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Scuba Knights | Singapore and Tioman's top Scuba Diving School

Diving but with a Twist

Sidemount diving, is it just for the professional technical divers? What exactly is it? What do I do? What is it all about?

It’s been a pretty dry season for most divers in Singapore these past few months and with the phases going from 1 to 2 and soon (hopefully) to 3, we’re all itching to get wet but where should I go diving? Should I pick up some new course or skill while I’m at it?

Let me introduce to you recreational sidemount diving! Sidemount is a modular style of equipment attachment and management. In essence, sidemount diving is where you have a different configuration when it comes to mounting your tank or tankssss.

Sidemount Instructor Hansen Getting ready to enter to water

As recreational divers, most of us see sidemount diving as technical diving level whereby divers who use sidemount are either thinking of bringing 2 (or more tanks) for their dives or heading into the deep abyss of diving! Some may perceive it to be too technical or just a fad.

But of course, there are other reasons why you should pick up recreational sidemount diving, yes you! You reading this article! In this article, I will be briefly touching on 3 advantages of diving with sidemount system!

Advantage 1 – Streamlining and Comfort

Water … oh water… however much we love being in it, it causes us some difficulties! It’s about 800 times denser than air which causes us to need to expend more energy to be moving through the water. Looking at all those sharks, whales and dolphins swimming around so effortlessly, how I wished I could swim around in the water with such ease. But, alas, we were born for the land thus all we can do is to reduce the effort that’s needed to help us move about in the water.

Having the cylinders side mounted allows for it to be aligned with our body and the direction of our travel which makes propulsion and moving a lot easier. Furthermore, everything is customized in a way where it is very accessible, and minimum movement is required to access your alternate air source or gauges.

Since sidemount is modular, you can choose to dive with your preferred cylinder configuration based on your dive type and comfort level. Dual 11L cylinder, single 11L cylinder, or you can even choose two 5.7L cylinders. The list goes on but I am sure you all know where I am going with this.

Advantage 2 – Trim and Balance

Photo Credits to Koh Tao Divers

Trim, that all so elusive thing for new divers and the core of a diver in order to move efficiently through the water. Good trim is a function of correct weighting and positioning of the weight on our body in relation to the gas in one’s BCD and/or Drysuit. Of course, good trim can be inculcated in back mounted diving but with sidemount diving, the cylinders at the side of your body will allow them to align more closely to your center of gravity which makes achieving that perfect trim that much easier.

Similarly, the sidemount cylinders at the side of your torso allows for the center of gravity and buoyancy to always be near the center of your body as compared to that of back mounted diving.

Advantage 3 – Safety and redundancy

Instructor Hansen giving out a brief on the gears and tips. Photo Credits to George Low

With valves positioned in front of you, any first stage failure or gas shutdowns are straight forward and easily accessible. Any leak in the middle of the dive can be easily detected and dealt with. And since it is modular, why not the redundancy of extra tanks?

For some of us, past injuries or neglect from when we were younger has caused a strain in our backs, no more walking long distances with the tanks on your back just to get to the boat or the area of entry for a dive site! Just walk over with your BCD and no tanks attached. You can choose to mount the tanks on the boat/surface or even in the water. After the dive, just dismount the tanks and climb up the boat/surface effortlessly. This reduces the strain we put on our backs, especially for those who have a slight back issue and is recommended not to carry heavy gears.

Possibly one of the biggest advantage to actually picking up sidemount diving (besides the fact that it looks really cool) is that it enables you to penetrate and do cave or wreck dives which were otherwise inaccessible with certain traditional back mounted systems. It opens a whole new area of diving from cave to wreck to even technical diving if that is something you are interested in.

Photo Credits to Diver Mag

But of course,

Sidemount diving has its own limitations and downsides in my opinion:

  • Additional training is required, and it takes some time and practice to get used to this new configuration to dive. You will also need to be patient and take some time to configure your BCD in order to achieve maximum comfort
  • The BCD might be smaller than the traditional BCD that we are used to, but there are more clips, bolt snaps and bands to prepare or check before a sidemount dive. With all these additional items and also routing of hoses, it leads me to my next point.
  • Although recreational sidemount is open to divers with open water certification, less experienced divers who are not comfortable or familiar with backplate systems might find it messy or troublesome because of the routings, bolt snaps, straps etc. They will feel a lot less comfortable compared to expereinced divers who have been on the backplate system.

With all that said, the best way find out is to try it out in the water. You can find out more about how to start your journey into recreational sidemount diving, whether be it through a simple sidemount try-dive, or the full on course by heading over to our Facebook page or grab our numbers from the top right corner of this page and drop us a text!


As always,

Breathe Different, Live Free.