Another reason that technical diver training has to be tough is that experienced sport divers (especially instructors) have often fallen into bad habits that represent a threat to their survival in the technical diving world.
These habits need to be broken. My friend Larry was one of these divers.
He was a confident individual and
a dive-instructor of long standing. He signed up for a technical-diving course and, from the outset, was evidently determined to show what a good diver he was. He excelled in the confined-water sessions and was made team-leader for the first training dive.
It all started off fine. Arriving at depth, he gave an OK signal, indicated the direction of travel and then started swimming along the wall.
For someone wearing a twin-set and
a stage-cylinder for the first time, his buoyancy and trim were excellent. He had a powerful fin-stroke and looked good in the water. The only problem was that his team were not faring so well, and they quickly fell behind.
Seeing the situation and spotting a great teaching opportunity, the instructor created a number of simulated team emergencies, all of which the team had to handle without their leader.
They began to fall still further behind. By now, Larry was too far ahead to notice.
Halfway through the planned bottom time, he reached the turn-point of the dive. He waited patiently for the others to catch up, flashed a quick OK sign, indicated that they were all to turn round and headed back to the ascent point.
He arrived right on time. The others, who had fallen behind again, were late. This meant extended decompression time, which took them all, Larry included, to the limit of their collective gas reserves and caused a lot of stress.
Larry too, was becoming visibly annoyed. It was clear that he felt he was surrounded by a bunch of clowns, who did not share his remarkable talents and were messing up the dive.
With everyone back on the boat, equipment stowed and drinks in hand, they all went to the bow for the dive debriefing. Larry was smiling confidently, certain that he was going to be singled out as the star of the show.
But, instead of conducting it himself, the instructor handed the debriefing over to the dive-team and asked them to assess their leader’s performance.
They completely savaged Larry. All the resentment, frustration and anger that had built up during the 90-minute dive spilled out. The lessons Larry learned from his team-mates were transmitted with such passion that he probably still remembers the feeling today.
Larry had run the dive as if it was a competition rather than a team exercise in which, unless everyone succeeds, they all fail. Scuba-diving is a team exercise, not an individual pursuit.
Unfortunately, in mainstream sport diving, although the concept of diving together is mentioned frequently in the context of the much-maligned buddy system, it is greatly misunderstood, poorly applied and largely ignored.
So experienced divers such as Larry usually end up functioning alone and depending on themselves.
In technical diving, the team is always stronger than the sum of its parts. The team’s strength derives from its combined force, skills and gas supply.
Teamwork is something most divers have to learn when they begin technical diving. The main reason why students often fail tests in the early phases of the training is that they try to solve the problems alone.
Once they start working as a team, they find everything much easier and discover that the training is not actually as tough as it initially seemed.