Cave Diver Education & Qualification

||Cave Diver Education & Qualification

The CDG apply a common sense instead of a dogmatic adherence to a set of rules that may not be appropriate in all situations.

The CDG has to prepare its trainees for solo cave diving, in conditions that are often less than ideal. For this reason the Group promotes a cave diver education that encourages a thinking approach to diving.

Most other diving organisations train customers using a drill based model; the student is taught the correct drill for each situation. This works well in team diving where all the members can support each other and limits are placed on the type of dives that can be done with for each level of qualification. As the level of qualification increases, along with experience, a thinking approach is developed.

CDG cave diver education aims to start developing the thinking approach right from the start. Instead of teaching drills the Mentor helps the Trainee to understand problem solving options and under what conditions they could be applied. Diving skills are developed in parallel. Developing the thinking approach is as important as developing a Trainee’s underwater skills.

New members to the CDG will find that it has a unique character and method of working, which is due to the structure and history of the Group, the oldest amateur diving organisation in the world.  People from a caving background will find that it differs from a caving club in its more structured approach to training and qualification.  Those who are more accustomed to the recreational diving environment will find the group requires more from them during training, over a longer period than they are used to giving.

Each new Trainee comes to the CDG with an existing level of skill and experience, both in caving and diving. Something that is best practice for one Trainee may not be for another. For this reason, the CDG allow a common sense approach to be applied instead of a dogmatic adherence to a set of rules that may not be appropriate in all situations.

The CDG expects an element of independence from its Trainees. That said, it is normal for their Mentor and other Qualified Divers to cave and dive with the Trainee regularly throughout their progression to Qualified status which is continuously evaluated by their Mentor(s), reviewed at Section meetings and formally recorded through the following broad phases:

  1. The open water phase when a Trainee hones their kit configuration, practices basic diving techniques and masters the elementary principles of line management.
  2. The overhead phase when the Trainee is introduced to the overhead environment in a controlled and progressive manner.
  3. The exploration phase when the Trainee undertakes increasingly complex dives and practices more advanced skills such as surveying, underwater digging and extended range techniques.

Progressing through the CDG cave diver education, learning comes in a number of different forms:

  • Gradually gaining practical experience by undertaking dives appropriate to the Trainee’s capability. These allow the Trainee to put into all their cave diving skills into practice without the exercise being directly related to single skill performance.
  • Skill focused instruction where the Trainee is taken through specific skills at a site with easy conditions by the Mentor. When the Mentor considers that the Trainee has reached a suitable level of competence the same skills are practised at more challenging sites.
  • Discussion where the Trainee learns from other divers by debating situations, equipment and theory. The group benefits from a vast knowledge base which is one of the great strengths of the CDG Mentoring process.
  • Peer based practical activities develop skills by working with another Trainee of similar experience. This is a very common approach used by trainees when they are developing skills through experience building dives. Site selection is usually based or the Trainee’s own research with their Mentor(s) offering guidance as required.
  • Involvement in cave projects (such as exploration, underwater digging, relining, dye testing, radio-location & surveying) is an ideal way for Trainees to gain time underwater in a task orientated situation. This helps them develop planning skills, task specific equipment configurations and gives them experience of working with and learning from more experienced divers.

A Trainee’s development is their own responsibility and it is expected that they will develop their theoretical knowledge by both background reading from a range of sources and discussions with experienced cave divers. Neither their Mentor(s) nor practical training alone will provide enough information to fully cover all the areas in the training standard in sufficient detail.

Achieving Qualified status demands independence, dedication, steady progress and sound judgement

The route to Qualified status is challenging, takes at least 12 months and more often a few years to complete. There are no shortcuts, and no amount of money can buy you the experience required to become a Qualified Diver. The CDG is a non-commercial, not-for-profit organisation and your Mentor(s) give their time for free in return for enthusiasm, dedication, steady progress and good judgement on your part.

Qualified Diver status within the CDG is granted by peer review. Passing the practical and theory tests and submitting appropriate log books for caving and cave diving does not guarantee qualification.

QD status is granted if  the majority of the Section’s Qualified Divers are of the opinion that the Trainee is ready.

Qualified Diver

Once a Trainee Diver considers that they are ready to be awarded Qualified status the process is as follows:

The Trainee must present a record of caving and cave diving experience using a range of techniques under a variety of conditions. It is recommended that the Trainee Diver has completed cave dives at a variety of sites which involved caving to a sump, caving beyond/between sumps, vertical access techniques and the use (or simulation) of decompression techniques.

  • The Trainee must conduct the CDG practical QD test to the satisfaction of a Section Examiner. This tests the individual’s diving and problem solving skills and their capability for task-loading.
  • The Trainee Diver will answer a written paper relating to cave diving problems including; navigation, open-water diving problems, physiological problems, elementary first aid, standard and specialised equipment, equipment maintenance, porterage, cave rescue procedures, in-water decompression techniques, use of decompression tables and specific decompression problems relating to cave diving.

The practical test and theory test are administered by a Section Examiner. If the Examiner feels that the candidate has performed well enough he will inform the Section Secretary prior to the next meeting.

The Trainee will present themselves at the meeting where their caving and cave diving record will be scrutinised by the Section Qualified Divers who will then vote on whether to change the Trainee’s status to Qualified.

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