I've been trying to think of a way to make this post not sound like a troll but in truth this is a genuine question from someone who doesn't understand why sidemount diving is as popular as it is. My views are that sidemount diving belongs in an environment where there is limited headroom and as such backmount is no longer an option. But I see more and more people diving sidemount in open water. Personally my time from owning a twinset to diving a twinset with a single stage was very short as with the way qualifications used to be structured it seemed like most peoples step into technical diving was when they did advanced nitrox / deco procedures. As such twinset and a stage was standard kit on most boats.
In the UK I do not see the point in the qualifications for sidemount as the only caves we really have are sump diving like what the folks at the Cave Diving Group do which I imagine is very different training from your "new" sidemount course. But this is pure speculation on my part.
Do people class sidemount as technical diving? I think I do, in the past I would have said most peoples journey through technical diving would have been:
Twinset & 1 Stage (Accelerated Deco)
Twinset & 2 Stage (Normoxic Trimix)
Twinset & 2 or more Stages (Hypoxic Trimix)
Rebreather (MOD 1, 2 & 3 etc)
I'm not sure where I would place sidemount diving in the above list. To do any extended bottom times type diving you would require three stages (and large ones at that). I've dived with three stages many times and "This is so easy and comfortable" has never once crossed my mind. "F**k me there is shit everywhere" is more like it, admittedly the only time I've done that I've also had a twinset / rebreather too which may be an unfair comparison.
I do not think diving sidemount is cheaper than owning a twinset infact looking at the prices of some of wing systems I would say it is more expensive since they seem to hold a premium. I kind of accept the argument that in remote places in the world it may be easier to dive sidemount than it would be to dive a twinset since anywhere that offers diving will have access to Ali80s. But honestly do people go to sidemount diving just for this reason? You seem to be able to get rebreather support in some of the most remote places so I imagine getting a twinset is easier than this.
On the plus side I would say that the sidemount training seems to be very good, I know several divers who dive sidemount and they are all very good divers infact I do not think I've seen a bad sidemount diver yet. However it's interesting in that these divers already hold qualifications to do deep diving e.g. trimix and seem to choose to deep dives the traditional way but they use side mount for there recreational diving which I find intriguing since in all honesty it does look a bit of faff compared to just using a twinset.
As I said earlier I'm not trying to troll people, I have offen wondered if a student said to me "When should I do sidemount?" I wouldn't know how to answer that question? As soon as they want? After 100 dives? Not sure?
What are peoples thoughts?