Here at Blue Label Diving in Indonesia on Bunaken we are getting a lot of strange looks from recreational divers when we put on our sidemount diving gear, so we would like to take this opportunity to give you five facts of sidemount diving that you didn’t know. We want to help you clear up the confusion on why more and more divers are moving to sidemount.
FACT 1: ANY LEVEL OF DIVER CAN MOVE TO SIDEMOUNT
Just because sidemount diving has the tanks along the diver’s body doesn’t mean we have reinvented the wheel. You still breath through a regulator and have a mask that might fill with water from time to time, so the basic principles of diving still apply. You don’t have to be an advanced diver or a technical diver for that matter to go into sidemount diving, and sidemount diving isn’t age restrictive either. In fact, you don’t even need to have a basic open water training certification to try out sidemount as it’s now an option for doing the open water course in sidemount! With a little instruction you will be surprised at how easy it is to learn!
FACT 2: YOU CAN DIVE WITH 1, 2, 3, 4 OR MORE TANKS WHEN SIDEMOUNT DIVING
Maybe the thought of having more than one tank is putting you off from sidemount diving, or you think it will be difficult to manage your balance if you only have one tank. Well, the great thing about sidemount diving is it’s flexible to meet the requirements of your dive plan. Diving with one tank is ideal if you aren’t planning a deep or long dive, and by using a bit of back muscles and/or weights on the side without the tank, you can balance yourself just fine. Believe it or not you do the same when diving with your scuba tank on your back, since this also can throw off your balance if you don’t keep perfectly level in the water. With two tanks you gain full redundancy in your scuba system and can start to handle your own emergency situations more independently, which is an equipment configuration many self reliant divers and/or photographers switch to since they are further away from dive buddies. Sidemount can grow with your level of training, so that by the time you are needing/wanting to dive with more than 2 tanks you have an option to do it with ease.
FACT 3: SIDEMOUNT DIVING VASTLY IMPROVES YOUR TRIM
Trying to keep perfectly horizontal with conventional scuba gear (i.e. BCD, weight belt and tank on the back) uses a lot of diver effort which is hard to maintain throughout the course of an entire dive. However, with sidemount gear, all the heavy pieces of equipment sit directly at chest level under the diver’s arms pulling their chest forward and hips up – you no longer have to work so hard at keeping trim. Say goodbye to your days of diving like a ‘seahorse’ with sidemount. Oh, did we forget to mention that you no longer will continuously bump your head against the first stage if you dive sidemount?!
FACT 4: SIDEMOUNT IS A CONFIGURATION THAT GROWS WITH YOU
So you are a relatively new diver now, but you are already feeling the strong pull to further training in the future. You like wrecks and also thought about diving the Cenotes in Mexico, so why not start now by learning sidemount so you have a good equipment set-up for those environments. With sidemount you can detach the lower portion of the tank to move easily through small swim-throughs and you don’t have to worry about bumping the back of your tank against the top. Maybe you want to learn technical diving as well, so by being able to dive sidemount you already have a set-up and skills set that will allow you to complete longer and deeper dives.
FACT 5: SIDEMOUNT DIVING SUITS BUDDY-LESS DIVERS BETTER
So you are a keen diver, but unfortunately you have no friend, partner or family member who joins you on your ocean journeys. This means you show up to a dive location and get assigned a random buddy, who may or may not prove to even keep to the buddy system, so essentially you dive ‘alone.’ By diving with sidemount, minimum two tanks of course, you have a whole other air source available to you. You also have all your valves and first stages within your own field of vision, so you are more likely to identify and correct problems with equipment failure. If you run out of air in one tank, you can always switch to your other tank and go up. Gone are the days of trying to make other divers try to care about you!
So, if you are not convinced now in why sidemount diving may help you with your dive adventures, then you will just have to come over to Indonesia and give it a try yourself. Blue Label Diving Indonesia offers sidemount and tec sidemount courses on a regular basis on Bunaken and Lembeh in North Sulawesi. We’re also proud to congratulate divers Julian, Lisa, and Matthias who were training on sidemount all during the month of July. Come and join us for some sidemount madness in August!