As a sidemount instructor here at Team Blue Immersion and Dahab Divers Technical I have been lucky to try pretty much every sidemount unit on the market. Each of them has their own advantages but even more disadvantages…until now. Hollis has obviously done their research and without a doubt listened to the divers when designing the new SM50. The team has always been very happy with the SMS100, which – in our opinion – is the nicest and most versatile sidemount unit on the market. With the arrival of the SM50 Hollis has outdone itself again…
Sidemount is continuing to grow, evident by the constant courses (both recretional and trchncial) started almost daily here at Dahab Divers Technical. The idea of it interests people and once they see it almost certainly need to see what all the talk is about. Personally, the arrival of the new SM50 was much anticipated as a sidemount enthusiast and instructor here in Dahab. The sidemount commmunity has been talking about the SM50 for months now, eagerly awaiting its world wide release. I had to fight to be the first to dive the unit. Robert (review #1) put up a valiant fight, with little success. I had waited months to even see the new unit and was only hours away from being one of the first in the world to test the currently still unreleased model.
Most system on the market today were similar to each other, with only minor differences. The SM50 comes pre-assembled, with only minor changes required for personal preference. I replaced the standard bungee with a continuous thinner SM bungee which is better suited to attach the top of the aluminum tanks with opposite valves that we use here at Team Blue Immersion. Additional clips were added to account for the tanks’ buoyancy change and hence to ensure that the tanks sit streamlined throughout the dive. Only minor alterations need to be made to fit the size and shape of individual divers.
The SM50 has broken new ground regarding design, minimizing drag for a profile not offered by other units. When it’s on your back, you honestly can’t feel a thing. The configuration of the LPI is perfectly in conjunction with a 5th port first stage setup and the dump valve is positioned perfectly on the back of the unit, allowing for easy buoyancy control. The wing wraps tightly over the interior structure of the unit and remains ‘fitted’ to the diver, unlike other systems such as the Razor or Equis, which tend to be bulkier and ‘loose’ when inflated at depth. The weight pocket located on the top of the unit makes trim pretty automatic and balance underwater is unmatched by any other unit available. It looks just as good as it is to dive on, and for myself, there is not really a going back to any other sidemount-only unit on the market.
I personally spent a couple years in South East Asia working as a professional videographer and can attest to the many hazards that face divers filming underwater. The first and possible the most dangerous is the fact that most find themselves solo diving. And most, including myself at the time, without the training required to safety conduct such dives. Often far away from the group gathering marine life footage or deeper for silhouette shots, most are often unaware of the consequences that would occur in the unlikely event of any equipment malfunction. Secondly, regardless of their experience, underwater camera operators use more air then normal as they have to swim quite large distances and faster speeds to get the shots required to make a visually appealing film. For this reason even experienced divers find themselves surfacing will minimal air compared to the open water divers they are filming.
Video Student Kerry filming on sidemount here in Dahab, Egypt.
Its for both the above reasons that Team Blue Immersion FX stresses the importance of some type of redundancy training. Sidemount training solves both these problems. With two independent air sources and proper gas management, the technical concept of ‘redundancy’ can now be applied to recreational diving. If a videographer did ever find themselves separated from the group or too far away from a potential buddy then isolating the problem and resorting to the reserve tank will provide ample gas and time to safely reach the surface.
Remember also that you now have DOUBLE the amount of air. This covers the second safety aspect involving gas consumption. Now that I am involved primarily into the technical side of diving, where gas planning regarding air consumption is pre-planned with a reserve of an extra 1/3, I could not believe how nonchalant most treat their air supply. Having the piece of mind that you have more then enough air required to film a given project lets the videographer focus on the other concepts of filming (composition, storyboard, etc) rather then the concern of lack of air. Excessive multi-tasking can lead to stress, which can further lead to accidents underwater.
A great video of Dolphins filmed entirely on sidemount. The videographer was able to stay with them for over an hour based on her gas management and quantity of air.
Most videographers are guilty of one or both of the above dangers of filming while diving. There are no more excuses. The knowledge and training is now readily available. I wish all my friends from the past who are still involved in underwater video production to SERIOUSLY consider the above aspects of redundancy systems while filming.
Safe Diving and Filming
Erik Brown – Sidemount Training
Aron Arngrimsson – Video Training
We are always very lucky here at Blue Immersion and Dahab Divers Technical to have great groups of both people and divers cross our path. The past couple weeks were no different. Lieven and William came as independent divers for recreational and technical sidemount training and instantly became a great team along with fellow divers Dimitri Galle (normoxic trimix) and Nene Kurronen (trimix instructor). After initial training on the Hollis SMS 100, the guys took a break to utilize the depth and amazing environment that is the Blue Hole (article on the Blue Hole here). Both experienced technical divers had a dream of hitting the magic 100m mark and realized the Blue Hole is the perfect location for such a dive.
The dive was perfect. Jonas Samuelsson was dive leader, Aron from Blue Immersion FX was filming, and Erik was support. Check out the video here or others at the Blue Immersion Vimeo page. With a day off to relax and the enjoy their accomplishment, instructor training back on the technical sidemount configuration followed.
New student Kerry Thorp has come to do video training with Aron, and for the many reason listed in (Why Sidemount) started off her course with some sidemount training. The safety of redundancy while filming is an important concept while filming here at TBI. William and Lieven started the morning with great briefs about how the course will work, the benefits, and equipment configuration.
Team Blue Immersion would like to thanks William and Lieven for a great couple weeks and wish them safe travels home to their respective countries. Cant wait to get you guys back for some more diving. Congrats again on your sidemount instructor ratings and your 100m dive.
Another great day of sidemount diving here today here at Blue Immersion. Although the sun stayed tucked behind the clouds (first time in months), William and Lieven were eager to get in the water and continue their training from yesterday. Yesterday started with Andy Gilligan helping with a briefing on equipment configuration and showing the various units available on the sidemount market. The Hollis SMS100 and its versatility were the focus but Lieven’s Nomad, the Razor, UTD Z Wing, and a few other options were on display. Lieven’s multipurpose Nomad was a perfect example of their many uses as it is the same wing he will be using on upcoming trimix dives here at the Blue Hole.
Lieven and William came as very experienced trimix divers, but each with different interests in sidemount diving (why sidemount?). William is keen to start cave diving where familiarity on the sidemount configuration is a must. Lieven prefers the comfort and logistical benefits of sidemount diving. Both seem to love it equally but for different reasons.
Initial training yesterday in confined water was used to run through the skills in the recreational sidemount diver course. Fining techniques and body position came easy to the experienced divers as they got used to the new setup in the shallows out front Lighthouse Bay. After minor changes to configuration (half the battle in sidemount diving…see tips and tricks), today was spend perfecting out of air simulations and gas shut down drills.
Fining techniques and unclipping skills followed in the perfect training ground in the buoyancy course only meters from Team Blue Immersions base.
Tomorrow the team is back in the water and practicing more skills and introducing deco tanks as part of their techincal sidemount training…
more fun to come
Mary Taylor made a visit to Dahab to surprise current technical and sidemount students Nene Kurronen and Andy Gilligan. Nene is currently in the process of assisting on a Trimix course featuring Dimitri Galle while Andy has focused on mastering the sidemount configuration. Andy’s enthusiasm for sidemount perked Mary’s interest and when she saw the latest video from Team Blue ImmersionFX (check out our Media page or its feature in the PADI TecRec Blog) she signed up instantly for the recreational sidmount diver course.
The morning was spent with Andy providing a great briefing on the many advantages of sidemount diving (why sidemount?). As Mary came to Blue Immersion as an advanced diver, she found the ‘bridge’ aspect of sidemount diving beneficial. Sidemount diving is a great opportunity for divers to get an introduction to key concepts behind techicnal diving with topics of redundancy and safety being talking about in depth.
Andy, Nene, and Mary after a farewell dive at Lighthouse.
Mary picked it up fast and enjoyed the Hollis SMS 100 unit with instructor Erik Brown. Special thanks to Mary for a great visit/course and Andy Gilligan for his excellent instruction and enthusiasm during his instructor training. Tomorrow we start off another sidemount course with current trimix student Lieven Bogaert newly arriving student William.
say tuned for more…
Check out the NEW SIDEMOUNT video shot here by Team Blue Immersion Fx celebrating the release of the new PADI Technical Sidemount Course. Jonas Samuellson received the first Instructor Trainer Rating and course commence shortly. Team Blue Immersion is using the SMS 100 for Hollis, a great multi-purpose unit for all types of sidemount diving.
Check out more videos and photos on the Media Page.
Team Blue Immersion in Dahab, Egypt now offering as one of the first divecenters in the world both PADI recreational and tec sidemount diver and instructor courses.