I’ve always wanted to try tech diving, cave diving, rebreathers and anything else that takes more advanced training then I have, for 2 main reasons. The first reason is exploration. I started scuba diving and traveling, because I love exploring untouched (or rarely touched) places, and there isn’t many left on this planet.
In fact, the ocean is the last frontier. When I started diving, I realized that the only thing more unexplored then the recreational diving I was doing, is tech diving to much more extreme depths and places.
The second reason I always wanted to get my feet wet (sorry, had to say it) in tech, is because from dive 1 to around 400 I was diving in all the same places. This was in Dahab, Egypt, while I was taking Advanced, rescue, CFR, deep speciality, nitrox, and finally divemaster PADI courses, and then tons of fun dives.
The problem is, those are such easy, problem free dives, and even though it was a great easy training ground, as soon as I started traveling the world on my mission to document the top 100 dive locations, I quickly figured out that there is a lot more types of diving, and I wasn’t the badass I thought.
I threw myself, thinking I was a amazing diver, into strong drift dives, deep wrecks, caverns and caves, zero visibility, high salinity, no salinity, freezing waters, shark dives, dives from dingy little canoes and much more, that were the exact opposite of the perfect conditions of Dahab.
I quickly found out that even with 400+ dives, I was very unexperienced in ANY kind of adversity. But over the next 400+ dives all over the world, I was getting an education and experience and confidence. And I loved it.
I realized that scuba diving is my passion and life’s work now, and becoming the best diver possible and forever continuing that education is the best thing I can do. I never want to feel uncomfortable or unsafe on a dive, I just want to enjoy it.
Now I feel like the next step for continuing that education, is tech diving. To get my first intro to tech, I headed down to the Gili islands in Indonesia, where a very famous tech diving instructor lives, Will Goodman.
Will holds depth records on both scuba and rebreathers, and has done a lot more including discovering wrecks and dives sites around the Gilis. I figured I would learn from the best.
I landed in Depensar, and after a few days diving in Bali, I took the fast ferry over to the Gilis.
Will works out of Blue Marlin Divers in Trawangan, right on the beach, and right away we ordered a beer and started going through the book and basics I needed to know. This would just be an into to tech, not a full course, just to see if I was comfortable with it all.
At these very beginner stages, understanding nitrox diving is helpful. For about an hour we went through the book, me getting way too much information on mixed gases, body physiology, depth times and much much more.
At the end I just looked at him and said, “I really hope my life doesn’t depend on me remembering all of that”. He just laughed and said I already understood and learned fast, and that this was just an intro to see if I liked it. So after lunch we suited up.
Before hitting the boat, we planned the dive, which was obviously more meticulous than any other dive I’ve been on.
The plan was, we would be diving the recently discovered “Japanese Wreck”, with a conservative depth of 45 meters at 20 minutes, with various surface intervals.
We also had to discus that fact that not only would I be more narced than any other dive before and need to pay close attention to both of my dive computers and him, I would also be lugging around a giant camera, which could be a problem if I don’t react well to narcosis.
Also, 45 meters depth doesn’t sound like a great deal when I was already qualified for 40 as a divemaster, but the difference here was the time.
A normal recreational dive would be no more than 4 minutes at 40 meters, and on this one we planned on 20 minutes at 45 meters, with a 39% gas mix. (Me on a big 15L tank, him on doubles). Thats a lot of nitrogen retention.
The descent down the the bottom was real fast, under 3 minutes if I remember. We met at a sandy area next to the angkor as planned, so that he could check to see if I was acting normal and all set.
He did a few checks, I got my camera sorted, and we had a normal dive around the untouched wreck. According to Will, only a handful of people know the coordinates to the wreck and have dove to it, making the dive more exciting.
He kept making sure my air consumption was good and the nitrogen wasn’t making me act funny, but all was good. In fact I didn’t feel different at all, except near the end I had a bad taste of copper in my mouth, and I felt a lot heavier and needed more BCD air. I didn’t have the bad side effects some people have of being narced.
I was completely hooked on tech diving, even on this beginners intro. It felt like a lot of door were opening for my exploration.
Diving is a great adventure, where I can see something new and crazy, even while diving a place I have dove 100 times.
I instantly realized that there is a huge difference between a regular recreational dive at a popular spot, where you see tons of other divers kicking reef and getting in front of your camera and chasing fish, and a technical dive where not many people in the world have ever been.
Maybe it can be described to a traveler or explorer, that it’s the difference of going to the touristy beaches of Cancun, or to the middle of the Congo basin. They are both travel, but not the same level of adventure or exploration.
Even though we planned on 45 meters, we maxed out at 43 meters, and started ascending at 20 minutes in. The ascent is the most cautious part, and we very slowly followed the boat rope to the surface. We had stops at 20 meters, 10, 5 and finally a 11 minute stop at 3 meters, before surfacing.
As we were surfacing the boat crew were pointing in the distance at something, and they told us later that they had been watching a blue marlin swim around while we were underneath. That would of been awesome to see on my first (but not last) tech dive.
I highly recommend the Gili Islands for learning Tec Diving, and Will Goodman is the man to see, at Blue Marlin Divers. Tell him I said hi!