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DIR Diving Series: The Fundamental Principles

DIR aka ‘Doing It Right’ - also known as Hogarthian configuration is the epitome of the minimalist philosophy. The term describes a holistic approach to scuba diving that encompasses several essential elements, including fundamental diving skills, teamwork, physical fitness, and streamlined and minimalistic equipment configurations. DIR proponents maintain that through these elements, safety is improved by standardising equipment configuration and dive-team procedures for preventing and dealing with emergencies.

This article will explore the fundamental principles behind DIR and how it improves safety by standardising equipment configuration and dive-team procedures for preventing and dealing with emergencies as well as diving in mixed-team setups.

The Origins of DIR

The DIR approach emerged from the Woodville Karst Plain Project (WKPP- an organisation that maps the underwater cave systems underlying the Woodville Karst Plain) in the 1990s, which aimed to reduce the fatality rate in cave diving. Divers involved in the project, William Hogarth Main, Bill Gavin, Sheck Exley, and many others within the Florida cave diving community during the 1980’s, sought to develop equipment and procedures that would enhance the safety of deep-submerged cave exploration.

During that period, there was a significant focus on not just maximising mission effectiveness and minimising risk but also reducing the mortality rate in cave diving, which was recognized as the most deadly sport with the highest mortality rate worldwide at the time. As a result, a straightforward yet stringent and efficient configuration began to emerge, aiming to eliminate unnecessary elements while optimising the essential ones. It is truly remarkable how this fundamental concept has endured over time. Despite the growing popularity of technical diving and rapid advancements in equipment and technology, the DIR configuration has continued to adapt exceptionally well. In fact, modern technical divers increasingly resemble their cave-diving predecessors.

Since recreational diving is the natural source of future technical divers, the DIR philosophy was extended into this field, although the recreational practices were already considered acceptably low risk by most diver certification agencies and insurance companies.

The Evolution

Over time, the Hogarthian setup has evolved into a standardised configuration that is widely used by cave, technical and recreational divers Today. The current configuration includes a backplate, wing, and harness system, along with a regulator, mask, fins, and exposure protection.

The backplate used in the Hogarthian setup is typically made of metal, such as stainless steel or aluminium, and is designed to distribute the weight of the diver's equipment evenly across their back. The wing is a buoyancy compensator that provides lift to the diver and allows them to adjust their buoyancy underwater. The harness system is made up of continuous webbing that holds the backplate in place to the body and the wing is attached to that.

One of the significant advantages of the Hogarthian setup is its simplicity and reliability. The streamlined design of the setup reduces drag and makes it easier for divers to move through the water, while the minimalistic approach to equipment reduces the risk of equipment failure and increases safety. Additionally, the Hogarthian setup is highly customizable, allowing divers to tailor their equipment configuration to their specific needs and preferences, most importantly it adheres to the core concept of minimalist equipment - a diver will never carry something that’s not needed for the given dive.

Fundamental DIR Principles

The DIR system is a well-defined and standardized approach aimed at optimizing efficiency across various environments to enhance safety and enjoyment. Its core principles encompass the following:

Unified Team

At the heart of the DIR diving system lies the concept of a unified team. This approach involves pairing divers with similar capabilities in environments for which they are adequately prepared. Teams consisting of divers who individually possess the necessary skills and knowledge can significantly enhance safety and efficiency compared to independent diving. Diving within a well-coordinated team that shares a high level of care and focus can be an immensely rewarding experience. Any diving activity that neglects the importance of teamwork will fail to realize its full potential in terms of safety and enjoyment.


In the DIR system, diving preparation encompasses five essential components: pre-dive readiness, mental concentration, physical fitness, diving experience, and dive planning. Divers who attempt to bypass any of these aspects will find themselves inadequately prepared for the dive, potentially leading to discomfort, missed opportunities, or even hazardous situations. It is crucial to understand that dive preparation should commence well before the actual dive, extending beyond just the hours or days leading up to it.

Streamlined Equipment

The key elements of a standard DIR equipment configuration have been extensively discussed and are now widely recognized. For further information on this subject, please refer to the book titled "Doing it Right: The Fundamentals of Better Diving."

In essence, the DIR configuration was developed to be adaptable to various situations while prioritizing safety and supporting divers' efforts, rather than hindering them. This configuration is designed to maximize divers' efficiency while minimizing potential risks. It ensures that items do not dangle freely or protrude from divers' bodies, which could increase drag or cause entanglements.

Balanced Rig

The DIR rig is a meticulously weighted setup that ensures divers are not excessively weighted while being able to maintain a decompression stop even in the event of a catastrophic gas loss. Achieving this balance requires a careful evaluation of the individual components of the configuration and their static and dynamic impacts on the overall buoyancy characteristics.

Cylinder Labeling

DIR advocates the consistent practice of clearly marking cylinders with the Maximum Operating Depth (MOD) in an easily identifiable manner. Only this information should be used to identify the cylinders. This practice helps prevent divers from relying on unreliable identification methods.

Standard Gases

DIR promotes the use of standard gas mixtures for all phases of diving. Utilizing "standard gases" serves to protect divers from the risks associated with inappropriate gas ratios, provides a common foundation for cylinder labelling and gas mixing, ensures team coherence, and simplifies decompression logistics.

Conservative Gas Parameters

DIR advocates the adoption of conservative gas parameters for all diving phases. This includes maintaining Equivalent Narcotic Depths (END) below 100 ft/30 m, limiting the partial pressure of oxygen (PO2) during the working phase of the dive to 1.4 ATA or less, and restricting PO2s during decompression to 1.6 ATA or less, furthermore the accepted gas density should be kept below 5.7g/L. To counter the toxic effects of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, DIR recommends the liberal use of helium in combination with a conservative approach to oxygen utilization.


In conclusion, the DIR philosophy, known as 'Doing It Right' or Hogarthian configuration, promotes safety, efficiency, and minimalism in scuba diving. Rooted in efforts to reduce cave diving fatalities, it has evolved into a standardized, streamlined equipment setup. DIR's core principles emphasize teamwork, thorough preparation, balanced rigging, cylinder labelling, and conservative gas parameters. These elements collectively enhance safety and standardized practices in diving.

In our next post, we will explore the specific equipment configuration according to DIR standards, providing divers with a practical guide to implementing these principles effectively. Stay tuned for more on this essential topic.


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