dive we unclipped our tanks and handed them onto the boat. We then climbed onboard without the weight and stress of any tanks on our back! The second dive was similar to the first with some students clipping tanks on in the water and some clipping their tanks on in the boat and then completing backwards rolls over the side. Completing the course on the HMAS Adelaide was a fantastic way to show the students those extra benefits that Sidemount Diving brings.
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