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Self Sufficiency: Are you prepared?

John Flanders, Academy of Scuba - Master Instructor / Instructor Trainer
November 26, 2012

For years the term "Solo Diver" has been tantalizing the industry because it debunks the practice that the buddy system is an absolute. Solo Diver training is a concept where recreational divers can obtain levels of training and experience to conduct dives independent of a partner. However, this is not a new concept. Folks like Robert Von Maier and Lee H Somers have been writing about self-reliance for years. In fact, Somers laid down, in a paper he wrote while at the University of Michigan, the notion that every time we walk onto a dive boat and team up with a buddy we don't know, we are effectively a solo diver. Von Maier invested over 120 pages in his book examining the strengths and weaknesses of the buddy system, and explains why some divers choose to dive alone. Von Maier's book "The Art of Underwater Self Sufficiency" addresses what it takes to become a self-sufficient diver which includes a section on self-evaluation.

Whether you are an advanced level, frequent diver, or still finding your way to a dozen dives as an open water diver, you have already learned this is a sport of skill and knowledge. Divers at every level need to invest the time to become more self-sufficient. This is usually realized later in the training regimen while taking a Rescue Diver Course. Every diver needs to rely on their ability for self-rescue versus being dependent on a buddy to get them out of trouble. If you think you are prepared, review the following check list to see if you are truly self-sufficient:

  1. Qualified, not just certified! Have you sought out an expert who has trained many "Self Reliant" or "Solo" Divers? Many agencies are now exploring Solo Diver type certifications to increase the levels of marketability of their programs to both professional and recreational divers. Just because an instructor is certified to teach a program at this level, doesn't mean they have the depth of experience you need. Find the instructor who has ample experience preparing people to take the giant stride into this type of diving.
  2. Certification is not enough! Self Sufficiency is not about diving by yourself, it is about relying on yourself! If you are looking for permission to dive alone, a certification is not going to help you when you get in trouble.
  3. Do you have the mindset? If you are properly trained, you need to develop a mindset that puts you in a position to help yourself first, not turn to your buddy. Have you created rules for anticipated issues and problems underwater? Are you emotionally armed to handle those same issues and problems without the aid of another?
  4. What's in your gear bag? Don't let the required equipment list fool you. Being well-equipped does not mean you are self-reliant. Having the required equipment is only the first step. You must take a systemic approach to Solo Diving and build fault tolerant and redundant systems. A diver must be well-suited to deal with problems and issues underwater by harnessing resources and tools to dismiss any situations that could cause harm. However, without acquiring, perfecting, and practicing the necessary skillsets, equipment is nothing more than an unsharpened tool in the hands of an apprentice. The chances are very good that those same tools will be more of an encumbrance that could lead to other problems, including task loading and overexertion.

Once you have reviewed this checklist and understand it at a rudimentary level, you are prepared to start your journey as a self-sufficient diver. Continue your training at all levels of diving, acquire your self-sufficient skillsets from a qualified expert, and dive often. A great diver is always learning and constantly seeking out new dive adventures.

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