Welcome to a new era in diving. In the last year we have seen a tremendous increase towards the demand in side mount diving. Were side mount has been deployed in cave diving as early as the 1950’s, it wasn’t until some famous cave divers in Florida and Mexico posted their underwater ballet footage on youtube that divers became interested and noticed the unlimited advantages of diving sidemount as opposed to conventional recreational gear or the usual doubles or twinsets.
What is side mount? Quite literally, one mounts one or more cylinders on the side of the body, making the back and front clean to mount other diving equipment or simply to be able to wedge yourself between small crevasses or in the otherwise inaccessible bellows of shipwrecks.
Side mount divers also started noticing the plus points in conventional open water diving and nowadays are using their setup throughout the year, even when joining a recreational liveaboard trip to shallow tropical waters.
The system usually consists out of a harness with steel d-rings, placed at strategic places, a low profile wing as buoyancy device, and a buttplate with steel rings or rails to attach cylinders.
The cylinders can be anything really and they are rigged up with a lanyard and clips and a steel or nylon webbing keeping everything neatly in place.
The cylinders are then clipped onto both sides of the diver, neatly tucked away under the armpits, following the axial line of the divers, giving for the most streamlined position achievable.
The configuration can be altered to all tanks on one side, or more tanks in general, clipped of to one of the numerous d-rings on the system.
Non-technical divers quickly saw the advantages of this system, because of the streamlining, the ability to access and remove/replace the tanks, and the perfect achievable buoyancy the system provides with virtually no training. Solo divers or videographer finding themselves at times without buddy, appreciate the redundancy the double tanks give them.
Divers with bad backs, or the inability to climb on the boat with full gear, can just hand the tanks of when exiting the water and then climb out wearing only a wetsuit and the harness.
Training as a sidemount diver can be done in different ways;
There is the general recreational sidemount course, introducing basic skills and safety procedures. The advanced side mount diving course then prepares the technical diver into more overhead oriented skills for divers wishing to engage in more extreme diving or overhead ventures as wreck and cave diving. The sidemount cave course covers cave specific skills, deploying multiple stage tanks combined with advanced cave diving techniques.
More and more divers are moving forward to the side mount diving systems as normal air scuba tanks can be use at any time and the advantages outweigh by far the relatively low investment and training involved in becoming a sidemount diver