Solo Diving

Despite how much we may shake our heads and tut at such practices, we must be realistic and accept that they go on. (Gosh - not in this club I hear you say!).

There are sections in my (well-thumbed) copy of the BS-AC Safe Diving Practices on both Buddy diving (It is important for safe diving that divers are formed into buddy pairs) and Solo diving (The diver should be securely roped, and in constant rope communication with a surface tender). But that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about solo, free, scuba diving, and this article is along the lines of a review of the 1991 book Solo Diving, the art of underwater self-sufficiency, by Robert Van Maier.

The book consists of five chapters, each with a number of salient quotes as introduction, being;

1 The buddy system

I'm not saying that every diver immediately drops their buddy and goes diving alone, however, it's time that all instructional agencies stop giving divers the false sense of security that their buddy will be there to save them.

2 The self-sufficient diver

One inescapable conclusion, however, is that buddy diving, as commonly practiced, does not offer ironclad protection from accidental drowning. No matter how you choose to dive, proper planning and training, combined with moment-to-moment attention and care, are the best insurance against mishap.

3 Diving Fitness and Physiology

The human body is a great and noble machine. With proper care and routine maintenance its ability to perform is guaranteed. Neglect and apathy render it impotent and useless. How great a crime to dispose of such potentiality.

4 Dive management guidelines

The sea rarely offers us more than one chance. Should we foolishly fall into error, the outcome is all too obvious. By its very nature, the sea cannot choose favourites - they are chosen by themselves through wise decision and hard-learned knowledge. It is often the small, overlooked details that, to the discerning mind, become the dividing line between success and outright failure.

5 Emergency breathing systems and self-rescue

We live in a gear-driven culture and techno-breakdowns confront us in nearly every aspet of modern life. In most cases, planning problems and equipment failures are just an inconvenience; in diving they often mean death.


This is not a flippant book, but seriously addresses some of the reasons why some experienced divers wish to dive alone at times. The book does not pooh-pooh buddy diving, but does not view it as the only way to dive. Early in the book, a number of questions are asked about dive planning, such as;

1 What risks are inherent in this dive, and would they be better met with a competent buddy who is experienced in this type of diving, or who is more familiar with this location.

2 If a qualified buddy is desired, am I self-sufficient enough so that I won't be a liability to him/her?

Those who advocate solo diving (for a variety of reasons) do not do so with gay abandon. Of a number of rules that are suggested within the book, one stands out:

"Never scuba dive deeper than twice the depth to which you can free dive"

A number of Emergency Breathing Systems are discussed, but none can cope with a first stage failure or blown O-ring apart from a buddy's alternate air supply or a redundant air system such as a pony cylinder. You may always dive carrying an octopus, but does your buddy? Do you want to dive with a buddy who has such little regard for your safety that he doesn't carry an octopus (but expects you to)?

So - as a buddy, are you adding to the safety of the buddy pair, or do you represent a liability to your buddy. Instructors diving with novices accept the extra responsibilities, and must be self-sufficient enough to provide their own self-rescue as well as being able to provide for their dive partner, (or protégé).

An interesting subject, and an interesting book. I cannot see the more experienced divers in the club deciding to dive alone because they cannot find a suitably competent buddy, but can understand the unsaid pressure on both parties in a instructor/novice pair.

Perhaps you might like to read a copy of this book and come to your own conclusions.!

This page was last updated on : 06 Sep 2011