Updated: Jul 14, 2022
First, let me say that solo diving is not for everyone. I have been a solo diver for many years, and love it. However, there are people who believe that solo scuba divers are irresponsible and must have suicidal tendencies. But in my experience, most true solo divers are more responsible than many buddy divers I know. So, are the opponents of solo diving right or are they exaggerating the risks associated with diving without a buddy?
The practice of solo scuba diving was pioneered by Mike Ball in 1997 when he introduced his safe solo diving program. In 1999 SDI launched their solo diver certification program followed by PADI’s Self-Reliant Diver course some years later. Since then, solo diving has been slowly gaining acceptance among diving enthusiasts around the world, but many in the diving community still worship the “never dive alone” concept. And yet, in my opinion, there is another side to the picture. Some divers may have a false sense of security by believing they’re safe just because they’re in the water with someone else. In theory, if all buddies were equal in terms or training, experience, physical and mental fitness, and quality of equipment, diving with a buddy should certainly be safer. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. While diving with a buddy, don’t fall into the trap of assuming that everything fine just because you are not alone.
The dive buddy system was designed for divers to support each other and provide additional security during a dive. However, it also imposes some degree of responsibility for the safety of your buddy. This means that you might be obliged to risk your life or may become liable for someone else’s life. How many times have you been assigned a buddy you never met before, where you have not had any idea about their experience or level of training and could only guess their mental and physical strength. In reality, the only reassurance was that you both were “following the buddy system.” In case of emergency, the buddy system could be severely tested, and all inadequacies could be exposed, suddenly leaving you as “a solo diver”. I prefer to dive alone rather than with someone I don’t know, who might be incompetent, inexperienced, unprepared, or unwilling to act as a true buddy. For me, any buddy is not better than no buddy.
Of course, solo diving exponentially increases the challenge and risks associated with sustaining yourself underwater without human backup. However, with the right training, equipment, planning, and mindset, it can be as safe as a traditional buddy dive. Safety is absolute paramount. Solo diving is all about being self-sufficient. It is about planning for anything and everything. The only safe solo scuba divers are those that know and acknowledge their personal limitations.
If you decide to practice solo diving, please do it only if you’re truly self-reliant. That means that you possess skill competence, you maintain a reasonable level of physical fitness, and you understand and accept your own limitations. Anything else is just stupid.