In the 1960s, British cavers figured out a way to explore caves linked by underwater passages. They took the bulky air tanks off their backs, and attached smaller ones at their hips with a belt. That way, they could swim the underwater links and explore the caves in comfort. Cavers from Florida realized it was a good idea for deep underwater cave exploration. They moved the air tanks up the torso under the armpits and attached them at the hip and then create the Sidemount diving.
Cave divers developed the Sidemount diving, but divers of all kinds–from open water recreational divers to underwater cave technical divers–are discovering how taking a course in Sidemount diving enhances their experience.
Discover here the benefits of Sidemount diving.
Sidemount Diving: A Course for All Terrains
When you enter the water for a dive, you’re all suited up and ready to change elements, from air and earth to water. With the traditional backmount rig, you are top-heavy and back-heavy. Life on the sand or the rocks in gear can be difficult. Sidemount tanks are positioned alongside your body pointing straight down–stable even on the ground.
But the real difference is in the water. The natural relaxed position of any swimmer is to be in a balanced horizontal position, in perfect trim. With the Sidemount air tanks, your profile is streamlined, and water resistance is lessened. When you go horizontal, the air tanks follow and even provide extra stability as you don’t need to carry their weight.
Sidemount Diving: A Course for All Dives
Cave divers, wreck divers, and reef divers appreciate the flexibility and adaptability of the Sidemount diving rig. A more streamlined profile means you can enter small spaces without stirring up too much silt. It also means you are in less danger of damaging a wreck or a coral reef because of bulky gear. Combining these principles with advanced tips you master in night diving or in cave or wreckage diving really allows for a desirable experience.
At the same time, Advanced Open Water divers enjoy the lighter, less constricted permissions of the Sidemount gear. Whether vertical or horizontal, the bungee bound air tank rigs become a stabilizing factor without taking control away from the diver. You get to swim freely and for longer just by changing rigs.
Sidemount Diving: A Course for Better Control and Safety
With the hoses and levers of both tanks in front of you instead of behind, you can arrange your rig with more ease. It also gives you more control over the regulators and the tanks themselves. If you need to switch out your tanks or use only one because the other is compromised, it’s easy enough to manage. It can even be done while you are hovering or at a decompression stop. The presence of two tanks also provides redundancy–a safety must-have.
Sidemount Diving Course: Train for Trim
The Sidemount diving style might make quite a few aspects easier, but it’s still not something you can jump into. If you’ve been diving for some time, there are certain habits you probably picked up, especially when it comes to keeping yourself in trim with an air tank on your back. This means overcompensating for top-heaviness, hunching a little to keep an errant air tank horizontal, etc.
More than that, you’ll need to get accustomed to the gear. One piece is the wing, a buoyancy pack placed at the small of your back to correct horizontal trim. Another is the bungee Sidemount rig, that clips and secures the tanks against your body. Depending on your dive, that rig will even allow you to detach a tank or both to propel in front of you, when entering very tight spaces.
It will take some time to adapt to a harness and full rig that loops to you from the neck to the thigh. A course in Sidemount diving will help you maximize the rig and gear for the most streamlined diving experience. Take the Plunge
If recreational sidemount diving sounds appealing and you are ready to see the underwater world in a new light, learn more about our PADI Sidemount Course.
Article written by James Donaldson