Laurence Andrews

Sidemount Diving

My dive count is currently at forty-six, I’m certainly still a beginner when it comes to diving and I feel the need to constantly remind myself of that. The feeling when on a dive is like nothing else I’ve experienced; for the duration of a dive you’re immersed in something immensely dangerous, with equipment that requires a great deal of skill to operate safely. What’s strange, is that the sensation on a dive is completely unique- it pulls friends and dive buddies together with a common sense of care, concern and thought. There’s a deep level of camaraderie that runs, even with complete strangers throughout everyone involved. This has taught me a lot about myself, about the way I need to operate, remaining calm, watching out for others and pulling a group together to make sure we complete the goal in hand. Diving is an addiction, but one I don’t intend to give up!

One type of diving in particular has always interested me: sidemount. This style of diving is where instead of having the scuba unit on your back, you place it (or them) on your side. The unit is usually a little different, instead of the typical single cylinder, two cylinders are placed with one to the left and one to the right of the diver. This brings multiple different issues, such as managing multiple cylinders, multiple regulators and controlling differentiating buoyancy. However, sidemount does have some great benefits: it’s much more comfortable(!)- no more heavy cylinder strapped as you waddle around, it gives a much more natural profile in the water making diving and swimming much easier and you have increased redundancy with multiple cylinders.

My first attempt at sidemount was in a swimming pool (a not very deep, pool!). It was immediately obvious how much more comfortable the dive was – I couldn’t wait to try more and loved the experience. Fast forward and I get the opportunity at Buckland lake to complete my certification. The dives were very different in an open water environment, buoyancy is a very different experience with a sidemount harness on. When ascending I found myself needing to almost duck dive and dump from the rear valve, fine, but a little different. The comfort was great and the reassurance of having a second cylinder was fantastic. Of course, it looks very cool too – which has to count for something.

I passed my certification that weekend and am looking forward to trying it out again soon. Undecided if it’s the way forward for my diving future, there’s a lot to think about and to buy too - but it’s certainly appealing. Perhaps I’ll wait a while and think about if it’s the correct path, that said, very glad I gave it a try and would recommend to any beginner divers to do the same and see if it’s for them. Of course, the experience wouldn’t have been possible without Tony and Janine Mansford at Southern Scuba who have been nothing but fantastic in allowing me the chance!

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