Is sidemount diving for me? 

Sidemount diving is all the rage these days as more and more divers discover the surprising delight of gliding around with cylinders strapped to their sides instead of carrying them on their backs. In our opinion, there’s just something a bit special about being underwater in sidemount. So, does that mean that every diver should switch to sidemount?

Not every configuration is suitable for every diver 

At the end of the day, all diving configurations have their pros, cons and applications, and no configuration is suitable for every diver. A diver with no patience for checklists and details should probably avoid CCR diving, whilst a diver with back problems might want to avoid carrying heavy twinsets around.

Sidemount may not be suitable for every diver, but, if the following list describes you, we think you may enjoy the switch AND the struggle.

A scuba diver standing in shallow water and setting up sidemount configuration. Sidemount diving with Sidemount Society in Gozo (Malta)

You enjoy tinkering with dive equipment

Sidemount divers are known for being very particular about their setup. Don’t be surprised when a tape measure and flathead screwdriver become your best friends on the dive site. This is because sidemount diving works best when everything is in its perfect place. Yes, you can dive with your cylinders perpendicular to your body and your wing flying high above you like a parachute… but you won’t feel comfortable, you’ll use more air, and you’ll look silly. In sidemount, a bolt snap a few inches too high or too low, bungees too long or too short or 1kg of weight in the wrong place will throw things out of balance. If you enjoy tinkering (or faffing as we like to refer to it), you’ll love this never-ending part of the sidemount journey.  

You don’t mind a challenge

Once you’re set up it’s time to get in the water. In the beginning, everything will be a frustrating challenge. From attachment points you can’t see to bungees you can’t reach, from manoeuvring with just your fins to remembering to switch regulators, not to mention attempting to keep your cylinders in trim throughout the dive! There’s a lot of new muscle memory to build when you switch to sidemount but with time, practice, and patience the frustration gives way to fun and fascination. 

You have time and space to practice 

If your only time in the water is an annual dive holiday, switching to sidemount is probably not a wise idea. Ideally, you need regular access to a dive site and your own full set of equipment so that you can build confidence in your setup and skills. At the end of the day, diving holidays should be fun, not frustrating, which is how you’ll feel if you only dust off your sidemount once every 6 months. 

You don’t mind being the odd one out

While sidemount is popular these days, it’s still a mystery to some dive centres around the world. Many have never seen sidemount in action and can be wary of this strange new setup thinking it’s synonymous with technical diving. This is understandable as the majority of sidemount divers are diving in caves. Being a lonely sidemount diver on a recreational dive isn’t a problem though. Once you’ve completed your recreational sidemount course you should be a) self-sufficient and b) easily able to adapt to suit the circumstances. Still, you can expect to attract a little confusion, curiosity and even criticism from other divers who don’t understand that the extra effort is so worth it. 

You don’t mind looking and feeling great underwater

Let’s be honest. Sidemount looks great (eventually!). Better than that though, it feels great! There’s a special feeling that comes from moving as one streamlined unit while being in near effortless control of your positioning in the water. 

You have to experience it to understand it. Come and find out what all the fuss is about. 

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