This entry is slightly misnamed and should really be lessons learned from Tech 1 about what skills to focus on before going into Tech 1. I include how this gets applied in the course and what the bar needs to be raised to after coming out of the course, so practicing these skills to Tech 2 perfection is not necessary. The point of this article is really to get the focus of pre-course practice going in the correct direction, and away from some of the distractions which are going to be less useful to practice beforehand.
This is the key skill to practice going in to it. The ascent drills in fundies are sort of about this, and if you’re practicing ascent drills that is the generally correct idea. But the real focus should be on moving up in the water column and acquiring a stable platform at every level. To begin with, if you are behind in the timing, its actually better to extend the stops and gain that stable platform rather than cruising through stops trying to hit the time. It is, of course, important to be conscious of time and to add back in the ability to nail stops based on time. It might be better to practice ascent drills with 2 minute timed stops to begin with.
The whole team should come into the stops and be able to adjust buoyancy and find the stable point around the correct stop depth (e.g. ideally 20 foot, not 19 or 21 foot). The team should communicate that platform and then be able to maneuver into position. Then, signal the team to move up.
At the stable platforms you should obviously be able to do work there (gas switches, deal with failures, etc), so it may be a good idea to throw in OOG drills as task loading while you are at a platform. Then solve that issue properly (and slowly) and then move up. The focus should be on accuracy to begin with and not on the rush-rush-rush to complete deco.
Once a team has a stable platform, then efficiency components can be added to that. Shooting a bag could be done while moving up in the water column from stop to stop, for example. However, we have that task to work on coming *out* of Tech 1, however, so this is not a skill that needs to be done *before* Tech 1. Before Tech 1 the focus should be on gaining that stable platform, using 2 minute stops, adding OOG drills when you are comfortable and building up comfort with the platform. Shooting a bag and spool it up can be added as additional task loading, moving smoothly between stops, finding the platform, clipping off the spool, then moving up again.
Again, SLOW it down and find the stable platform. If you are rushing to the surface trying to hit a schedule and never finding the stable platform, that will not be serving you well going into Tech 1 and your gas switches will look like a bit of a mess. Definitely maintain awareness of time, and you can try to time stops exactly, but use long enough stops that you have time to find a stable platform.
Team positioning around the upline makes all the skills easier and you do better if you’re closer around the upline either in a triangle formation or in the 3 abreast line formation for current. It makes things substantially easier to be close and to maintain closeness and to not drift and then have to reform.
Just adding accuracy to team formation can add considerable task loading to an ascent. If you can’t reach out and touch the line or a buddy you are probably too far away and need to focus on repositioning.
Role of the Captian
A deco team needs a captain, and they’re the ones calling the stops and signalling the platform (their depth gauge is the authoritative depth gauge — in the event of a discrepancy maintain stop depth with the captain). If you are natural not a leadership type and tend to be more passive and in control of your own situation and not inclined to jump in, this will be an essential skill to learn since everyone takes a rotating turn at being captain.
The Line is the Repair Shop
Divers without problems should stay away from the line, and avoid dragging the line and forming a bowstring. Do not carry the line over to divers who are out of position, get them to come back into position.
But when divers have issues they should swim into the line and use it as a reference. The simple presence of a diver on the upline should alert the other team members that the diver has an issue. To help fix the issue another diver can swim into the line from the other vertex of the triangle. This has the important feature of keeping the line in the upline in the middle and not losing it. If either diver swims past the line to get to the problem or to get to the solution then the upline has gone behind someone and the team is now out of position.
When throwing an OOG at a stop, try to keep the upline in the middle, have the distressed diver signal and swim into the line and the diver delivering gas react by swimming into the line.
Practice Your Back Kick
Being able to maneuver midwater at a platform and maintain team position requires a good back kick. You can bump around for position, but ultimately the back kick is going to have to be solid. That should be practiced as part of practicing the stable platform. In order to have a stable platform and good back-kick trim and buoyancy also need to be there along with the rest of the fundamental skills of course.
Skills Not To Practice
The wrong focus would be on bottle juggling, since there is basically zero bottle juggling in Tech 1. Also, there’s no mask off ascents in GUE Tech 1, so there’s no need to practice that much. Bottle switching also should not be practiced since you don’t want to wind up practicing “cowboy switches”.
Most of the skills on the bottom are going to be fairly straight forwards for anyone with a Fundies Tech pass and the failures will be introduced on land, and will be somewhat telegraphed about what is going to happen during the dive, so there shoudln’t be a ton of surprises at the Tech 1 level. I would get off of that bottom and simply work on the midwater platform.
Final Lesson: Do Not Argue With Laura About Deco.
At least not on dry land. Wait until she gets cold in the water and starts thinking about how a hot cup of coco will taste… =)