Tomasz “Michur” Michura
Tomasz is a Polish technical diving instructor who is chiefly associated with sidemount, and owner of Sidemount Silesia. He has devoted most of his time and efforts to developing sidemount skills and procedures as well as promoting this configuration around the world. He is best known for his multi-cylinder skills and is established in the sidemount community. He tries to hit the water every day and is a great advocate of constant underwater practice paying attention to every detail. His motto is, “As sidemount is a craft of tricks, I need to master them all”. Tomasz continues his sidemount adventure continuing his own education as well as teaching beginner and advanced courses.
What is sidemount to you?
Sidemount setup is not just a way of diving for me, it’s also a way of life. I have devoted several years to it, developing new exercises, working on my trim and composure, and looking for ways to make diving better, more effective and, above all, safer. I still see potential for improvements in sidemount and I’m glad that this system is constantly developing. While typically used in an overhead configuration, sidemount has become a system that works well in open water conditions and is eagerly chosen even by divers who do not have the aspirations to dive in tight caves. After appropriate training, it becomes an excellent tool for the implementation of all manner of diving projects and, in addition, gives the diver a lot of freedom and pleasure during diving.
What can improve sidemount?
There is still a lot of work to be done in terms of sidemount development. Many divers and instructors rightly believe that we need to focus on standardizing this diving method. Different agencies, different manuals, and a wide range of instructors constantly seem to promote different procedures, different methods of using equipment, and alternative training methods. I regret that we do not have uniform standards that could standardize the work of instructors. This would also help students who seem to be confused by the multitude of techniques, procedures, and skills. I also believe that some agencies too easily award the title of “sidemount instructor” to people who have little knowledge of this configuration or rarely dive in it.
I also regret that so little time is spent on refining the methods of getting in and out of the water for various conditions, such as when diving from a boat. For years I have been fighting with the mistaken belief that it is impossible to dive from a boat in sidemount. It is possible, but you need to know how and prepare for it very well by training in shallow water beforehand.
Why are skills important? Is perfection even more?
This question seems simple, but it is not. I regret to say that many novice divers, including myself in the past, pay the most attention to their general appearance and comfort of swimming and how well their cylinders are trimmed. Of course, this is an important aspect of diving, but we must not neglect safety procedures. In addition, I believe, and after some time my students started saying the same, thanks to our work on skills, buoyancy, and general in-water mastery. Constant repetition, building muscle memory and learning self-discipline and perseverance will certainly bring many benefits and in case of an emergency, could reduce danger and eventually even save a diver’s life. For example, one of my students sent me a message saying my demand that he become proficient in valve drills saved his life when he needed to deal with a real emergency at depth. I have myself met criticism for focusing too much on details but I’m not going to change my approach, because I believe that in sidemount, every centimeter counts, every move is extremely important, and that the devil is in the details.
What’s the most underrated skill in sidemount training?
In addition to teaching methods for entering the water, propulsion technique instruction leaves much to be desired. Sidemount offers excellent streamlining to enable divers to use different types of frog, flutter, or back kicks, and my favorite, sideways swimming. What I am concerned about the most, however, is the lack of mastering the ability to donate the long hose, which I often see in students who come to me to do a technical sidemount course using a stage after having done technical courses elsewhere.
Return to: The Who’s Who of Sidemount
Speaking Sidemount: E002 – 4 Foundations of Sidemount Diving – Michur Interview Part 1
Speaking Sidemount: E003 – Michur Interview Part 2
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.