What is Doing It Right Diving?
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The "Doing It Right" (DIR) system evolved out of the exacting demands of the world's most extreme exploration diving, yet the approach is rapidly gaining favor among all levels of divers. Everyone benefits from a system that makes the underwater experience safer and more comfortable. The DIR system is much more than an equipment configuration. It is a diving style that ensures every aspect of each dive represents safety, fun and efficiency.
Leading explorers long ago realized that a confused or delayed response to emergency situations creates an unacceptable risk. DIR attempts to bring the practical solutions to safety and productivity honed in the world of exploration into the classroom for entry and advanced divers. Risk is managed by streamlining and minimizing gear configuration. In DIR diving, regulator hose routing and buoyancy control features are selected to reduce task loading during emergency situations and not to bow to the (questionable) whims of some dive gear marketing ploy. At the same time, buddy communication skills are refined to heighten awareness of the dive environment. Taken together, rethinking your gear configuration and your approach to teamwork puts you back in the middle of the dive.
Unfortunately, there is a prevailing assumption that standardized equipment, clean configurations and attention to detail are only for "technical" or other rigorous diving conditions. In reality, clean and simple universal configurations are even more beneficial for divers with limited experience. GUE representatives have discovered that training all divers with standardized equipment has been hugely successful, whether for open water resort classes or for mixed gas dives in the frigid north.
The DIR System
The DIR System is comprised of a unified team, enhanced pre-dive preparation and the DIR equipment configuration.
Although the buddy system has long been a key concept in diver education, the market demands for accelerated training schedules means that most new divers really don't understand how essential teamwork is to the success and enjoyment of a dive. DIR stresses teamwork both above and below the surface of the water. Divers have an obligation to inform the team when dives are beyond their ability or when their level of comfort has been exceeded. At the same time, DIR divers understand that one learns through challenge. DIR dive teams are always looking to improve their dive skills by challenging the limit of their abilities and opening themselves to new knowledge.
Far too many divers assume that pre-dive preparation begins the day or even hours before the dive. True pre-dive preparation is an ongoing commitment that involves three essential components: mental focus, physical fitness and diving experience. Divers who try to circumvent any of these three areas are not truly prepared for the dive and may experience reduced comfort, a missed dive opportunity or even a dangerous situation.
Divers who are not focused on the dive cannot be responsive to a dive buddy or to the surrounding conditions. Good mental focus allows divers to truly enjoy dives as they remain aware of their surroundings and are prepared to intercede before problems escalate. Poor focus, on the other hand, tends to exacerbate problem. For example, losing focus on a dive can allow teams to miss proper air supply turn points, drift into dangerous areas or separate from their buddies. Proper awareness consistently increases the safety, efficiency and enjoyment of all diving activities.
Unfit individuals are subject to increased risk of disease and a shorter, much lower quality of life. Furthermore, unfit divers are much more likely to suffer from many diving related problems such as an inability to overcome a physically stressful environment or an increased risk of decompression illness (DCI). They not only place themselves at risk but also other team members who may be called upon to help them in a crisis situation. Fitness includes cardiovascular health, strength, flexibility, nutrition, abstinence from drug use, limited or nonexistent alcohol consumption and avoidance of smoking. Overweight and/or out of shape divers must take responsibility for their lives by adopting an effective regime of diet and exercise. At a minimum, divers should average four days per week of cardiovascular exercise lasting at least 30 minutes and avoid high fat, high cholesterol diets, focusing instead on a generous consumption of fruits, vegetables and grains.
Given the current environment of dive training, it isn't unusual to hear of new divers attaining advanced levels of certification just weeks and a few dozen dives after their first open water class. Emboldened by a growing C-card collection, new divers are moving into technical decompression and overhead diving long before they've refined the necessary in-water skills. The progressively extensive "technical" dives conducted by groups such as the WKPP may give the impression that long range or deep dives can be accomplished with relative ease. The same could be said of certain advanced wreck dives like the Andrea Doria and the Monitor. Casual discussions of such advanced diving on the popular discussion forums can belittle any appreciation for the years of preparation that preceded the actual dives. However, divers should remember that efforts such as the WKPP dives require many years of preparation; divers who try to bypass experience will be at far greater risk. DIR puts the focus back on experience. The glory isn't in collecting the largest card collection, but rather in the constant pursuit of experience and understanding.
DIR Equipment Configuration
We recognize that the DIR approach to equipment configuration generates the majority of interest and debate among other divers. The most common misconception is that one part of the system can be adopted, such as the equipment configuration, and others can be ignored, such as the team-centered approach or physical fitness. DIR is a holistic system and although incorporating one part of it into another system is possible, it is not DIR. It is also likely to be fraught with complications. The same is true within the equipment configuration itself. Divers who opt to make changes to any part of the equipment configuration are likely to upset the carefully arranged components that are structured to complement one another.
The Doing It Right System
The DIR system focuses on the concept of minimalism. Equipment that does not enrich the dive is considered a liability and should be left at home. DIR divers use a rigid backplate (aluminum or stainless steel) with a one-piece, webbed harness, a back-mounted buoyancy compensator for streamlined movement and horizontal posture, a short reserve hose that hangs around the neck for easy retrieval and a long hose (5-7 ft. or 1.5-2 m) that can run under a hip-mounted light canister (or under the arm with a 5 ft. or 1.5 m hose). While there are numerous important details in the DIR system, this simple configuration is the foundation of DIR.
DIR- Donating from One’s Mouth
A lack of familiarity with the DIR process of providing the regulator in your mouth to an out-of-air diver, as opposed to the regulator in a retaining device, exists in the dive community. By donating the long hose regulator, the diver guarantees that the person most in need of a fully functioning regulator is going to get it. Any other regulator passed to an out-of-air diver may contain sand or other contaminants and may not function properly. In many out-of-air situations air-starved divers will simply pull the regulator from the donor’s mouth and a diver who is practiced and prepared for this eventuality will likely respond more comfortably. The DIR system focuses on helping the diver in trouble with an understanding that any competent diver desires to facilitate a safe rescue. Even if the out-of-air diver remains calm and requests air with the proper signal, their first breath is guaranteed to be an effective one as it comes from the regulator with which a diver was just breathing.
What About My Open Water Equipment?
Many DIR practitioners, pleased with the efficiency of the DIR system in overhead environments, were frustrated by the return to their open water configurations because the short hose was less than optimal and the BCs were uncomfortable with too much drag. Therefore, many divers started using their DIR system while diving open water and immediately found it to be significantly more effective than their old open water configurations.
Can I Still Dive DIR While Using a Shorter Safe Second Hose?
The DIR system requires the use of a longer safe second to be of maximum efficiency. While divers are always encouraged to use the simple, streamlined equipment central to DIR diving, they should also utilize a longer safe second for emergency air sharing situations. Cave and most technical divers always use a longer (5-7 ft. or 1.5-2 m) hose so that they can easily share air in restrictive areas. However, while in open water the longer emergency hose can also be very beneficial for air sharing as it allows for a very comfortable length of hose to be deployed. Instead of struggling with an awkward 36-inch octopus hose, divers have plenty of additional space in which to maneuver. If not using a hip-mounted canister light (which is an excellent signaling device in open water) many divers prefer to use the 5-foot (1.5 m) length and run it under the arm then around the neck. For some divers, this hose will need to be slightly shorter or longer to maintain comfort. The additional hose is excellent for emergency situations, short air sharing episodes for divers low on air or for properly trained divers in wrecks or other restrictive areas. The DIR system is designed to function in all environments allowing divers maximum flexibility. If a diver is planning on a 30-foot reef dive and then suddenly locates a small coral cave or archway they will still be properly configured for the more restrictive area.
Does the long hose decrease regulator performance?
With literally thousands of deep exploration dives accomplished by divers breathing the long hose, the decreased performance argument loses its validity. However, divers need to be aware that regulators should easily be able to supply air through a long hose. If the regulator in use is not efficient enough for a long hose, it is not suitable for use with two divers or in generally stressful situations. The slight reduction in regulator performance when using the long hose is negligible, and in all but the lowest performance regulators, not a concern.
How can I find out more about DIR Diving?
Divers around the world are expressing a growing interest in DIR diving. If you want to learn more about the world of DIR diving, consider a subscription to dirQuest, either online or in its printed form. Formal training is also available through Global Underwater Explorers for technical, overhead, and rebreather DIR techniques. GUE's website contains a wealth of information about diving, exploration, and gear configuration. By becoming a member of GUE, you help to support DIR exploration and educational projects around the world while gaining access to the full range of dirQuest information.