Sidemount and Sideways - Interview with the Sidemount Diver

Iphone 4, flat screen tv, jumpsuits, Volkswagen Beetle, spiky tattoos - all of these things are trendy.

I admit I had to Google ‘trendy clothes’ to find the jumpsuit; apparently they’re going to be very ‘in’ this winter.

Every aspect of our lives encounters trends from time to time, and scuba diving is no different.

The current trend the scuba industry is experiencing is sidemount diving.

I am not suggesting divers are simply switching to sidemount just because it’s ‘cool’ or ‘in;’ but simply because they never considered it, until the trend began to form. I must admit i’ve had a peek at it myself, and although the prospect of reconstructing my entire scuba kit puts me right off; it does look like a lot of fun.

I thought I would investigate the phenomenon that is sidemount diving.

What is sidemount?

At a very basic level, sidemount diving is the process of taking one or two cylinders and placing them on either side of your body, rather than mounting them on your back, (traditionally known as backmounted).

However, having spoken to divers who utilise the system, there appears to be a lot more to it than just moving a cylinder here and there.

Why sidemount?

Ultimately this form of diving evolved from the caves.

As divers progress deeper into the caves they often encounter what are known in the industry as “restrictions.”

Personally I can’t imagine anything more terrifying; and if there is a “restriction” it means you have no business being there.

However, cave divers are resourceful pioneers, and would not be stopped by a mere geological formation, constructed over millions of years.

random sidemount diver
One such diver was Woody Jasper. He decided that if he took his tanks from his back and moved them to his side, he could easily fit through said “restrictions.”

Sidemount was born. 

So; it’s his fault the local quarries are now teaming with sidemount divers doing headstands at every given moment.

He also gave birth to the “Woody” found on the end of spools and reels; smart fella.



Who’s gone sidemount?

Sidemount diving is predominantly used for cave diving, or when a diver encounters restrictions; perhaps on a wreck dive, in a mine, a submerged building, or similar. 

That said, there is absolutely no reason why the system cannot be used as a permanent style of diving; whether it is from a boat into open water, a simple shore dive, or enjoying the local quarry.

Jason Renoux - Essential Scuba Training

I attended TekCamp earlier this year which featured sidemount try dives. Disappointingly I didn’t get a chance due to time constraints, but I did see the reactions from many of my new TekCamp buddies. It was positive to say the least; and since July, three of the attendees have swapped their lovely euro twinsets for a sidemount configuration. 

Tis madness I tell you; a revolution of sorts!

It’s at the stage now here Wifebuddy and I look like the weirdos with the zany backmount system.

With TekCamp now fading into the background, I decided I would like to find out how my new chums are getting on with their new sidemount system. 

With the aid of the phenomenon that is facebook, i got in touch with tech diver Trudy and bamboozled her with a few questions from my journalistic artillery.

Here’s what she has to say…

I Are Diver interviews Trudy:

Trudy in sidemount kit

  • Can you give us a brief history of your diving? (year qualified, agency, dives, types of dives)

I starting diving as a teenager with my Dad, who was a commercial diver, but had a long break before starting again in 2007 when I moved back to the Isle [of Wight]. 

I've now got about 300 dives, starting down the PADI route before becoming a DSAT Deep Tec diver in 2009.

I'm an avid wreck diver (well, you got to be living around the Isle of Wight!) - I love the history and the little stories behind each dive site.

  • Where did you experience your first sidemount dive and what was it like?

TekCamp 2011 with Martin Robson [EAU2 Technical Diver Training] was my first experience. The freedom and manoeuvrability of sidemount over twins on the back is amazing. Martin showed us how to stand on our heads, twist, hover upside down, and fin on our sides to wiggle into small gaps.

  • What made you decide, “yup – I’m gonna be sidemount”?

It had to be the second try dive I did at TekCamp.

After talking with Martin I realised that switching to sidemount would double the amount of diving I could do around the Island, and I'd be able to penetrate wrecks in places I could never go in my back mounted twins.

Add to that; I can take my tanks off in the water and pass them up to boat crew (no lift on our boat) instead of struggling up a ladder - I was sold.

  • Where and with whom did you complete your sidemount training?

Martin Robson w/ student
I stuck with Martin Robson and we did PADI Recrational, and Tec Sidemount earlier this year with fellow student Bene (also from TekCamp).

Good old Vobster was the location.

  • Is there a different mindset required for sidemount and was it difficult to shake ‘old habits’ from the backmount years?

It's a similar mindset; the principles of redundancy and safety are still there for example, it’s just the positioning of the tanks that have changed.

The old habits that are used for backmount are virtually the same with sidemount; buddy checks before the dive and bubble checks at the beginning of the dive for instance.

The biggest "old habit" is the shut down drills. 

So; was twiddling knobs at chest height instead of behind the head difficult to shake? - What do you think ? :)

  • Do you always dive sidemount now?

Sidemount, or singles if I'm diving the kids, or in my rescue diver capacity for a course.
I've split my twins completely; the twinning bands are thrown in the back of my garden shed somewhere.

  • How has your diving changed?

I can now shore dive from the Isle as I can carry my tanks separately to the water’s edge; it’s too dangerous to scramble up and down the steps in twins, even twin 7's.

I haven't managed to get out much since my course because of bad weather and work commitments, so I've still got a lot of learning and practice to do.

I'll let you know more at next years TekCamp!

  • How have your buddies / club reacted to the change?

I only have one other tec diver in my club and he's planning on doing a sidemount try dive next year. However, I have several buddies on the mainland who are now doing sidemount , and at least one has split her twins as well.

  • Is it easy to go abroad for some single tank diving with your new system?

I'm told it is, but I'm yet to enjoy the experience myself.

Certainly the kit can pack up considerably smaller than all the twin set stuff as there are no back plates required. (In fact, the whole manoeuvrability from sidemount comes from being able to wiggle and bend your spine which you can't do in twins.)

And, of course, it makes your excess luggage bill cheaper.

  • Will you proceed with any further training in sidemount?


I still have so much to learn and practice; I won't be happy until I can dive like Steve Bogaerts (goals are good, even if they are mostly unrealistic).

  • Who would you recommend sidemount to?



So there you have it; sidemount is the future. I certainly can’t wait to have a go, I just hope I don’t get hooked and have to sell all my kit!

Is sidemount going to replace the standard twinset?


  1. Yo I Are Dude!
    I've been sidemounting all summer and fall now. Single sidemount, and double.About a hundred dives.
    I cannot imagine now going back to backmounting.
    I have done very little cave with it as there are very few around where i live. But what cave-diving i've done is of course a lot easier with SM.
    So i do open-water and quite a bit of wreck diving here in the St-Lawrence river. Fresh, warm to very cold water, calm to tuba-bending currents, great to pea soup viz...
    I had a discal hernia a few years ago. Being able to don the tanks in water and/or not carry them on my back is bliss!
    It is indeed a great pleasure to be able to ''wiggle and bend your spine'' !
    When single sidemounting; unclipping and holding a neutral tank in front of you effortlessly by the valve gives you a feeling of freedom and ''streamliness''(pardon my english!!!)as close to freediving as you'll ever get with scuba. Absolute pleasure!
    So all of you dudes with back problems: Praise the Dude!Go Sidemount!


  2. That sounds fantastic Jean-Louis.

    What you're experiencing sounds like a perfect use of sidemount diving.

    I'm all about the "streamliness" ! (brilliant - i may copyright that!) :D

    Safe diving buddy!

  3. oooh, me too! diving sm this weekend for the first time since the course and can't wait to enjoy the freedom again!

  4. Nice moves Tara.

    I'd be interested to see how you get on in "the real world."

    Keep me posted.

  5. Thanks, just when I thought I had sorted out what direction I was going you throw the side-mount issue in the mix again *sigh* ;-)

  6. You're a sidemount diver waiting to happen buddy!

    It's all you talked about for AGES!!! :D

  7. I think I'll end up with something like UTD's sidemount CCR. Proper pimp!

  8. Seems like a cool system.

    New post perhaps? hmmm....


Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

Safe diving buddy.