Sidemount diving, a way to get smaller

by spotmydive

Carrying heavy loads on your back during your dive begins to weigh you down seriously? Looking to sneak through narrower places on your next underwater getaway? Or are you simply looking for more comfort or new sensations? So, the Sidemount is for you. This technique, nicknamed also “English diving” or “side mounting”, is not a new trend and has been steadily growing among divers of all levels. Interests, advantages and disadvantages or necessary material, Spotmydive decrypts everything and give you a full review of the side mount diving gear.

What is sidemount diving?

Historically, the sidemount corresponds to a particular configuration of the scuba diving equipment. Used almost exclusively by the most technical divers specialized in the exploration of caves, wrecks or canyons, this practice is becoming more and more common among all divers whatever the level. By definition, the sidemount is the lateral mounting of the diving tanks. Thus, instead of having them on the back as usual, the diver carries the tanks on the side, in line with the shoulders and under the armpits. The sidemount is an absolut necessity for advanced cave diving. Several configurations are possible in this type of lateral tank technique. It can be equipped with a single bottle, to wear on the side, but the most popular configuration is wearing blocks under each arm. The side-mount has greatly gained popularity lately. Divers seek new sensations under the water and get rid of heavy tanks on their backs, often difficult and uncomfortable to wear. Therefore, nowadays, English diving is not only for divers wishing to enter narrow places, but becomes a solution to gain more comfort and ease under water.

The benefits of sidemount

Diving in sidemount represents huge advantages, for the technical diving as well as for the fun divers:

  • Increased autonomy: During a sidemount dive, two bottles of 11L are usually used. It represents a larger underwater autonomy than usual diving tanks.
  • The comfort: With the traditional configuration, ie with the tanks on the back, many divers complained of small disturbances such as difficulties to look around or pain on the neck and the back of the skull . The sidemount erases all these disturbances, the weight is better distributed and the comfort under the water is found again improved for a better for diving exploration.
  • More space and lightness: Perfect for traveling because less cumbersome, lateral mounting will offer you a lighter feeling during the dives. Not to mention the ease of installation of the equipment.
  • Flexible system: The sidemount diving system offers great flexibility with the ability to easily change the volume of the blocks.
  • Safer diving: First, having two air sources increases gas redundancy. Plus, keeping your gas supply under the eyes and at your fingertips decrease the risk of damaging your regulator. Furthermore, we can act faster in case of problems
  • Hydrodynamics and better balance: When the equipment is properly installed, the sidemount offers better hydrodynamics and a better balance under water thanks to a better positioned center of gravity.
  • Ability to access the smallest spaces: This is one of the big advantages of sidemount diving. Divers can access previously unreachable spaces with a classic configuration. Sidemount is great for cave and shipwrecks diving.

Who can dive into sidemount?

To learn sidemount diving, each diver must meet the conditions set by the various federations. To try side-mounted diving, you must be at least 12 years old, hold the Open Water Diver certification or equivalent and have at least a little experience as a diver. A minimum of at least one dive in a protected environment and two dives in the Open Water is strongly recommended to start sidemount dives. However, if you want to rely on PADI, the most popular federation, you have to be 15 years old. The instructor will teach you in 3 dives the basics of the concepts such as equipment installation, buoyancy control and safety instructions. Note that if you want to use this configuration during one of your dive, make sure that the members of your group know the safety procedures.

Sidemount Equipment

With side-mounted configuration, it is necessary to have suitable equipment. The harness is the most important equipment when trying to dive in Sidemount. This harness is generally composed of strips of fabric assembled by passers-by which will make it possible to fix the blocks on the sides. With the growing success of this method, the brands specialized in diving accessories are beginning to position themselves on the market. However, many professional divers adept of “English diving” create their own harness. On the harness, is grafted a wing, commonly called “Wing”. “Wings” are back buoys. They are between the plunger and the bottles and serve to support the weight of the latter for a better balance, all, without clutter and without hindrance in the execution of movements. Also, for diving in side-mount, it will be necessary to equip you with two bottles to which it will be necessary to join two regulators equipped with a manometer with a high pressure hose.