UTD Class Report Overhead Protocols and Cave 1 in Italy with Andrea Cappa and Andrew Georgitsis.
As many of us, I came from a recreational diving background. Therefore, I’m writing this report not to strongly defend Team Diving, but to explain what I learned, that practicing only a part of the system and not “all” the system does not allow you to get the best! Everything started when my UTD Technical Instructor, Andrea Cappa, asked me if I was interested in attending the UTD OHP and Cave 1 with Andrew Georgitsis, in Valstagna. Living 30 minutes from the cave, what could I say? AG coming to Italy, and moreover close to my home, what a great opportunity! I thought about it no more than 10 minutes! Thereafter I decided to start this course. Actually it would have been a UTD Overhead IDC, where besides us (me, Manuele Berlanda and Andrea Savelli), Andrea Cappa and Luca Bizzotto were the Cave Instructor students. Last but not the least, our videoman Alberto Iannelli! To be honest, I wasn’t so interested in cave diving; I have a cold shiver thinking to put my head down below, but I was really excited for the opportunity to attend a course with AG. Besides, I had (and I still have) the strong belief that team diving has it’s maximum expression where it was born… in the cave! Nowhere like in an overhead environment are procedures and protocols enhanced and shared. In UTD, to access cave training you should pass through the Overhead Protocols training – that mea ns deal with failures on the line, no viz procedures, exiting in air sharing, lost line and lost buddy protocols, and more over…obviously in team. Who like me, thinking that it is a piece of cake, is wrong!! It’s a strong and demanding course; it’s like a Tech 1 with testosterone. Our OHP should have lasted three days, doing lectures and dry runs in the morning and going to the lake in the afternoon. Every water session consisted in at least three dives, so every team member had the opportunity to be the captain. The evening was dedicated to video debrief and instructors comments. The goal of instructors was to let us experience the difficulties, breaking down our self-confidence, bringing us to our limits in order to let us raise again with more strength and capacities. What was really impressive, is that even if surrounded by a lot of difficulties, failures, problems, we felt safe in every moment because we knew “the rules of the game” and we knew that the instructors were there guarding us! Actually we needed 5 days to finish the OHP, because we had some difficulties in the no viz protocols; in that situation you should be a strong team and we knew each other only for a couple of days. But finally Andrew told us we were ready to enter the cave!! Obviously the first day in the cave was a real disaster! Maybe too anxious, too nervous, the fact is that we didn’t pay attention at the environment at all, and this the worst thing to do in a cave! Unfortunately, exiting the cave we were informed that in a cave close to us, a fatal accident occurred. This obviously “touched” our heart, impressed our feelings, and the second day we entered the cave with much more respect and attention to what we were doing. This second day was much better, we entered a bit in the cave, managing with broken light, dealing with valves and trying an OOG procedure and sharing gas to the exit. Unfortunately we hadn’t the possibility to finish the course, because our week finished, but we’re ready to finish it as soon as possible! The overall thought about this course is that this was a really formative experience to build up the “thinking diver;” in my past courses, training was focused on personal skills or small team skills. In the overhead setting the focus is on building a strong team where protocols and procedures are deeply shared by each team member, and where every diver trusts his buddies. This is what I really appreciate in team diving and what I deeply believe in, especially after this course! A special thanks goes to Andrea Cappa and Luca Bizzotto, for what they did inside and outside the water! Thanks to AG for his big experience and teaching capacities, we really appreciated them! Mauro Adami (the writer) Manuele Berlanda Andrea Savelli