Ideally, a diver should only solo dive when it is necessary for a specific dive objective or safety concern.
If you are considering starting solo diving, be sure that you meet all the criteria in terms of mental and technical preparation, and take the necessary training and precautions to be a safe, informed solo diver.
What Is Solo Diving?
Solo diving refers to self-reliant scuba diving without a buddy. Solo diving was once considered a form of technical scuba diving, but is slowly becoming an acceptable practice for responsible and experienced recreational divers.
Why Solo Dive?
Solo diving is not appropriate for every diver or dive plan, but there are many situations in which solo diving is arguably advantageous.
- Photography: Underwater photographers and videographers often prefer to solo dive. Solo diving allows photographers to minimize disturbance to the environment, such as sand or silt being kicked up into the water. Diving alone allows photographers sufficient time to capture the ideal images and footage without being rushed. Finally, removing the responsibility of a buddy gives photographers the ability to focus on their craft, rather than being distracted by caring for a dive partner.
- Solo Travel: A diver who arrives at a dive site without a buddy is often randomly assigned one. This buddy is a stranger in terms of experience, responsibility, and personality. Many divers prefer to dive alone than to be paired with someone they don’t know. An incompatible or mismatched buddy in terms of experience and skills can constitute a potential safety risk.
Why Is Solo Diving “Riskier” Than Buddy Diving?
Solo diving has an added level of risk compared to diving using the buddy system. By ditching his dive buddy, a solo diver loses not only the buddy’s redundant equipment, but his redundant brain and judgement. A solo diver should be self-sufficient, experienced, and responsible, as well mentally prepared to dive on his own. Divers must mitigate the risks of solo diving as much as possible through proper training.
Why Is It Important to Offer Solo Diver Courses?
Solo diver training courses have existed in their current form since 2001. Although the existence of solo diving courses is still a topic of debate, advocates of offering solo diver training have some good points. It’s better to offer courses for these individuals than allow them to dive solo without the proper gear, techniques or training. In addition, many dive scenarios (including working dives) require solo diving.
Prerequisites for Solo Diver Training
Most solo diver courses require a minimum of 100 logged dives to enrol in the course. Solo diver courses start with a rigorous testing of basic scuba diving skills. The goal of these prerequisites it to ensure that only experienced, confident divers are certified to dive solo.
What Do You Learn in a Solo Diving Course?
- Gas and Emergency Management
Solo divers must be able to calculate their air consumption rates in order estimate their planned air consumption for a dive. It is important to have an effective gas management plan, including an additional, independent source of breathing gas containing sufficient gas for the diver to reach the surface in case the diver’s primary source of breathing gas is compromised. This is essential because a solo diver does not have a buddy with a second regulator to donate gas to an out-of-air buddy. Along these lines, a solo diver must learn how to rig, carry, and use an effective bailout system.
- Dive Planning:
Solo divers learn to develop dive plans within the limits of their training, experience and equipment. This prevents a solo diver from diving outside his comfort zone, which could lead to panic or unforeseen hazards.
- Additional Dive Gear:
Solo divers must carry additional dive gear, including an additional air source and redundant emergency tools such as line cutters to mitigate the potential risks associated with diving alone. A solo diver course trains divers in the configuration, assembly and use of the additional dive gear required to solo dive safely.
- Training Dives
Training dives in a solo diver course are rigorous. In addition to detailed dive plans and advanced navigation patterns, solo diving students are presented with a range of emergency scenarios. These simulations occur without prior warning and must be solved on the fly. This might seem tough, but such training is necessary considering the risks of solo diving.
Torben Lonne is the Editor in Chief at DIVE.in online magazine.