WOMEN AND TEK DIVING
Yes, it’s possible! It’s high time to break that macho and sectary image which a lot of technical divers bring around. This type of diving is indeed very different of classical recreational diving, with specific procedures to respect, skills to be mastered, and risks to accept, but this doesn’t have to be something reserved anymore to a so-called « Divers Elite » (no comment on how those who think like this think about themselves!).
TEK diving is becoming more and more accessible and is opening up to more and more divers. IANTD (International Association of Nitrox & Technical Divers), one of the world’s leading technical diving training organisations, was the pioneer with its « Advanced Recreational Trimix Diver » course, allowing divers to use a light trimix to -48m, with 15 minutes of accelerated decompression time allowed. The advantages of this training? A « light » TEK configuration, with the option of a twin valve single 15 litre cylinder, instead of the twinset. Two separated first stages, one with a long hose on the primary regulator (which is handed out in case of an out of air situation) and an inflator hose, the other one with a short hose on the secondary regulator, held with a strap around the neck (and from which the helping diver will breathe) and an pressure gauge, a sling tank with a breathing mix enriched with oxygen to decompress more efficiently, a reel and a surface marker buoy. This configuration is an asset towards the feminine public which often disconsiders TEK diving, because of the infamous twinset… A lot of men also are also concerned. This training course becomes then a first taste, or a first « test », for those who are attracted, but who are hesitating to go TEK. And in 9 cases out of 10, people are convinced. I personally started this way, and I can honestly say that I would never have believed to get where I am today, if you’d asked me only 5 years ago.
DSAT, the already well-settled TEK branch of PADI, understood quite well the opportunity they couldn’t miss. They reacted to this success by revising their training standards and by developing the new Tec 40, Tec 45 and Tec 50 courses (instead of the Tec Deep Diver course), as well as the Tec Trimix 65 and the Tec Trimix Diver courses. These courses, finally accessible to all divers, and being much less committing with each step, should encounter a real success and help open up TEK diving. For my part, I’m already convinced that this kind of diving will only develop in the coming years. As we own a diving centre in Sharm-el-Sheikh, where we only cater for technical diving, we see demand for training and technical exploration dives increase constantly. No time to get bored here !
Moreover, I would like to open up closed circuit rebreather diving. The rebreather market nowadays offers more and more units which are more adapted to women (size and weight wise), like the Evolution or the Mini Megalodon. More recently, the MkVI from Poseidon, made first for recreational non decompression diving till -40 meters maximum, finds its place also. Rebreather TEK diving has its opponents and its supporters: I’m obviously in the second group, but respect those who prefer to dive open circuit. Personally, I feel much more at ease at depth with my Evolution than with a twinset on my back… A better breathing comfort (warm and moist breathing gas, delaying muchly dehydration and cold, and as such, reducing the risks of DCI), reduced risk of overexertion, constant optimisation of the breathing mix, and reducing significantly decompression requirements… Many advantages indeed, without forgetting to mention the reduced cost of deep trimix dives. For underwater photographers and videographers, diving a rebreather allows to make incredible shots. While making no bubbles, fish and sea mammals, are not scared and don’t flee, much to the contrary. They become curious and it is them who come to check you out! How many incredible images haven’t I been able to make of manta rays or sharks from less than a metre away… All great memories of unique encounters.
Now, I have to say: “Take care!”. One doesn’t go diving with a rebreather, whichever the rebreather unit, like one goes diving with classical recreational scuba equipment (what a lot of “very experienced divers” still think, sadly). One needs to be aware that rebreather diving can be very dangerous, even in just 2 meters of water, if one doesn’t totally master the unit and the relevant techniques. It requires rigor during the preparation and checks of the unit, as well as humility, as overconfidence in the unit or oneself has been proven disastrous… Most of the accidents with rebreathers are generally due to improper diver training, negligence or overconfidence. In most cases, the ending is dramatic. But, if one is well-trained and aware, everything goes well, even if a zero risk does not exist anywhere.
Finally, and to end with, technical diving as I understand it, and how we promote it, is not about doing « touch and go » diving… Going deep just to go deep, doesn’t make any sense to us. Enough diving operators offer this to those who want. Going deep, yes, but to see things nobody ever saw, or to go where no-one has been before: that’s our leitmotiv. The 40 to 60 metres zone, as a first, has a lot of surprises to offer. Majestic canyons, caves or deep plateaus reveal every time new things. The 60 to 100 meters zone will offer later new perspectives, as well as new challenges.
A sunken shipwreck, an arch to swim through, an underwater maze to explore… those are for us appropriate goals of a TEK dive. And every well-prepared diver, with a minimum of good shape, may get there one day… and the women don’t have to stay behind anymore! So, hesitate no more, go for the TEK adventure, you won’t ever regret it…
May the Force be with you!
Written by Virgine Abrial