Tina and I have been putting off Tech 1 for a while. Partly because we both felt like we didn’t need it, and partly because we didn’t think we were ready. But as much as we cave dive and feel somewhat proficient in that, we also realize that we had a major deficiency for diving in the ocean doing the types of dives that a Tech 1 diver would do. Also there are some caves that we would like to see that require a Tech 1 skillset.
At our Cave 2 certification level we can only go as deep as 100ft in cave and we are limited to gas choices of 32% or 30/30. We can use stages, make unlimited navigation and use a single decompression bottle. Having a Tech 1 certification would allow us to do decompression in open water, see wrecks as well as do deeper cave dives in the Tech 1 range. This range is a maximum depth of 170′ with a maximum unadjusted decompression schedule of 30 minutes. So really the main difference is that we will have the ability to go deeper.
It’s been a busy year for us. We’ve taken 3 GUE classes in 8 months. We decided to take Tech 1 in the July with Kirill Egorov. If we didn’t do it this summer we would have to wait till next summer because the weather gets more and more iffy as you get into the fall and winter. Our decision to take a class from him was fairly simple. Kirill is a very accomplished diver and instructor. Originally from Moscow, he spent a great deal of time diving in the Red Sea before finally finding GUE. He has a long history of technical diving expeditions, including the Mars project. He holds a degree in physics and a degree in archeology. His is very well versed in diving physiology as well. He has a reputation for being a great lecturer, and since Tina and I appreciate that as a lost art, we wanted to see Kirill do his thing. He also has a reputation for being an excellent but tough instructor in the water. So all this combined was just what we were looking for at this point. That is not to say that all of our other instructors weren’t great. They all have been amazing. We were just looking for a unique perspective and a different set of eyes on us. At the same time, I was hesitant about committing to the class. I wasn’t really sure I could even make it past the first two days.
Tech 1 in July has it’s drawbacks for sure. Mostly it’s the heat here in Florida. And anytime you are trying to schedule a class around what the ocean might be doing, can be risky since diving from a boat is highly weather dependent. But typically the ocean tends to be flatter in the summer and the visibility can be better. So Summer Tech 1 classes are probably more likely to have better boating conditions.
Logistically for us this class was tougher than Cave 1 or 2, because we would need to spend some time down in south Florida for the ocean dives. After talking to Kirill, we decided to try to do the class in two long weekends. The first half of the class was scheduled for July 13-15 in high springs and the second half would be the following weekend, 20-22. We have always just done the GUE classes from start to finish with no break. However since some of the class would be done in High Springs and some would be done in South Florida, it just made more sense for us. The next thing we needed to do was to find a place to stay. Once we had settled on the dates, Tina booked a 2 bed 2 bath Air B n B just south of Pompano Dive Center (PDC), where we would get our gas fills. Tina, myself and Kirill would stay together in the B n B. It would be cheaper than a hotel and we could have the dogs. Originally we were supposed to be on the PDC tech charter but during those dates, they were not able to run tech dives so we had to find a private boat to take us out. Fortunately the GUE community is full of amazing divers and friends, so finding a boat was fairly easily, albeit a bit more costly, but thats ok.
Both Tina and I were pretty anxious and excited when the week of the 13th finally arrived. We planned to leave Orlando on Thursday evening after work and head to high springs. On Tuesday we learned that we would be having a third team mate. Per from Denmark, whom we met one time while staying at the EE house. However we never got a chance to dive together. Per is a super solid diver and we were pretty excited about having him in our class. So when we found out about him being in class, we sent him a message via facebook saying that we couldn’t wait to dive with him finally.
We loaded most of the gear into truck on Wednesday evening after work. 2 sets of doubles each, 32% stages (which we would pretend were deco bottles in the shallow water work) backup drysuits and all the other things we could think of needing. We tend to have a good bit of spare gear with us at all times. Most times we have enough gear to fix just about anything that breaks, but having a spare drysuit for classes is a real bonus. I put in my vacation notice at work on Thursday before leaving and heading home to hit the road. We loaded the last minute stuff like food and the dogs and were on our way. Traffic was lite and we made good time. We got to the house we stay at around 8pm, had a glass of wine to unwind, and then crashed.
Class didn’t start until 9am and we were up pretty early on Friday. After getting the dogs fed we headed out the door towards high springs at around 7:30am. Tina and I had cut apart our wet notes (cut the zip ties holding the waterproof pages together) to add pages for Tech 1 notes, so we needed to stop at the auto store and get more zip ties. Our wet notes are fairly full now. We have kept all the notes from all the GUE classes we have taken. We have also rewritten them at least once. So we arrived at the auto store just as they opened and got a small pack of zip ties.
We were hungry at this point so we went over to the High Springs diner, sort of a tradition for the start of GUE classes with us, and had some breakfast. It’s greasy spoon diner food, not super healthy but we needed the carbs and energy (thats the lie I tell myself). I had some eggs, and a pancake, and Tina had something similar. The coffee is fairly ok there too, and they serve it in these fun owl mugs. Interestingly enough, almost every time we go there, Tina and I get the same owl mugs. I get a red one and she gets a blue one. It’s totally random i’m sure.
After breakfast we went over to Extreme Exposure for lecture. We arrived about the same time as Per and Kirill. And after a few minutes of catching up, it was time to start lectures. Our schedule for the day was to do as much of the lecture portion of the class as possible, and then head over to Ginnie for the swim test. Promptly at 9 we tore into the lectures. Kirill was obviously very comfortable at lecturing, and his reputation for being punctual and to the point with the needed information was well deserved. He had relevant stories that he shared, that would coincide and emphasize key aspects of the slides. Before we knew it, it was lunch time. We had covered a good deal of material and it was at a pace that was very nice. We got a half hour lunch break, and since Tina and I packed sandwiches in the cooler, we ate those. We had further time to catch up with Per and joke around a bit. The atmosphere was relaxed and it was nice.
After lunch we began the gas properties and decompression lectures. I’ve seen this material before from other classes, but Kirill’s knowledge of physics and physiology was excellent. Tina, who is a physiologist, was really impressed at the level of detail and depth that Kirill understood the physiological mechanisms of gas exchange in the body. I was very impressed with the physics aspects of the material. It was Phd quality stuff and we got our moneys worth.
Lecture ended at 5pm and we drove over to Ginnie for the swim test. Tina has always been worried about the swim test. Even though she has done the test 5 different times now, it’s still something that she worries about. We decided to do the underwater breath hold first. I recommend this as well, since by doing the long distance swim will load your body with CO2, and holding your breath after that will be harder unless you give yourself enough recovery time. We walked over to the steps overlooking the devils eye and waded into the water. In the summer the water feels extra cold without a drysuit. I decided I needed to let my body acclimate to the water, so I gently dove off the steps head first. I was under the water swimming and just decided to keep swimming to the far steps (the distance required for the underwater breath hold) which is about 75 feet away. I made it fairly easily and as soon as I turned around, I saw Tina behind me doing the same. She did the breath hold with ease as well. I made fun of her a bit since she was so worried about it. In fairness I think her mammalian reflex is a bit worse than mine, because if cold water hits her face she hyperventilates more than the normal person, it seems. We did the distance swim next and completed the 400 yards in just under 10 minutes.
After the swim test we went back to the house, had some dinner and crashed.