In this article, we meet Paul Gregory Neilson and learn about his influence in the technical diving industry. Mesley was interviewed by a member of PADI staff, and this article was originally published on the TecRec blog on February 8, 2013.

What are your PADI/TecRec certifications?

  • PADI Course Director
  • Tec Trimix
  • Tec 100CCR Instructor Trainer

Paul Neilsen

What is your background and current involvement in diving?

As a marine engineer and sailor, I started diving in 1972 and became a PADI Instructor in 1987. I worked in the diving industry in the Philippines until 1989 when I decided to sail to Hong Kong, where I started Mandarin Divers Marine Services Ltd

My first CCRB was a bio marine MK15, and that was 17 years ago. The unit is still in working order. My second unit was a Kiss #009. I have three Inspirations with shoulder-mounted and back-mounted counter lungs and a Kiss Gem semi-closed unit.

After twenty years running Mandarin Divers, I moved back to the Philippines and started Extreme Technical Diving, which is a PADI Tec Center offering Instructor Development and Diver courses up to Tec 100 OC and CCR. 

Neilson's gear

How did you get into Tec Diving?

Around 1995, I was invited to train with the Rebreather Advisory board at Drager headquarters in Lubic, Germany on the Drager Uwatec Atlantis Semi-Closed Rebreather. The same year, Kevin Gurr arrived in Hong Kong with two Inspirations Classics for us to train on. That was enough for me to buy a Bio Marine MK15 CCRB ex-Navy unit, which I still have. I then travelled to Florida and discovered cave diving with Tom Mount, returning many times for training in OC up to Trimix level in caves and wrecks.

Do you have any specialized areas of interest?

I enjoy most types of diving, but I must admit deep wrecks and caves using CCR support my adrenalin rush.

What do think the greatest challenges are in this kind of diving?

Finding like-minded divers to buddy with. It’s all about the team having a common goal and mutual respect, and finally you have to have a sense of humor.

Neilson's gear

What are the most important attributes of a tec diver for the type of diving you do?

To be a good listener and have what I call the BIG A ( awareness). All this with a decent dose of common sense will keep you out of trouble. Mind you, being able to swim helps. Don’t laugh! Being physically and mentally fit are at the top of the list.

What are the most likely mistakes a tec diver can make in your kind of diving?

Not to have themselves evaluated by others equal to or more advanced than themselves. Doing this once in awhile will keep your feet firmly on the ground, and not to keep training to higher levels. You are never as good as you think you are. One day, Mr. Murphy will tap you on the shoulder, and you better be ready.

How do you prepare for a demanding technical dive?

Find out as much as you can about the site, and practice. Keep your fitness level up and make sure all the team members are on the same page.

Being fit with lots of practice will generally keep you out of trouble, then practice some more. You must have a survival instinct. Make sure your CCR and OC is in top notch order at all times. Sending the electronics back to the manufacturer once a year can be expensive, but in reality, it is a wise thing to do.

What were your best or worst tec diving experiences?

The worst tec diving experience I ever had was a very difficult cave with some divers who had reached their limit. The best was training the Chinese and Vietnamese Navies on CCR to 100m (328 feet). All units had full face and comms. Completing the longest and deepest cave exploration ever attempted in the Philippines (Mindino). This project is ongoing.

Neilson's gear

What influences your selection of dive gear?

With CCR, the biggest problem is whether the company that is supplying the unit will be around in a couple of years. I have wasted a lot of money with companies that could not move with the times.

What kind of person do you want diving in the same team as you?

Like minded.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of getting into tec diving?

Start now and choose your instructor carefully. Don’t take the cheapest course offered. If you can’t afford it, don’t start. Also read the course standards manual very carefully to make sure you are getting the full content.

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