By James Thornton-Allan
When you think of Thailand most people envision crystal clear water, colourful fish, spicy food and idyllic conditions for scuba diving. Most people are unaware of the collection of winding untouched underwater cave systems with some exceeding 600ft / 200m in depth and the world war 2 wrecks including the U.S.S Lagarto. Technical Diving in Thailand is growing, every year more and more divers are getting into the cave and tech diving made possible by the natural evolution of the sport and equipment technologies.
Most “tekkies” in Thailand beg, borrow and steal from other divers coming from North America and Europe who have the gear we all drool about in the magazines. Thailand is famous for it’s excessive import tax on anything remotely exciting so diving companies tend to bring in diving gear by the boat loads, thankfully there’s no shortage of pink fins and snorkels. It’s increasingly difficult to get specialized equipment in Thailand and when it comes to extreme diving, specialized equipment is exactly what we need.
As cave increased in popularity last year and in turn more sites were discovered the technical diving community started finding ways to make their diving possible. Home made rigs for sidemount and low profile ccr systems for getting into the tight environments. Thailand also had a rough monsoon sinking new wrecks which we all wanted to get into but couldn’t with the standard technical diving setup. It was decided that we needed to get specialized equipment into Thailand that would be reliable and would boost the practice of sidemount diving.
Big Blue Tech, a dedicated technical diving facility based on Koh Tao Island off the coast of Thailand in the Gulf decided to take the gamble and import some equipment from the one company who’s dedication to the development of specializd diving equipment has distringuished them from the crowd; Dive Rite. Most of us had heard of Dive Rite before, some recognized their logo from diving manuals, others knew of the people who developed their equipment but little had actually tried any of their equipment. The major issue we found was how do we get it and what do we want.
Big Blue Tech brought in the first shipment of a collection of nomad sidemount rigs and reels. Some other unique things like glow in the dark arrows and orange finger reels were also added to check out for ourselves and show it off to the rest of the tech schools to see if this was something they wanted.
Looking through their online catalog we found Dive Rite had manufactured all the little things we made at home, finally a company that was thinking the way divers evolve rather then trying to force divers to evolve to their way.
As soon as the box got to Thailand it was like Christmas day for the tech and cave divers, furiously ripping open the box and pulling at each item. Putting the wings on, unravelling the reels and seeing how the work and generally playing with the new toys. After 45 minutes of play we were in the shallows to put it through its paces and then deeper to see if we could break anything. Nothing broke, nothing leaked and nothing fell off we were pleasantly surprised. Over the years we’ve seen equipment advertised “rust free” or “robust” but seem to completely disintegrate in contact with water, not Dive Rite.
Word started to spread across the technical diving community in Thailand that Dive Rite had arrived which meant cave instructors and wreck instructors could start providing sidemount options on professional equipment.
Certification agencies like SDI and ANDI who had already embraced the sidemount trend began to see a huge increase in their certifications as Dive Rite Nomads started rolling in. Last year Big Blue Tech wrote and received permission to offer their own sidemount courses and could only relate the success of that program through the cooperation from Diverite.
We started to see a shift in our business that now people wanted Advanced Wreck courses combined with Sidemount. To the traveling technical diver Sidemount diving was not just a way to reduce their profile but an option to have redundant air sources without a twinset.
One of the greatest stumbling points for the technical diver to practice his art is access to a twinset and all the dedicated equipment that goes with it.
At Big Blue Tech we had a customer who was diving in the United Kingdom, he loved technical diving but his dive school simply didn’t have any technical equipment. He was resorting to taking a high capacity single cylinder and a small stage of mixed gas. This clearly wasn’t a redundant option but he had little choice. As this customer returned to Thailand he looking at the wall of rental equipment in our shop and asked what was the weird looking BCD hanging up and it was a Dive Rite Nomad XT. We explained to him that with Sidemount all you need is some stage rigging kits, a Nomad BCD and some simple regulators and you can make your own twinset. This appealed greatly to the customer who immediately signed up for a Sidemount course, bought a nomad and is back in the United Kingdom happily diving Sidemount with redundant air sources in the wrecks off Plymouth.
That story is not unique to most of our customers in Thailand who get hooked quick but return home to find their certification logistically difficult to perform. Cave and Wreck divers have long enjoyed the art of sidemount diving which was typically exclusive to those types of divers. But now, thanks to Dive Rite we can give our customers more options for their normal open ciruit diving so they can keep their skills sharp, dive with redundancy and save their backs from lugging their twinsets up and down the beach/pier
So next time you think of Thailand remember there’s a big group of us just waiting for the next wreck or cave to be discovered and looking forward to Dive Rite to provide the equipment to make the dives safely in comfort and style.
SDI Sidemount Open Water Diver Course | Technical Diving Thailand - Big Blue Technical Diving