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What is DIR anyway?

Posted by on in Theory
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So what is DIR Diving.  Or more precisely, what is it to me.

DIR stands for....ummm here we hit our first problem. Traditionally, DIR stands for “Doing It Right”.  However this name, quite understandably, got a lot of people’s nose out of joint. I never refer to “Doing It Right”. I just call it DIR.  In the same way I never say “let’s stop at the British Petroleum Garage”.  BP to me, just means BP. It might stand for something but I never think about it.  So DIR is just DIR. I never think about what it stands for. Which is probably just as well, as it’s a rather stupid name, bound to get people's backs up. If I could rename it, I would. 

Err, I asked what is was....

Ok, ok. DIR diving is about having fun and being safe. It’s about diving in a manner that we believe allows us to have as much fun as possible, whilst remaining as safe as possible. 


Pretty words, how does it work?

Imagine, if you will, you have a battery powered house with ten light bulbs in it. However, you only have a battery that can only cope with nine light bulbs. You walk into the house on a dark night, and switch on the porch light.  It is brilliantly bright. Everything is easy because you can see clearly. Then you go into the kitchen and turn on the light. Then you go into the living room, where you turn on another 3 lights. You now have five bulbs lit, and whilst they are all lit, each one is noticeably dimmer than the first light bulb you switched on when you walked in. The battery is starting to be stretched. Now you go upstairs and switch on a few more lights.  Sooner or later you are up to nine lights, and they are all very dim indeed. You switch on the final light in the bathroom and the house goes dark. The battery cannot cope with the load you have put it under and it has failed.

We call this “capacity”.  Now let’s take the metaphor underwater. 

Your capacity is your mental ability to cope with things.  When you first learn to dive, it takes all or most of your capacity just to kneel only he bottom and breathe.  A diver whose capacity is stretched like this will be surprised when you wave your hand in front of your face.  They don’t have the spare capacity to maintain an awareness of what is going on them.  They have no spare light bulbs.  A diver that struggles to put up an SMB will use too many light bulbs on the task.  That’s why some who are struggling with a task lose buoyancy control of an awareness of where their buddy is.  They are using all their light bulbs to assemble and inflate the SMB, and have none spare for buoyancy control.  A diver that is concentrating on their gas and depth because they are narked, or focusing on an equipment problem, or an ascent they are worried about, is not paying any attention to the wreck they came to see in the first place.  They have no light bulbs left for actually enjoying the dive.   They have no spare capacity.


DIR diving turns light bulbs off

The logic behind DIR diving is that if you can absolutely minimise the light bulbs being used for things like buoyancy control; situational awareness; equipment awareness; team awareness; dive planning; gas management; communication etc; then the more light bulbs you actually have for enjoying the dive and for dealing with any problems effectively.  We don’t practice buoyancy control until it is excellent and instinctive because we want to look cool.  We do it so that it only takes one light bulb and we have more capacity left for actually looking at the wreck.


Ok, so how do you maximise spare capacity?

We work at our buoyancy control until we can be precisely where we want to be in the water column, critically without putting any effort in. All skills beyond this are required to be done with neutral buoyancy. Perhaps more than anything else, we switch off nearly all the light bulbs for buoyancy control.

We work at achieving appropriate, usually flat, trim in the water, which enables us to develop extremely efficient propulsion techniques. This minimises the energy we spend on propulsion, which leads to relaxation, and thus more spare light bulbs. It also ensures we do not damage or disturb the environment we are swimming in, whether 10cm above a reef, or swimming along the top of a wreck.

Common or emergency tasks; such as putting up SMBs; ascending; donating gas; manipulating valves are worked to the point where they can be done smoothly and quickly, with no loss of awareness of your surroundings or change in position in the water. Repeating tasks until they are smooth and fast, ensures they don't take up too much of our attention which avoids problems.

We work as a team, so that communication does not need to be discussed, there is no confusion in the water and the team stays together come what may in the water. We become responsible for checking each other’s gas as well as our own and checking each other’s equipment. Team work also means we all do tasks, such as SMB deployments in the same way. This means we can stop each other if there is a problem, or take over from where someone left off.

We adopt a standardised equipment configuration, because we recognise that although it is a compromise, the value in having a standard is immense. Checking each other’s equipment now becomes easy because it’s the same as yours. Damaged kit can be replaced from anyone’s spares. Everything on your kit fits everything on your team’s kit. There are never any strange pieces of equipment that could lead to confusion in the water. Everything is very familiar, very comfortable. The drills and skills we practice all work smoothly because nothing on the equipment configuration interferes with them. 


That all sounds very serious... 

I guess it sounds that way. We do train hard, but rarely seriously.  I was trained by PADI and TDI before being trained by GUE.  I am a BSAC member.  I have friends who are IANTD and PSAI instructors.  The one thing all divers have in common is that they want to have a really good laugh.  DIR divers are no exception.  We’re just divers at the end of the day.  And remember, we’re doing this so we have spare capacity to have fun.


You talked about safety... 

We have all this spare capacity lying around. We might as well do something with it. It starts with us being responsible for our own equipment, and that of our team and then gas everyone is breathing. Anyone could end up breathing anyone's gas at the end of the day. There are procedures for ensuring people do not make silly mistakes that could hurt them or a team mate. We maintain an awareness of a team mate who is having a problem, and we look after them.

The team is everything. The equipment in my pocket might be used to help one of them if they need it. They'll probably ask for it. We're all carrying the same in our pockets anyway, so if we need something we know where it is. Resolving equipment issues doesn’t take a lot of capacity because remember you are completely familiar with everyone’s equipment anyway. If there is a problem you have practised the skills required to deal with the problem time after time until actually dealing with the problem is little more stressful than the drill itself. Everyone is capable of performing every role on the dive, such as putting up the SMB, because we train to our weaknesses and then dive to our strengths. It is by no means the only safe way to dive, but it's definitely a very comfortable way to dive. 


Ok, that's a lot to take in, can you summarise it?

Sure.  DIR diving means diving in a team, a team where every member takes responsibility not just for themselves, but also the safety of everyone else on the team.  It means adopting standardised equipment to permit the development of standardised skills and drills.  It means developing personal skills and capacity so that you can have the most fun possible in the water, whilst ensuring you and your friends are safe. And that, I guess, is DIR diving.


Oh, one last point. I heard you guys all think you are better than everyone else. Is that true?

There is a type of DIR diver that thinks they are better than everyone else. The term for them is "dick head". A DIR diver should only compete with themselves to develop their skills.  I want my awareness of the wreck to be better tomorrow than it was yesterday. DIR divers are the best in the world at being DIR divers.

I consider myself an OK diver, but I can assure you all that following a sneaky try dive last year I am a catastrophically poor rebreather diver. Most of the BSAC divers I know have forgotten more about boat handling and dive group management than I will ever know. Every commie diver I have ever met has left me humbled and reminded that I know enough to keep myself alive only when not massively task loaded with a job that my livelihood relies upon.

Diving in a DIR style gives people a very specific set of skills.  Within that remit, those skills are well developed. This gives them to right to be proud of the fact that they are better at their style of diving than they were last year. But to compare themselves to other divers is ridiculous and usually insulting to someone. I have no more time for DIR divers like that than I have for people that assume that ALL DIR divers are like that, and that elitism comes with the certification. It doesn't. There are good guys from all walks, and idiots from all walks.  Luckily, when diving in the real world, most of the people I meet seem to be nice guys.

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Imogen met Gareth in 2008 and discovered GUE simultaneously while diving in a pool. She did her Fundamentals class in 2010 and obtained her Tech 1 certification in 2011. Cave 1 is booked for September this year in Mexico with the rest of the DiveDIR team. To add further strings to her bow, Imogen is a GUE Fundamentals Instructor Intern. Imogen has an eye for detail, and is a superb video diver, missing nothing and debriefing the people we coach with gentle but ruthless accuracy. Imogen's favourite dives are those which combine wrecks with sea life; and she has dived all around the UK, in addition to Malta, Croatia and South East Asia.