Where in the world can you in 24 h dive into a volcano caldera, drift dive a river and dive in a hot stream to finish it all off?
I had the opportunity to attend TecFest NZ this year. It´s not an event with a lot of history, but it is definitely an enormous (for NZ) and great gathering of the technical diving community in New Zealand.
The event is not focused on being a showcase for technical diving brands on the market or teaching agencies, but on getting people with a common interest together. The feeling from the inside is that you are spending a weekend diving and sharing experiences with most of the technical community in New Zealand. It is a gathering of tech divers, or those who are interested in become one, and an excuse to spend a couple of days together, sharing experiences, making new plans or having some laughs.
During the whole weekend, there are talks on almost every time slot, and what is quite different from other events of this kind, is that during the conference, the main activity is diving. The focus of the conference is to get divers introduced to Technical diving, with the aid of those who already are, that come along to share experiences and to have some fun with their friends, from all around New Zealand.
And what we are all here for: THE DIVING is not just a random dive, you get to dive in one of the biggest volcano calderas in the world, with 100 m vertical walls and dozens of years old trees buried underwater. But you don´t need to be a tech diver or an advanced diver as the other big focus is to discover what tech diving is about. Running on every slot, there are try dives for underwater scooters, full face masks, sidemount configurations, twin tanks or drysuits, of course, all of them free of charge, with a compressor on site for air fills. There is a dive for everyone. This allows almost unlimited diving, for those who want to become a fish during the entire weekend.
Another highlight of the event, is the possibility to do a drift dive on the Waikato river, emptying Lake Taupo, the previous dived volcano caldera. The logistics about the dive include knowing when the floodgates will open or close to regulate the river flow, something that we are not used to take care of. Timing it right will allow you to fly on water at almost 20 km/h while passing by huge boulders and (not to be missed) exiting at a Hot Water stream, another feature of geologically active New Zealand, where cold water from rivers mixes with hot stream resurgences in thermal areas.
Learning and expanding your horizons, all the talks are focused on technical diving experiences from other members, as well as topics of interest of deep divers, like decompression sickness, discussion about tissue super saturation, issues with breathing high density gases, comparison of different ascent techniques and decompression profiles as well as optimization of decompression; explorations in caves, what are the issues of diving in the middle of nowhere, when you are the first human there, and equipment needs; wreck deep diving around the world; discovering our heritage; maritime archaeology, etc. Most of the speakers are well known and recognized divers on the New Zealand community, as well as in Australasia, and most of them worldwide.
Some of the speakers this year include Dr. Simon Mitchel, with several diving community from all around the world awards on his belt, including DAN and EuroTek; Peter Mesley, a recognized lead on wreck exploration and technical diving teaching; Tom Crisp, cave diver explorer; Matt Carter, maritime archaeologist; the New Zealand police dive squad representative, gave an insight on statistics and their rescue missions, with data that is not surprising but shocking for most of us. All the talks were centered on what is important for tech divers: the learning, exploring and the example of the leads of the Southern Hemisphere on these disciplines.
All of this, is combined of course, with social events, promoted by the organization, like a huge BBQ on the beach or a huge dinner before the talks and relaxing evening time, again a great idea to get people together and promote the social side of the tech diving.
An amazing sky color on the way back home