What is Doing It Right really about?

The stuff below was written in 2002 but was never translated to english until recently. I have written other stuff that is more in-depth but this is a good introduction to the DIR system.


The DIR system is basically about attitude and values, not about equipment as many people think.

Diving is fun and should be done safely. "Safely" means that you don't take unnecessary risks - which brings us to one of the "rules" in the DIR system:

Option number one: "Don't Dive"

You always have the option to cancel the dive. Nobody can force you to dive, nobody but yourself. Maybe you paid good money for a boat dive but you are not feeling well or the boat crew doesn't seem to be competent. What do you do? You cancel the dive. It is tough but it's the right thing to do. As a DIR diver you have accomplished something because you did the right thing - even if it sucks and even if you lost money.

Another important part of the DIR system is team diving. You belong to a team. It can be you and your buddy or maybe there is three of you. Anyway, you and your team is one and should work as one. If the team has a problem, you have a problem. The safety of the team should never be compromised and that's why you should be very aware about your buddies and their potential problems. Even more aware than you are about yourself.

For example, if your buddy becomes out of air or low on air, you both have a problem. If you are in cave there is a risk that you may not get out of there alive. If this happens, it's everybody's fault. You where not paying attention to each others gas consumption - you didn't take care of your team.

Let's say your are diving in a team of three and one of you have a little problem going down, maybe with equalizing. The rest of you don't continue down and wait on the bottom or something stupid like that. You stay with him so that if he has a problem you are there and you can take care of it. So if he want to abort the dive and go to the surface, the whole team goes with him. Because you never know - maybe he has some kind of medical problem, looses consciousness on the way up and drowns.

That is way you always dive as a tight team, always ready to help each other. Always close and always one hundred percent aware of your buddies. And close - that's about 10 feet - no matter how good the visibility is.

To be able to help someone else you must be in control of your equipment and yourself . Because if you are occupied with your own problems, what good can you do?

This leads us to another "rule":

Rule Number One: "Don't Dive With Strokes"

A "stroke" means an unsafe diver. It can be someone who doesn't care about the team, for example an unattentive buddy. It can also be someone who obviously hasn't put much thought into his equipment and thereby showing that he doesn't care about safety. Another example would be an unfit, overweight diver who is uncapable of handling an emergency situation. There are many examples and it doesn't even have to be a person, it can also be a dive boat or the crew on the boat.

A couple of years ago I made a recreational dive trip to the Swedish west coast with a good friend of mine. It was Friday and we where going to do a nice dive in the fjord. There were two divers on the boat who where inexperienced and not used to the cold, dark water. Apparently they had some problems during the dive which resulted in panic, an uncontrolled ascent and arterial gas embolism. The boat took of transporting the divers to a helicopter that flew them to the nearest chamber. Me and my buddy were doing a longer dive and didn't know what had happened except that when we surfaced the boat was gone. We had to wait thirty minutes in the freezing water to be picked up. What had happened if we had a problem? Who would rescue us?

The bottom line is, that the problem the two divers had, finally became our problem too.

As a DIR diver you don't take unnecessary risks. That's way we prefer to dive with other DIR divers or divers that share the same values but hasn't gotten as far with training or equipment. And that goes for everybody, both the divers on the boat and the crew.

A common misunderstanding about Doing It Right is that it's only for technical divers and doesn't apply to recreational diving. That is actually as far away from the truth as you can possibly get. All diving is based on the same principals and a lot of this is nothing more than common sense. Safety and fun is common to every diver and it doesn't matter if it's an "advanced" dive or not. To be able to take care of your buddy, be aware of your surroundings and not expose yourself to unnecessary risks is something that benefits everybody.

The equipment that is used by DIR divers is standardized and basically the same for recreational and "technical" divers. The advantages are many, one of them being that if your buddy has an equipment problem you can easily help him, because his equipment works exactly the same as yours do. You know where his backup regulator is, where the knife is, where all the hoses go, which valve that needs to be closed etc. etc. You know this instinctively and you don't have to think about it, which may save your buddies life in an emergency.

Some people believe that there has to be a special brand or manufacturer of the equipment for it to be considered DIR. That is not the case. However, the equipment has to fulfil certain demands and that narrows down the possible alternatives. One example is fins.

  • They should be heavy to keep the feet down for the dry suit diver (we never use ankle weights)
  • They must be stiff so that you can swim in a current or with much equipment.
  • They must be robust and can't have any parts that can easily break.
  • The strap can't have any quick-release buckles that can come undone.
  • No parts of the fin can stick out so that line or things like that can get stuck.
  • They can't be too long because that would make them impossible to use in closed spaces, without touching anything.
  • They must work for all type of kicks (flutter, frog kick, baby flutter etc)

The end result is that only Scubapro's Jetfin and some of it's copies fulfil these demands.

Another extremely important thing is that your equipment and the way things are done doesn't change and you don't do anything differently no matter how far you go or how advanced your diving becomes. That means that everything you buy now, you can use in the future too. Take the fins we discussed earlier, they are the perfect fin for the beginning diver and also the same fin WKPP uses in Florida for their world-record cave dives!

DIR equipment is also designed to be as simple as possible and have as few things as possible that can break. What always amuses me is that the best dive equipment is seldom the most expensive. Take the "technical" BCD for example. It's often more expensive than the backplate and wing that DIR divers use, yet it's not sufficient for advanced diving. That means you have to sell it and start learning new equipment - again. To learn how to operate your equipment means that you know where everything is, down to the smallest knot or bolt-snap. It also means you can operate everything without looking and almost without thinking. It's not difficult to realize what this will make the dive experience more relaxed, more fun and of course a lot safer.

This brings us to the most important piece of your diving - you! To become a safe and proficient diver you need to practice. You need to practice things like air sharing, improving your trim and buoyancy and the ability to solve problems under water. You can work on equipment handling like reels, lift bags, decompression bottles and scooters. You can also improve your propulsion techniques, swimming without a mask, deploying your backup lights, closing down valves etc. If you dive on a regular basis that also means that you will keep your skills alive.

It's also important to be in good shape physically. Dive equipment can be pretty heavy so a strong body means less exertion. If you are in good shape it also means less risk for decompression sickness. You can also handle stress better and you have a better chance of survival in an physically demanding emergency situation.

If you want to know more about Doing It Right, philosophy and equipment, there is a lot of information on the internet. Most of it however, requires some research to find. You can also take a class. GUE (Global Underwater Explorers) is the good choice since most instructors knowledgeble about DIR teach for them.

GUE also has a book that has covers som basic information. It's called "Doing It Right: The Fundamentals of Better Diving" and is written by the cave explorer and GUE founder Jarrod Jablonski.

Good luck and dive safe!

Peter Steinhoff
Copyright 2002

ⓒ 2002-2014 DIR-diver.com Peter Steinhoff