Steve is the producer and host of the acclaimed podcast, “Speaking Sidemount,” author of the books, “The Canterbury Wreck – A Diver’s Guide” and the eBook, “Sidemount Fundamentals.” He is a specialist sidemount diver/instructor, dives exclusively in sidemount, and is the principal instructor and founder of Sidemount Pros. Steve travels the world diving sidemount in caves, wrecks, and open water. Through Speaking Sidemount Steve’s mission is to share his passion for sidemount diving and provide a medium for the world’s top sidemount divers, instructors, and explorers to share their experiences and thoughts on sidemount diving.
What is sidemount to you?
Sidemount is my configuration of choice and I dive it exclusively. Why? Firstly it’s the feeling of freedom you get with properly setup side-mounted cylinders. They are part of you and you are streamlined and balanced in all orientations. Next, are a few key advantages I feel sidemount gives me; redundancy via two independent cylinders, easy access to my valves, better trim, balance and stability, and lastly, a huge amount of flexibility in how I mange my equipment to and from the water.
Was there an epiphany moment for you with sidemount?
Before I even started sidemount diving, I saw Steve Bogaerts “skills video” filmed at Ponderosa in Mexico. I was mesmerized with how balanced and stable he was in all orientations. I had to have that. The second was when I donned my sidemount system for the first time, also at Ponderosa in Mexico. I remember how easy it felt to fall into trim and how balanced I was. That was it for me, I was hooked.
Any wish for those interested in sidemount?
If I had one wish it is that Sidemount divers seek out good instruction at the beginning of their “journey” and then work at perfecting their diving. You can get a good result very quickly when shown how and with some diligence around doing video reviews of your dives, adjusting your set up to improve it and above all, practicing stability and skills. This will pay big dividends in improving your sidemount diving.
Sidemount and social media, the good the bad and the ugly:
Four years ago when I started the “Speaking Sidemount” podcast, the terrible state of social media commentary was part of my motivation. I knew there was a “rabid” audience for good information about sidemount diving but there was so much negative criticism especially of new sidemount divers, many of whom didn’t know any better. I felt there had to be a way to cut through the dross and give some of the very best sidemount divers and instructors a platform that would really help. My guests and I have regularly called out much of the unnecessary criticism and to be honest, I feel as though this has improved dramatically to where you get a lot less nastiness than before. There’s still some but to a large degree this is also just human nature. Social media now, and maybe it’s just what I see, is a lot more positive and supportive, long may that continue.
Is CCR sidemount the future of diving exploration and why? Is there a negative side?
Certainly, I think CCR Sidemount is the future of cave exploration. The ability to go further without having to stage as many cylinders, the reduction in gas, distance, and time stress, and aspects such as less percolation will make sidemount CCR the right tool for this type of diving. In other environments, it may well be that there are better tools but this will be very much situational and also driven by the explorer’s tool of choice. Is there a negative side? I am not sure there really is, excepting the increased level of diligence required to dive CCR in general.
After speaking to all SM stars through the years, moments and phrases that “stayed” with you.
Wow there are so many:
Steve Bogaerts: “Take the time to build your experience and comfort zone, the caves aren’t going anywhere!”
Tomasz Michura: “Take a camera, record yourself and analyze what you see” – in reference to improving your skills
Richard Harris: “You can learn to enjoy that feeling” in reference to problem solving in zero visibility restrictions
Richard Harris: this time quoting Rick Stanton on what they will face in Thailand… “You’re going to dive into the cave and see the kids, they’ll be all happy and smiley, then you’re going to leave knowing that they are all going to die”
Natalie Gibb: “I teach new sidemount divers how to be still”
Return to: The Who’s Who of Sidemount
InDEPTH: Speaking Sidemount with Podcast Host Steve Davis by Michael Menduno
Speaking Sidemount: E001 – 7 Reasons Why You Should Dive Sidemount
Speaking Sidemount: E011 – Sidemount Fundamentals – Equipment
Speaking Sidemount: E017 – Sidemount Diving Truk Lagoon
Speaking Sidemount: E020 – Multi-cylinder Sidemount
Speaking Sidemount: E043 – Turning the Tables – Steve Davis with Audrey Cudel
YouTube: Steve Bogaerts Sidemount Skills demo in a Razor Harness (2010)
GUE 25 Anniversary Conference Round Up
Global Underwater Explorers held a conference to commemorate the organization’s 25th anniversary. Held at GUE headquarters in High Springs, Florida, where it was founded by a group of cave divers founded in 1998, the organization convened instructors and divers from all over the world to recall the people and diving technologies that shaped GUE, how they’ve changed over time, and how they’ll evolve in the future.
In addition to celebrating the occasion, GUE convened speakers to present on topics related to its three biggest priorities: Exploration, Education, Conservation.
Shipwreck explorer Mario Arena, for example, gave a presentation on the “Battle of Convoys in the Mediterranean,” his 16-year project discovering and documenting dozens of shipwrecks left behind by the three-year-long battle during World War II and how his team is bringing the wrecks back to life using new technologies.
Cave explorers Fred Devos, Julien Fortin, and Sam Meacham gave a presentation on their efforts to document Ox Bel Ha, the largest underwater cave system in Mexico, a project which is concurrently celebrating its 25th anniversary. The project started out with, as Meacham called it, “two chainsaws, a compressor, and a horse,” and has begun to resurvey 144 square miles of caves with advances in diving equipment. Advances as simple as upgrades to lightbulbs and batteries, for example, enable the explorers to see through new passages.
Bill Stone, a cave explorer and head of Stone Aerospace, discussed “Recent Advances in Machine Exploration,” chronically how he’s used machines to explore underwater caves farther than any human. Stone’s autonomous drone, called Sunfish, uses sonar mapping to produce 3D maps and models deeper than photogrammetry divers can dive.
Ulrik Juul Christensen, a founder and chairman of Bonaire’s Area9 Mastery Diving Research Center, is developing an adaptive learning education platform for GUE and has spent about as much time as the organization has been in existence building education technologies. Christensen’s talk, “Learning That Matters,” focused on how to create new systems to help educate learners at their own pace so that knowledge, and not speed, is the priority.
In a complementary presentation, Sean Talamas, a managing partner and executive coach at leadership development consulting firm, discussed “The Depth of Character: Cultivating Grit, and a Growth Mindset.” The presentation focused on research by Angela Duckworth suggesting success is not achieved through talent, but a combination of passion and persistence she called “grit.”
GUE Instructor Trainer Andrea Marassich gave a presentation on “Building Capacity for Extreme Explorations” about the Sa Conca e Locoli Cave Project in Sardinia, Italy. Learning, he suggested, happens when you go out of your comfort zone, but not all the way to what he called the “panic zone,” where you are overwhelmed to the point that you don’t learn but instead shut down and it becomes extremely dangerous.” “You need a mentor,” Marassich said. “Someone who knows you enough to push you when you need to be pushed and pull back when you need to pull back.”
These were just a few of the education- and exploration-focused presentations. Speakers also included Blue Green Expeditions Managing Partner Faith Ortins on how divers can support environmentally conscious destinations, Peter Gaertner on citizen science conducted in the Caves of Gulf of Orosei project, Daniel Ortego on the Marine Genome Project, and Neal W. Pollock on the physiological limitations of technology in diving.
Max Deco & Bubble Trouble entertained conference attendees at the Friday night social with a pre-dive playlist of classic rock. Band members: John Kendall vocals, Gary Franklin vocals, Bill Stone lead guitar, Andrew Dow guitar, Francesco Cameli bass, Michael Menduno bass, Jason Cook drums.
You can find the full conference photo album here.