Update from Maui... Day 2 and as reported on our Facebook page in the Sidemount Pros in Maui Photo Album, I got DIN valves so was able to dive in full sidemount configuration albeit with two right hand valves meaning I attached the secondary loop bungee to the right cylinder valve hand-wheel. As you can see above, I was able to trim my cylinders perfectly.. happy days :)
Interesting start to the day... met the co-owner of the dive operation. Turned out to be a great guy but on our meeting he said... "oh yes I've been warned about you... I don't like sidemount!" I asked him why and his response was, "I just don't like it!" I smiled and said, "that's not a very good reason". He explained that he has 17,000 dives and was an IANTD Instructor Trainer etc. etc. Anyway, we agreed to disagree. He warmed over the boat trip and in particular once he saw me in the water. In the end he granted us the courtesy of allowing me and my son to run our dive plans within the boats plan and we had a great day.
Made me ponder why the opposition to sidemount on recreational dive boats? Well firstly, I think some of this was just this gentleman's personality and sense of humor... as I said great guy, and we got on well in the end. I think there is also a healthy attitude of... dive the right configuration for the dive plan. Sidemount is traditionally a tec configuration and also normally used in overhead environments such as caves, mines or wrecks. And lastly, I think there is still a concern that this sidemount diver is going to be a pain in the ass handling gear and getting in and out of the boat. I am sure this would be the same if someone turned up with backmounted doubles for a recreational dive.
All these points are valid and worthy of further comment.
Firstly, is it OK to dive sidemount with twin cylinders on a recreational dive trip/boat and recreational dive plans? I would answer... absolutely, with some caveats. The benefits of sidemount in terms of trim, balance, redundancy, ease of water entry and exit, and gas carried all remain. The caveat is that you have the skillset to manage your equipment and not be an undue burden on the crew and in particular, other divers trying to enjoy their dives.
My second comment would be; I personally prefer to dive sidemount. Not an earth shattering statement obviously, but worth making. Every sidemount dive I am bedding in skills and every chance I get to go in the water in sidemount the better I get. If I only dived sidemount when I was doing dives that demanded sidemount configuration, then I would be dramatically limiting my skill development and training time. In fact, for this reason, I insist that I dive sidemount and as "the customer" I would not dive with any operation that did not extend me this courtesy. Any opposition, 10s of thousands of dives or not, is missing these very important points. I reiterate the quid pro quo though is, I do not become a problem for the crew or other customers. Fair enough I believe.
So I think it is behest on us as Sidemount Pros to be role models. If we want to maximize our sidemount dive time and dive sidemount on recreational boats, we need to be able to show through our equipment handling and skill execution that sidemount configuration is not going to cause issues or interfere with their dive plans. Beyond this, I want to leave them with the feeling that sidemount was OK on their boat and they'd be thrilled to have me back.