So I have now finished my TDI Side mount course along with my SDI Solo course. I thought I would have a clearer idea about how to dive now, whether I want to continue diving Back mount steel twins, OR break them up and dive Side mount.
On my last day of diving Side mount we had to carry a stage and I also had my camera. Something I found really difficult with Side mount was gearing up these 3 bottles on the boat. In the end Daren ended up bringing my stage down for me and it still took me a good ten minutes to attach it with him helping me. We ended up having to attach it front mounted and this felt a bit weird unlike when I attach it front mounted with twins on.
It wasn’t like the first times I’d dived Side mount, I felt really uncomfortable and it was the first time ever I felt like ending the dive. Simply, I felt I was endangering my well being because I had no idea what was going on with all the hoses in front of me. What reg was I breathing out of? There were hoses everywhere.
I ended up taking a breath, calming down and continuing on with the dive. I felt lop sided and had to continuously kick in order to trim horizontally. I also felt the tanks were sitting on my legs and every fin I did was like I was weight lifting two 12l steel tanks!
In saying that the first few times I dived Side mount felt really comfortable. It felt like I was in space just floating around, not weighted or lop sided, and a real sense of freedom with my ability to move in any way I pleased. Whether it was doing a barrel roll, turning side on or upside down to take photos, I really enjoyed the maneuverability I had in Side mount. I can only conclude that the way the tanks was rigged up in the first place was the problem on my second day of diving. Perhaps it was a good thing to experience too because now I realise the importance of finding that comfort level and tailoring the rigging to suit my body.
It’s hard though because unlike diving Back mount there is no real ONE way to do Side mount. I’ve never heard so many different ideas about how to gear up, and configure hoses and tanks before. So there is no way of knowing what I am really doing right or wrong in relation to gearing or rigging up. The only way I can really get it right is by experimenting several different ways, observing the differences and finding out what works for me. So, I am still in Limbo until I have a few pool sessions and see if I can find my G spot so to speak with these tanks and hoses.
Until then I will continue diving with my trusty Back mount twins and watching Nick R and Nick K float merrily around me in their perfectly tailored Side mount configuration. The positive about Back mount is there is a right and wrong way to gear up and it is fairly obvious if you get it wrong. The hoses and tanks fit snugly behind you, but you still know exactly where everything is in case of emergency and it is still easy to access. The downside to twins is being restricted with how you can move. I noticed this yesterday diving in a strong current, low VIS at Julian Rocks. Positions I could before get in easily in Side mount were impossible in twins and caused me all sorts of grief attempting them (including nearly falling onto a Wobbegong as I proceeded to try to turn sharply in a small space with the current pushing me).
Certainly I would like to get the gear configuration right because the positives of diving Side mount for me personally being a photographer, definitely out way diving in either single or twin configuration. TBC
Sunday 2nd September updated…
So I decided stuff it and just broke up the twins, If I don’t give it a red hot go I’ll never know! I also bought some Apeks regs with SPGS rather than upgrade my current Hollis set up which would have cost a few hundred and would not be the way I wanted to have them anyway, as I don’t want any hoses coming across my body, like some divers choose to have them. Instead I want to configure my left long hose to come straight up on an angled 70 degree where I would clip it off to my left D ring and my right short hose with neck bungy…
Diving on Sunday at Julian Rocks felt really comfortable and I think the small changes I made to both the tank rigging and my wing made a trememdous difference. I felt weightless in the water, like I was in outer space and could move any way I wanted and still stay in perfect trim. The real difference was for photography when I went to take a photo of a Triggerfish hiding under a rock. I observed the time at which, with Twins, I would normally have to do a helicopter turn and come right back around but with Sidemount I took 4 photos all on different angles in perfect succession, it was SO easy! I can imagine that Sidemount would have to be 2nd to Rebreathers only for photography, it really kills Single tank too!
I didn’t find the swapping of regulators annoying either…maybe because I am ok on gas consumption but on the first dive I only swapped them twice, and came back after an hour with 250 bar! It seems I use even less gas with Sidemount vs Twins and I think this may be due to the constant need to inflate my wing and dump with twins when having to re-arrange myself to get into positions for photography, whereas you don’t have to do that with Sidemount…you just turn sideways or upside down.
Unfortunately, the diving conditions where pretty crap today. 4m VIS with heaps of sediment in the water with a “snowing” feel to it, and OMG freezing! 18 degrees after an hour my feet in my boots felt like ice blocks and I could hardly feel them! I thought taking off my left tank and passing it up, then coming up onto the boat with one may be easier but I don’t think it is. It’s just as easy coming up with both tanks, as long as you remember you are suddenly a big wide Heifer need to go in Sideways. I sat out the second dive, as no-one was getting me back into that freezing pool of murk.
Must buy drysuit for next Winter…wetsuit just doesn’t cut it. Can’t remember being such a pussy last Winter! Avoiding Hypothermia is always good though!
Just to update, I continue to love Sidemount! Noticeably when you can flip upside down and film 200 Cow Nose Rays circling above your head in perfect trim, it has to be a good thing! Have to say I hate the short inflator hose, it is a bitch! Going back to the long inflator hose.