My reasoning behind choosing to sign up to the side-mount course was very narrow minded, consisting of the “I want to extend my dive time” attitude. Since completing the course, my mindset has completely changed and I have become so much more aware of how I am able to become a more competent diver.
Firstly, having only single cylinder back-mount diving experience, I had never been exposed to having to multi-task and organise multiple things at once. On our third day we made our way to the open water, and however smooth the dive went for me, I knew from experience I would encounter a challenge sooner or later. This came at the end of our first dive where we were performing our safety stop and deploying our surface marker buoys. A relatively simple task, however my first real encounter with multi-tasking while under pressure. Whilst maintaining my buoyancy at 5 metres and handling my DSMB, I was altering my trim to prevent a more buoyant cylinder from flipping me over, whilst at the same time switching between regulators and attempting to manage the cramp which had just decided to attack each of my hamstrings. This was not something I was overly excited about managing in all honesty, but due to the practice we had in the pool and all the information, knowledge and support that Chris had given to us prior, I felt more than prepared and confident for seeing the situation out.
Another skill that all divers need that I feel I improved on greatly throughout the four days, is buoyancy itself. The whole dynamics of diving change completely when you add a second cylinder, with one under each arm. From adjusting trim to managing air in each tank equally to avoid flipping, as well as maintaining a perfect horizontal skydiver position and managing equipment to stay tidy and streamlined. This course has made me so much more aware of how being neat and tidy, being aware of where your equipment is placed (and why it is stored there) as well as constant monitoring and focus of your surroundings and weighting make you a more competent, and more professional diver.
Overall, I personally believe I have come away from Auckland SCUBA’s side-mount course as a more competent, knowledgeable and capable diver, having earned skills that can transition into my back-mount diving and also my role as a Divemaster and future instructor. You always learn something when you sign up to a course, but you come away with so much more when you have a teacher that can give you vast experience, and relevant tips of the trade. I’d like to thank Chris for the knowledge, positivity and competence he gave to us over the course and take a minute to recommend the side-mount course to anyone that wants to get a deeper understanding and ability of a better way to dive.