Friday, May 29, 2009

Sweet and Stubborn!

Oh my goodness me... so forgive me in advance because I'm about to gush.

This week, as a newly qualified Tec Deep Diver, I was taken with some of our customers and highly experienced tec diving staff to enjoy a pleasure dive on HMS Stubborn of the beautiful Maltese coast.

I'd probably gotten into Tec diving for a less than fantastic reason - working in various diving centres, I'd acquired a lot of equipment in lieu if payment during harder financial times (dry suit, 2 regulators). Add to this some suggestive gifts from an old flame who wanted to convert me (back plate and harness) and a loaner from friends who were hell bent on me enjoying the deep quarries of Britain... I was sat with a whole tec set bar the twins!

I love to learn, and after becoming an Instructor, I felt it was time to become a student again (for the rest if anything!). Continuing to learn is so important for instruction - it gives you new enthusiasm, more skills and knowledge and also an empathy for those who are meeting challenges on their courses.

And that's how it began. I liked all the ideas behind Tec Diving - highly organised, backed-up and always in the aim of utmost safety.. but I wasn't sure how it was going to reward me in a sense of something to be passionate about. I'm not a massive military history fan, and cold, dark boxes of slate didn't thrill me either.

Despite this, I began the course with close friends both as my buddy and instructor. Even if I never Tec dived after the course, I will always treasure the fun we had on all those weekends of drilling and straining - learning to dive all over again!

I made it to Tec Diver Level 1 just in time to move to Malta for a summer of fun. Under the expertise of Techwise staff, I reached Tec Deep Diver and enjoyed the change from 4 degrees and limited viz, to a warm 20 on the temperature and metres of blue to enjoy. We'd seen the beautiful scenic dives around Gozo's Blue hold and Inland sea - but everyone kept telling me the best was yet to come. I wasn't sure how – wasn’t one wreck just like another - a place for life to grow into an artificial reef?.

So I had my doubts as we powered out to the site by boat. Would it be worth the fettling and equipment tinkering, the analysing and the sweating in a dry suit on the surface?!?!

The answer, of course is an elated YES! Absolutely amazing and now I can't wait to return! The beautiful rush of 'sky diving' down into the blue and watching the great hulk of the HMS Stubborn silently appear from a misty outline turning to a real and beautiful sight to see. The peaceful empty ocean surrounding us. The feeling of sneaking a peak where so few others have been, and even better to share it with close friends. This is a dive I could never have done on recreational gear - those who have I would call crazy. Barely a minutes view of the wreck and all of the danger added! Who would do that!? But now the effort of the training paid off, 20 lovely minutes wander up and down its length, the fish flitting by our eyes as we scanned the carcas of this wartime machine, perfectly preserved by the seas cocoon, almost untouched by time, but for the growth of pretty algae.

Even as we left, we continued to grin and enjoy the commradery. Nine of us floating effortlessly at the deco lines, smiling and signalling how great the dive had been! I saw it now... darkness and cold didn't really bother me. Bravery I can do... but not bravado... here we were all equal - newbies and old hands, all alike in our joy and wonder at the treasures that the deeps hold, and the joy of diving!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Gas Giddy

The Techwise boys are out to Gozo today to dive the Blue Hole and the Inland Sea. They are clocking up Tec Dives 10 and 11 for students on their Tec Deep Diver Course. Its a truly beautiful place to dive deep, white sandy bottom, then up folling the reef with an amazing array of colourful coral and algae. As you enter into the passage to the Inland Sea, look out for John Dory Fish.

As they prepare for the dives, the shop floor is a flurry of activity. People mark their slates, while others analyze their gas mixes in stage cylinders that will help them to exit the water a little quicker after loading Nitrogen at such depths.

Understanding the behaviour of gases and their relationship to your body during dives - its an essential component of Technical Diving, even more so as you progess to Trimix Courses and dives. It requires an almost paranoic care in checking and rechecking the mixes for your safety at depth. Analyzing the mix of gases is each diver's personal duty, just like on the Enriched Air Diving Course from the recreational specialties.

One way to understand gases in a more intimate way is to take the DSAT Gas Blender Course, which enables you to mix TextEnriched Air, and - with an extra course - Trimix. You understand better the way that gases interact with each other, their characteristics and considerations. It also means that if you decide to be ultra-careful, you can even see the making of your gases from start to finish, giving you full control of your safety.

So as the final strips of gaffer-tape marks the mix and MOD, we wish the Techwise staff and students all the best and the greatest success on their course dives.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Trimix - Techies and Tickle...

Do you remember 10 years ago, maybe a little more, when the word Nitrox began to trickle down into divers' vocabulary? People said, 'it's the way forward' about the benefits of Text Enriched Air diving, despite the extra education necessary.

You may find pretty soon that the same might be being said of Text Trimix diving, which is becoming so popular in technical diving that for many, it is considered the natural compliment to the Text Tec Deep course and is taken soon after achieving this.

Trimix, just like Enriched Air Nitrox has its own unique set of benefits and limitations or considerations. It requires highly accurate and rigid decompression stops, with less distance between stops, resulting in more stops before surfacing. Just as with Nitrox, different schools take different approaches to educating divers about this new set of skills and tools.

Here at Techwise we teach DSAT, IANTD and TDI courses, covering a range of these different approaches and disciplines. We figure the more options available, the better we can accommodate students to let them pick the perfect mix for their diving. And as you might know by know, when we're talking Trimix, getting just the right mix is pretty important!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Deeper Meaning...

As we start a new week with a new class of DSAT Tec Deep Students, its gets the cogs whirring about just what it is that makes the course so special.

Perhaps its the challenge. Some might suggest that there's a delight in holding your achievement over others - even at recreational levels most divers have come across this sort of person. But really, your only competition is yourself in technical diving. Your actions must be driven by a value that you cherish, it has to be worht the effort and the risk. You improve only to beat yourself, to further yourself. And at depth, in reality, you must be able to rely on just yourself. Holding outside opinion in to high a priority can only act as a distraction, detracting from your sole focus of achieving the dive in safety.

In order to do this, we become students once again, a joy in itself - learning new skills in theory and also in practice. Of course there is also all the lovely new shiny equipment to enjoy too! Maybe we miss the feeing of excitement and achievement that we felt so long ago when we took our first breath underwater?! Diving on a twinset and wing does mean that we almost learn to dive all over again, with different limitations and possibilities. We must relearn motor skills so that we reach to the right place instinctively - and this is not always the same place that we reached to on our recreational kit. We even learn a new language, different jargon and references.

And of course there is the temptation that taunts every human - to explore, to reach dive sites that were previously barred to us by air and decompression limits. There is something profound about pausing to absorb the quiet beauty of an untouched part of the world. To feel a deeper meaning, a connection that only those who will put in the time and the work can feel...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Summer Start Up

We're already having a fantastic year so far here at Techwise, and the Summer is starting to warm up perfectly. You can feel it in your bones round here that it’s gonna be a good'un.

As more divers want to push themselves further, acquiring new skills and achieving new heights (or depths!) in their diving, Technical Diving is something that people are becoming more and more familiar with and curious about.

Rebreather diving is also growing in popularity and for both of these kids of diving, Techwise are perfectly placed to help newcomers to do their best in this arena, with years of expertise and experience. We currently offer TDI, DSAT, and IANTD training as well as Paul Toomers (Diving Matrix) Rebreather courses.

So far this month we've already had a great laugh and a lot of learning with Sentinel Rebreather student Al Rogers, as well as some 'think pink' moments as our magenta-headed summer staff, Lucy completed her DSAT Tec Deep. You really can't loose out here, whether you finish your course on the Stubborn, or through the awesome natural features of Gozo's Blue Hole and Inland Sea.

This week we also wrapped up an Advanced Nitrox course, and we're also just waiting for the wind to die down a little in time for a dive on the Polynesien. This wreck is a little bit deeper than deep, and we'd really recommend Trimix Training for a clear head on such a dive.

But all the challenges and training that we go through to reach these beautiful places make the achievements of such dives all the more satisfying. To dive a wreck is one thing - but to do it in a safe and accomplished manner really takes your enjoyment to the next level - and that's what Technical and Rebreather Diving is all about - the next level!