The first time I tried sidemount, I was in a pool in Playa del Carmen during my Instructor Development Course and I fell in love with it. Flash forward about a year and a half later, I was living in Playa del Carmen and Aitor was taking me to a cenote for the first day of my PADI Sidemount Course. I was really excited, but the second we started doing skills, I got frustrated. I was super uncomfortable and for some reason always rotating to the right side, as if that side of my body was heavier than the left. That first day, I felt defeated, but I knew it was good for me to feel that way. Experiencing difficulties as an instructor makes you a better teacher in the long run.
Take it one step at a time
The following days became easier and easier. Soon after, I even completed my TDI Full Cave Course and PADI Tec 40, 45 and 50 all in sidemount.
Diving sidemount has opened up incredible diving opportunities and allowed me to go places that I never even dreamed were possible.
After gaining more experience and practice with sidemount diving, it quickly became my favorite configuration even for recreational ocean diving. I started to teach the PADI Sidemount Course in 2017 and it quickly became my favorite course to teach.
Why is the Sidemount Diver Specialty my favorite course to teach?
The people who usually take sidemount diving course are already decent to excellent divers, but it gives them the challenge of feeling like a brand new diver once again. It humbles you as a scuba diver.
My personal favorite part of teaching this particular course is that I get to help divers refine their technical skills. This includes teaching different finning techniques and honing in that perfect buoyancy.
Benefits of sidemount diving:
- Obviously, the biggest benefit to side mount diving is safety. You have two of everything and they are individual, isolated systems. If one side fails, you have a backup. This is why I stress the importance of regulating tank pressures throughout the course even if you are just sidemount diving in open water. If one system fails, you want to make sure you have about the same amount of air in your second system.
- Outstanding trim and buoyancy. Once you get the hang of it (which can take a handful of dives) you really feel like you can control exactly where you want to be. That means you can get super close to all that sweet macro action!
- Ease of acquisition. You can strap your clips on to regular tanks and go sidemount diving whenever you want. If you want the same redundancy, but you use double tank backmount, it will be very hard for you to find dive shops who keep those configurations handy. Twin tanks and manifolds just aren’t as common in certain places in the world.
- Comfort. It’s definitely the most comfortable configuration for me (although it does take building some back muscles!). This is definitely a person to person thing, but most people who try it/go through the course, agree with me on this.
Finally, it just looks cool. That’s the most important thing right? Just kidding. Don’t be that guy 😂
Although I really love teaching just about every single course that we offer at Azul Unlimited, Sidemount Diver is still up there with my favorites.
I am looking forward to bringing this course to Labuan Bajo, especially for our Divemaster and Scuba Instructor courses. Not all dive sites/conditions will be ideal for sidemount diving due to the strong currents of the Komodo National Park. However, there are many places that I think will be great training grounds for this super useful diving skill.
When can I start the sidemount course?
Remember, you do not have to be a Divemaster or Instructor to learn how to sidemount dive. You can actually take your Open Water Course in sidemount configuration (although I would never recommend that 😂). Normally you would want a handful of dives and to feel very comfortable in the water before jumping into a new configuration. That means there is no hard and fast rule about when you are ready for sidemount diving. Once you are comfortable in the water and interested in learning it, you can sign up for the course.
When deciding on a course, make sure you find an instructor with experience in several different sidemount configurations. It can also be helpful if you get your own harness because your instructor will be able to fit it perfectly for your frame. (If you are petite and already have a harness, check out my blog on Girls that Scuba for tips on sidemount configuration).
However, it is not at all a problem to take the course in rental gear. Just make sure to pay attention to the fitting procedure so that when you do have your own equipment, you can set yourself up correctly. Finally, I recommend signing up for a course that includes an afternoon practicing in the pool or confined open water. This is not a requirement for the course, but I find that it really is helpful in honing the skills before jumping in for your first dive.
I hope to see you diving in sidemount with us in the Komodo National Park very soon!
IDC Staff #320212
We are a PADI dive center in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia offering daily dive trips to the Komodo National Park. The PADI courses available include Discover Scuba Diving, Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, EFR, Divemaster and Sidemount. Join us for an unforgettable experience diving in one of the top dive destinations in the world!