Solo Diving Hypocrisy

For about the past month I have been interested in Solo Diving and attempting to find more information on it. Every PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) instructor that I have spoken with about my interest in it say the same things, “solo diving is dangerous and should never be done” or “PADI does not allow solo diving“, or my favorite “as a certified PADI professional I will pretend I did not hear that“, yet PADI themselves offers a Distinctive Specialty for this exact same thing. They just named theirs the PADI Self-Reliant Diver Distinctive Specialty which is taught at many PADI dive shops around the world.

So that makes me start thinking, if solo diving is so taboo and dangerous and you should never do it, then why does PADI have a Distinctive Specialty teaching you to do what they say you should never so in the first place?

There seems to be a lot of hypocrisy concerning solo diving when it comes to PADI. So I started looking outside of PADI for information on solo diving and I discovered that Scuba Diving International (SDI) teaches a course on solo diving, and guess what, they were even bold enough to name it a Solo Diving Course.

Solo diving is no more dangerous than any other form of recreational diving. It needs to be done correctly, and with the proper equipment and training, just as any other form of recreational diving needs to be. Even diving incident statistics for the past decade do not show that solo diving is more dangerous than any other form of recreational diving.

I am not saying that “Buddy Diving” is bad, or that there is anything wrong with it, but I have been paired up with a “dive buddy” on a boat dive that I have never met before, have no idea what kind of a diver he or she is, and have no idea of how competent they would be in an emergency situation.

I do know that from past experiences I do not allow myself to rely on my “dive buddy” in an emergency. I rely on myself, my training, and the equipment that I carry with me on every single dive, including a completely redundant air supply. If I am going on shallow dives I always carry a 3cf Spare Air system, and if I am going on deep dives I carry a 30cf pony bottle with separate regulator and gauge. I also always dive with a spare mask in my BCD pocket, just in case something happens to mine on a dive.

As soon as I am able to I plan on taking the SDI Solo Diver Course. One of the prerequisites for the course are a minimum of 100 logged dives, which I will be able to complete in about a month or so, I am already at 72 logged dives.

Below is a very good video that was recorded at the London International Dive Show in April of 2012.

I believe that instead of making everyone believe that solo diving is taboo and dangerous, we should teach the correct ways to solo dive, and the proper equipment that needs to be used for a solo dive. Its like a police officer giving you a ticket for speeding, then the same officer speeds when not on an emergency call. Its complete hypocrisy, and that is one thing that could make new divers leery and untrusting of diving associations and what they say and teach, and question other things that are taught to them for safety.

6 responses

  1. The self reliant diver course is not meant to certify you to simply dive by yourself, it is meant to teach the the experienced diver dive planning, equipment redundancy, and to rely on yourself whether you are diving alone or with a buddy. It is an introduction to self-reliant diving and is a good intro to tech diving in which you take these skills further. What are your goals in taking this course?

    The PADI instructors you spoke with most likely are not certified to teach the self reliant diver course so perhaps they were not familiar with the distinctive specialty. Those instructors advised you appropriately according to their training, that diving alone can be dangerous and should not be done.

    That said, the instructors I know that teach this specialty like to know the student, their diving history, and their goals for taking this course. That is not hypocrisy that is responsibility!

    Students rarely consider the liability or the responsibility a diving instructor (regardless of agency affiliation) undertakes when we take students underwater. I personally would like to see every diver take this course once they meet the minimum requirements and I think it would particularly help Dive Masters and Instructors who are often buddy-less and responsible for guiding or teaching groups of divers.

    As someone who is confronted with divers every day from all walks of life and certifying agencies, I can tell you Doctor, that you are the exception and not the norm when we consider divers with less than 100 dives. I applaud you for diving with redundant equipment and seeking out further education to advance and refine your knowledge and skills.

    What you encountered when you spoke with PADI instructors was not hypocrisy. The self reliant diver course is new and PADI instructors who want to teach this course must first be certified to teach it. They were simply unaware of the specialty.

    Choose you instructor carefully, and enjoy the course. I look forward to reading about it.

    1. Jeanne,
      Thank you for your comments. I knew I would get a reaction from some people, but thats exactly why I decided to write the post today. I wanted to get people talking more about it and to heighten the awareness that such a thing as solo diving does exist and is now considered acceptable as long as its done correctly and safely.

      I spoke with one SDI instructor that I have dove with on a few occasions about their Solo Diver Course, and he stated that he wished that he could teach it to me now instead of me waiting until I get the minimum 100 dives because he thinks that I am ready for it now. He has also stated that he thinks I am the exception to the rule when it comes to new divers. I believe a lot of that may be due to my past experiences and training in the EMS and Fire/Rescue that I will always carry with me.

      One PADI instructor this week jokingly said that I was a “worry wort” because I always dive with redundant air supply and spare mask & snorkel in my pocket. A few have also said that I was the only diver they knew that actually dives carrying a CPR Pocket Mask in their pocket.

      When you open the back of my Suburban beside my dive gear is a DAN dual tank Emergency Oxygen Kit, First Aid Kit, and Trauma Kit along with my save-a-dive kit that I have been piecing together over the past couple of months along with numerous spare weights. I believe in being prepared for any foreseeable situation and emergency whenever possible.

      I am not ashamed to admit that when I plan a dive around my hectic schedule, if I can not find a competent dive buddy to dive with, I will occasionally dive alone. I am more conservative and cautious when I dive alone as anyone should be that is undertaking any task alone where there is a degree of danger. But I am confident in my own training, abilities, and self-sufficiency to be able to carry out the dive.

      Unfortunately when it comes to choosing the instructor for the Solo Diver Course, I do not have many options to choose between since I am in Hawaii. It’s not like I can jump in the car and drive to another area for more options. I am limited to what is available on island, or spend thousands traveling back to the mainland staying in hotels while receiving the training. Some of the courses that I am wanting to take I will have to travel back to the mainland for because no one teaches them here in Hawaii, but the ones that are taught here I will have to take here and hope for the best.

      This situation is one reason I am now wanting to become an instructor, to teach some of the courses that currently are not available in Hawaii.

  2. There was an article in Dive Training magazine on this very subject. It addressed the realities you are talking about. The article didn’t condone solo diving but neither did it condemn it.

    I know lots of people who solo dive whether it’s because their buddy couldn’t make it or because they wish to have a long dive with a rebreather. The subject is controversial without a doubt but the article admitted that some people are ok on their own and it basically advocates for many of the redundancies that you already have.

    One thing that maybe was overlooked is that diving with a buddy is often more fun because you are sharing the experience with another. When you dive solo you are not necessarily raising your risk of injury especially when you have things like spare air and redundant equipment.

    If it’s something that you want to explore then by all means do. Besides being self sufficient is something any diver can benefit from even in a group setting. Being self reliant may, someday, enable you to help another do the same. As with anything there is not right or wrong, in my humble opinion, as long as you are making an informed decision based on your needs and goals.

    1. It’s funny that you mention Dive Training magazine because I just signed up for a new subscription to it a couple weeks ago. I haven’t received my first issue yet, but I just received the back issue storage binder in the mail today, so I guess that means the issues will be starting soon.

      One thing that I did not mention in the previous post is that I have also started Kayak Diving and unfortunately there are not that many people here on Oahu that dive from kayaks yet. It is a newer version of the sport that is starting to catch on here. Since there are not as many people who dive from kayaks, I have less opportunities to find a dive buddy to go out with and subsequently the majority of my kayak dives will end up being solo dives.

      I don’t see anything wrong with solo dives, as long as the person is able to be self-reliant and competent enough to plan for emergency situations that could happen on any dive, not just a solo dive.

      As you saw yourself, even though the dives that we did for the class over the weekend were very shallow and right next to a fire station where trained medics are available, and EMS is easily available in an emergency, I still carried a rather large well-stocked first aid kit, trauma kit, and dual-tank emergency oxygen kit with me in the back of my Suburban. They go with me on every dive. When I am diving from the kayak a smaller version of each gets stored in the bow hatch, just in case. Unfortunately I have had to use them a few times, always for other unfortunate divers that I happen to run into at a dive site that were grateful that I had come to the dive site so prepared.

      If more people were open and honest about their solo diving experiences that would start more discussions about them. I think if more people started openly discussing it, the “taboo” label would go away from it and more people would be inclined to locate instruction on the necessary safety and equipment aspects of solo diving so that if they chose to do it, they would at least have the knowledge to do it correctly and would be making an informed decision about it.

  3. From an experienced solo diver…..I have been diving for over 30 years, with the last 10-15 mainly solo. If I have to find a partner every time I want to go (with the same experience/goals and available the exact same days I am), I wouldn’t have near the dive experience I do now. While not solo-certified, I am a master diver and dive with a completely redundant system. People who criticize solo diving are in two categories….1) they have little actual dive experience, and don’t know what they’re talking about, or 2) they’ve been brainwashed by the dive agencies to believe that all things solo are bad. Many instructors probably do a bit of solo diving, but are scared shitless of exposing the fact, fearing repercussions from their respective training agency. For most agencies (especially PADI), solo is a four-letter word. It’s funny that PADI now has a “self-reliant” diver course. Which is, in reality, a solo-diver course, but PADI doesn’t have the balls to actually say it. Even though I’m certified though PADI, if I do get solo-certified, I’ll probably do it through SDI. They’ve been teaching it longer, and don’t bullshit about what they’re actually teaching you.

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