The Dive Otter

Recreational vs Technical Diving

Deep Dive on DiversReady

It certainly is presumptive of me to make the distinction between Recreational and Technical diving so clear as I try to do below, when some of the best divers seem unable or unwilling to do so. In Mark Powell's book "Technical Diving an Introduction" he does an admirable job laying out the various ways people might categorize a dive as "technical", and yet chooses to not offer his own clear opinion. But I'm going to try anyway...
It's not about the diver, it is about the dive. More than once someone has asked me if I was a "cave diver" because I was wearing a Drysuit, using a Backplate / Wing BCD and had a long hose setup when diving the local quarry that has a maximum depth of 40ft. None of these things make me a "technical diver" and the dive is most certainly not a "technical dive". And I have nowhere near the skills and experience to be going cave diving.

Recreational DiveTechnical Dive
  • - No Additional Decompression Obligation
  • - Single Tank (or Single Tank + Pony Bottle)
  • - Air or Nitrox less than 40%
  • - Any "overhead" environment is not solid material
    • -- eg. Boat traffic in Lake Michigan on a shallow wreck
Anything that doesn't fit in the list to the left, which might include:
  • - Additional Decompression Obligation
  • - Backmounted Doubles, Sidemount or a Rebreather
  • - Mixed Gases beyond 40% Nitrox
  • - Overhead environment is of solid material
    • -- eg. Full Penetration on a Wreck or Cave

Some items that do not automatically make you a technical diver or the dive technical:
It is totally okay to do recreational dives your entire life. You don't have to be a "technical diver" to be "good" at diving and enjoy a dive. I'd rather dive with someone who has awesome trim, perfect buoyancy, command of the basic skills, fantastic communication and no ego. Instead of someone who has a cave certification and has none of the above. If you want to know if you are getting better, compare yourself to your yesterday self. Not anybody else.