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DIR And Scuba Diving- Should You Be "Doing It Right"?|
Date:01/08/03 By SanDiegoDiving.com Editorial
Over the last several years, some of the lines between technical and recreational diving have become increasingly blurred. Most recreational dive training agencies now offer some degree of technical scuba training, and the popularity of deeper diving has increased while the impressive safety record stays intact. Understandably, adoption of advanced diving techniques by non-technical divers is also growing. An example of this is the rising popularity of DIR. Short for "doing it right", DIR is a mysteriously hot topic in the dive world. Dive Web site messageboards are full of heated discussions about who's "doing it right", new tech and "semi-tech" products are being introduced all over the market and gas mixing fill stations are popping up all over. So what's all the fuss about? The following is a quick description of the history and principles behind DIR, followed by some discussion about why DIR is so controversial and whether or not it should change the way you dive.
In the true spirit of cutting edge underwater exploration, some technical divers specialize in exploring deep underwater caves. The task loading involved in this type of diving can be quite extensive. Using mixed gases, these divers can average 600 minutes underwater at an average of 200 feet...in confined areas no less. In the midst of such a dive profile, required decompression makes coming to the surface a non-option, so deep cave divers must be carefully aware of themselves, their skills and their equipment. In response to a need for standardized cave diver training, two divers named George Irvin and Jered "J.J." Joblonski, of the Woodsville Karst Plains Project, developed techniques, an adapted gear configuration and an attitude for cave diving, which became known as DIR. Some of the core practices of DIR diving dictate modifications to the "standard" scuba gear configurations in an effort to streamline cave divers and maximize their ability to assist other divers in potentially hazardous or fatal situations.
Diving conditions in an underwater cave are very unique and can be extremely challenging. Silt, confined spaces and unusual marine life that are rarely visited by humans are all characteristic in cave diving. Appropriately, cave divers want very reliable gear and strive to streamline themselves to avoid physical contact with the surrounding environment. The general idea is to avoid carrying unnecessary gear and compact the items that must be carried.
DIR has fairly specific guidelines on what kind of gear should be used- BCDs are typically back-inflated with low-drag designs, stainless steel backplates and simple backpack-style straps. All pieces of the scuba unit are fastened to the diver with simple and reliable hardware. For example, a single pressure gauge is hooked to the diver on the left hand side, while the compass, timers and other needed gauges are worn on the wrist to minimize the profile while leaving the hands free for other tasks. In DIR, primary regulator hoses range from five to seven feet in length as opposed to the much shorter industry standard. When the length of the primary regulator hose is not used, the excess is wrapped around the divers neck to reduce drag. In out-of-air situations DIR suggests that the air donor surrender his primary regulator to the diver in need while breathing from his own secondary, which is stored close to the chin with a necklace-style lanyard. The assumptions behind this idea are that this method is more comfortable and effective for air sharing situations in confined spaces, like where a divers must move single file through a cave. Additionally, it is assumed that an out of air diver is likely to grab the donors primary anyway, because it is easy to locate and assumed to be functioning. Here, the donor's secondary is easily recovered, since it's close to the mouth.
So why the hubub? It would appear that the implementation of DIR concepts and philosophy might be causing some calamity. For starters, the term "doing it right" immediately puts many divers on the defensive; if someone is "doing it right" then someone else must be "doing it wrong". Second, the DIR suggestions for equipment configuration are very different and in conflict with what's most commonly taught. Third, many divers seek the latest and greatest tools to extend their diving experience. Some think that DIR gear configuration is "better" because it often resembles the admirable tech gear that deep divers use, though in reality is difficult to make any kind of practical evaluation of whether one system is better or not. DIR divers boast an impressive safety record, but there are so many variables involved in a comparison of systems that any claims to being "better" may not be well founded or applicable to every diver.
Should every diver try to "do it right" by rushing out to buy a long hose and a back inflated BC? No. Consider the concepts and philosophy of DIR and evaluate how they fit in to your approach to diving. DIR is probably not for everyone, but better understanding of how and why to dive safely is. Only dive with what you need, know your gear, know your limits and always dive within your abilities. If you feel that DIR is right for you and you know why, you're probably right.
Global Underwater Explorers
Woodville Karst Plain Project
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