Diving has traditionally been taught and done in teams or with a buddy. The rationale behind this is that adding another person automatically adds safety (as well as enjoyment) to the dive. However, we believe there are exceptions to the rule: situations in which Solo Diving – or knowing how to safely dive on your own – might be a great alternative.
Is there ever a good time for diving on your own? We think so!
Why Solo Diving Makes Sense… For Some Of Us
Let me start with a disclaimer here: solo diving is not for everyone. New divers, those who have had a lengthy break between dives or anyone looking to extend their diving limits are well advised to dive with a team of buddies, join a guided dive or extend their abilities under the supervision of an instructor.
There are also those divers who are not actually thinking of diving much on their own, but who would greatly benefit from the additional skills and knowledge picked up during the course.
So, who should solo dive then?
Liveaboard divers & solo diving
Picture this: a highly experienced diver boards a charter boat or a liveaboard just to find themselves teamed up with a buddy who has recently finished their open water certification. The more experienced diver will almost certainly feel obliged to look after their buddy and might end up doing shorter dives and, involuntarily, taking on a supervisory role. Granted, most high quality dive operators will do their best to match divers depending on certification level and experience, but it’s just not always possible, so how good would it be to be able to set off on your own? This is just one example of when Solo Diving can enhance your diving experience.
Dive professionals & Solo diving
Another group of divers to greatly benefit from this course are are recreational dive professionals teaching entry level classes. Whether you are taking a new diver underwater for a try dive or you are taking open water diver students on dives one and two, you really are relying on yourself as an instructor in case something goes wrong. It’s simply too early for the students to be able to help – they are only just learning the basic skills required.
Photographers & Solo Diving
If you’ve ever dived with a serious underwater photographer you know that good pictures take time – and so do photographers. Unless you are a very patient ‘spotter’, hanging around for a photographer can get a bit boring for the buddy. For the photographer, in turn, it’s not great to have someone breathing down their neck and making them feel like they need to speed up. What’s more, many underwater photographers are truly focussed on picture-taking and may not notice immediately if their buddy is in trouble.
So what is there to learn?
For those coming from a technical diving background, much will sound familiar. For recreational divers, there are more new things to add: first and foremost, we are taking dive planning to a new level. Rather than ‘kind of knowing’ that you will get an hours’ dive from a normal tank and return to the boat with 50 bar, you learn to work out your air consumption in litres, allowing you to predict how much you are likely to need for a specific dive.
You will also learn what options there are for carrying redundant air supplies: our favourite way of doing this is to integrate the SDI Solo Diver course with a Sidemount course. For those not keen to get into Sidemount diving, Solo diving can easily be done with a single tank and a smaller, ‘pony’ bottle.
Next up – navigation: all divers learn basic navigation skills in their beginner-level training courses, but how many actually apply them afterwards? The Solo Diver course is a great opportunity to dust off those basic skills and improve on them. After all, you will have to find your own way when you set out on your own.
Thinking about equipment
What is the most important piece of equipment you carry? No one-word answer here: it is anything required to keep you alive. This includes your air supply, buoyancy control devices and seemingly simple things like a mask. For a solo diver, it is worth considering how to back these up – usually by taking a second one with you. Which brings us straight to ….
Top-notch dive skills
Solo divers need to be sure that they can deal with emergencies on their own. Technical divers are taught that they should be prepared to finish a dive independently, which means many skills and drills focus on self-sufficiency. During the Solo Diver course, students learn to deal with emergencies without outside help. They will practice a number of scenarios to allow them to develop strategies and ways of handling uncomfortable situations.
And finally… diving on your own
At the end of the course, students set off on their own with their instructor remaining on the boat or on shore. Why? Because it’s the only way for them to experience what this feels like. There will be a detailed plan and fairly strict parameters: how deep will the dive be, how much air will be used, what’s the maximum bottom time and what route will be taken.
Ideally, the student comes back having stuck to the plan. But we all know that underwater, plans can change quickly. Does that mean you fail? Of course not! Your instructor will expect you to be able to explain what happened to make you change your plan and why you chose to do what you did.
For the diver, there is often a mixture of excitement and nerves, especially on their first solo dive.
After the course, not everyone actually dives on their own. However, many divers find that their attitude towards diving and their idea of safe diving is changed forever. They will be the ones carrying a spare mask, taking a compass even if their guide said it was not needed and predicting their air consumption within 5 bar. And, sometimes, they might just set off on their own.
To find out more about SDI’s Solo Diver Speciality, click here, or use the form below to send us your message.