Saturday, 6 September 2008

Tech 2 Course Report: Day 6: The Final Day

Tech 2 thoughts

So, here we are on the last day of the course. The final dive as to 70 metres, and was planned and executed perfectly, or at least good enough for all of us to be deemed suitably skilled to qualify as Tech 2 divers. We were told we had passed the copurse during the 6 metre stop, so there were some leaky masks from all the smiles for the rest of the stop!. Tech 2 has been my most fascinating experience with GUE to date. The previous course, Tech1, was more endured than enjoyed. I learnt a great deal from Andy Kerslake, and still rate him very highly as an instructor, but realise that I was incredibly stressed throughout the entirety of the course, something I had expected to be magnified at the Tech2 level, but something I was suprised to find is not true.

Tech1 represents a significant change in skills. A fundamentals diver is limited to 30 metres, with no decompression, and may never have carried a stage. A Tech1 diver has 50 metres within their grasp, potentially carrying one of two available decompression gases, and a runtime of 90 minutes in the water. This is an enourmous change in diving, and so the course has to raise the bar of the student's skillsets to meet these challenges. Tech2 is different. The failures that you are given on Tech2 are no more complex than those on Tech1. In fact, they are, by and large, the same things, as there is only so much that can be failed. Yes, there is more equipment to be carried and managed in the form of additional decompression gases and bottom stages. And yes, this does give the instructor more scope for generating failures. However, whereas Tech1 represents a significant change in skill, it is presumed at Tech2 that those skills are now firmly embedded, and it is an attitude, or indeed awareness change that has to happen at Tech2. No longer can you rush in and just fix something and move on. The Now it takes a moment after everyone can breathe to think your way through the dive and determine how the failure, and any fix you have put in place, will manifest themselves as bottles are changed and regs are switched. In addition, communication throughout the team becomes critical so that everyone knows what is working, and indeed what is not, on every diver's rig. So, what is built on a Tech2 course is not buoyancy skills, but awareness, capacity, and finesse through the ascent. the buoyancy skills must be in place, unconsious, or you simply cannot get through the course. If you have to think about buoyancy when task loaded then you're not going to get through Tech2.

Being around people like Rich Walker and Rich Lundgren is also a fascinating experience. They are both highly competent divers, and both highly competent educators. Both are passionate about GUE without being exclusionist. Forget your image of the GUE instructor unwilling to listen to new ideas or concepts. These guys are researching and reading everything that comes out to see how it might affect their diving, and you're going to struggle to find many people who know more about decompression. Rich Walker has spent 20 years in academics creating models of what happens to the human body in certain situations. As you can imagine, this gives him an interesting perspective on decompression models. We've picked up plenty of the most recent thoughts in decompression, diving practices, safety, exploration and research, which has made for conversations late into the evening. They are also, it has to be said, just phenomenal in the water.

finally, the course is a good laugh. Tech1 will make or break a team. By Tech2, the team must be in place, so from this perspecitve everyone just relaxes and has a good laugh. Howard and Gareth have become good friends of mine, and as we begin the process of planning the dive today, I know that I've had a bloody good laugh with some good mates.