Previously to attending the PADI sidemount course, I had been on various courses with other agencies such as BSAC – ocean divers and sport diver course, plus with PADI – open water diver up to assistant instructor and various speciality courses.

I was looking at courses to further my skills and techniques to prepare myself for more challenging diving ie technical diving and recreational diving. On searching and speaking to other divers, I spoke to staff at Absolute Scuba, my local diving school and was advised on a variety of courses to assist and help, of which PADI Sidmount was presented and sounded interesting.

Darren Hedges a PADI Instructor at Absolute Scuba recommended attending a try dive sidemount event, to be held at local open water dive site, for an insight. After two dives that day I found it was a great way of for both longer dive time and a safe way of diving as an alternative air supply backup in case of emergency, diving with either an inexperienced buddy or as a Dive Master cover with an Instructor and student. I found it more pleasant and comfy diving in the water to my surprise, considering carrying two cylinders, I haste not carried on my back which was more of a relief. I was impressed with how the course was delivered, both practical and theory of which suited my way of learning, so I booked onto a PADI Sidemount course.

The PADI Sidemount course consisted of 2 days confined water lessons in the pool, and 2 days’ open water dives. Prior to starting I carried out my classroom lessons on line followed by the exams also carried out on line, this was a great help as my instructor was online line also if I had any queries, plus this helped my Instructor to monitor my progress, of which I found very useful.

The pool sessions were a big learning curve for myself, as it was a completely different why of diving both buoyancy trim and fining techniques such as back finning/frog leg kick/helicopter turns/flutter kicks, all these skills are on you tube. I would highly recommend practicing these techniques first before commencing on the course, as it could help in cutting down the time needed for more important skills to be carried out, I have never sworn so much in my life trying to perfect the back kick and helicopter turn. So good tip practice first prior to starting course and watch those you tube guides on sidemount skills.

Open water dive bring it on haha, after much swearing and stamping of feet I eventually perfected the fining techniques, mind on open water not the buoyancy techniques, but hey ho practice makes perfection. Practice beforehand does help more so when you use aluminium cylinders, they do eventually become more buoyant as you use up the air supply, more so when air sharing with your buddy haha. Over all it is quite an intense course if you do not maintain your skills and can make it harder, but however it was an enjoyable course done in a relaxed professional manor. I have taken a lot away from this course which has improved on my diving techniques and skills a great deal, I do highly recommend to any budding young Jacque Cousteaus or to anyone in general, to book on any course and continue enhancing your skills whether this be recreational or technical diving.

Thank you to all at Absolute Scuba in Stallingborough, UK and to Darren Hedges my Instructor for a pleasurable and excellent course.

Austin Warr,