When technical diving legend Tom Mount of IANTD says good things about a new rebreather it gets your attention. Moreover, when sidemount guru Edd Sorenson endorses the unit and has assisted in the design it means that the creative technical team of Mike Young at KISS Rebreathers must be on to something good. After hearing glowing reports about the new KISS Spirit Sidewinder I decided to investigate and find out for myself.
My introduction to the KISS Spirit Sidewinder came in a conversation with Tom Mount after Mike Young of KISS Rebreathers sent him one of the first units for his evaluation over a year before they were available to the public. Tom was so impressed he feels the Spirit Sidewinder is, “A rebreather you could start diving on or you could do the most extreme technical diving with.” He called the unit “remarkably simple,” and a “very versatile all-around rebreather.” Tom felt that he would even consider training a new diver to use one. He said, “It’s a great system to begin your diving career on.” With Tom Mount’s vast knowledge and experience in rebreather diving that is quite an endorsement. Mike Young told us “I respect Tom Mount so much.” (For him to say good things about the unit,) “This is awesome. I was so proud that moment when he said that.”
Tom Mount, as part of IANTD – The International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers has been teaching rebreather diving from as far back as 1991 when he began training divers using surplus military equipment. IANTD was the first agency to offer rebreather training and is the recognized authority. Tom says he’s been working with KISS Rebreathers, “since day one.” As a matter of practice, manufacturers regularly send new units to IANTD for evaluation and for the agency to write a training program.
In my conversation with Tom Mount, he said, “The person I feel has the most expertise on sidemount is Edd Sorenson.” He told me that Edd also received one of the first prototypes for his input. He said Edd had reservations at first, “but look at him now!” Mike young of KISS rebreathers sent him one saying, “Try it, then talk to me.” Now Edd probably has the most experience using the Spirit Sidewinder so finding out what he thought was the next step.
In May of 2016 a prototype Spirit Sidewinder arrived at Edd Sorenson’s Cave Adventurers dive shop in Marianna, Florida with a request from Mike Young for Edd to dive it and to give him his thoughts. Edd went right to work applying his knowledge of sidemount diving and between then and January of 2017 when the Spirit Sidewinder was made available to the public he made hundreds of dives with the unit evaluating it and providing suggested modifications.
Edd Sorenson has years of experience designing and modifying sidemount diving systems and he applied this knowledge to the Spirit Sidewinder. Working closely with Mike Young and the KISS Rebreathers team he provided suggestions and the result is a versatile, stable, and streamlined sidemount rebreather that can be used with just about any sidemount harness on the market.
With safety, comfort, and ease of use in mind Edd set out to help create a streamlined sidemount rebreather that is, “so simple
that anyone can use it.” His suggestions included a flexible “back-plate” and changes to the mounting configuration, modifications to the scrubber canisters and more. He says “Everything about sidemounting and sidemount rebreathers is a “trade-off. For everything you gain you have to look at the equal and opposite reaction.” The team at KISS Rebreathers worked with him and the end result is one of the fastest selling rebreathers on the market today. As he said to Mike Young, “You built it. I just helped put all the pieces in the right spot.”
The KISS Spirit Sidewinder is a simple to use streamlined unit that is as compact as an open circuit sidemount rig and more compact that most other sidemount rebreathers. Edd Sorenson tells us, “the KISS Sidekick, from parked and cleaned up from the night before; I can have scrubbers packed, linearity checks done, calibrated, and on my tailgate in under 10 minutes. The sidewinder, since it has 2 scrubbers, around 12 or 13 minutes.” Edd says, he did a photoshoot in a “bottle off” restriction with the KISS Sidekick, “Then I took the Sidewinder with the 50s, everything intact, and went right through the same restriction.” He says, “They’re super simple. The work of breathing is fantastic. They breathe good in all positions. I think this would be a fantastic recreational rebreather.”
The need for a sidemount rebreather is clear. As sidemount diving has grown in popularity it’s a natural progression. As Edd says, “today probably half the divers who are cave diving in sidemount have never put doubles on.” Rebreather diving is becoming more popular but a backmounted rebreather limits the sidemount diver. Edd says the Spirit Sidewinder is ideal for, “the average cave diver who wants to dive a rebreather in the cave and still be able to fit everywhere they can go in sidemount.”
After getting the inside information from Tom Mount and Edd Sorenson it was time to get the rest of the story from Mike Young and when I called to talk with him I learned the origin of the Spirit Sidewinder design was more amazing and more meaningful than I could have imagined.
Mike Young began diving in 1994 and, being a tool and die maker, quickly became interested in technical diving and equipment design. In 2000 he designed his own Semi Closed Circuit Rebreather. Gordon Smith had just founded KISS Rebreathers in 1998 and eventually bought Mike’s patent for what became the KISS GEM with Mike assisting with development. In the years that followed Mike went on to
buy the company and to build on the history of innovative design. The KISS name is synonymous with rebreathers and the Sidekick is one of the more popular and well known sidemount rebreathers on the market today.
The inspiration to design the Spirit Sidewinder came from an order to purchase a Sidekick sidemount rebreather and after 8 years of development led to the game changing new unit we have today.
Josh Hotaling is a Marine Corporal who lost both legs in combat in Afghanistan from an IED or Improvised Explosive Device. Josh is a technical diver and a cave diver. He became friends with Mike Young and wanted to buy a KISS Sidekick rebreather. With his injuries, Mike knew the Sidekick would be almost
impossible for Josh to use so he promised Josh he would design a system that would be right for him. The idea for the Sidewinder was born and Mike set out to build a rebreather that would be completely balanced and stable while being simple to use. Mike tells us, “Once I got into it I thought, This is a rebreather that anybody can dive.” With inspiration from Josh Hotaling and input from Edd Sorenson Mike Young of KISS Rebreathers has designed one of the most simple but stable and streamlined rebreathers on the market. It truly is a rebreather that anybody can dive. Mike says, ““I just love Josh to death and he really was the reason that it came about."