Doing It Right

Doing It Right
DIR diver

Doing It Right (DIR) is a holistic approach to scuba diving. According to the DIR approach fundamental skills, teamwork, environmental awareness, and the use of a highly optimized/streamlined (i.e. minimalistic) equipment configuration are the fundamentals of DIR diving. DIR proponents argue that through these essential elements, safety is improved by standardizing equipment configuration and dive-team procedures for preventing and dealing with emergencies, in particular out-of-air emergencies. This approach to diving encompasses specific equipment requirements, dive planning mechanisms and team procedures.



The DIR approach (and name) evolved out of the Woodville Karst Plain Project (WKPP) in the mid-1990s under the direction of George Irvine III. The origins of the approach to equipment taken by DIR practitioners can be found in the 'Hogarthian' equipment configuration attributed to William Hogarth Main.[1] These individuals, along with many others, were attempting to develop equipment and procedures to allow the safe exploration of the deep submerged caves in the area. Eventually, a suitable set of equipment configuration rules and dive procedures came into common use.[2]

The phrase "Doing It Right" as applied to diving is thought to have appeared in 1995 in an article by George Irvine III.[3] Irvine and Jarrod Jablonski eventually formalized and popularized this approach as DIR, applying it to all forms of scuba diving. Irvine's polemic style and inflexible stance led to a great deal of controversy and, while popularizing the style among some people, repelled many others.[4] This has begun to ameliorate somewhat. As of 2009, there are two US-based dive training organizations, Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) and Unified Team Diving (UTD), and many independent dive instructors who teach a DIR style of diving. GUE renamed its 'DIR Fundamentals' course to 'GUE Fundamentals' in 2007, distancing itself somewhat from the acronym.[2]


A holistic approach to diving is a central DIR principle.[5]


Diving equipment is viewed as only one part of the whole diving activity. Most DIR proponents believe that the most important piece of dive equipment is the diver, followed by the team.[5] DIR proponents say equipment configuration should be simple, streamlined, exactly sufficient or minimalistic and applicable to all diving situations, from shallow reef diving to long cave penetrations.[2]


DIR divers

The notion of a dive team is central to DIR. A unified team acts in concert to preserve the safety of the team and meet the goals of the dive. All of the team's equipment and its consumables (i.e. breathing gas, batteries) are held in common and dedicated to the safety, comfort and dive goals of the team.[5] In addition, each team member should be familiar with what all other team members are carrying.[6]


The notion of preparation within the DIR ethos applies well before the divers approach the water. It encompasses personal physical fitness, mental fitness, rigorous planning and pre-dive safety drills and routines.[7]

Unique features

DIR diver,

Several features of the DIR approach are at odds with more conventional forms of diver training.

  • Dive computers — the DIR philosophy is trenchantly opposed to the use of dive computers. Most other technical diver training agencies recommend using two — a primary and a backup.
    • Doing it Right: The Fundamentals of Better Diving page 119 lists 13 reasons why dive computers are bad. However, some of these appear strange - including the suggestion that they are expensive (modern dive computers are cheap, especially when compared with the cost of other equipment and diving gases recommended by the DIR approach), and too conservative (the approach to decompression promoted by DIR - ratio decompression - leads to decompression profiles of varying conservativeness, but are often very conservative).
  • Helium mixes - the DIR approach requires the use of trimix below 100 feet (30 m). Most other agencies[citation needed] train divers to use "deep air" as deep as 185 feet (56 m). DIR is highly unusual[citation needed] in promoting the use of hyperoxic 30/30 trimix.
  • Team diving - most technical diving is focused on self reliance, and creates an emphasis on solo diving.[citation needed] DIR is solidly committed to buddy or "team" diving.
  • Identical equipment - DIR requires that all divers in the team should have identical equipment configurations to facilitate assistance. Whereas other conventional training agencies promote customising equipment for particular scenarios and individuals (sometimes called "personal preference"), DIR strongly advocates everyone always being outfitted similarly.
    • Doing it Right: The Fundamentals of Better Diving page 67 says: "It is the perfect system in zero visibility as well as in crystal clear water. The DIR system requires no modification in order to function effectively and efficiently in different environments ... In freezing water these divers use dry gloves and thicker undergarments and possibly electric heat. Cold water divers use slightly larger bolt-snaps. Otherwise, exactly the same system is used whether the dive is below ice or in the balmy tropics."
  • Ratio decompression — In addition to using established algorithms for decompression diving, DIR utilizes "ratio decompression" which is a mathematical derivative[citation needed] of the Bühlmann decompression algorithm and the Varying Permeability Model. RD is based on the common patterns of output from decompression programs which can be closely approximated by simple calculations in the diver's head. Because no dive computers use this methodology (and DIR eschews dive computers in any event), divers are taught to calculate decompression schedules on the fly (although they still plan their dives in advance). The degree to which RD is used varies; UTD depends on it heavily, and GUE teaches it as a backup method[citation needed].
  • Redundancy — while most training agencies preach the maximising of equipment redundancy[citation needed], in certain areas DIR opposes equipment redundancy; for example, the DIR approach is against dual bladder buoyancy compensators[citation needed].
  • Age — most diver training agencies will train divers as young as 12[citation needed], and some as young as 10 (or even 8 for pool diving). Agencies which promote DIR will not train divers younger than either 16 (UTD) or 17 (GUE).
  • Physical fitness — whilst all forms of diver training promote physical fitness, the DIR approach takes it furthest. DIR training agencies have much more demanding swimming ability requirements to start the course, and mandate much higher degrees of continuing physical fitness.
    • Doing it Right: The Fundamentals of Better Diving, p. 32 suggests that advanced divers should be able to run 26.2 miles (i.e. marathon distance) and/or swim 5 kilometers (= 3.1 miles) continuously and/or cycle 100 miles. GUE also prohibits training divers who smoke.

"Doing It Wrongly"

Some DIR divers refer to non-DIR diving practices as DIW (Doing It Wrongly), and the non-DIR-compliant divers as "strokes". The website[8] expresses an opinion that the practices and equipment are "faulty". This is a highly controversial matter in recreational and technical diving. Some of the tenets are logical, supported by evidence and may even be undisputed. Others are strongly disputed, or may lack robust evidence for the claims, Others again may be more applicable to specific aspects of technical diving, and not generally best possible practice:

The following listed practices and equipment are some of those deprecated by DIR divers and/or training organisations:[9]

  • Diving alone[10]
  • Diving with air deeper than 35-40m[10]
  • Using the drysuit to adjust buoyancy[10]
  • Badly-designed clips as shown on this page[11]: Clips which may rust, or have sharp edges, or may open and lose the line unintentionally, and particularly clips which may snag a line and clip themselves on without the intention of the diver (suicide clips).
  • Very large volume wings;[10] double or dual bladder wings; wings with the expansion constrained by elastic straps
  • Wing inflator hose too long or badly placed,[10] causing difficulty getting hold of it in a hurry underwater
  • Cylinder boots:[10] These are useful in swimming pool training to avoid damaging tiles, but they add to hydrodynamic drag in swimming, and hold the wet in, encouraging rusting of the bottom of the cylinder.
  • Netting round cylinders:[10] This may catch on things, and make it easier for anything clamped to the cylinder to slip.
  • With manifolds:[10] the "face O-ring" manifold (as in the upper image on this page[12]): hitting it on something accidentally is more likely to make it leak than with the "barrel O-ring" manifold (as in the middle image on this page[12])
  • Manifolds without an isolation valve.[10]
  • Cylinder or manifold valve knob extension operators:[10] they can be stiff, and they can trail and catch on things.
  • Valve-protectors: (as shown on this page[13]) Hydrodynamic drag. They may catch on things. They make it more difficult to reach valves.
  • Dive computers:[10] They are useful but not a complete substitute for planning the dive's depths and times before the dive. Electronics may go wrong; batteries may run out.
  • Consoles (Group of instruments attached to the pressure gauge, supported by the high pressure hose):[10] reaching for it occupies a hand. It may trail and hit things. Instruments should be worn on the wrists.
  • Helmet (for head protection, not air-filled, not breathing helmets)[10]: The regulator hose may catch on it. It may cause difficulty changing the diving mask.
  • Head mounted lights[10]: The regulator hose may catch on them. Increased effective head size and hydrodynamic drag. Risk of shining the light in the buddy's eyes when looking at him.
  • Steel stage cylinders[10]: their weight causes unbalanced weight load and buoyancy difficulty.
  • Light battery canister carried below the back cylinders (butt mount):[10] Interferes with the diver's leg action in swimming. Cannot be reached easily while diving. Needs a long lamp lead, which may catch on things.
  • Gas switch block (as in the images on this page[14]): too many accidents from a diver switching to a wrong breathing gas.
  • Metal-to-metal connections:[10] Cannot be cut free in an emergency.
  • Non-standard gas connections;[10] swivelling gas connections: All team members' gas connections should be the same.
  • Big knives:[10] A small sharp knife is enough. For risk from nets and fishing lines, carry a net cutter. A knife on the leg or hip may snag when ditching the weight belt in an emergency.
  • Buddy line.[10] They get divers out of practice in keeping track of each other. If one diver surfaces in a panic, he may drag the other diver with him.
  • Snorkel:[10] Generalized, having a snorkel is claimed to be unnecessary because "it has no meaningful benefit", and its presence can create additional hazards because it can snag or catch on something (if on the head, it may create a hazard by catching on something and pull the mask off. If on the leg, it could snag when doing an emergency weight belt ditch, or snag on nets or lines). The lack of a snorkel when on the surface carries the advice to "swim on your back".
  • The HUB Airtrim stab jacket:[10] (which is a stabiliser-jacket buoyancy compensator with integrated regulators, weights, and inflation/deflation system.)
  • Fancy fins with holes and slits and extra channels in:[10] They need more leg movement, stirring up more silt. The holes may snag on things.
  • Buoyancy compensator inflation control devices with integrated secondary demand valve[10] (such as the Scubapro Air 2). It can make adjusting buoyancy difficult. It is difficult to offer it to another diver to breathe from.
  • A small writing slate on a wrist:[10] Not much space for writing. Extra baggage to clutter the arms.

Controversial issues between DIR policies and other recreational and technical diving groups

Use of snorkel

Some opinions about snorkel use claim that:

  • The claimed lack of benefits likely stems from DIR's historical context of being cave diving centric: caves rarely have air pockets to breathe from in the event of running out of breathing air.
  • Similarly, the snagging concerns also are cave diving centric: the head/mask concern stems from the snorkel interfering with the deployment of the 'long hose' regulator; the leg snag alludes to a risk of breaking a guideline used in cave diving (guide lines minimize the risk of getting lost from a silt-out).
  • Surface swims (dive exits) in cave diving often occur in highly-protected calm waters, where such floating is both of short duration/swim distance and the water surface is predictably benign due to lack of wind to make waves. Open water conditions are not as reliably benign.
  • Overall, the snorkel illustrates that what can be an excellent risk-assessment based decision for one specific diving environment (here, cave diving), such a conclusion is not automatically transferable to all other environments without due consideration.

See also

Associated organizations


  1. ^ Jablonski, Jarrod (21 March 1997). "Hogarthian Gear Configuration". Retrieved 2009-06-15.  - originally posted to rec.scuba by Carl Heinzl on 21 March 1997
  2. ^ a b c Jablonski, Jarrod. "Evolution of DIR Principles". Global Underwater Explorers. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  3. ^ Irvine, George (1995). "Do it Right - Or Don't Do It!" (pdf). DeepTech Magazine (3). Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  4. ^ Irvine, George (20 April 2005). "DIR articles by George Irvine" (pdf). Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  5. ^ a b c Jablonski 2001, p. 54
  6. ^ Asian Diver Magazine April/May 1997
  7. ^ Jablonski 2001, pp. 56–65
  8. ^ (Dutch) Doing it right vs doing it wrong —
  9. ^ (in Dutch; click on "non-DIR" at left)
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y
  11. ^ : click on "Non-DIR" and then on "suicide clips"
  12. ^ a b : click on "Non-DIR" and then on "Verkeerde manifolds"
  13. ^ : click on "Non-DIR" and then on "Valve-protectors"
  14. ^ : click on "Non-DIR" and then on "Gasswitch blok"


  • Jablonski, Jarrod (2001). Doing it Right: The Fundamentals of Better Diving. Global Underwater Explorers. ISBN 0971326703. 

External links

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