6 Technical diving skills that every diver needs to master

We can learn a lot from technical divers. These 6 Technical Diving skills are so important. Regardless of whether we want to progress to become a technical diver or a PADI Instructor, we need to master these 6 skills.

6 Technical diving skills that every diver needs to master

  1. Buoyancy Control – The difference between a good and a great diver
  2. Trim – Conserve energy, be in control and look cool!
  3. Descents – Steady and focused
  4. Ascents – Safe ascent rate
  5. Control of SMB and Lift Bags – Remain tangle free!
  6. Dive Planning – For safety and enjoyment

These skills are a must to master!

Buoyancy Control

Our buoyancy control should feel natural and automatic.

Natural Buoyancy

Our buoyancy needs to be stable without us even being aware of it.

Even in an emergency or any other instance where our focus needs to be elsewhere.
Technical divers’ buoyancy skills are natural and constant. 

How do we reach this natural state of buoyancy control?

Of course, this means practice!

But not simply hovering whenever we’re doing a safety stop or while watching fish.
Most of us can hover stationary while our focus is on buoyancy control.

We need to consciously practice neutral buoyancy while performing distracting tasks, like tying knots, or playing charades while hovering with your buddy.

The more you can stay stable underwater while doing and thinking about other things the better.

The better for you as a diver, for you as an instructor, and for you as a technical diver.

As we start to improve, we can make our practice more challenging by performing complex emergency scenarios mid water without even being aware of our stability in the water. 

Trim

Trim is often confused with buoyancy, but both are important to divers. 

What is trim, and why is it important when diving?

Trim is often used to describe the position of our body while we’re diving.

We should try to be horizontal and stable as often as possible. 

We reduce our swimming effort by reducing our surface area to water. Consequently, we are more efficient, use less energy and consume less gas.

It’s possible to have perfect buoyancy, but not have perfect Trim. 

An indication of this would be a diver who is neutrally buoyant, and horizontal, BUT their fins are gently moving.
This would indicate that their trim is not quite right. 

Physics

This is often more to do with physics than with diving skills. 
It’s to do with the distribution of the weights that they’re wearing. 

How do we improve our Trim when diving?

Once neutrally buoyant, be aware of your body position in the water. 

If you find it a struggle to stay motionless in the water, it’s probably to do with where your weight is on your body. 

I find that usually weight needs to be moved upwards towards your head.

Quick solutions

A couple of quick solutions could be to simply move from wearing a weight belt to using integrated weights. They tend to be a little higher up the body. 

Another quick solution could be to move your cylinder a little higher. 
You might find that it touches the back of your head while you’re diving, so you need to be comfortable. 

Keep experimenting by making small changes to weight positions. 

The effort is definitely worth it! 

Of course this advice is perfect for all divers. Technical or not! 

Descents

Controlling your Ascents and Descents are key skills in technical diving. 
They’re also key skills for all divers and instructors. 

Buoyancy and Trim

I guess in simple terms, good descents are really a combination of the two skills that we’ve already discussed

  • Buoyancy
  • Trim

But it needs a lot of practice to maintain natural buoyancy while your surrounding pressure is slowly and steadily increasing. 

What skills can we learn from Technical Divers?

Of course technical divers are in control. They perform role model descents. They equalise air spaces often and compensate for increased pressure by equalizing their equipment. 

But they do more than that.

As the divers start to descend, they often spend a few moments studying their buddy. 

They are looking for bubbles.

Of course they’ve done a buddy check on the surface, but as they descend, they look out for leaking gas, or trapped equipment that can be corrected right at the start of the dive.

Ascents

The rate that divers ascend has been a hot topic with diver medics for years. 

The trend for recreational divers is to slow down their rate of ascent. 
This is not necessarily a bad thing. 

However, for technical divers, a very slow ascent, isn’t always a good thing. 
Technical divers tend to stick to the algorithms that are set by the computer that they are using. 

Technical diving skills

What other skills can we learn from Technical Divers?

Slowing down the speed of ascent while still at great depth can increase their gas loading and can increase decompression stops. 
While speeding up the ascent rate in shallower depths can increase DCI risk.

For this reason, we can all learn to ascend at the correct rate.

This simply means at the rate recommended by the computer that you are using.

Control of SMBs and Lift Bags

Most technical divers carry a surface marker of some sort, either a lift bag or SMB, to use as an impromptu ascent line, emergency marker, or backup flotation device.

Practice Practice Practice

Of course the technical divers practice deploying these items. 
Their lives depend on getting it right!

Sending up a lift bag, and deploying an SMB are two different skills. 
Add to that the difference between using a spool, and using a reel, and we have a complete set of skills to practice.

These are skills that we quickly lose when not practiced regularly.

It can be extremely dangerous if something goes wrong at the stage of deployment.

Practice these skills as often as you can, using different set ups. You can’t afford to let things slip. 

Dive Planning

Dive planning is an important part of every dive, regardless of the level of experience.

Safety

Technical divers are meticulous when planning their dives. 

Their plans are very comprehensive. 

Sometimes they write their plan on a slate to take with them. The plans include themselves, their buddy and have one or two contingency plans.

Their plans detail depths, gas mixtures and times amongst other features.

Safety and enjoyment

You don’t need to be a professional or a tech diver to make dive planning part of your routine.

Dive planning is an art that will, of course, bring you more safety, but also satisfaction and enjoyment.

By “thinking like an instructor” you become aware of what makes a particular dive special.

You can then plan for the experience to be an enjoyable one.

Safety

Naturally, your plan will be focused on safety, so dive times, gas pressures, depths and currents etc. would all be included.

Enjoyment

But your plan would also be focused on enjoyment as well. 
So you might include carrying spare equipment, like a camera or video. 
Or a plan to visit an extra attraction if the conditions are perfect. 

You’ll find that planning the dive for yourself and others can be fun and satisfying. 

6 Technical diving skills that every diver needs to master

There is a lot we can all learn from technical divers. 

But just by working a little harder on these 6 skills will make our diving more enjoyable. 

Last modified: 18th June 2022
Author: Steve Prior