Why learn to cave dive?

What should I expect during cave diver course?

When I took my decision to fly over to Mexico in late 2006, I had already in mind what was there: the cenote with their crystal clear water. At first, it was not so much the looong overhead sections that made the longest cave systems in the world. Nah! To be totally honest, I was a bit anxious, if not scared by the idea of cave diving. But I was ready to take up the challenge and learn to become a Full Cave Diver. At the time, I already knew (“thought” may be more appropriate word) that I had a ton of scuba diving experience. I had been teaching since 1996 and had couple of years before that, started my life as a PADI Tec deep diver. SO, I thought, I was bulletproof…

Let me tell you this: nothing had prepared me to what was coming! Not the 15 years of scuba diving as an instructor had prepared me for the cave diver training… 🙂

As most of you do, or should if you don’t, I took some time selecting my instructor and went with one who had extensive experience and passion about this type of diving. After all, it can’t be that complicated. Go in, follow the line, turn at thirds and then you’re good… SO I thought.

In this article, I will share with you the 2 different aspects that attract divers to learn cave diving. I am not bias regarding the configuration used but for those who know me, you know I prefer sidemounting. So let’s jump in straight and once you’ve read this short post, please, Rate it, Share it and comment.

Share with us what made YOU take on cave diving.

Basic sidemount buoyancy and trim control.

Basic sidemount buoyancy and trim control.

Do we learn for the advanced skill set?

I would say, our primal interest is set on learning those famous advanced diving techniques. One good way to do so is by taking a Cavern course, here, in Mexico. Why? Because of the main activity for scuba divers here being cave diving and most instructors teaching Cavern Diving being active cave divers, it is a very sensible way of approaching the cave course.
Actually, many of the leading technical wreck divers around the world have come to taking their cave class here, in order to better their wreck dives. That says a lot about what is expected to any cave diver student here. So, for those who don’t really know what I am talking about, here is what you will be expected to know and further down the training, master, to become a safe and sound cave diver.

First things, aside from the equipment you will be using and how it will be configured is your basic: the buoyancy. Buoyancy is the core skill needed to evolve underwater. Too little time is focused on buoyancy understanding. The basic training received during the first scuba courses doesn’t really gives enough grasp of what it means to achieve neutral buoyancy and also, to carry the right amount of weight. It takes some times for the diver to understand how it works but never the less, it is very important, if not, vitally needed if a person wants to become a cave diver. Once the buoyancy is mastered and I say “mastered” because at this level of the game, it has to be, it is then time to learn new propulsion techniques and work on your trim. Let the fun begin. 🙂

Buoyancy, trim and propulsion techniques aka BTP as I call those skills, need proper understanding and mastery and are not easy to learn and/or grasp. It gets frustrating at times but with good training and continued practice, even if not perfect, will take you where you want to get with your hobby.

Ego is not a good friend when learning. Or should I say, if you learn advanced diver training to satisfy your ego, make sure your skills are on par with what is expected of you.

Or to discover the magical world of underwater caves?

The places we visit are wonderful. The underwater world is full of surprises and the places we get to dive offer a very satisfying reward after the long jungle treks we take on.  As I discovered the joy of exploring new caves, I realised that what was luring me the most to do what I do, is the amazing beauty of Mother Nature.

Speleotherms in the Jaguar tunnel.

Speleotherms in the Jaguar tunnel.

Some of the rooms are a mixed stage of chaos and precision speleotherm growth.

What we must keep in mind is that the caves can’t filter who gets in. There is no such a thing as a “killer cave” as they used to be nicknamed in some part of the world.
So when learning to cave dive, keep this in mind and make sure to match your skills to the cave you are going to visit.
The elephant in the China shop must be in control of it’s BTPs! 😉

Once a cave diver, taking up advanced cave diver specialties (Stage, DPV, Adv Sidemount) bring you back to dive #0, as in you are back at hte beginning with this specialty. Baby steps are a sign of control, humility and also the traits of reasonable and responsible diver.
When teaching cave diving, on the first day we get to know what our clients are expecting from the training and very few say that they want to approach the nicely decorated underwater cave passages. Most say they want to become a better diver, learn advanced skills etc… It is very rewarding to swim in a place where very few others have dived and to be the one there, high skill set is expected. When taking on cave diver training, you are defacto ready to become a better diver.

Training expectations

What I want to stressed out here, is the training  expectations a diver has as he or she commit to advanced diver training. Of course they are high but let’s not get carried away or put more bluntly, let’s be realistic.

When a diver asks what are the pre-requesite to enter a full cave course, the answer, as standards go, is Adv OW diver from any recognised agency and of course the amount of logged dives and when was the last one done. Although, even if you follow this outlined requirement, you will find that it doesn’t always work.

Thanks to devine powers, we are all different. This particularity helps and enrich my teachings to (try the best) adapt to each and every one of my clients. And most of the time we obtain great results. Since last year I have been using a GoPro Hero3 camera to back up my teaching and do video reviews as necessary. It helps! Me neither, I can’t listening at my voice for too long! 😉

Exiting through restriction at Caterpillar cenote

Exiting through restriction at Caterpillar cenote

I say “we almost obtain great results” simply for the reason I want to point out: between the cave training curriculum and the diver’s experience, sometimes there is a huge gap.
Why is that you’d ask? I would blame the recreational scuba diving market…which I am from too. But I believe that my coming to Mexico is also in part to expose myself to this advanced form of diving in order to take a new approach to diver’s training. Berglund Jesper said it very well in his book: “Beginning with the end in mind.” This being basically, the ethos of the Global Underwater Explorer diver training agency. It says it all really. When taking a diver into it’s first fin kicks, why not keep in mind how far/deep his/her hobby will be taking him or her?
And by keeping this in mind, we should all realise that the fundational, essential and basic training needs to be of the highest level. This is why, divers coming directly from the recreational diving i.e resort diving, don’t really understand why sometimes, the level demanded will not permit them to go home with the “famous” certification card.

There is no reason not to take up the challenge, au contraire, but it is a good idea to take it humbly and leave all expectations at home. Not to get entangled in the traitorous meander of our ego.

So please, read this article with your finger on the Book link on my website 🙂 and if you have any questions, please, Contact me. We can also arrange a Skype call to clarify all the shades of grey this scene of advanced diver training has to offer. If you are already a cave diver, please, drop some comments and share with us your views.

Thanks for taking the time to read. You can now go back to a normal life. 🙂

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About Jason

Essential Scuba Training is aimed at divers looking to better their skills in recreational and technical diving while using a holistic configuration. Be it recreational or technical and/or cave diving, Essential Scuba Training will put it's twenty years of experience at your service. View all posts by Jason

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