Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Diving: Gear and skills part the waters

Published

 on 

PHUKET: When was the last time something truly fresh hit the dive market? Yes, every year we get niftier regulators, more swanky dive watches and new fin designs that we can’t resist at least window-shopping for. But, when was the last time something was put on the market for recreational divers that really parted the waters – changed the way we thought about diving?

In an activity that is becoming more and more relaxing and accessible to the general public, those wanting to “push the limits” without doing the heavy lifting of tech-diving books, have found themselves at a loss.

Those of us with full time, non-dive industry jobs still want that sense of discovery; to end up in the footnotes of a history book; or, at the very least, to be more than 50 minutes down on a dive trying.

This year PADI has finally gotten the ball rolling with the launch of three new specialty diving courses: recreational rebreathers, sidemounts and self-reliant diving.

But, this isn’t tech diving.

Kevin Black from Kiwidivers in Chalong, one of only four recreational rebreather dive instructors currently in Thailand, explained that PADI was bringing the “Wow” factor back to scuba diving. The new certifications let recreational divers safely push the boundaries of what they consider sports diving.

The only closed-circuit rebreather currently available on the recreational market is Poseidon’s MKVI. This is one of those bits of gear that guys piecing together their tech kits in their garage years ago would have dreamed of, and now it’s here, safe and actually designed for sports divers.

Before sitting down with Kevin, my understanding of rebreathers was fairly simple – they don’t make bubbles.

Well, I wasn’t wrong, but I was missing just a little bit of the point too. Yes, they don’t make bubbles as the air you breath out is cycled and scrubbed through a closed system, and then has pure oxygen from one of the two tanks in the kit automatically blended with the oxygen-depleted air, making it good for another breathe, time and time again. Sounds complicated, but I was assured that they were dummy proof – so I wouldn’t have any issues.

However, by focusing only on not blowing bubbles and disturbing the fish, I missed the point. Rebreathers don’t just add a couple more minutes to your dive, as I thought. They don’t just double your dive time. They actually can turn a one hour dive into a three hour dive, Kevin explained.

That means, you are the first to jump, and then after everyone has come up, had lunch, geared up and booked a second dive, you are the last to come up – and still don’t have decompression time, unlike a tech-diver.

Recently PADI ran an event showcasing both the Poseidon recreational rebreather and sidemounts on Koh Phi Phi.

For many of the 30 to 40 divers on Phi Phi who attended the event, this was their first time strapping a tank under each arm for the sidemount configuration and feeling the new diving “flow”. Sidemount configurations have been around for a long time, first reportedly being used in England for cave diving, and subsequently used all over the world for cave diving and penetration dives.

The weightlessness and balance that sidemount divers gloat about is enough to make me sign up for the course, just to join the club. And the redundant gas supply and reduced lower back strain are both advantages that I’m looking forward to.

Though the course is geared toward recreational diving, it also provides a nice view of the tech-diving world. It’s a little step that leaves you totally comfortable when you start shooting for your ultimate goals, from exploring cave systems to just feeling like you’re part of the ecosystem when you hover above the corals and snap a stellar photo.

Different from the recreational rebreather course and the sidemount course, the PADI self-reliant course isn’t about becoming comfortable with new equipment; it’s about becoming comfortable with yourself.

PADI has, since time immemorial, preached (and perhaps rightly so) that divers should never dive without a buddy. Though that philosophy has not changed, PADI is now willing to admit that it does happen, either intentionally or unintentionally. And let’s be honest: who is a dive instructor relying on in an emergency when they are taking two “Discover Scuba” divers on their first dip into the big blue?

PADI’s position is clear in their released statement: “Diving without a Dive Buddy, by choice, while not advocated, is something which PADI recognizes to be occasionally either necessary or preferred by some divers.”

This recognition is in many ways a new frontier for experienced recreational divers (100 plus dives is necessary to take the course). Those who have only been loosely following the buddy system, or ignoring it completely while taking photographs, spear fishing or lobster hunting, can come out of the closet.

Not only can they now stop hiding in some murky underground social circle, but they have the opportunity to be trained in “self rescue”, to be tested so that they can at least engage in a more risky activity in the safest possible way.

“One of the key things you learn is how to deal with running out of air when you don’t have a buddy to rely on. You also learn a lot about calculating just how much air you use in different circumstances, and how to plan dives around your estimated consumption,” Kevin explained to me.

Yes, I’m stoked about this and over the next several months plan on taking the opportunity to check out these courses, log some stunning dives and shoot for the foot notes of someone else’s history book.

This is part one of a four-part series on PADI’s new specialty diving certifications.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

 

Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Travel6 hours ago

Where to find underrated international cuisines in Bangkok

Bangkok8 hours ago

Chinatown manhole covers to use art, tech to become cultural map

Transport9 hours ago

Man fights Indian Railways for 22 years for justice (and 9 baht)

Events10 hours ago

Tourism Minister visits Full Moon Party, supports later curfew

Crime10 hours ago

Thais cautioned against fake government websites

Thailand11 hours ago

Another Thai boxer dies from brain injury after fight in Malaysia

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand12 hours ago

Expats in Thailand, Cartoon characters & Letting Loose | Thaiger Bites

Pattaya12 hours ago

VIDEO: Young Thais have a blast at Pattaya Music Festival weekend 2

Pollution13 hours ago

Anti-Corruption Network complains of smelly wastewater in coastal Thai province

Weather13 hours ago

Flooding from overflowing rivers soaks Chiang Rai and the border

Phuket14 hours ago

Phuket police nab 3,373 meth pills from 5 suspects

Pattaya16 hours ago

Pattaya night club owner gives free meals on Thai Mother’s Day

Thailand17 hours ago

Current Thailand Visa Options for Digital Nomads

Central Thailand17 hours ago

Police find fake Covid-19 tests worth millions in central Thailand

World18 hours ago

UPDATE: Rushdie is talking again, attacker pleads not guilty

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending