Me Vs Sidemount - why I keep taking courses (as an Instructor)


The reason for doing any new diving course remains the same... You get used to what you have done till now and want to see what else you can push yourself to do... what is that limit?

That is what gets you hooked in the first place. That feeling of exploring a new world, that feeling of seeing some amazing fish and sea life in their natural habitat is unparalleled. The thrill of the first dive pushes you on to the next one.

Slowly, as you get more in control of handling yourself under the water with all this "strange equipment", you learn to appreciate the sea life even more. All the patterns, colours, species, minor variations within each species gets you hooked to find new things. As they say in Indonesia, they all are "Same, same but different"! And once diving feels like second nature, you start yearning for those minutes of silence and only  the sound of your breath accompanying you as you play your role of a spectator in this alien world. And diving becomes pure bliss.

But soon after that, human nature kicks in - What next? You know the been there done that feeling... And then you hunt for that next challenge - be it a challenging diving location, an exciting change in the diving location or doing the next course and going deeper/ further/ simply getting better at diving.

And being as restless as I am, of course the "what next" tends to kick in just a little bit too soon (Yes I know - I need to learn..still trying on that front).


So once I was reaching the end of my divemaster course, I started wondering, what other types of diving can I explore. Now, of course there are heaps and heaps of specialty courses you can do with PADI and all other agencies but I was hunting for that one challenge that would make me go wide-eyed with wonder.

(WARNING: This is where it gets a bit technical now)

So the 5 feet tall me, decided to challenge myself and do what is known as the Sidemount Course. Now, normally, you dive with one tank of compressed air - which weighs about 15 kilos (I think). This tank then lets you have a nice lovely dive of about 45-50 minutes depending on how deep you go (physics of diving - the deeper you go, the faster you use up your air).  But it only lets you stay at 30 meters (where a lot of cool stuff like sharks are), for about 20 odd minutes on normal air. So with a bit of science, they developed Enriched Air which lets you stay there for much longer - to put it simply, it gives you enough time to use up more than the 15 kilo cylinder. So you start wondering, if there was a way to dive with more than one tank.

Enter- Sidemount course. 2 tanks. One on each side. the diver has now got double the amount of air and hence a much happier (and safer!) dive at a deeper depth.


(Getting out of the technical part now).

So, Sidemount vs me. 2 tanks weighing about 15 kilos each, 4 kilos of weight to sink and the weight of the harness etc. on 5 feet tall me. Anyone who can do math must be having a good laugh imagining this right now. And as my instructor very nicely pointed out, "Well Richa, we will need to set up the tanks a bit higher for you because...well... you know... you're short". Umm.. Thanks... I hadn't noticed that detail...

And so began, my adventure of diving with two tanks on my sides and learning once again, to get used to equipment and feeling like a new diver once again in the water. Now that I am done with the certification of the course, the wheel is set in motion again - get used to the gear, get used to diving with it and then enjoy till you reach the blissful state again.

I wonder what the next limit will be after that... Looking forward to the next challenge now!