Sidemount diving by Steve Turner

My ambition towards sidemount diving started in March 2014 when I did a sidemount try dive in full kit, i.e. proper harness and a couple of aluminium cylinders and being set up by a proper sidemount instructor.

The feeling is different to having cylinders on the back, and having steel cylinders at the side pulling at you.

Sidemount provides a good stable platform to achieve any form of diving. My big concern with it was maintaining positive buoyancy whilst bobbing about on the surface in the sea.

I then found out that Apeks were bringing out an updated sidemount diving system which gave 45lb of lift.  This was similar to my AP Diving BCD, which was doing a wonderful job so I bought one along with 4 aluminium cylinders.

It took quite a while for the harness to arrive, as Apeks were still in the process of final design and build tweaks.

When it finally arrived and after a few pool sessions building up to full open water kit it was up to Capernwray for a weekend to do the RAID Sidemount course in December 2016.

Putting the cylinders on was initially awkward, but really it was because the bungee fastening was a little too tight, as this was eased off a bit, life became easier.

On the harness, small changes can have quite large effects, and really I am still doing small adjustments to see what happens if…

The course itself was a tester for me. I mean who in their right mind takes cylinders off under water, but due to the weighting it really is easy.

Swapping regulators seems a faff, but again it's the simplicity of having the independent cylinders that makes the system very safe and dependable to use.

The course goes into fluttering the cylinder valves if you get a free flow. I have done a twin set course and this just isn't practical. On the sidemount course you just hover about and flutter the valves as insructed.  It is very impressive to see how much gas you do not loose.

No stress, no worries, easy, in control.

The course instructor, Darren,  kept a close and watchful eye on us. Helping where needed and resetting any scenarios after a few correcting hand signals to resolve issues.

Looking back to when I did the course, we spent a lot of time hovering near the bus stop sign. This enabled us to go through the skills and watch other course members doing the skills.  It also provided a lot of buoyancy control practice.  Darren made it look easier than I seem to be doing it.  All skills not only had to be mastered but had to be done in correct trim too.

Since the course I mainly use the sidemount diving system.  I occasionally use backmount if I need to assist with something specific such as full face masks.

Backmount now feels a lot less stable under the water, a head to feet rocking, why I don’t know.  I used the exact same configuration I was using before the sidemount.

Now back with the sidemount and feeling better with it. Still adjusting little bits on the harness, really need to dive more to test the results quicker.

The sidemount course is obviously a starting point for sidemount diving. It provides you with safety advice, skills and lets you know how the kit should be worn. It also gives an insight into what is possible with the system. I enjoyed it, it was informative and gets you doing tasks/skills in the correct sequence of events. A good basic knowledge to start with.

Happy sidemount diving.

Steve Turner,