“Fear is the motivation for the buddy system. Divers don’t want to drown and they don’t want to be eaten. There’s nothing strange in this fear; what’s strange is the response to it: get a buddy.” Bob Halstead, Diving Pioneer
Consider that statement and ask yourself, do you agree with that ?
Like nearly everything in life, the statement above can be argued both for and against depending upon your knowledge and experience of the subject matter. Some may argue that this statement is wrong and that if you dive with a buddy you cannot possibly be diving alone.
I beg to differ, how many of us divers have employed the practice known as ‘same ocean diving’, where you and your designated buddy are in the same body of water but the similarities end there ? You and your buddy are so far apart from one another that you could never, in the event of a catastrophic gas loss incident, reach your buddy’s alternate air source. This practice is one that is visible on nearly every dive if you choose to look for it. Ask yourself, honestly, do you practice same-ocean-diving ? Chances are you do, at least sometimes. If not, then you are probably a buddy of someone who does and you spend your time looking out for them and following them around.
Have you ever tried to communicate a problem to your buddy under water ? It is incredibly difficult to communicate under water, even if you have a slate and the time to spend writing out a message. Then you have to assume you can hold a pencil and write with it when wearing 5mm gloves in 8 degree water after you’ve been diving for 40 mins. Get the picture ?
Try throwing in some poor visibility, or diving at night, or in an overhead environment with low light and the normal human communication ability is drastically reduced. Think about how you would communicate to your buddy that you wanted to terminate the dive or that you were out of gas when you are holding a torch in your hand ? Do you grab their fin ? Wave your torch beam in their face ? Bark like a dog (yes that does work) into your regulator ?
The point of all this scare mongering is that these are real world situations, which should be considered and mitigated for, before they happen to you.
Every year BSAC publishes a statistical analysis of incidents that have occurred in the previous year, it makes for interesting reading.
In the last 10 years there have been 62 diving fatalities where separation was considered a mitigating factor. BSAC always state that
“Separation in itself is not a cause of death but death might have been avoided if the casualties’ buddies had been to hand and thus potentially able to render assistance.”
I would counter that statement by saying, perhaps the death may have been avoided had the diver not needed the buddy to assist because they were trained and equipped to deal with the issue that arose in an independent manner ?
Did you know that UK cave divers explicitly aim to dive alone because the environment in which they choose to dive is so unforgiving that they could not communicate with another diver easily without adding complication and confusion ? To dive alone they equip themselves and plan for situations that will require them to solve alone.
As a recreational diver, if you employed that mentality would you not be a better buddy ?
I think the answer is an emphatic “yes” !
How can you be a better buddy ?
In 2011 PADI joined other training agencies by introducing a course with the express purpose of aiding divers
To develop the skills of planning and carrying out dives without a partner when preferred or necessary.
To sharpen skills of diving self-reliance, making the diver a stronger partner in a dive pair or team.
That course is the PADI Self Reliant Diver Speciality.
If you have ever wondered…
…what it might be like to dive alone ?
…what you would do if you were separated from your buddy ?
…what you would do if your DSMB snagged the line and was dragged out of your hand ?
…how you or your buddy would react to a catastrophic gas loss ?
…why you didn’t pack a replacement [insert here] that saved your dive ?
…what is the rule-of-thirds ?
If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions then this could be the course for you.
No need to take our word for it, you can read plenty of information on the internet about this course and about independent diving…
- A course review by Nigel Wade on Divernet
- A discussion on solo diving
- The Wikipedia entry on solo diving
Planning and executing dives so you are independently responsible for yourself, with a buddy or without is a skillset that cannot be underestimated.
New Horizons Dive Centre will be running the PADI Self Reliant course on the 18th July. Please contact the shop to book onto the course /shop-opening-times-contact-details/
PADI’s position on Self Reliant Diving
Self-Rescue concepts and skills
Self reliant diving concepts, application, skills and methodologies
Recommended Self Reliant Diver equipment
Planning and executing a self reliant dive
Be certified as a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver or have a qualifying certification from another training organisation.
Have a minimum 100 logged dives.
Be 18 years of age or older.
Successfully complete a dive skills assessment by a PADI Self- Reliant Diver Specialty Instructor.
Standard dive equipment – plus…
DSMB with +30m line
Redundant gas source – pony cylinder, twin cylinders with isolation valve or sidemount configuration.
Redundant depth gauge and bottom timer, or dive computer.
Redundant surface signalling devices (both visual and audible)
Slate and pencil
Open Water Dives
200m surface swim
Hover for not less than 1 min
Simulated regulator free-flow breathing
SAC rate swim for five minutes at 10m
Deploy a DSMB from depth
Demonstrate time, depth and gas-supply awareness – method 1
No mask swim >= 18m
Out-of-air emergency gas switch – not static
Navigation by compass and natural features
SAC rate calculation
Plan & Dive independent from Instructor
Demonstrate time, depth and gas-supply awareness – method 2
Emergency OOA drill – not static
Deploy a DSMB mid-water