Intro to Tech

Several people have asked me about my Intro to Tech Courses, what is involved with them, and what a person can expect to learn. I’ve put this article together to help people understand the purpose and value of taking this course.

First off, let me explain what “Technical Diving” means to me.

Historically, there have been four types of people that engage in diving:

  1. Military – These divers undergo specialized training focused on military operations.
  2. Commercial – These divers conduct special mission specific work, ranging from work in the oil and natural gas industries, boat yards, salvage, etc. Their activities are usually governed by OSHA regulations.
  3. Scientific – Scientific divers engage in conducting research and gathering data, or specimens, in a broad range of fields. Their activities and training are frequently governed by AAUS (American Academy of Underwater Sciences) standards.
  4. Recreational/Sport – Recreational divers are frequently hobbyists, but this also includes Divemasters and Instructors. Most recreational divers are trained under guidelines developed by the WRSTC (World Recreational Scuba Training Council), which limit a person to a maximum depth of 130’, a direct ascent to the surface at all times, and no decompression diving.

In the sense that Technical divers are not engaged in Military, Commercial or Scientific work, Tech divers ARE indeed recreational divers, but what makes us different is that Tech divers engage in diving activities that include dives deeper than 130’, or inside of overhead environments such as a shipwreck or cave, or partake in dives that require mandatory decompression stops before surfacing.

Basically: Tech divers are recreational divers that dive beyond the limits of sport divers and get more bottom time because of it!

Because Tech divers go beyond the limits of sport diving, we need specialized gear to help manage those risks. Managing that extra gear adds a level of complexity to our diving as well and so we need to develop special skills.

Tech divers also find that teamwork makes dives easier. Teamwork is an integral component of many successful tech dives. During an Intro to Tech workshop we will work on developing a team mindset.

Finally, technical diving involves planning – there is no such thing as a casual decompression dive, so we must be diligent in our preparation and planning.

On paper, an Intro to Tech course is about learning how to choose and configure dive gear, developing core skills like equipment handling, buoyancy/trim and situational awareness, developing a team mindset, and learning more about detailed dive planning based on your real gas consumption rate and risk management, and doing some drills to make it all stick!

I need to be clear on one point. This is NOT a Cave or Decompression course! Every dive we do will fit within the depth and time parameters of a recreational sport diving paradigm, that means no overhead environments, and no decompression.

At the most basic level, this course is about:

  1. Giving you a taste of what is involved in technical / cave diving.
  2. Familiarizing you with the gear necessary for future cave and decompression training.
  3. Developing key skills, including advanced buoyancy control, proper trim, and efficient propulsion techniques.
  4. Developing a team mindset.
  5. Teaching you more complex dive planning based on your individual gas consumption rate and “rock bottom” gas planning.
  6. Helping you become a more aware and better buddy by developing better situational awareness.
  7. Allowing you to make an honest self-assessment of your skills and preparedness for future technical diving.

Course Schedule

The course typically spans three days.

Day 1 – 8:30AM – 5PM

The first day will be exclusively in the classroom. In the morning we will cover the academics of the course. In the afternoon we will conduct an equipment workshop and practice a few techniques.

Day 2 – 8:00AM – 5PM

The second day will be conducted almost exclusively at Blue Grotto Dive Resort in Williston where will conduct 2 dives. Those dives will be 60-75 minutes long and we will have a video review of our performance in-between dives plus additional lecture.

During the dives we will practice the following:

Dive 1: Buoyancy, Trim, Flutter Kick, Modified Flutter Kick, Frog Kick, Modified Frog Kick, “Basic 3”, and a balanced rig test to see if we can swim our gear up.

In between our dives we will discuss SCR/RMV rates, how to calculate them, and the impact they have on dive planning.

Dive 2: START Drill, Valve drill, SCR Rate Calculation using appropriate propulsion techniques, “Basic 5”, balanced rig test – safety stop with near empty tanks.

Day 3 – 8:00AM – 5PM

The third day will also be conducted either at Blue Grotto Dive Resort in Williston or Troy Springs State Park near Branford. We will once again conduct two dives, between 60 and 75 minutes long and we will have video review of our performance in-between dives.

Dive 3: Dive planning with rock bottom gas, START Drill, Propulsion skills, Valve drills, “Basic 5”, Air Shares.

Between dives 3 and 4 we will discus diver rescues and how to deploy an SMB.

Dive 4: Diver Rescue and surface tow, SMB deployment, make up any skills.

You will want to have appropriate thermal protection for spending close to 3 hours in the water each dive day.


Overhead penetration (cave/wreck) and decompression diving are equipment intensive sports due to the inherent risks involved with being submerged in a water filled environment with a ceiling that prevents a direct access to the surface. Being able to solve problems in the water is a must, and redundancy is key to survival. Anyone wishing to engage in cave or decompression diving must have redundant equipment capable of providing for a safe exit for themselves and a team member.

This program is open to people that wish to begin their training in either backmount or sidemount. I can provide a list of recommended configurations based on the platform you wish to pursue.

Expectations to Graduate

Because this course is a pre-req to enrollment in a cave or decompression class, I want you to understand the expectations I place on all of my technical diving students. My goal is that all students that graduate any of my courses can safely execute dives within the limits of their training. Although there are “minimum standards” that will be required by the certification agencies, I have certain expectations of the skills and abilities that my students can demonstrate that are not necessarily listed in the “minimum standards.”

1. Proper mindset. Students must demonstrate a safe and mature attitude as well as good judgment and problem-solving ability and be able to work well in a team. Examples include creating safe and prudent dive plans within the limits of time/depth/exposure, properly analyzing and marking their gases, and having properly functioning and maintained equipment. While there is definitely a physical component to technical and cave diving, a proper mindset is the most important thing and divers that lack judgment, are unable to adequately solve simple problems on the fly, or are otherwise unsafe, will not pass my class.

2. Good buoyancy and trim. This means being able to perform all skills within a 3′ range (1.5′ up, 1.5′ down) from the target depth while also maintaining trim within 20° of horizontal. The reason for this is multi-fold; divers that are unable to maintain buoyancy may potentially hurt themselves by violating a decompression stop or dropping below the MOD of a gas. They may also potentially damage the cave environment by bumping into the ceiling or wallowing in the floor. Divers that have poor trim will be less streamlined, thus working harder, and they may also potentially cause a silt-out from prop-wash from their fins. It will be expected that to graduate from a class, you should be able to perform an S-drill neutrally buoyant and within trim.

3. Comfort and familiarity with their equipment. Under stressful situations, such as in an emergency, a diver must be able to manage their equipment, manage stress, and manage their physical condition. They should have muscle memory for where each piece of equipment is, what its’ purpose is, and how to use it. A diver that has to think about where a piece of equipment is, or how to use the equipment, is expending valuable “mental bandwidth” that could detract from their ability to manage a stressful situation.

4. Ability to manage valves. This means the ability to do a valve drill, efficiently and comfortably. The reason for this is that if there is a failure during a dive, such as a free-flowing regulator, ruptured hose, etc, you should be able to manage the problem.

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