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Solo Diving: Trend? Fact? Dangerous?

Some in the dive industry swear that they can and should dive SOLO. There’s a lot of discussion about this. DiverWire contributing writer John Flanders looks into this growing movement. Is it a trend???

Since your first open water session, you’ve been trained about the Buddy System.  Should a problem arise in the water, your dive buddy is there to assist you.  We do pre-dive checks with our buddy, we have a buddy separation rule, and we train to both be a helper and be helped by our dive buddy.

In many cases, our dive buddy is someone close to us.  Usually, our dive buddy is a relative, best friend or someone that we got certified with when we first started Scuba diving.  However, there are times when our “preferred” dive buddy isn’t available to blow bubbles.  Does that mean we can’t dive?

Fortunately, there are online forums, charter boats, dive clubs, dive shop sponsored events or trips that will help “buddy up” someone who wants to dive but doesn’t have a partner available.  In fact, it is very common to meet a new dive buddy on a charter boat as it is leaving the dock. Of course, this begs the question, is this the right time and place to meet? Are you prepared to put your life, in the remote case of a dive incident underwater, with someone who you’ve never met before?  Does this person have the experience to assist you in an emergency?  Is this person going to cause an incident that may put you in harm’s way?  Does this person share the same ideology about dive safety as you do?  It’s thinking like this that makes you want to play golf for the afternoon.

Described above is one of the inherent flaws of the Buddy System.  The uncovered flaw is being teamed up with someone who you may or may not know; or being teamed up with someone who has significantly less experience than you.  Can a seasoned diver or dive professional rely on a student or someone inexperienced to assist them with an underwater emergency? Obviously, with Scuba diving often being a mentor-driven sport, this ‘pairing up’ happens quite a bit.  In essence, when an experienced diver teams up with someone with significantly less experience or someone that is unknown to them, they are in essence diving alone.

Diving alone or Solo Diving is a taboo phrase for most of the Scuba diving world. The Buddy System is the only standard for recreational divers.  Solo diving is often referred to as diving alone, without a buddy, and is usually discussed in small risqué circles.  Most divers and professionals consider solo diving an extreme side of the sport and only done by fringe divers who are undertaking dangerous practices.  Most agencies have condemned solo diving as an unsafe practice and should be avoided at all costs.  However, as described above, when diving with a less qualified person, it is just as bad as solo diving.  In many cases, diving with an inexperienced person lends to a false sense of security and can be worse than diving alone.

It’s at this junction of thought where the misconception of solo diving is uncovered.  Solo diving is not a practice – it is a mindset. A solo diver is not someone who dives alone.  A solo diver is someone who is self sufficient.  A solo diver is someone who can handle any emergency without the interference or assistance of a dive buddy. Any contingency plan, for an incident underwater, should start with self rescue.  Divers who learn the art of self sufficiency are, in essence, solo divers.  For those divers who are truly self-sufficient, they do not have to concern themselves with worrying about how a novice diver or an unknown diver will assist them in an emergency.

Finding an instructor who teaches a Solo Diver course can be tricky.  Currently, there is only one major agency authorizing instructors to teach solo diving courses.  Scuba Diving International or SDI, out of Topsham, Maine, produces materials and certifies instructors to teach solo diving.  The solo diver course is touted as an Advanced Diver course and one of the student prerequisites is a minimum of 100 dives.  The course focuses on proper dive planning, personal dive limitations, accident prevention, equipment redundancy, critical thinking skills and stress management. The solo diver program teaches experienced, recreational divers how to be an independent diver and strengthen his/her buddy team skills.

While there will always be some divers who choose to dive alone.  That practice can be left to the fringe divers’. However, Scuba diving self sufficiently should be the objective of every diver.  The best buddy to depend on in any situation is you.  If you dive with someone who is inexperienced or you often dive on vacation by yourself, you are already a solo diver.  It is imperative that you develop a solo diver mentality and plan for contingencies to assist yourself.

Solo Diver courses are offered on a quarterly basis through the Academy of Scuba.  Students travel from all over the United States to learn the art of self sufficiency with Mr. Flanders. If you are interested in learning more about the Solo Diver course, email the Author.

John C. Flanders, Jr., a seasoned and well traveled diver for over 20 years having explored almost every ocean and/or sea in the world.

Mr. Flanders is an SDI/TDI Instructor Trainer, NAUI Instructor Trainer and a PADI Master Instructor.  Mr. Flanders is a SeaSigns Instructor Examiner and the Director of International Training.  Mr. Flanders is also trains divers in over 50 different specialties, technical diving and public safety diving.  As an Instructor Trainer for both Emergency First Response and Divers Alert Network Courses, he assists in training instructors to teach these valuable safety courses.

Mr. Flanders has published numerous articles and manuals for the dive industry and is a frequent contributor to Diverwire, an industry leading portal for Scuba Divers and the Phoenix Examiner at
John is an avid cave and wreck diver. He also enjoys hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, camping, golfing, and sky diving, reading and writing.

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