Technical Diving: What Is It All About?

Technical Diving: What Is It All About?
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 challenging and dangerous diving around today.

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

Cave diving may be categorized as a Tech Dive
Cave diving may be categorized as a Tech Dive
Photo by: 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, it 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.

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.

These tech dive buddies planned well enough to bring rebreathers
These tech dive buddies planned well enough to bring rebreathers
Photo by: 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.

Overstaying 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 devicecomputermaskregulator, etc.).

A tech gear for deeper dives
A tech gear for deeper dives
Photo by: Maciej Zych

Going into 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 go for: Tech or recreational diving? Leave a comment below on why! 

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