It's drummed into us at every stage (for good reason) that we should always dive with a buddy. It makes perfect sense! You both have someone you can rely on in an emergency where you might need their air supply, become entangled or just need someone to stop you finning off with the mermaids if you get 'narked'.
There is no getting away from the fact that solo diving happens and on a regular basis. Perhaps the first time wasn't intentional, perhaps a buddy pair had previously agreed to continue the dive if they were split up. There are many books on the subject of solo diving and self sufficiency and I personally believe every diver should be self sufficient to help reduce potential risks but solo diving is BAD! Or is it?.....
I'm certainly not going to encourage anyone to do it but there is no doubt that solo diving has its uses and that's the key thing, you should have a valid reason to do it. We don't dive deep just for the fun of it, we dive deeper for something like a wreck. It's the same with solo diving. The point of this article isn't to say that divers shouldn't do it or that you should try it, it's to try and make divers aware of the risks involved with making a potentially dangerous sport even more dangerous. Bottom line, if you get yourself into a situation there is no one to help get you out of it, there is only you. Therefore it is imperative that a solo diver is prepared, not only with the correct equipment but also in the right mental state. Confidence and competence are very important, a diver can have every recreational training qualification under the sun but if the diver lacks real world experience and competence then he / she is likely to come unstuck just at the wrong time. Confidence is a tricky thing as well, confidence in your own abilities needs be well founded. If you find yourself asking someone whether they think you are ready to dive solo is probably a good indicator that you're not. Anyone thinking about solo diving needs to understand their own reasons for doing so, doing it for an ego boost or an 'I'm better than thou' status is NOT a good reason. Some points to consider before jumping into the water on your lonesome:
- Training – Training is really only the first step which allows you to gain that more important 'experience'. Your training will probably have been under the most ideal conditions possible. Anything could happen in real life. That said it is recommended to have least qualified to a level where you begin to see and recognise potential problems with either the environment (dive location or conditions, etc – not the global environment) or the dive itself. Dive planning is also a crucial skill to have to understand the complexities that a certain dive might involve.
- Experience – Practice makes perfect. An experienced diver should automatically know what to do in a foreseeable situation. Qualified but inexperienced divers have been known to look dumbly at their buddy whilst their own air leaks out of a freeflowing regulator and expect the buddy to deal with it, its the experience that allows the mind to stay calm and the body to take over and deal with the problem. This extends to advanced or speciality training as well, all courses including deep, cave or wreck will only give you your basic and safe grounding to develop your skills and experience from.
- Equipment – Reliability and redundancy are your best friends when diving by yourself. Kit needs to be well maintained and serviced. You'll also need to know it like an extension of your own body – if it doesn't feel right then get it checked out (by your technician, not your doctor). You're also going to need to carry spares to get you out of a problem including (but not limited to) redundant air supply that is suitable for the diving you are doing, buoyancy control, mask, torch, dive computer or timer.
- Don't forget your own health - Are you in a good enough condition to perform a controlled free ascent from depth if your primary and redundant supplies were to fail? Do you have any medical conditions that are considered to be OK for normal recreational diving such as asthma that would put you at a high risk of developing a problem that you would be unable to deal with yourself.