About me: Currently living in northern California. Have dual US/UK citizenship. I work in software. I'd love to eventually snag some remote work, move over, try some UK dry caving, and train with the CDG (maybe the Welsh section). I've wanted to do that for years. My subterranean experience currently consists of trips to the Paris catacombs (not the tourist part) and other urban stuff, plus some SRT practice. I have a PADI open water cert, with only a couple post-cert dives under my belt. I'm far more interested in being underground than underwater if I had to pick. What some other people find claustrophobia inducing, I find fun - the crawlier and longer the better. I like the sound of the CDG because it seems to be for cavers who dive, rather than divers who cave, and its mentorship style process sounds better than a quick pay-for-your-card program. Do I need any tech diving certs to begin with the CDG?
In the meantime, I might be able to do some more basic open water diving out here. After I got my cert, I didn't do much more diving because I decided the gear wasn't in my budget at the time. This was partially self-imposed because I decided I'd rather save up for a dry suit than buy a wet suit. Training was done in 7mm wet suit with 7mm hooded vests (so 14mm over the torso) and I was still FREEZING. Also, a p-valve sounds glorious!
But I see the UK Seaskin dry suit brand is affordable. Especially with post-Brexit exchange rate (oof, sorry) and no need to pay VAT if it's shipped here. Can anyone recommend for or against them? And what options would be best if I'd like to cave dive in the future? I'm looking at the Seaskin Nova with dry zip cover, Light Monkey non-balanced p-valve, Orust Silflex neck seal, simple warm neck, Kubi cuff system with Silflex cuffs, move dump (DIR), compressed neoprene socks (probably gonna wear Converse trainers over them), Kevlar knee pads and all other PU reinforcements (knee/bum/elbow/crotch/back/shoulder), fully telescopic torso, wide braces, no logos or reflective tape, braces pocket, and two large zipped forward-facing pockets.
I already have some regs that I got a Black Friday deal on two years ago but have never used. The brand is Deep 6. I liked that they encourage DIY maintenance (I'm the type of person that changes my car's brake pads myself). I have a DIN first stage and two second stages, but the second stages aren't reversible.
I'm particularly perplexed about what to do for the BCD. Get a back plate, wing, and DIR harness and dive backmount single tank for now? Get another first stage and a sidemount BCD? Not many people dive sidemount out here ( https://www.scubaboard.com/community/threads/norcal-sidemount.543229/ ) and I feel I'd get weird looks or scolded by the dive shop especially as a beginner choosing to buck conventional wisdom or start with something more complicated, but I'd also like to get used to the set-up I'd rather be diving. 😉 Plus I like the idea of being more self-reliant. I've only done a couple dives with friends and already lost a bit of faith in the buddy system (got seasick underwater and started vomiting while buddy swam blithely off). And if sidemount, which wing? I like minimalist. The DECO one looks good ( https://www.diveequipmentco.com/bcd-s/sidemount.html ), but I've been told it wouldn't provide enough redundant lift to compensate for a flooded dry suit when diving in cold saltwater and weighted with steel tanks ( https://www.scubaboard.com/community/threads/minimalist-sidemount-setup-in-cold-saltwater.543232). Maybe I could DIY something similar but with larger capacity ( https://www.scubaboard.com/community/threads/diy-wing-tutorial-very-picture-heavy.548895/ )? I've seen references to a DIY solution on here called the Scoff Bag - any more details, and would it be any good for open water? The 2008 CDG Manual (now probably a bit out of date) mentions "In some cases divers have added an independent air cell to a suit with its own inflation and dump valve to provide redundant buoyancy. This is a custom feature and not all suit suppliers will provide it." Seaskins are all custom so I could probably ask for that, but would it even be a good idea? I might gain simplicity but lose modularity. And I have not been able to find ANYTHING online about anyone doing such a thing.
Finally, as a bit of an afterthought, any reason not to go with the cheapest dive computer I can find (Mares Puck Pro) to start with? I was also thinking about maybe just diving tables for a little while because again, I'm just that kind of person (er, budget conscious but paranoid).
So! Apologies for this lengthy tract and many questions, and I appreciate all helpful commentary.
P.S. I'm sorry about our president. (Mandatory legal footnote on all international correspondence.)