Long-established as leaders in the world of recreational diving, PADI has finally taken a giant stride into technical diving. Less than 10 years from their first cautious acceptance of Nitrox in the mid-90's, they are now offering a complete range of technical diving courses. From a suck'n'see 'Discover Tec' experience, all the way to an extended depth Trimix course, the world's leading issuer of diving certifications has thrown its educational and marketing muscle into the fight for this growing segment of the diving market.
Run in conjunction with the technical diving arm of the media production company Diving Science and Technology (DSAT), the new programs provide the techniques and procedures necessary for diving beyond recreational dive limits. The well-produced suite of student materials, including manuals, videos and slates, allows the course to follow the same performance-based instructional system familiar from PADI's recreational courses.
The 'Tec Rec' umbrella program covers a number of different courses, all conducted in full technical kit using double tanks. At the heart of the program is 'Tec Deep'. Consisting of 12 dives, this nine day program transforms recreational divers directly into fully-fledged technical divers without the need for any of the intermediate courses so favored by other technical diving agencies. Successful candidates leave the course certified to make decompression dives to 50 metres, and to use up to 100% oxygen as a decompression gas. To enroll on the Tec Deep course divers need to be certified as both Rescue and Nitrox divers, and have logged a minimum of 100 dives with at least 20 logged Nitrox dives, 25 dives deeper than 18 metres, and 15 dives deeper than 30 metres.
Divers who don't meet these prerequisites can enroll instead on 'Apprentice Tec', a sub-set of the main 'Tec Deep' program. Apprentice Tec divers can make gas-switch no-stop dives to 40m using air, and Nitrox up to 60%. Certification as an Advanced Open Water diver is enough to be able to start this course, along with Nitrox certification and at least 50 logged dives, with minimum 10 logged Nitrox dives, 12 dives deeper than 18 metres, 6 dives deeper than 30 metres.
'Discover Tec' offers a chance to try on a set of doubles with technical configuration. This program is offered either in a pool, or in the ocean to a maximum depth of 10 metres. Because of these tight restrictions any diver with just 10 dives and an Open water certificate under their belt can give it a go. With the right paperwork the 'Discover Tec' can be credited towards 'Apprentice Tec', which itself can be upgraded to full 'Tec Deep' after completion of the remaining dives.
For the extreme diver ready to further explore the world of technical deep diving, the gas of choice is trimix. The DSAT Tec Trimix Diver course takes experienced divers to the outer edges of technical deep diving, extending the depth range beyond 50 metres in open water. Divers wanting to join the course need to already be certified as a DSAT Tec Deep Diver, or have a qualifying certification in deep decompression diving using air/enriched air from another organization. The course extends their depth range capabilities by training them in the use of trimix (helium, oxygen and nitrogen).
The 'Tec Rec' program is a welcome addition to the choices already available in the field of technical diving certifications. Yet technical diving is not for everyone. These courses are aimed at the small minority of active divers who want to go beyond the everyday challenges offered by recreational diving, and are willing to accept the costs and risks involved.