Why Dive Sidemount
Pete gives a brief overview of sidemount diving and some of the advantages of trying it out.by Pete Nawrocky
Sidemount diving is not a new concept. It was originally created by cave divers that had a need to safely penetrate narrow and confining spaces. The standard configuration for double tanks worn on the divers back was too cumbersome and restrictive. Swimming into tight areas not only created the potential for a diver to get stuck, but could also adversely affect the cave environment. This style of diving moved the tanks from the diver’s back to alongside the torso.
Many cave divers in the 1980’s experimented with sidemount configurations. The equipment needed for sidemount was basically a “home grown” affair that each individual diver adapted to their body shape. This evolution gradually moved towards diving manufacturers as the public created a demand for the gear. The next step was towards the open water diver. Much of the interest was created by the way the diver is able to divide the weight of the gear. Preparing for a dive is definitely different. The diver can carry the tanks to the water’s edge and leave them there. After suiting up in the appropriate thermal protection the divers wears a harness/wing combination that is independent of the tanks. Upon entering the water the diver then attaches the tanks to the harness.
Hose routing is completely different than what is normally seen since each tank is responsible for different tasks. The left tank supplies gas to the wing and the right tank is the supply for the drysuit or back-up buoyancy. There are a variety of configurations regarding hose routing for the regulators second stage. The use of bent angle adapters has become common in order to keep the hoses close to the diver’s head. Six-inch pressure gauge hoses on each tank are necessary for monitoring gas supply. Gas management requires switching from one second stage to the other in order to maintain trim, but also to keep a proper bailout reserve in the event of a failure.
Kitting up on a boat is a different matter and is accomplished by placing the tanks next to the diver while they are seated. It can be done while standing up or when the conditions are right, tanks can be attached while floating on the surface. For some this is a lifestyle choice or it can be mission specific. Divers that have trouble handling a set of doubles often look into sidemount to divide the load. Traveling divers can hook up any tanks to use this configuration. There are a few drawbacks. Surface swimming is usually done on the back since the tanks tend to pull the diver forward. Getting kitted up is a little more involved but as with any new skill repetition is the key to success.
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