Divers often ask me, "What is technical diving?" My usual response is, "diving outside of recreational limits", but it encompasses more than just that. The recreational depth limit of scuba, 130ft is not your only limitation. It is also diving outside of No Decompression Limits (NDL). Any dive where you cannot directly access the surface, be it a dive in an overhead environment or a dive involving a decompression obligation before surfacing should be classified as a technical dive.
Using this perspective you can begin to see how a technical dive begins taking shape. If you are on a wreck dive at 70 feet involving penetration you are on a technical dive. If you are on a dive involving penetration of a cave system you are on a technical dive. If you have overstayed your NDL on a dive, for whatever reason, you are now on a technical dive. All of these dives involve a higher level of risk and should therefore involve more detailed formal training before attempting same. Learning on the fly does not usually end well.
Specifically, technical training introduces the diver to advanced buoyancy, gear configuration, gas selection and advanced decompression theory. Also, the diver begins to form the mindset of a technical diver- discipline and patience and the willingness to truly work with a team. Little by little, the technical diver hones their skills and tempers their spirit of adventure with disciplined technique through hours of practice in the water.
So often, what seems simple at the surface becomes immensely more complicated at depth. We've all faced trying something as simple as finding something in a bc pocket, or keeping track of a dive buddy while immersed. Throw into that equation limited visibility, an overhead environment such as a shipwreck or the influence of nitrogen narcosis and one can easily see how quickly a simple dive can escalate out of control.
Another aspect of technical diving is redundancy. Nearly every piece of gear is duplicated- double tanks, double regs, redundant buoyancy, masks, additional dive lights and tools. While a sense of order and simplicity is the basis of the gear configuration, there is always an eye on what will actually be of practical use at depth. Often, dive teams will structure their gear similarly and NAUI's gear configuration guidelines are set up to maximize and simplify one's choices.
One may ask, "why bother?" As a recreational diver, I found that I bored easily. There were always places I couldn't go or see because they were off limits to recreational divers. Even as a advanced diver this was still the case. It wasn't a matter of simply wanting to dive deeper- anyone who knows me from my earlier days of diving knows I already had pushed that envelope wide open. I wanted to explore, but to explore safely. It was time for me to step away from the roulette wheel and that included deeper diving without more training. It also prompted me to get in better physical shape before attempting same.
Other divers remark that I seem calm and collected in the water. A large part of that is due to my formal training and more specifically my technical training. It's not a feeling that one can handle anything, but more a feeling that one is better prepared to at least try. The structured nature of the training gave me a safe place to work through my errors without causing myself or others harm.
Even if I never attempt another technical dive, I can truly say that my technical training made me as a diver. Hours of teaching at the recreational level have only increased my level of patience and attention to detail, but it began mainly with technical training.
So, my question to you is, "what are you waiting for?" Broad aquatic horizons are calling your name. Drop by the dive shop and chat us up soon!