TEKDive USA 2018 Round Up
The best and brightest stars of the Technical Diving community gathered at the Wyndham Resort, Orlando this past weekend for the biennial TEKDiveUSA.2018 conference to share their passions and expertise on topics from medicine and equipment to expeditions and techniques. Miami Technical Diving went along for the ride and we wanted to share some of our biggest take-aways for those who couldn’t be there...
Note: Where possible, I've included links to bios of the speakers.
The show kicked off with what is becoming known as the social highlight of the technical diving world… the TEKDiveUSA BBQ! This was a brilliant evening of mingling in the warm Florida sunset with all vendors, training agencies, speakers and panelists over frosty beers.
Following the opening remarks from show organizer and main man Randy Thornton, I took in a panel discussing how to get Millennials involved in Technical Diving so we don’t continue on with an ageing population of grumpy old white men in this sport. The key points discussed the embracement of social media in creating stories of real heroes and a focus on showing experiences over selling certification.
Next up, Prof. Simon Mitchell and Dr Nick Gant from the University of Auckland shared the stage for a presentation entitled ‘Hypoxia: Insights Into A Silent Killer.’ Those insights, drawn from a study conducted by Dr Gant’s team, included:
Brett Seymour, Deputy Chief of the National Parks Service’s Submerged Resources Center, gave an impassioned talk on his work recovering the remains of three airmen down off the coast of Corsica during WWII as well as his project putting disabled veteran divers to work measuring the oil seepage from the USS Arizona in Hawaii.
The affable Paul Toomer, Director of Training for RAID gave an animated reliving of a real life rescue that he was personally involved in, including what went well and what went wrong. Ultimately, the rescue was a success, but the candidacy with which Paul told his story was a lesson for us all in preparedness.
To round out day 1, Deep Wrecks of the Guadalcanal, presented by Lust4Rust’s Pete Mesley, gave an insight into the history, geography and anthropology of this important region of the Solomon Islands, with a focus on the main diveable wrecks in the area.
Then it came time for the Gala dinner, which is a rare opportunity to see Dive Instructors in dresses and suits and ties, whilst not being accused of negligence. Needless to say, I didn’t win the Rebreather from KISS, or the trip to the Solomons, or the ratio dive computer or light or sidemount packages or the 10-day liveaboard trip that were raffled off. I did get to witness some very deserving people receive recognition for their acheivements…
The Diver Of The Conference award went to Joshua Hotaling for his inspiring journey from double-amputee war hero to cave diving superstar. As he gave his acceptance address, there was barely a dry eye in the house. Canadian explorer Jill Heinerth, described by Peter Mesley as ‘the Jacques Cousteau of our century’ received the lifetime achievement award. Marty O’Farrell dedicated his award for Significant Exploration in the field of Technical Diving to his cave diving team with whom he linked the Sac Actun and Dos Ojos cave systems, discovering the longest flooded cave system in the world.
Sunday morning gave me the opportunity to explore the Exhibition Floor. Shearwater had their latest NERD2 model on a new retractable mount for an OTS Guardian Full Face Mask, which has strong applications for Public Safety Divers. Apeks were showing off their new HD RK3 fins as well as the MTX-R Sidemount regulator set.
Dr Simon Mitchell took to that stage again on Sunday to cover Management of Decompression Illness In the Field: Update On An Ever-Present Threat For Technical Diving who injected a very serious debate on recognizing, classifying and managing DCI cases with his trademark antipodean brand of humour.
Tom Steiner, Aron Arngrímsson, Joanna Mikutowicz and German Arango formed a panel discussing the do’s and don’ts of building a Technical Diving hotspot, moderated by Lauren Kieren.
I closed out the show at another panel Q&A with some of the finest minds in Diving Medicine: Dr Simon Mitchell; Dr Neal Pollock; Dr David Doolette; Dr Douglas Ebersole; Dr Andrew Pitkin; and Dr Dawn Kernagis, who answered questions ranging from PFO screening, chamber management, their dream research projects, in water recompression and perflurocarbon breathing liquids.
All indications from the Thornton clan seem to point to this being the most successful TEKDive USA show to date and that it may have found it’s permanent home at the Wyndham Resort, Orlando for the facilities, catering and event spaces fit the show perfectly. The organization was top rate. Usually I leave conferences glad that they’re over, but I actually could have used another day!
Congratulations to all the organizers and volunteers who put such great effort in to bring our community together.