Sidemount diving tanks in Bunaken, Indonesia
Sidemount diving tanks

Recreational vs Technical diving

Like with all walks of life there’s no one right way how to take the step from being a recreational diver to becoming a technical diver. To make things a little bit more confusing let’s add sidemount and recreational rebreathers to the formula also.

As you can see the line between technical and non-technical diving is getting hazier and two fields are overlapping quite a lot. And I personally think it’s good that way.

By a broad definition technical diving includes some sort of overhead that prevents you from finishing your dive and surfacing any time one feels like it. It can be a virtual overhead in the form of decompression or a very real overhead in the form of caves, mines or shipwrecks. That’s just one way to define the sports.

Having made that clear, let’s take an example. One of our customers Theresia wrote the following:

Exactly 3 1/2 years ago I entered the water with diving gear for the first time.The first recreational diving pool session was between drowning, frightened to death and all over the pool without any control of what I was doing.

A year later I decided to make the first course and even if I liked it I was not as stunned as I expected and even if the little Island on the Philippines was very nice I did not feel the urge to go back into the water again. Yes it was nice, but the thought of not being able to dive for a while did not bother me at all.

Theresia on her first tech dive
Theresia on her first tech dive

A holiday to Khao Lak in Thailand changed everything. My first dive was on a wreck, going down a line, plenty of other divers on that line, me all over the place, current taking control of my abilities to move, anxiety of crashing against corals or other divers…what a mess. After the dive I was sitting completely frustrated on the boat having lunch, complaining to our instructor what a terrible dive that was. I told him: “I don’t care what, but do something!” He gave me some advice, different techniques to fin, how to hold my hands, move, breathe…..what a difference, I wanted more of that control. He a passionate technical instructor, disciplined and focused in everything he does, of course expecting the same from his students, showed me a completely new way of moving in the deep blue. Additionally, with his strange equipment, tools and toys, D-rings here and there made me curious about all the bits and pieces he was carrying around. Starting to tell me more what kind of diving he is doing I was getting even more curious.

What else is to do than after completing the advanced course, to continue with a specialty course he was telling so many great things about. Sidemount…. how graceful and comfortable it looked when I first saw the video on YouTube… after first struggles and an overwhelming feeling of being in the wrong place with too many things attached to me everything changed.

…..since then, of course many ups and downs, frustrating moments of never being good enough came with it…I can tell you a thing or two about it….However, the discipline, control and seriousness make it all the more challenging and exciting. A world of silence and freedom.


As you can see Theresia’s motivation at first was just to become a better diver so she started off with sidemount course, moved on to caves and from there to decompression diving. By now she’s with us here on Bunaken island and attending the divemaster course over the next couple of months and her transition from recreational to technical diving will continue with gas blender and advanced trimix courses next month. Makes perfect sense to me!

Tec Side Mount padi Course
Recreational vs technical diving

Over here in Indonesia your first contact with technical diving could be either enrolling into a course that utilizes one of the following systems – sidemount, rebreather or twinset. Unfortunately there are no caves (for now!).

When we talk about the previous needed diving experience to become a technical diver the good news is that you can take it step by step and don’t have to be super-experienced to start.

For example to start sidemount diving the PADI Sidemount course entry requirements are 15 years of age and open water certification and the requirements for Tec Sidemount course are advanced diver, 18 years of age and 30 logged dives.

To start you adventures with rebreathers and to enroll into a TDI Poseidon MKVI recreational rebreather course all you need is be certified as advanced and nitrox diver and show proof of 20 dives.

To get you into the world of gas switching and different breathing gasses all you need  to participate in a TDI Advanced Nitrox course you have to be an advanced diver with 25 dives and have a nitrox certification. PADI’s equivalent, the Tec40 course requires you to have a deep diver certificate in addition to the experience required by TDI and five extra logged dives.

Start from one of those and take it step by step, don’t rush and skip education and success is guaranteed!