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PADI TecRec Boot Camp with Ben Reymenants.

Annika Ziehen doing a technical dive with stage tanks

Images by Crystal Divers Mauritius, Ben Reymenants/ Blue Label Diving & me

Annika Ziehen doing a technical dive with stage tanks

The Ins & Outs of Technical Scuba Diving

Here are 2 truths about me: I have never fangirled over anyone in my life since I was 16 and I was never remotely interested in technical scuba diving.
This both changed when I got an offer to attend a PADI TecRec Boot Camp with Ben Reymenants in Mauritius. In case you are not a technical diver or have lived under a rock, Ben has been a bit of a tech diving god for years, and being part of the Thai cave rescue only got him a little closer to the diving Olymp.

So yes, it was purely due to him and me rediscovering my inner fangirl that I decided to sign up and explore depth below 40 m. Because to be honest, was never especially interested in diving deep. Deep diving provided the means to an end – a cool wreck, a cool nudibranch, a cool something… but I didn’t need to dive deep just for the sake of diving deep. I did however realize that tec diving is not just about depth (a lot of caves and wrecks qualify as technical dives) but about both teamwork and self-reliance, about precision, care, and skills. It is not about being daring – quite the opposite actually – and since tec diving comes with a lot of inherent, often tremendous risks you will learn how to minimize those risks through meticulous planning and trusting your gut – a combination I really appreciate.

What is technical diving and what to expect when learning from someone like Ben? Let’s dive right in*…

*Yes, pun fully intended!

What is technical scuba diving?

Group of technical divers doing a decompression stop

For some reason, many seem to think that technical diving is the opposite of recreational diving but this isn’t quite right. While you go beyond recreational ‘no stop’ limits in tech diving you can still do it just for the fun of it, and only when you move to commercial diving aka getting paid to dive you are not a recreational diver anymore.

But let’s go with this established distinction between recreational and technical diving just to make it a bit easier: in recreational diving, you are ‘allowed’ to dive to 40 m with a buddy adhering to your ‘no stop’ limits (or NDL = no-decompression limit) while tech diving allows you to do longer dives at shallower depth or deeper depth than 40 m.

Once you start your tec dive journey you will learn how to use different gases, learn decompression procedures, get familiar with specialized equipment, and maybe even dive in caves or inside wrecks.

While during most recreational dives you will add a safety stop to off-gas and minimize any chance of DCS, tech dives do require mandatory decompression stops. In technical diving, these stops are non-negotiable and often you will use different gas mixtures with higher oxygen content to help the off-gassing process during these stops.

While diving in caves, wrecks, or with rebreathers requires more specialized training, the initial PADI tech courses will teach you dive planning, team roles, when and how to do decompression stops, and how to use technical dive equipment.

Prerequisites for PADI Tech Diving Courses

Annika Ziehen doing a technical dive with stage tanks

While most agencies similarly structure their courses, they may have different prerequisites you need to fulfill to sign up for them. If you prefer to do a technical dive course with another agency you can check out the Extended Range courses from SSI here https://www.divessi.com/en/advanced-training/extended-range and the TDI Tech Courses here. https://www.tdisdi.com/tdi/get-certified/

The prerequisites for PADI Tec 40, 45 & 50 are as follows:

PADI Tec 40

  • You will need to be an Advanced Open Water Diver, Deep Diver & Enriched Air Diver
  • At least 18 years old
  • A minimum of 30 logged dives, a minimum of 10 dives using enriched air deeper than 18 m, and a minimum of 10 dives to at least 30 m

PADI Tec 45

  • You will need to be a PADI Tec 40 Diver and a Rescue Diver
  • At least 18 years old
  • A minimum of 50 logged dives, a minimum of 12 dives using enriched air deeper than 18 m, and a minimum of 6 dives deeper than 30 m
  • Medical statement deeming you fit to dive by a physician no older than 12 months

PADI Tec 50

  • You will need to be PADI Tec 45 Diver
  • At least 18 years old
  • A minimum of 100 logged dives, a minimum of 20 dives using enriched air deeper than 18 m, and a minimum of 15 dives deeper than 30 m
  • Medical statement deeming you fit to dive by a physician no older than 12 months

If you are not sure yet if technical diving is for you, PADI also offers a Discover Technical Diving program. This is similar to a Discover Scuba Diving experience only on a tech diving level. It consists of an academic and a confined water session which may count towards your PADI Tec 40.
To sign up, you need to be an Open Water Diver, have a minimum of 10 logged dives, and be at least 18 years old.

Technical Diving Equipment

Once you step into the world of technical diving you will also step into a whole new world when it comes to equipment. I have heard a few divers say that you are crossing over to the dark side – literally and figuratively, and the latter purely for financial reasons. While some equipment from recreational diving can be used for tec diving most cannot or at the very least you will need a backup for everything.

While you can use a single backmount for your Tec 40, we started our courses on sidemount right away, and once you hit Tec 45 you will need doubles and a wing as well as so-called deco or stage cylinders. You will also need regulators and SPGs for all your tanks that may be different from your regular configuration depending on what you dive with.
In addition, you need to double up on things like masks, cutting devices, and dive computers, and won’t ever be caught without at least one DSMB and reel.

Check before starting your tec courses what equipment you need to have or can borrow for your course.
But yeah, once you get hooked, chances are you may want to buy your own and as I said – your credit card will be upset…

How are PADI’s technical diving courses structured?

As with most PADI courses, Tec 40, 45 & 50 are divided into classroom sessions, practical sessions (some in confined water), and open water training dives. And yes, there is a pesky exam at the end of each course but luckily they are open book which we were all grateful for because man, these technical diving manuals are intense.

In the academic part of the courses you will learn about:

  • Risks, responsibilities, and emergency procedures when tec diving
  • Mission planning and team roles
  • Gas planning, decompression planning, and oxygen limits
  • Equipment configurations and set-up

We also learned how to use a dive planner app (I use Baltic for iOS) and how to manually put together a dive plan with appropriate decompression stops.

For our planned deep dives we first learned to don our stage tanks (not as easy as it looks!), how to do S.T.A.R.T. (basically the technical diving equivalent of a buddy check) at 5 m, NO TOX gas switches at our predetermined depths as well as DSMB deployment from depth. And then we put it all together on various dives to 40 m, 45 m, and finally 50 m.
Additionally, we did some shallower dives where we practiced sidemount rescues, taking off and donning our stage tanks blindly, and even diving without fins (not something I am keen to try again in a hurry!).

So… what is it really like to dive with Ben Reymenants?

technical divers at Crystal Divers Mauritius

I have always been a strong proponent that agency doesn’t matter – the instructor does. So when we started our tec camp and Ben asked us what inspired us to sign up for his courses I was not ashamed to say: you! Cue some laughter from the other students but it turned out I was not the only fangirl (or boy!) Ben had during this week. 

While the fundamentals are the same for all PADI tec courses I only wanted to learn from an instructor like Ben. He did not disappoint as he not only brought experience and knowledge but also a lot of patience and humor to our sessions. His favorite phrase: “There is hope.” I took that in the European way as downplaying something that is in fact really good. Ha! 

I guess I wasn’t completely wrong because we all got our certifications in the end so it seems we weren’t an utterly lost cause after all… 

If you are interested to do some technical scuba diving with Ben Reymenants you can get in touch with him via Blue Label Diving  or reach out to Crystal Divers Mauritius as they are planning future PADI TecRec Boot Camps with him. 

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