Mention solo diving among any group of divers and you’ll get a strong reaction. In fact, many divers would argue that there is never a good reason to dive on your own. However, there are occasions when the buddy system just doesn’t have all the answers. Does that apply to technical diving as well? Do solo diving and technical diving mix? We’ll take a closer look here.
Why dive solo?
Divers learn from the get-go that our sport is a team activity. This starts with initial certification courses, where students learn to dive with and rely on a buddy for back-up. This ethos continues into technical-dive training. Both recreational and technical diving are social activities, too, so most divers enjoy sharing their adventures with others.
There are occasions, however, when diving with a buddy or as a team isn’t the best option for the dive, or when the buddy system simply doesn’t work well.
Dive instructors, for example, don’t have a buddy when taking out students on their very first dives. So, becoming more self-sufficient is crucial for dive pros. Divers booking single spaces on charter boats or liveaboards are another example. In some cases, experienced divers find themselves looking after less-experienced guests – not exactly fair considering they paid for the space.
Then there are photographers who would simply like to spend hours on a house reef, perfecting that one shot. For all of them, becoming self-reliant or solo divers expands on existing diving and dive- planning skills, making them more-aware divers. Whether those divers then dive on their own or not, they are generally better prepared for problems underwater or can work toward preventing them before the dive.
What’s solo diving got to do with technical diving?
Technical diving is generally taught as a team activity. However, the philosophy of diving together changes somewhat as a diver starts the journey through technical-diving courses. Right from the start, students learn to be more self-sufficient and have everything they need to finish the dive on their own if they must.
That means having enough gas not just to complete the dive, but also to deal with emergencies. It means backing up anything that counts as life-support equipment, including cylinders, first and second stages and signaling devices. It also includes items like a mask, because if you’re committed to a schedule of decompression stops, you must be able to see your dive computer and your dive plan.
Why dive in a team at all?
So, if you’ve got back-ups for your equipment, why do you need a team? The obvious answer is that although divers can carry all the spares they can think of, they cannot back up their brain.
Starting with dive planning, four eyes see more than two. Having a teammate check or contribute to a dive plan makes it more likely that someone will spot problems early on. In the water, it’s often easier and faster for another person to assist with a problem than it is to sort it out on your own. In fact, you may avoid a bad situation in the first place by having a teammate.
Is there any solo technical diving?
So, is any technical diving done without the support of a team? The answer is yes and no. First of all, none of the training agencies endorse or recommend technical-diving activities on solo dives.
Having said that, the definition of a team is often more complex in technical diving than it is for most recreational diving. For example, look at the current world record holder for the deepest-ever dive and the deepest ever dive in seawater, Ahmed Gabr. He completed a large part of his record-breaking dive to just beyond 1,089 feet (332 m) by himself. However, he had a large support team, including support divers meeting him at set depths.
A technical-dive team often includes many more people than the actual divers: captain and crew for example are crucial on wreck or open-ocean dives. On any technical dives, gas blending can one of the most time-consuming undertakings. Having someone dedicated to that makes a huge difference, especially on expeditions further afield.
Finally, some technical divers do choose to dive alone — in their own time and at their own risk. Their reasons will be personal, and they will have weighed the risks against the potential benefits. So, although solo diving and technical diving aren’t mutually exclusive, mixing the two is best left to highly experienced divers.