2000-06 Readers Want to Know

By Karl Shreeves

Every now and again I get questions from readers and friends about tek diving and being a diving writer. Some of these are really inciteful...uh, insightful, so I though I’d share a few with you.

I’ve just been chosen for a week-long Arctic expedition that will look for microscopic Polar marine communities. I’ll be diving for an hour or more under the ice cap, and wonder what exposure protection you recommend.”
—Frigid in Frisco

You’ll get the best protection from a full-length Lycra skin suit. That’s because there’s no way you’ll even stick your toe in Arctic water with only that on, forcing you to high-tail it to warmer water where sane people dive. But if you insist on going, look for a drysuit with dry mitts, a dry hood and heavy Thinsulate undergarments. Check with several manufacturers and let them know you need a drysuit specifically for swimming through Santa Claus’ basement. Also, DUI (Divers Unlimited International) in San Diego has a new electrically heated undergarment.

How would you describe the ideal support diver for a tek diving team?”
—Helping Hand in Hoboken

Arnold Schwartzenegger’s brawn, Stephen Hawking’s brain and Marcel Marceau’s mouth. If you have to pick just one of these, take Marceau’s mouth (he’s a mime). Seriously, while raw strength is a benefit but not essential for a support diver, you need someone who’s cool-headed, spontaneously creative and well grounded in dive theory. Stuff happens, including contingencies you didn’t think of, and you count on your team to produce workable solutions on the fly. And in truth, you don’t really want someone with lockjaw (though it may feel that way at times), but you do want someone who knows when it’s more important to do things the team’s way rather than his way. So when planning your dive, encourage your support divers to say what they think. They may surprise you with their astute ideas. And besides, a mime is a terrible thing to waste.

For someone getting into tek, what’s more important: the number of dives logged or the number of certification cards carried?
—Tek Teacher in Toronto

The number of credit cards carried, of course. Oh, wait, that’s certification cards. To jump into tek, you need both education and experience. There’s a lot you can’t be sure you’ll learn through experience—or you don’t want to learn by experience—so education is important. But there’s a difference between theory and practice, between the class world and the real world and between how things should be and how they are. You only learn the differences by getting underwater and racking up as many dives and hours in as many environments as possible. If you build your tek training and experience on lots of recreational training and experience, you’re building on firm soil. Build on just a few rec courses and dives logged, and you’re building on quicksand.

By the way, regarding credit cards, as I’ve said before, tek diving isn’t for the faint of wallet. Don’t leave home without them, because you’ll need them everywhere you want to be.

What’s the best tek dive you’ve ever made?
—Curious in Columbus

That’s easy, the next one. If you don’t think the next dive will be the best yet—or at least a work up to the best yet, then something is wrong. You’re not growing as a diver, and you’re living in the past. So, the one coming should be the best one. The downside is that you don’t get any bragging rights for the next one.

Karl Shreeves is VP, technical development for PADI and DSAT, and an avid technical diver.