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Recreational Sidemount Diving: Is it still the Boss?

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by Gary_Ward, Jun 11, 2020.

  1. Diving Dubai

    Diving Dubai Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Dubai UAE
    3,544
    3,662
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    I've never thought sidemout was "the boss" like any system there are pro's and con's, one needs to establish whether teh advantages for the diver over come the negative downsides.

    My usual local diving in Single BM, required loading 7 tanks onboard on a Thursday evening plus a couple of AL 40. Most people here dive Steel 12l or 15l. My preference is 15l, not because I require all teh gas on a dive, but because I prefer the comfort and relaxation knowing that in normal conditions you'll end up with about 1/3rd remaining gas. If you're caught in a tricky situation with currents, then you're not having the additional concern with gas

    While I have and do take my SM only these trips, the main downside is gas logistics. After the first dive I'm having to top off my AL80 cylinders with transfil (to ensure I keep my contingency) So this can become a bit of a faff. Experience has taught me that at the start of each day I'm best off with 2 fresh cylinders.

    Also using SM on a DPV mean you either stop to change regs or come up with a method of doing it one handed, which is doable but not pretty.

    So apart from occasionally taking my SM out to keep my hand in, Single tanks and pony is generally easier on these dives

    Where side mount truly wins for me, is when we travel. It's just easy to pick up a set of Al80's no issues trying to get larger tanks, zero gas limitations. There is certainly something to be said for the piece of mind and teh relaxation given by the knowledge that you have way more gas then you need, you have full independant redundancy and shutdown skills ect are just a breeze

    My gear is absolutely optimized for boat diving, where I gear up completely on the boat and roll/jump in with both tanks. The only limitations to exiting the water with tanks is the boat ladder, so I may hand up tanks.

    I have little tolerance for those SM divers who just make a drama out of gearing up, demanding all sorts of assistance, and slowing everyone else up. I know some people who've been detractors of the system after they've used it. The fault doesn't lie in the system, but in that person not optimising their gear and methods to suit (and its always the gear, never the person)

    Some dive ops have been reticent at first, because they've had bad experience with other SM users - the first dive normally stops those fears when I'm geared up before most other single tank people

    In my world Tech means Tri mix or RB - neither of which I'm interested in. So carrying a couple of extra small deco cylinders is easy, but I absolutely see where BM doubles start to win when "real estate" starts becoming an issue.

    But again if I'm travelling to sites where the dives require the need for proper redundant gas, then just taking my SM harness certainty wins over hiring a set of banded doubles etc
     
  2. MichaelMc

    MichaelMc Dry too long. ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Berkeley, CA
    1,788
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    For self-reliant with a flaky friend, sidemount also does not say 'I don't trust you' like a pony does.

    "No, I trust you as a buddy. I
    • carry this pony for its color."
    • love the stability and flexibility of sidemount. I can twist, bend and arch plus tilt my head up however I want. I'm like a flexible baby sea lion with air tanks."
    "Mermaid/man diving: twist, turn, look all around without hitting your first stage, more stable ... plus two regulators for those awkward (extremely rare if you pay attention) moments of failure when your friend is off somewhere else chasing underwater butterflies and thus not handy with your backup air source. Be more like a baby sea lion and more self-reliant as well."

    "Are you a diligent buddy to them, but unsure how they would respond to giving you air. Sidemount, for flexibility and ease underwater (and two independent air sources)."

    (Yes yes, watching your SPG is a much better plan to start with.)

    "Sidemount: being more like the natives. Like a flexible baby sea lion with air tanks."
    (Adolescent sea lions are fast. We are not.)

    "Backmount: being a good land and water creature.
    Sidemount: being a great water creature."
     
  3. Gary_Ward

    Gary_Ward Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Carriacou
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    I hear you on that one! My preference is to hook up my left tank whilst I'm on the boat, so I can connect the LPI and have an air source. I then jump in holding the right hand tank and clip it on as I descend - so much easier to do when bouyant. I'll also typically un-clip both tanks when I'm on the safety stop, but leave the LPI connected. Then when I surface, its a quick 'puff' / 'pop' combo and the tanks are free to be taken away and I can assist anyone else out of the water. No need for any drama... :wink:
     
    MichaelMc likes this.
  4. Gary_Ward

    Gary_Ward Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Carriacou
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    Isn't everything on the internet titled to get you to click on it? You'll have to forgive us though as we're learning this as we go along. We're a team of just regular dive pro's living in a tiny island in the Caribbean which has been in complete shutdown for 4 months. We're not allowed to open the shop yet, we're not allowed to go diving and there are no tourists here at all. The premise of the videos was to:

    a) Give us something constructive to do as in the first 6 weeks of total shutdown a malaise set in and we were all starting to get very depressed
    b) A teaching aid for the new instructors, help them to learn about elements of diving and how they can effectively present these
    c) Try to do something positive to promote the business.....
    d) Have some fun in these terrible times.

    All of our videos echo our British sense of humour, and when we create them we're really not taking ourselves too seriously. There are many people out there on internet-world who are Uber-serious, so we chose to take a much more light-hearted, almost parody approach. Some people will love it, some will hate it.... but for all of the reasons above, we're going to carry on doing this (as the alternative right now is do nothing).

    Thanks for your feedback, and thanks also for you patience as we learn more about 'presenting'
     
  5. MichaelMc

    MichaelMc Dry too long. ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Berkeley, CA
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    I thought the video was good. With good pro con. And the humor was fine. The staged doubles was just a small part, past rec. diving (here). Especially for the 95% of divers.

    Looking at the gradual path from rec. to 10-15 minute deco on back gas is good. But I think most do not start that set on 10-15 minutes of deco and pondering deep trimix. They just wonder if there is a bit more, better or nicer. And staying how they are is the alternative. Assuming they have good buoyancy, trim, etc.

    Tiny doubles (2x 40s/50s) are cool and are as easy getting in or out of the water as a single. They give you equipment failure redundancy, if you can do a valve drill in crisis. They likely involve switching to a BP/W, and the boat has to have manifold doubles. If not, it is ID with reg switches and donation changes or seeing one of them as a big pony. Still easy to carry, but a bigger change in dive procedure. The gain for the diver is equipment redundancy, possibly with valve drill. Just like a pony. And cool that you're wearing doubles. (It is still cool with 80 or 100 cu ft of gas, but a pony might do the same thing, without needing tiny main tanks.)

    Modest or normal doubles (2x steel 72, AL80, LP85, HP100) are no longer as easy to carry or standup in as a single tank. Or climb back on board, haul up by hand, or move on deck. But you gain more gas.

    Tiny sidemount (2x 40s/50s) gives you back your flexible body in the water. A gain you do not get with more stuff on your back. Plus it gives equipment redundancy and independent air sources with no valve drill. Switching to it requires the same hose changes as ID and again a new BC.

    The cons are modest front clutter, fitting to you (simplified by running a longer hose down the left tank), and more faff rigging up and on land.

    If you are happy with that much gas, and ok with needing twice the tanks, you can dive as before, but a bit freer in the water. Plus you've gained tools for self sufficient. It may not be the rig for the North Sea though. Unless they haul in your tanks and then you.

    Modest or normal sidemount (2x AL72, AL80, LP85) is no longer easy on deck. But can be managed one at a time and easily handed up and down for our diver venturing out from their backmount single.

    The crew may have more work with big sidemount, passing single tank(s) instead of telling the diver "Tally ho, get on up here with those twin 80 or 100s, off to your seat now."

    With rebreather being the king of big tech (front, back, or side), it seems neither way is the wrong path to those deep trimix dives in some possible future.

    Stay safe and survive your shutdown.
    (Your gear up and dance video is GREAT!)
     
    Gary_Ward likes this.
  6. racanichou

    racanichou Manta Ray

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Ottawa, Canada
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    I felt like the video didn’t say a lot and it was frankly inconclusive.
     
  7. Diving Dubai

    Diving Dubai Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Dubai UAE
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    Looking at the video again, and being a Brit, and appreciating the humour and banter, I think it was an okay video.

    It covered the pro's and cons well, and effectively was neutral - i.e. a lot comes down to your personal preferences and your dive situation

    I'm a huge fan of it's modularity, where one day my AL80 might be on SM, another it's a stage when I'm on BM. I like the fact that on a shore entry *spit* I carry one tank on my shoulder, the other in my hand while traversing the soft sand and laughing at the BM divers waddling unsteadily

    If I'm working on a boat, I appreciate not having to haul out a banded set of doubles

    In my working life, I'm often in a high access fall arrest harness with tools and gear clipped on and chinking about, which makes SM look and feel like a streamline system, but I do get how some people might not like the bits n pieces

    And yes, most certainly there is a faff getting the kit dialed in, I have a large bag of discarded clips, buckles and assorted hardware that wasn't quite right in getting my gear dialed in

    "I" Think the biggest (for me) disadvantage of SM, is the fact it requires some conscious effort when diving it.

    By that I mean. When in BM - on a normal dive, you have a reg in your mouth and occasional glance at your gas contents, which is effectively a subconscious automated action

    Where as SM, it requires a conscious effort to watch yoru gas contents, and switch between regs over teh course of the dive. It's neither onerious nor difficult, but it still requires conscious thought.

    For me, gear is only about getting me under the surface to enjoy the experience of divign and seeing what interests me, divign a system that requires a bit of conscious thought detracts from that, hence I'll swap between BM (singles) and SM depending on the dives, the circumstance and the way I feel on that day

    I don't really have strong opinions either way. each diver should look and the benefits of a system to them and whether they're happy to deal with the negatives
     
    markmud, Colliam7, MichaelMc and 2 others like this.
  8. Cdncoldwater

    Cdncoldwater Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Atlantic Canada
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    I'm relatively new to rec SM with about 40 dives on the system. It is my preferred platform as a shore diver with a bad back as I can carry two smaller tanks (LP50s), easier when the tide is low (Bay of Fundy) and I have the benefits of redundancy as I'm prepping for my solo qualification. I can dress independently as quick as most of my BM buddies and I'm in the process of streamlining my configuration. I still BM but then I need a weight harness if diving in the north Atlantic and don't find it any easier. For my only trip I used BM as the resort didn't seem to understand my questions about SM but they are now doing some SM from what I've seen. I think it is a very personal thing and I can find it cumbersome at times but I still prefer it over BM for the diving I do.
     
    Gary_Ward likes this.
  9. jadairiii

    jadairiii Solo Diver

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    5:26 of the video pretty much sums up the "advantage" of side-mount for recreational divers, "larger divers ......with really bad air consumption". In short, lets use gear to fix an underlying problem.
     
  10. covediver

    covediver Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Alaska
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    seems like every few years the latest or "boss" (a term I have not used since the early 1970s) thing hits the scuba world. Since the 90s it would go something like tec-doubles-backplate wing-sidemount-scooter-apnea. All one needs to do to map the trend is to look at the adoption date of PADI or NAUI (less so) specialty course and advertising push as they seek to monetize the latest cool thing. The early adopters (cool kids) quickly set the next cool thing as the masses of the unwashed climb on board the last cool thing in an effort to be one of the cool kids, complete with certification card and merit badge. Sidemount is a past cool kid thing. Wonder what the next one will be?
     

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