The Revolution Begins

My last CCR article was about the KISS Sidekick, which served me well for a couple of years and gave me an affordable option to learn to dive rebreathers in the overhead environment. It had a lot of great features, but the fundamental configuration created problems with no easy solution. Namely, good locations for sufficient bailout, and work of breathing (WOB) in non-optimal orientations. This was not limited to the Sidekick, but was a problem with ALL sidemount rebreathers on the market at that time.

The biggest issue was the bailout problem. With the unit replacing one of your standard sidemount tanks, where does your second bailout go? If you carry it as a stage, it adds so much vertical profile to you it near defeats the purpose of a sidemount rebreather. If you decide on an H/Y valve, you are lacking sufficient bailout to go very far at all, not to mention concerns regarding single points of failure.

Enter: The Sidewinder. It solves both of these issues and more, all while providing you a higher “quality of life” both in and out of the water. Plus, it is ridiculously fun to dive.

 

 

The Sidewinder takes a completely different approach than had been done before.  It has two, small scrubber cans that sit above your sidemount tanks, behind your shoulders. The counterlung now sits on your back, underneath your wing. This allows you to carry two standard bailout tanks, while still allowing you to pass through major restrictions and smaller with relative ease.

With the counterlungs on your back the WOB becomes incredibly little and does not change at all with changes in trim. Considering a lot of small spaces are not perfectly flat, this is a massive plus as it doesn’t require bailing out temporarily and causing percolation to rain down on you (usually while surveying near vertical restrictions or breakdowns).

 

 

In the water, you are able to dive with all the freedoms of OC sidemount; versatility, ease of movement, freedom of orientation and so on, but now with all the added benefits and range of a rebreather. The same goes for on land. The harness weighs the same with the unit attached as it does with all the extra weight required for OC. We happily stand and chat in the parking lot with our rebreathers on! It is also extremely simple and quick to assemble and attach. Within a few minutes you are able to switch between OC and CCR, which considering the bailout tanks are just sidemount tanks, means that if needed you could easily switch to OC at the divesite. That being said, KISS rebreathers don’t have much to break on them anyway!

Within minutes of putting it on for the first time at Cenote Ponderosa, I felt totally comfortable and ready to go. Since then it has not wasted time in proving itself in small spaces, long swims, hours of deco, exploration and more. I was happy with my Sidekick, but knew that something would replace it eventually. I am thrilled about the Sidewinder, and will be extremely impressed if something manages to replace it anytime soon.

 

Article written by Jake Bulman

jake@protecdivecenters.com

 

Photo Credit: Joram Mennes

 

October 17, 2019   No Comments

The Adjustable Stage Rigging Kit

This is a brief story about the development of an idea I had which starts a few years back.

I consider myself very fortunate because I can make a living out of my passion, Cave Diving! This means that I have logged some serious hours underwater, many times doing very cool dives with multiple stages.

Like many others, when I started using stages in Sidemount, instead of using the Standard Stage Rigging Kit I tried the combination of bungee with bolt snaps. It took me few dives to figure out the exact length of bungee ideal for me but I immediately noticed something similar to all the staging I had done until that moment in Backmount. There was almost no stage movement when kicking which translated in no more annoying “CLING” sound.

However, after some months diving stages this way I realised that to drop and pick up stages it wasn’t as pretty or clean as with the Standard Stage Rigging Kit. Also I could not share or exchange stages with other members of the team and feel comfortable since every person would have them sized a bit differently to the other. Some people started to have a longer piece of bungee that would slide up under the metal clamp so it would get tighter and different size people could share them. The problem with this system was that if the clamp was too tight the bungee would not slide or if it got loose (more likely) then the stage would hang low.

So, after a year or more diving with different styles of bungees I went back to the Standard Stage Rigging Kit after some encouragement from Patrick Widmann whilst doing some multistage dives together. Once again, I loved to have the upper bolt snap in a fixed position which would allow me to choose the height, that made it more accessible since with the bungee sometimes the bolt snap is hidden under the first stage between the hoses and SPG. It also felt cleaner or prettier to drop and pick up the stage. As well as giving the possibility of having them a bit higher up, nice when scootering, or lower closer to the center of gravity so you are more stable when swimming.

On the contrary, I did not love so much the lower bolt snap, having a fix length of rope compared to the elasticity of the bungee made it a bit more complex to attach to your harness, something manageable with some practice. The annoying “CLING” sound could be avoided almost always by “cross-clipping” the stage and Sidemount tank to bring them closer together.

However, most times I would dive with people that due to their jobs could not put the same amount of time to practice and master something that tricky. I could see their frustration during and after the dive, so I decided to come up with an easier and more effective way of doing the job.

One day in November 2016, as I was guiding a double stage dive in Cenote Escondido or Mayan Blue (Tunnels B, E, F), on the way back while seeing my client and friend (M.E.) getting annoyed by the tank movement, especially through haloclines, it occurred to me to combined the two known ways of staging tanks in Sidemount picking the best of both worlds.

I would have a fixed clip on the top by the valve (avoids unwanted rotation of the tank and makes the clip more accessible for the user) and the string that runs down from the valve would end up in a slipknot that would choke the bungee where the lower bolt snap was attached to. The metal clamp would sit right above the slipknot as tight as possible since now the bungee was not chocked by it.

 

 

I tried this new idea myself and with few friends and work colleagues. Most liked it at first but they all agreed the slipknot would sometimes became loose. My boss and friend, Kim Davidsson, suggested to create a metal piece that would connect the string with the bungee and choke it at the same time.

Summer of 2017 I designed and ordered 40 of this metal pieces. They ended up being quite expensive for the purpose they had but I was happy with the result, however they were not all exactly the same and they were not worldwide available.

 

 

 

In 2018, two friends helped me into the next phase. One was Mauro Bordignon who liked the idea but did not like the fact that it was not a standard piece that anyone could buy anywhere in the world. The other was my old friend Leo López Pellón who knows almost every catalogue of every brand related to scuba diving (he owns a dive gear shop) and helped me to find a piece available worldwide that could do the job and was not too expensive.

 

 

The piece in question was originally designed for a different purpose, to hold metal D-Rings with clamps on the tanks, which by the way did not succeed or become very popular.

So now I had to test it, trying out different bungee thicknesses and having people with limited experience with stages use them. I was so happy to see the results, people using stages for the first time telling me that they could not even feel the extra tank, no movement at all and the tank would look perfectly streamlined. Easy to clip on and to remove. Job was done!

So here are the two different options:

 

 

 

This system allows you to have an extra length on the bungee, making it easier when cross clipping and to clip stages without tension. Once is clipped, you only have to pull from the bungee and the stage will get pulled against the Sidemount tank or other stages giving you a solid feeling.

I have tried this system in Sidemount as well as in Backmount. Here in Mexico and in Europe too in colder waters, which with thick or dry gloves makes a huge amount of difference.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful.

If you are interested in purchasing the adjustable stage rigging kit which includes: clips, rope, hose, piece, bungee and clamp, all set up and ready to go, we have them in stock at ProTec Dive Centers.

Written and designed by Jaime de la Puerta Salazar.

For more information about it or training you can contact me at Jaime@protecdivecenters.com

 

 

Photo credit to Joram Mennes.

Divers (left to right): Skanda Cophield Feith, Elliot Smith, Jaime de la Puerta Salazar.

September 30, 2019   No Comments