Monday, October 19, 2015

Why Sidemount Diving? A Instructor's point of view

For anyone who has been following our GoPro page exotic on Facebook page its pretty obvious that we like sidemount diving. Why is this? Why change gear, add another first stage to the mix and then learn a bunch of new skills? You can't go neither deeper, or further into wrecks.... So why? Actually there are many other good reasons that Sidemount diving has and can add to your diving experience, here is my personal point of view. 

Sidemount is a great primer for more advanced diving such as Technical or cave diving. If you are interested in technical diving it will be pretty clear why sidemount will be beneficial to you, as a recreational diver it might be harder to see these benefits.

Added Safety - Longer Dives
Apeks Sidemount Regulator setup
Apeks Sidemount regulator
Why am i saying that a sidemount configuration is safer? - There is the redundancy. Equipment malfunction is very rare today but it still happens. During my dives i have had hoses breaking underwater as well as o rings popping, free flowing inflators and so on. Considering the amount of dives this has happened on i have to say its still very rare that things break. When you have a popped tank o ring you have 1 minute (if your lucky) to make it to the surface or your buddy in recreational gear. Doing this in a big cloud of bubbles under stress is not fun. In sidemount its very different. As you have 2 redundant regulators on 2 tanks it doesnt matter if one breaks, you could cut all the hoses on one reg completely and still make it up to the surface by yourself (you should of course go up with your buddy) with a proper safety stop and surface swim if necessary. Lets say that both your regs fail at the same time (Extremely unlikely) a sidemount diving buddy can share air with you on a long hose, this is much more comfortable then doing so on a regular alternate air source were the hose is much shorter and pulling in your mouth unless your pretty much glued to your buddy.. And longer dives is also another great reason. Pretty simply, you got 2 bottles so even if you use a lot of air you will be able to stay down and enjoy the dive site for longer. If you make the dives on Nitrox then you can really see the added value. Sidemount diving all started originally from Cave Exploring were a very simple but very reliable way of diving is necessary. To me all diving should be as safe and gear as simple to use as possible.  

PADI Sidemount instructor Specialty course
PADI Sidemount instructor Specialty course
Why do I personally love Sidemount?
Let me explaining why I love it so much. I have logged plenty of dives, both in cold and warm water in icy lakes and on tropical reefs, before trying sidemount. I now live since 5 years in Asia and one of the reasons is because i much prefer the tropical diving, including the temperature and the reduced hassle with gear - No dry suits or thick gloves which makes getting around trickier. Same goes for me in sidemount, my chest is clean and free from clutter, my back is free from restrictions and tanks. I can bend and flex as much as i like with out having the gear holding back. This makes for a truly "free" experience underwater. Sure i am actually towing around 2 tanks but they are tucked in under my shoulders and out of the way and streamlined. 

Add even more time to you dive
Quite often divers come to Exotic asking for 15 liter tanks, they use more air then their buddies and want to be able to stay down as long as their friends. Sure we have 15 liter tanks and sure they hold more air then a standard 12 liter tank. However 2 x 12 liter tanks, now that's allot of air! This is great for a couple of different reasons. You can make really long dives as well as having a bigger reserve in case anything goes wrong. 
If something goes wrong underwater, your most valuable resource is time, underwater time is directly linked to the amount of gas you have to breath, the more the better!

Of course there is downsides as well, after all, I can say that sidemount is not for everyone even though i do believe it can benefit most divers. One downside is simple, the cost. You need to either invest or rent at least one more first stage and long hose and an additional SPG. Walking with 2 bottles on land is obviously trickier, however you can just as easy don both cylinders in the water. Of course you have to learn additional skills and procedures to safely dive with sidemount. With this being said the many benefits outweighs the costs, which can be kept small depending on the gear that you choose.
Even Rebreathers can be sidemount configured
Even rebreathers can be sidemounted

To me diving equipment is a tool needed to go and see or do something. Some dives requires more and some less. Shallow reef dives only requires a single tank and BCD while a deep cave dive might require multiple re breathers. Sidemount is in my book not the only way of diving but the most versatile way of diving!
If you have questions about the sidemount course, equipment configurations or want advice in general, just pop me an email at

Joa Löfström
PADI Master instructor
Tec sidemount instructor