Let me first say that I hold a professional certification from a large, mainstream scuba certification agency and actively introduce others to the sport I love so much. I have always believed diving to be a safe sport (shoot, more people are injured by cows in a given year than diving), but the underlying goal of these agencies seems to focus more on certifying a large number of people with the most basic of skills, and not to certify them to be smarter, safer, team focused divers. This is what led me to UTD and to this class.
After months of coaxing from a close friend of mine, a few experimental dives and conversation over a few deco facilitating beverages at McLeary’s, I decided to venture into the world of technical diving by enrolling in the UTD Essentials of Tech training class being offered by Jon and Tanya at Submerged. I, like most divers, generally associated technical diving with caves, caverns, traveling to the deepest depths of the ocean, crazy breathing gasses, cold water and funny looking suits reminiscent of the Stay-Puff marshmallow man straight out of Ghostbusters, but beyond this I never really considered what the “technical” part of technical diving meant. Until now…
Over this past weekend, my classmates and I spent more than 10 hours in the classroom and nearly 2.5 hours (straight) in the pool practicing these new skills. The first thing I noticed about this course was the immediate focus placed on team diving. There was not one thing we were taught this weekend that was not for the sole purpose of being a functioning member of either a two-person or three-person team. We all learned the same skills. We all practiced them the same way, and we all held each other accountable for getting it right. This isn’t to say that the larger organizations do not focus on team diving. They do have the buddy system after all. I simply mean that UTD standards go far beyond conventional teaching. Everything revolves around the team, and that is a very big difference between UTD and the mainstream agencies.
We learned about a minimalist approach to gear configuration and the importance of everyone on the team diving with consistent configurations to eliminate the risk of not knowing where to find something if/when you need it. No more “Who’s got an Air2?” and who doesn’t. One of our classmates was on sidemount and despite his breathing system being different than a backmount configuration the skills he learned were EXACTLY the same as ours. Team diving + Consistentcy in gear and skills = SAFETY.
In the end I realized that everything we were being taught was for one purpose…to make us all safer divers. Safety was also evident in UTDs use of a concept called Rock Bottom, or the amount of air two divers need to ascend in an emergency situation to either the surface, or first gas switch, while doing ALL deco stops along the way. This amount gets reserved, and you plan your dive with the remaining gas. Ever been on a dive boat when the DM just tells you to start your 30m ascent with 70 bar? Guess what my friend, if you have to air share and do all the stops you will most likely not make it safely to the surface as a team. With RB, you might not get as long a dive, but you AND your teammates will make safely home, and isn’t that the point?
UTD, Jon and Tanya placed significant emphasis on teaching us why we were doing certain things. They didn’t read to us from a manual, or show us pretty pictures. Although they did video us “monkeys” in the pool, which led to some very constructive feedback upon review. This was serious business…and FUN. So, if you are already a diver, or if you are considering getting into diving, do yourself a favor and make the investment to become a safer, team oriented diver. Learn more about UTD at www.unifiedteamdiving.com and stop by the shop in Rockville to sign up for a class. You will be a more skilled diver, a more educated diver and, most importantly, a safer diver.
PS – I still have my open water dives to do, so I will post an update to the class after that!