I recently had an instructor tell me that he thought it was inappropriate to talk to people in a beginning scuba class about technical diving. “It’s way over their heads and they don’t need to know about it,” he told me. I smiled and told him that I always make sure to talk to my students about technical diving. Let me tell you why.
In most beginning scuba classes students are told about nitrox. The message we give them is simple: if you are not trained to use it, leave it alone. But we don’t stop there. Students are told, at a high level, that oxygen can be dangerous and that special training is necessary to safely use gases with more than 21 percent oxygen (the oxygen content of air) on a dive. Why do we tell them this? Because nitrox has become so prevalent that we assume sooner or later they will run into it, and we want to make sure they do not accidentally or intentionally use it if they are not properly trained.
Technical diving is becoming extremely prevalent as well and presents both new and experienced recreational divers similar issues to enriched air. I doubt that a week goes by where I am not called to the sales floor of our dive center to explain some aspect of technical diving equipment or technical diving procedures to a customer. To think that a beginning diver, or any recreational diver for that matter, will not run into someone who does technical diving, wants to do technical diving, or thinks they know something about technical diving would be very naïve these days. In fact, anyone who walks onto the sales floor at Aquatic Adventures will find technical diving equipment.
The point is this: whether you are a beginner or an experienced recreational diver, sooner or later someone is going to tell you about doing dives below 130 feet or diving beyond the light zone of a cave or wreck. Or they will tell you how they dive with exotic gases. When this happens, every diver needs to understand why there are limits and when it is permissible to go beyond those limits. Knowing at least a little about technical diving, even if you never intend to do it, will help you understand what other divers are talking about, and what the unusual gear you may see is. To that point, let’s take a look at how technical diving equipment differs from the equipment you may be using now.