Technical Diving: What Is It All About?

Technical Diving: What Is It All About?

Technical diving with extra tank

- Agata Dorobek

You’ve probably seen them at your dive center, sat in small groups with laptops, paper, slates and pencils.

Talking about things like gradient factors, deep stops, deco, lost gas, and bottom mix, while they “plan” their dive.

You may have run into them on a dive boat, where four of them have got enough gear and tanks to occupy half the dive deck, leaving you and the other 16 divers with little space to move.

You wonder ‘why on earth are these guys wearing dry suits’, it’s like 38 degrees outside and the water is 28 degrees, this is shorty weather!

These guys are technical divers, or “techies”… So; what on earth is technical diving?

What Is Technical Diving?

To most divers, the words ‘technical divers’ conjure up images of a bunch of guys obsessed with diving deep.

Whilst this is true of quite a few technical divers, the art of technical diving doesn’t limit itself to just that.

Technical diving is, put simply, any diving that is set outside of recreational diving limits. It allows a diver the freedom to explore and dive beyond the traditional diving limits.

A good example of this is cave diving, which is some of the most difficult and dangerous diving around today.

However, quite a few of these extreme cave dives do not exceed 20 meters in depth, so it’s clearly not just about depth.

Technical Diving in a cave

Cave diving may be categorized as a Tech Dive - Credit: Ocean Image Photography

What’s The Difference Between Tech and Recreational Diving

So what makes tech diving different from recreational diving? Whilst hundreds of pages could be written about this, in can be summed up in a few brief points:

Tech Diving Skills

First on the list is skills; there really is no room in Tech for ‘good enough’ or ‘just about do it’. All skills and your level of comfort in the water should be above reproach.

Skills can mean the difference between life and death, so they have to be razor sharp.

Here's our Practice Makes Perfect: Tune Up Your Scuba Skills article. 

Tech Diving Rules

Next comes gas planning. Generally, when you recreational dive, you put your kit on and dive till you hit 100 bar or so, then turn around and head back.

Alas! Things are not so simple in Tech diving, since you can’t ascend directly to the surface because of your obligatory decompression stops.

You need to know how much gas you use and make sure you have enough gas to complete the whole dive with a healthy reserve for emergencies. The dive plan follows on from knowing how much gas you need.

Technical Diving buddies

These tech dive buddies planned well enough to bring rebreathers - Credit: Rich Carey

Normally, when you dive recreational, you are always within the no decompression limits, so you can ascend to the surface at any time you wish.

Unfortunately, it’s not the same in Tech, where you must know how deep you are going and for how long. Every extra minute you spend down there adds a lot of time to your decompression obligation.

Over staying would make your dive schedule, and gas management redundant.

Tech Diving Equipment

The last big difference is redundancy and equipment.

When you Tech dive, you need to have a backup system for everything (buoyancy device, computer, mask, regulator, etc.).

Technical diving equipment

A tech gear for deeper dives - Credit: Maciej Zych

Going in the water with only one item that your life depends on is a seriously bad idea.

Basically, you have to work on the principle that if you have a catastrophic loss of one system, it’s not a major problem since you carry a backup with you.

Finally though, when it’s all said and done, whether you dive recreational or technical, the bottom line is the same: you dive for the love of it.

What do you chose: Tech or recreational diving? Leave a comment below on why! 

About The Author

Sam Helmy

I have been passionate about diving form a very young age, I got the chance to start diving at the age of 12 and have never stopped since then. I have been a dive professional for the last 12 years, and currently I am a TDI/SDI Instructor trainer and PADI Staff instructor and Tecrec Trimix instructor. Contact [email protected] website:


  1. diverkim

    I submit that it is not a choice of either or. It can be both or a middle ground. I switched much of my equipment over to tech and tech configuration where I judged it made best sense.
    Also the line between rec and tech became blurred when Enriched Air diving was introduced to rec divers.

    • Torben Lonne

      Very true Kim! I often see divers doing rec diving with tech gear, which of cause is bought and used because they also do technical diving. Do you really think that Nitrox is so technical that it blurred the lines? I’m not a technical diver myself(not yet at least), So it’s hard to see where the technical line is.

  2. Allan Maclean

    I agree that it does not have to be one or the other. I started Tec in 2008 and then really focused in deep wreck exploration from 2011 onwards. I still do recreational dives, particularly with my son, and some mates; but my preference on either tec of rec is wreck diving “lust for rust”. My view is that doing a technical course will make you a better diver, whether you use the course afterwards for actual tec diving is up to you, but you will learn from the course, and that is good.

    • Torben Lonne

      I agree with you as well Allan! I’m sure technical(and most other advanced courses) will make divers better. There’s a lot adaptations used in tech diving a lot of rtec divers could learn much from, and all in all the focus/preparation on/for the dive could make a big difference for many.
      Very good point, thanks!

  3. Robert C.

    Before I even got into the water for our first pool session, I knew where my week points were going to be, navigation and buoyancy control. As it turned out I wasn’t as bad at either as I thought I was going to be (altho my dive instructor did hear me shout (expletive deleted) through my reg from 10 feet away when I failed my second attempt to get to neutral buoyancy during the open water section of our training. I really want to learn tec (or advanced I guess) diving in the fields of buoyancy control, navigation, rescue, salvage/clean up, dry suit, a whole slew of options really. Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus diving has so much to offer beyond getting wet and looking at animals and stuff.

  4. Sandeep Seth

    I have recently completed Advance open water course so please advise how can i go for tech diving

  5. Engelbert Buxbaum

    A lot of tech courses require Nitrox experience (not only the course, but a certain number of completed dives). So that would be a starting point. You should also do the deep diver specialty (up to 40 m), and may be the wreck diver (to enter closed spaces as far as you can still see the daylight at the entrance). Dry suit would also help. These courses can be done with limited investment of time and money (although your own dry suit is a steep investment).

    Once you have done these preparatory courses the question becomes whether you want to go open (tank) or closed systems (rebreather). I am currently thinking of doing the latter. As photographer I like the idea of sneaking up on fishes and saying FLASH ;-)


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