Open Water or Cave Sidemount diving with Advanced Diver Mexico
Open Water Sidemount Diving
The liberation of Sidemount diving in terms of feeling free of tanks combined with the independent tank redundancy, larger gas volume, logistically easier to handle than double tanks and the availability of single tanks worldwide have brought the world of Sidemount diving into the open water. The open water Sidemount course takes a minimum of 3 days to complete.
Open Water Sidemount diving can be done with one tank or two and gives great redundancy in terms of independent breathing gas supplies. Sidemount diving is suitable for solo diving. A word of caution about solo diving is that you can have good gear redundancy but if you make a major mistake or need hel you are going to be alone.
We do support any type and make of Sidemount gear you may use, no problem.
Basic Cave Sidemount Diving
The basic cave Sidemount diver course is designed for the trained cave diver who is looking for advanced cave diver training in different equipment configurations and diving techniques. The Sidemount configuration can be used to have access to smaller cave systems or passages as well as tank availability on single tanks is easier usually then for double tanks.
If you have back problems or difficult logistical access to the dive site Sidemount migth be used instead of double tanks. The basic cave Sidemount course is the prerequisite to enter the advanced cave sidemount course where we dive very small cave passages.
Sidemount diving is an extremely comfortable way of diving for many, as well as a way to navigate through those restrictions you may had problems negotiate in backmount configuration. This is a four day training program with cave diving, gear configuration and additional theory.
Prerequisite for the basic cave Sidemount program is to be a certified as a full cave diver or technical cave diver. The basic cave Sidemount training program is prerequisite for the advanced Sidemount training program which takes additional three days to complete and is taught in very small cave systems and passages. Nothing for the claustrophobic.
We do support any Sidemount gear you may want to use.
Please don't hesitate to email me if you have any questions or need assistance.
Advanced Cave Sidemount Diving Course
After completion of your full cave diver course in Sidemount configuration or being a full cave diver in double tanks and then completing the basic cave Sidemount diver training program you are ready for Advanced cave Sidemount diving.
During your full cave diver course in Sidemount or your basic cave Sidemount training you have been cave diving in larger cave passages. Some cave divers may wish to expand their knowledge and experience into advanced cave Sidemount diving or have a need to access and navigate through small cave passages. Advacned cave sidemount diving is where the cave diving is taking place in small or very small cave passages.
The Advanced cave Sidemount diver course is nothing for the claustrophobic as cave passages getting real small real quick with a number of restrictions to be navigated. Small cave passages and restrictions translate most of the time into limited or zero visibility exits. It is not unkommon to push one tank ahead of you in order to minimize your profile and make you fit through the restriction.
The advanced cave Sidemount training program takes three days to complete and has the prerequisite of either having completed your basic cave Sidemount course or having completed your full cave course in Sidemount configuration.
I teach the advanced cave Sidemount training program in any Sidemount gear there is on the market.
IMPORTANT: Training does not guarantee certification! A course is a transmission of techniques, procedures, and attitude. I guarantee you the highest level of training and thorough preparation, where hours are not counted, in order to achieve the mastery required for the corresponding course. The certification, therefore, hinges only on you!
Sidemount Cave Diving Training: PURPOSE
The purpose for the side mount cave diving training course or the cave diving specialty course is to introduce the available equipment used for side mount cave diving. The course helps you determine and experiment with the best locations for weighting and placement of all your equipment. To further expand the skills wearing single tanks under your arms along your side.
Side mount cave diving allows you the convenience of accessing to difficult cave locations and challenging entrances. There are a growing number of cave divers switching to side mount harness and BCD’s because of physical limitations such as back problems and the tremendous weight of double tanks. In addition, the smaller profile of side mount allows more access to smaller areas of cave that gives better opportunity to see and enjoy more of the underwater cave.
Harnesses and buoyancy devices recommendations.
There are many types and brands of side mount harnesses and buoyancy devices. Examples are the Golem Gear Armadillo side mount harness A2, the Protec Stealth harness system, the UTD Z – Side Mount, the Razor Harness 2, Dive Rite’s Nomad side mount system, Oxychek’s Recon side mount harness and the Warmbac ASM harness are examples of what is available.
I chose the X-Deep Side Mount Harness for my cave diving & side mount training and guiding. The X-Deep Side Mount Harness systems have been designed not just with cave divers in mind, but any side-mount diver. The X-Deep Side Mount Harness is no exception. Built for side-mount only, this kit can be used in any environment from open water to overhead. Includes an adjustable, one size fits most harness based on a minimalist design; also ideal for traveling side-mounters.
The side mount approach to cave diving.
There are several advantages with the side mount approach to cave diving. The most obvious is the convenience to the water without carrying the weight of double tanks on your back. For safety, it allows two totally independent gas sources and for solo cave diving is really the best and only approach. With a lower dive profile, this equipment configuration potentially creates less contact with the cave thus protecting the cave. It allows the ability to gain access to smaller passages of any given cave.
Gas/Air quantities. For managing gas/air quantities the monitoring of independent gas supplies requires you to maintain an acceptable gas quantity balance in each cylinder. The less difference in gas quantities between cylinders the better, however minimal regulator switching is also preferred.
Breathing. Breathing ½ of a third (if dive is planned on thirds) of the first cylinder, switch, breath ½ of that third, (or sixths) switch back to the starting cylinder and breathe the final third. Make the last switch to the second bottle; breathe that final third, turn and exit.
Valves. There are problems encountered with diving aluminum 80 cubic feet cylinders.. The best selection of type of valves is DIN outlets, opposing valves. This allows access to each knob. Sometimes, these options are not available in parts of the world.
Tanks. The tanks will exhibit positive buoyancy characteristics, especially towards the end of the dive as the pressure drops. The bottoms of aluminum 80’s float, and can create stress when backing up in a small cave passage. However, aluminum 80 cubic foot cylinders are by far the most popular to use for side mount cave diving.
Regulator hose. The ideal length of the regulator hose can be of any length if stowed properly, however, 28” – 32” is the most acceptable for the side mount cave diver. In regards with the positioning of the BCD inflator, the oral hose should be short enough to insure the cave diver can successfully exhaust (dump) gas from the BCD cell, while in a completely horizontal position, such as a tight passage. Vertical relief is not always available for the side mount cave diver. Dump valves need to operate with the cave diver being horizontal. The hose should be long enough to insure the cave diver can access the inflator orally. The elbow attached directly to the BCD should not come into contact with the ceiling or be on the back of the air cell.
The methods of progression with negotiating small silty passages are low limb movement and slow progression. The fingers or hands can be placed on the ceiling above the head. Pushing with the feet on the ceiling is a choice of technique. Finger walking is another option. Hands can be placed on the wall to pull and glide.
There are several tasks added to the side mount cave diver.
They include gas management, balancing cylinder quantities, minimizing regulator switching and the potential manipulation of cylinders, in small restrictions (taking off a cylinder)
The best attribute for good side mount cave diver is to have a healthy motivation for side mounting and technique. Is side mount cave diving simply a means to reach small areas of the cave?
No, it is a style of diving. It is a configuration that can be enjoyed and perfected, while never entering into small spaces.
My cave diving students can choose to be trained with the side mount configuration or double tank configuration.
If one tank becomes unusable during the dive into the cave the first step is to evaluate the useable gas in the working cylinder. Verify gas (if any) in failed cylinder, for future consideration. Switch to working cylinder, exit small passage, exit cave.
When a cave passage is small and without projections to place the guideline there are methods of line placement. ½” PVC stakes help to keep the guideline in place. In small passages this may NOT be where the divers can swim, but may need to be in an area that is only accessible to the diver’s hands.
There are problems encountered with side mount vs. back mount with gas sharing. Side mounted divers don’t usually possess long hoses, so the back mounted diver would be at a great disadvantage. When diving with back mounted cave divers, a long hose is necessary on one of the single cylinders.
If stuck and cannot move forward or backward the best thing is to relax and breathe. Breathing control is the benchmark for everything else. Keep the breathing under control and you can get yourself out of most any incident. Evaluate where you are, and how long it will take you to get out. Insure the BCD is completely empty of all air. There is always room; you just have to find it sometimes.
When a restriction is too narrow for both of your tanks remove the tank you are not breathing off of, leaving it attached at the top attachment, and push it ahead of you.
When passing a restriction too narrow for either of your tanks you remove both tanks, leaving them attached at the top attachment, and pushes them ahead of you.
When passing an area too narrow but with a vertical profile simply convert your profile and swim sideways through the vertical restriction.
A potential tank trap is an area in a small passage where the diver can pass, but not with both cylinders. Once the cylinder continues to be trap under a projection or low area the tank must then be removed.
If an emergency situation evolves where sharing gas/air from another side mount cave diver while exiting on short hoses the donor lies on top of the back of the recipient, donating gas from the cylinder that is not in use by the donor.
It is an important factor to configure with the diving cylinders in the placement of the second stage regulators. It should be on the top or front of shoulders. It must be easy to access in low areas. It cannot drag in the sediment. Neck loops should not be used in side mount cave diving.
An important factor is being able to remove and replace the primary light with ease during the dive. Today most cave divers prefer using the very small canisters attached to the back of the BCD directly in the middle. The new and improved LED light heads are becoming very popular to handle the rugged use.
Carrying a spare mask is a critical factor as small side mount passages yield more contact, there is more of a chance of pulling off a mask, or being kicked in the face in small passages.
SIDE MOUNT SPECIALTY COURSE DURATION: 3 DAYS.
The course includes:
Transportation to the dive sites, all cylinders with the proper hardware rigging, weights. Any additional equipment needed is available. Dive site fees extra.
Basic side mount cave diving course $230 / 3 days (min)
Advanced side mount cave diving course $250 / 3 days (min)
If the student completes the course satisfactorily, they can continue diving with me on a guided dive rate as many days as preferred.