Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
Coming ashore at Lizard Island Australia

Interview with Steve Bogaerts: Part 1 of 3

Steve Bogaerts fitting a Razor prototype to Hans Kaspersetz

In the past two years I have trained under three different instructors.  Each had their own specialty and really expanded the breadth of my knowledge and depth of my skills.  I have been fortunate to develop strong relationships with these men and continue my learning through regular contact and diving with them.  I sought these instructors because of positive referrals from other divers and reputation.  Therefore, I decided to interview instructors here on QuietDiver.com so you can decide for yourself who you want to train under.

Steve Bogaerts, my sidemount and specialty cave diving instructor, has agreed to participate in our first interview.  Following is the first part of a three part series in which he explains his unique approach to teaching side mount diving.  I will be publishing the next two parts over the next week and a half.

I asked Steve, “You teach Side Mount and have an innovative approach which is breaking the course into three segments.  Can you tell us about each of the segments?  Why did you choose this approach?  What should a student expect to learn in each segment?”

Here is Steve Bogaerts’ answer.

Actually there are 4 levels.
Intro to Side Mount
Level 1 Basic Side Mount Diver
Level 2 Advanced Side Mount Diver
Level 3 Exploration / No Mount Diver

The Intro course is a 2 day program and Levels 1, 2 & 3 are all 4 days in duration.

Traditionally the Side Mount Cave specialty course has always been a 2 or 3 day program but I found that I just cannot do it justice in that short a time frame.

Steve Bogaerts building a custom Razor side mount harness.

I have many years and thousands of dives in Side Mount/No Mount configuration and it is just not possible for me to fit all that knowledge and experience into a single 2 day course.

In addition most divers are not really ready to be in true Side Mount cave after just a day or 2 in a brand new equipment configuration.

In my opinion that is unsafe for both the diver and the cave.

Nearly all of my students come to me via word of mouth recommendation.

The reason divers come to me specifically to take a Side Mount Course is because of my experience and expertise in this particular area.

I really want my students to be able to benefit from my experience and knowledge in the best way possible so that they get the very best training I can offer that is challenging, detailed and complete but at the same time enjoyable.

To achieve this over the last few years I have completely changed the way in which I teach Side Mount.

It is not just the course structure that is new but pretty much my whole philosophy of Side Mount diving, the skills sets and procedures, and the way in which I teach the courses.

When you completely change your equipment configuration from Back Mount to Side Mount a lot of other things are going to change as well and a whole new skill set is going to have to be learned and practiced.

Being a good Side Mount diver requires a great deal more thought and attention than just hanging 2 tanks off of the side of your body.

Before more advanced Side Mount skills can be learned basic ones have to be mastered and before we enter a more challenging environment we need to make sure our skills and comfort level is matched to it.

The course levels are all natural stopping points and divers can choose to remain at each level either permanently, as they have no desire to go further, or temporarily to get more experience before moving up to the next level.

Put very simply the Intro to Side Mount Course is a short open water only introduction to diving in Side Mount configuration for someone who has never tried it before.

This is not a certification level and represents the first 2 days of the Basic Side Mount Course.

The Level 1 Basic Side Mount Course teaches you the skills and procedures necessary to cave dive in Side Mount configuration but still in larger cave until further training and experience is gained.

Any new equipment configuration takes some time to master and this should be done in a low stress safe environment so the intent here is not to dive in very small cave.

The Level 2 Advanced Side Mount Course builds on the skills and procedures learned in the Level 1 course as well as adding additional skills with the intent to train divers to be comfortable and safe diving in true SM cave which increases the environmental hazards and psychological stress levels considerably.

The Level 3 Exploration Side Mount/No Mount Course gives you the tools to be able to explore effectively and safely in the most extreme environments one will encounter in cave diving.

Some people want to dive Side Mount but have no desire to go in small cave so the level 1 course is the perfect choice and a natural stopping point for them.

For those wishing to actually dive smaller cave then first they have to master the basic skills and procedures of diving Side Mount in large cave in Level 1 before entering the far more challenging environment of true Side Mount cave that is introduced at Level 2.

Levels 1 and 2 can be taken concurrently or with a break in between.

On completion of Level 2 at this point it is time to go diving and build up some experience in Side Mount configuration in all types of cave including the small stuff before moving on to the Level 3 course which is very intensive and demands an extremely high comfort level in very challenging cave while dealing with potentially very stressful situations.

A minimum of 50 dives in Side Mount are required before taking the Level 3 Course.

There are also a number of complimentary specialty courses that can be taken in Side Mount after either Level 1 or Level 2; Stage/Multi Stage, DPV and Survey.

These course all introduce different aspects of cave diving and give a diver the knowledge and skills to plan more complex and demanding cave dives while learning more about the cave environment.

Additionally they are all tools that anyone wishing to explore at some point will need as well.

Hence all 3 of these specialty courses are also prerequisites for the Level 3 course.

The Level 3 course is really aimed at divers wishing to do the most challenging and demanding cave diving possible with a view to exploration.

This course puts in to practice all the skills learned and experience gained to this point as well as introducing No Mount techniques and exploration methodology.

To a large extent the courses have evolved around the Razor Harness and are designed to compliment it and to get the most from it.

The Razor Harness is at the heart of my “Bogarthian” Side Mount Philosophy.

I want to thank Steve for participating.  If you have any questions for Steve, please do not hesitate to leave a comment here on the blog.  I will make sure we get answers for you!

10 comments

1 Barbara Dwyer { 05.31.09 at 4:25 am }

Thanks for a fine article, and looking forward to Parts 2 and 3. We dive with Robbie’s shop when in Tulum and I would like to study with Steve. (I have not tried s/m yet but love small caves and am able to get to many places in b/m. However, backmounted tanks are cumbersome and not as conducive to response in a gas emergency. I want to at least give sidemounting a try—next December, perhaps.
Cheers, Barbara/San Francisco

2 Hans { 05.31.09 at 10:26 am }

Barbara, Thanks for reading! Robbie is a fabulous character as well as Steve’s exploration partner, which you may know. Switching to side mount really changed the way I dove and made it much more comfortable for me. I loath the idea of going back to doubles, but that is a personal preference and doesn’t apply to everyone.

I highly recommend giving side mount a try, especially with an instructor. Working with an instructor will really increase the speed with which you learn to use the new equipment configuration and will save you countless with the initial configuration. Good luck and keep commenting! We need your input.

3 Don Chennavasin { 05.31.09 at 12:36 pm }

Hans,

Great idea and great article. Look forward to the additional parts of the interview as well as other interviews with explorers and instructors in the area.

-Don

4 Maureen { 05.31.09 at 5:47 pm }

Great idea. This kind of information is much more valuable when it is accompanied by the philosophy of the instructor.

5 Hans { 05.31.09 at 9:13 pm }

Don & Maureen,

Thanks for commenting! It is your comments that drive the site and let us know we are producing the materiel that our readers want to see…..

I will be posting the second part later this week. I will announce it one the boards when I do.

Hans

6 Paul { 06.02.09 at 8:22 am }

Hans, Great article. Great idea. If all goes well I’m planning on heading down in the fall and getting started on my sidemount training with Steve. I NEED to get back into the caves!

7 Ross { 06.10.09 at 9:34 am }

Hey Hans , thanks to you for putting this together and to SMB for giving insight .
I have no doubt in my mind that doing courses with profesionals in the area is the best route to becoming a comfortable and SAFE cave diver .

Keep up the good work bru

Ross

8 Ross { 06.26.09 at 7:17 am }

‘Been really quiet lately Hans…

9 emanuel Stephens { 02.09.10 at 2:03 pm }

I have been reading and just absorbing the words of Steve as well as his lead from the front type of dive config is the most streamlines I’ve ever seen , I have seen and dove with ( as a military diver) as well as studied and listened to many but Steve’s words and video have truly made the closest connection we in the sport and profession strive to attain as far as oneness with the marine realm, one last question what size bat wing dromedary pack does he wear or does he us a combination,thanks cheers, Manny

10 Jim Moore { 05.01.10 at 3:21 pm }

Hi Hans
Hope things are well with the new one. Heard that Ted has moved to Fla this month (Apr. ) Hope to get some more side mount diving done this year. Thought I would see ya at Andys this year sometime, to do the Jodrey again. Talk soon Jim..