A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be a part of the Auckland Scuba PADI Recreational Side Mount course. The course consisted of two nights during the week after work, and two days over the weekend. This was a great set up for people who lead busy lives and work full time. The course set up is perfect for first-time PADI sidemount students such as myself. I was lucky enough to have a Hollis SMS 75 BCD which is sidemount compatible, however Auckland scuba provided all the gear required to be part of this course.
The first night class Chris used to show us the gear set up and go over the systems and drills involved with sidemount diving. There was heaps of opportunity as well for us to ask questions and clarify any queries we had about sidemount diving. Night two with moved onto the pool session which allowed us to become fully comfortable with the gear set up and practice our skills and emergency drills in sidemount. Personally I found the practice in a confined water environment helped hone skills and prepare ourselves before the open water dives. The weekend rolled around and for our first open water dive we went to Penguin point at near Leigh.
The dive was filled with skills including emergency drills, valve shutdowns, hovering, out of air drills, removal of tanks and just generally getting used to the gear and how it operates. Highlights of the dive were seeing octopi, a large range of fish and being able to dive at a location that i had never dived before and enjoying around 2 hours in the water as we now had an extended gas supply.
Day two open water diving allowed us to make one long dive using both tanks, this is a huge advantage of sidemount diving with 400 bar instead of 200 bar allowing us to complete a dive over 90 minutes… 96 to be exact. This is the longest time I’ve ever spent underwater. At completion of the course Chris gave us a final tips and tricks and signed off us as certified PADI Recreational Sidemount Divers. This is a thoroughly enjoyable experience and a great new skill to have and the repertoire of diving. Auckland Scuba and their in house Course Director Chris were very professional. Myself and the other students thoroughly enjoyed the course and I am looking forward to my next sidemount diving adventure.
PADI Rescue Diver, Sidemount Diver, Divemaster in training (and all round top bloke).