SDI Solo Diver Course

Chapter 1


New divers are traditionally taught that everyone needs to dive with a buddy. The reasons cited for this wisdom range from: "They can help you if you have problem," to "You will have someone to enjoy your experience with." When one is gaining experience and growing one's comfort level this advice holds true with the condition that the person one buddies with is competent, attentive, and unselfish. However, and this takes many divers by surprise, as we gain experience, independent diving or going solo is still deeply frowned upon by a large number of instructors, dive operations, and resorts. Unlike learning to fly - where solo flights are part of the certification process - this segment of our industry consider diving too dangerous to enjoy on one's own.

Scuba Diving International was the first major certifying agency to see that this made little sense and that a structured course on solo diving had a place in an experienced diver's toolkit. Why did we create a course that at first glance seems to fly in the face of convention? As a matter of fact, most professional underwater photographers will tell you that they never dive with a buddy because the buddy only disturbs the marine life they are trying to take photos of.

Furthermore, by the time we've logged just a few dozen dives, many of us have already experienced "bad buddy syndrome." BBS is that unnerving situation where - through no fault of our own except turning up for a dive without a companion - we have been saddled with someone whose sole intention seems to be making our day a miserable fiasco. The shape that misery takes may be bumbling incompetence: "Hey, is this hose supposed to be missing a breathing thing!" Or we may be teamed with the "same ocean / same day" type of buddy who seems visibly surprised and a little put out when we stay within sight of him during the dive. Of course, the misery may be more intense... like the time we learned too late that our newly assigned companion expects his dive buddies to be a hybrid nursemaid / lifeguard / gear sherpa and travel consultant. Regardless which of its many possible forms BBS takes, its outcome is usually the same: general frustration and a creepy feeling that being buddies with this person has increased the degree of unmanageable risk rather than lessening it.

Your SDI solo diver specialty course has been designed to teach you a series of skills and procedures to help you counteract Bad Buddy Syndrome and get a very firm handle on its attendant risks and how best to manage them. The card you earn is increasingly recognized around the globe as qualification to dive independently outside the traditional buddy system and marks you as an exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable diver.

That said, we should be clear: Solo diving does not mean diving in a vacuum and ignoring commonly held conventions about dive safety, nor is it a license to ignore the rules of charter operators, marine, and private parks. Most of all perhaps, solo certification does not mean that we think it's OK to abandon an assigned buddy at the first opportunity, or turn your back on a buddy in need of assistance.

We feel that solo diving and certification in this technique is a natural progression for many divers who find themselves wanting to enjoy the peace and freedom offered by self-reliant diving or who find they must dive with buddies whose skill level and overall lack of awareness makes them a poor port of call in an emergency.

In addition, many of the divers who have earned an SDI Solo Diver card actually dive with a buddy but prefer to be self-sufficient with regard to all but the most unlikely emergency situations. This is a particularly common reason cited when an experienced diver dives with friends who have lesser skills and experience. The solo diver's friend has them as a buddy while the solo certified diver can function without troubling their less experienced buddy if things go pear-shaped.

Good luck in your SDI specialty course. Its goal is to make you a better, more rounded diver.

Buddy System Has Basic Flaws
Solo Diving and Risk Management
Solo Divers Make Better Buddies
When Not to Dive Solo