Because of the calm conditions and temperate waters, the Bay Islands are the perfect place to learn not only recreational diving, but also the more specialized activity of TEC diving. The motivation for TEC enthusiasts is to dive deeper and to be able to dive for longer periods of time.
TEC diving refers to “technical diving” and is a form of scuba diving that exceeds the realms of recreational diving which doesn’t require planned decompression stops. It requires advanced training and experience, specialized equipment, and proficiency in gases other than air, or standard nitrox gas. According to PADI, TEC “is further defined as an activity that includes one or more of the following: diving beyond 40 meters/130 feet, required stage decompression, diving in an overhead environment beyond 130 linear feet from the surface, accelerated stage decompression and/or the use of multiple gas mixtures in a single dive.” A physical ceiling environment can be classified as cave diving, ice diving, wreck diving, or deep diving where decompression stops are essential.
According to Everett Ingram, TEC course director, the reason for TEC diving is a resounding, “Exploration!” At the time of interview Ingram was a Silver Course Director, and about to be Gold within the month, and is developing a course for Subway Watersports.
With TEC experience, divers can imagine going far into underwater caves or exploring wrecks that were previously unattainable. Practical applications include repairing mooring lines and inspecting channels.
The equipment involved in TEC diving is more extensive than standard scuba diving, with side mount harnesses for extra tanks, each with its own regulator. As technical dives involve longer durations and mandatory decompression stops, the equipment gives more redundancy that traditional equipment. There are options for multiple high capacity tanks and rebreathers. Recent developments in equipment, such as smaller tanks and harnesses that position the tanks in line with the body, have made TEC diving more accessible.
TEC diving is a sport that’s ahead of the curve,” said Will Welbourne, TEC Diving Instructor at Coconut Tree Divers in West End, Roatan. “There’s a building global interest that has picked up significantly. We have a huge increase in inquiries.” Welbourne has been teaching TEC diving since 2005, developed the Roatan TEC Team at Coconut Tree Divers, and is currently working with PADI to develop new official teaching modules for the specialization.
Nearby Utila is not far behind. Similarly to Welbourne and Ingram, Gord Meeks at Utila Dive Center is also developing new techniques and teaching modules. With TEC diving a relatively new frontier, there is room for defining applications.
Although TEC diving involves dangers of depth and length of time, TEC diving is safer than traditional diving. “You have to put more into planning your dives,” said Ingram. “Your computer is not your principal, but your backup.” With extra redundancies, TEC diving also allows divers to explore extreme conditions without a buddy. “Essentially, you are your own backup,” according to Ingram.
According to Monty Graham, TEC diving instructor at Coconut Tree Divers, “The more gases you are qualified to use, the deeper you can go. With trimix there is no limitation depth.” This is also why Graham believes that the Bay Islands are the perfect place for TEC diving with the topography of the bottom offering so many opportunities to go deep just a short distance from shore.
Cost for TEC diving courses run approximately $1,200 plus the cost of equipment. PADI has recently revised the TEC requirements. Prerequisite courses are Rescue, NITROX, and Deep Diving. There are opportunities to do Discover TEC through PADI. The first course is TEC 40, which has four dives to a maximum of 40m (about 130′) using planned decompression stops. The subsequent TEC 45 course is four dives to 45m (150 ft.). TEC 50 is four dives to 165ft. Then available is TEC Trimix 65, and TEC Trimix diver courses.
While TEC diving is a relatively new activity, still costly and elite, the ocean is, after all, “the final frontier” for many. TEC diving in the Bay Islands presents a perfect opportunity for those adventurers to explore the depths on our very own doorstep.
Photos by Gord Meeks