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Dive Solo

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#1 ce4jesus


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Posted 28 July 2007 - 08:06 PM

I just wanted to bring this up for some discussion surrounding this topic. I've gone solo once and have mixed feelings about it. No group to follow at their pace. Choice of site. I can spend the entire dive with a subject if I want rather than feel obligated to move on. The only negatives are the feelings of vulnerability should something go wrong. I'd like to hear from those who do this on a regular basis and what your reasons are.

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#2 pmooney



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Posted 28 July 2007 - 08:13 PM

I consider every dive to be a solo dive - my precaution is have a pony bottle & reg , a ultra heavy duty safety sausage with 10 mtrs of line attached.

My advice to any one who is solo diving is to dive within the limits of your training / experience , exercise caution and listen to the inner you.

#3 wagsy


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Posted 28 July 2007 - 09:10 PM

If it's just play diving (14 meters max) then I do it all the time. One cannot concentrate on your subjects if you have to worry about someone else.

Quite often while play diving I will forget to look at my air only to find out after 90 mins that it is low as the tank got harder to breath from. Still gives me plenty of time to come up. What happens after a while one just gets to know when it's time without looking at any gauge especially if it's a site you have dived hundreds of times before.

I use to sit at 22 meters and fill my BCD up and watch it float up to the surface. After abit I would slowly swim up to the worried look of the folks on the boat. :) .
Mind you it's abit hard to do this on a commercial dive boat without getting into trouble . :)

Seriously coming up from 14 meters or shallower without any air is no big deal really if you are a comfortable free diving water person that can free dive down to that depth anyhow. So the only other real dangers are heart attack or you get bitten and that can happen anywhere. You should also get to know the animals and what they do....like not swimming closely right over the top of a Ray like someone we all knew did. :(

Deeper depths and where a safety stop is really needed it's best to dive with someone but make sure they are not a lollipop diver and you have to end up looking after them.

But I don't recommend anyone do as I do though. :D

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#4 IMSushi


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Posted 28 July 2007 - 09:49 PM

I must admit I have only recently dove without a buddy. I always had my wife or some student I was looking after as part of a class, being a Divemaster. On my last outing I was on a boat where I didn't know anyone else and besides they were all hunters. What's a guy sporting a camera to have in common with guys whose favorite word for the weekend was "Riffe"?

As it turned out I really enjoyed being down there by myself with no one else to look after or worry about. I carry a SpareAir which would easily get me to the surface as our average dives were in the 35 to 45 fsw range. I could concentrate on my subject and move along as I needed to, not as my wife got bored and wanted to marathon swim over to the next set of rocks or kelp.

I even added 10 to 15 minutes to my bottom time because I wasn't moving around on someone else's whim!

I wouldn't recommend this practice to just anyone. You have to plan ahead for any emergency and be very comfortable in the water by yourself. As I came back to work earlier this week I heard a story of a coworker's husband diving solo in San Diego and being found by a kayacker floating face down! It was a sad day for everyone, but could this "ACCIDENT" have been avoided if he was diving with a "BUDDY"?

Earlier this year, an owner of a local dive store was teaching an ice diving class in a lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He decided to dive solo off of his guide line. He wasn't seen for another two days...under the ice. Could this have been prevented if he had a buddy or attached himself to the line?

Bottom line, dive agencies have set standards that are meant to be followed for a reason. I'm not saying that I follow every one of them, but when I break a very basic rule, I am accepting the possibility that I may not be returning to the boat. Dive Safe!
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#5 CamDiver


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Posted 28 July 2007 - 10:05 PM

Hi all,
If you mean having an assigned buddy for each dive then I would imagine most of the posters here dive solo!! I am one of the nutters who does this for a living so really in effect I'm diving solo everyday. That said there are a lot of people around. I don't have a pony bottle on the dailies. I wear really big freediving fins and can kick like a mule in an out of air situation :D

Staying within my limits!! I've been in some pretty crazy situations where any manner of things could have gone wrong, and during some of those times if I'd have listened to the 'Inner Me' well I wouldn't be writing this now. Sometimes you need to do the exact opposite of what should actually be the apparent sensible thing to do. Personally I put it down to what your own personal comfort level is. If you are happy to stay around 25m playing in the nicely lit waters then so be it. If on the other hand you are happy to drop solo to 60m to the floor of a cave (the roof being at 30m) in order to potentially catch a fleeting shot of a Tiger, Thresher or Hammerhead, then again so be it.

Even on trips, I tend to hang with other 'Imagers' so we all do our own thing and tend to end up solo on most dives. I think most serious snappers tend to respect the fundamental laws of the sport but put on some kind of bravado when asked about solo diving. It can still bite, so long as you respect, understand and accept that then its down to you to set your own comfort level. I guess you only feel vulnerable if you put yourself in a situation you are not happy with. Like I said it all comes down to acceptance of the situation you choose to put yourself in. I actually prefer to be solo. No one to bugger up my shots, but thats another topic eh?


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#6 hoovermd


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Posted 28 July 2007 - 11:11 PM

Even tho I am married to my buddy since we are both photogs each and every dive is essentially a solo dive.
Anyone who has dove with us has heard our little "rattle code"...

We each carry a rattle and have several signals. Much like hand signals but more useful when you cannot see the other person. Very often I am down at 100' shooting some WA subject and she may be up at 25' taking macro, so we have adapted.

I agree that the "rule of thumb" should be to know your limits.

I am really annoyed when operations will not allow solo diving because IMHO I'm safer solo than with an "assigned" buddy. Simply assigning a buddy for the convenience of the operator places my buddy at risk since
I'm likely to be concentrating upon the photographic subject and really doesn't do me any favors because I rarely feel comfortable with the skill of my newfound partner.

Let us all admit that we photo types are really crappy buddies :D and each dive with a camera is basically a solo dive for someone.

Kudos to boats like the Ocean Rover which allow solo diving. I'm less than happy with some of the Aggressor boats which do not.

#7 serge


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Posted 29 July 2007 - 12:21 AM

i always buddy up with my camera :D
so when i take pictures i always go solo
i dont take any pony bottles or spare airs or stuff like that
if i go by myself on the housereef i never go deeper than twentyfive meters and thats it> sometimes i go photodiving with my girlfriend but even then it ends up being a solodive> camera and buddysystems just dont mix>

if thet is a good thing or not? maybe not but i think most photographers handle it this way




#8 writepic


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Posted 29 July 2007 - 01:12 AM

good post.

i have to say i pretty much always dive solo as long as i know the site fairly well and know i can get out of the water safely when i surface. (like do i trust the boat staff that they won't go without me it's only happened to me once)

though i would echo the previos post that said you should stay within your own limits. good advice.

the most stressful dive ive ever been on is when a guide asked me to buddy with another photographer.....jeez what a pain in the ass that was. we were both trying to dive solo within the confines of looking after each other. it would've been a lot easier and less stressful if the guide had of told us we could both dive solo.

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#9 ATJ


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Posted 29 July 2007 - 01:40 AM

I used to regularly dive solo. All shore dives and all in an area I was very familiar. I would rarely go any deeper than 10 metres. The funny thing was that I went to the same spot with two buddies (neither of whom had any clue) and I was probably in much more danger with these two people than all the times I was on my own.

I always dived well within my limits and never took any risks.

#10 NWDiver



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Posted 29 July 2007 - 09:41 AM

Been solo diving for +20yrs, long before I got a camera. It has to be somthing that "makes sense" to you. I dive in part for the freedom to do what I want, when I want and not have to be concerned about someone else. Now I always dive with a 19cf pony, extra computer, etc... But I just assume Mother Nature is trying to kill me and dive accordingly.

#11 tdpriest


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Posted 29 July 2007 - 10:05 AM

A difficult one to admit to: you're probably invalidating your insurance if you dive solo...

... but I gear up with independent or manifolded twins deeper than 20ish meters, since I know that my focus, so to speak, is in the viewfinder, and my "buddy" doesn't exist if not in that small window.

If I stop for a shot, when I'm travelling on my own, I expect the other divers to disappear into the blue (or the green in the UK). If I can work with a "buddy" for some shots, then that's a real bonus. I warn the team about the siren song of the image in the viewfinder, and that I'm trying to be self-sufficient in the water. I guess that I adopt the mind-set of the solo diver, but don't set out to dive with complete independence.

I am more concerned about the way buddies work: the team needs to be well-matched and comfortable together, and a team of more than two divers is a recipe for one getting lost.

I'm working on turning my children into underwater models, so that I can avoid the temptations of going solo!

A buddy:


A "buddy":




#12 johnny boy

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Posted 29 July 2007 - 03:56 PM

Some of my best dives have been solo. Recently on a trip in the UK my buddy and I got seperated due to poor viz. As we knew each other well enough to carry on the dive I ended up solo. I was doing some video stuff when a lonely seal came into view. It was just the seal and me on our own. Brilliant!

#13 NWDiver



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Posted 29 July 2007 - 04:56 PM

Johnny Boy please don't take this as an attack. If you pre-arranged with your buddy that if you get separated that you would continue on as solo divers that’s great. Most arguments I have seen at dive sites are between buddies when their expectations are not one in the same. Nothing worse than losing a buddy, looking for the suggest period (based on your training agency) ,aborting the dive and surfacing to find them no where in sight. Even when everyone makes it back no problem this situation always seems to end in a heated exchange.

#14 acroporas


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Posted 29 July 2007 - 08:27 PM

Yea! one of my favorite topics. I believe that the concept of a "dive buddy" is one of the worst ideas ever. While having someone around to baby-sit new or infrequent divers is important and needed, having another inexperienced diver as a buddy does not help much. And why would an experienced diver want to PAY to go on a dive trip so that they can baby-sit some stranger.

Inexperienced divers should be accompanied by a divemaster who is trained to keep an eye and offer assistance and experienced divers should be permitted to go off on their own.

But what if the experienced diver gets into a bind? Sure it happens, but I would love to see statistics as to how often an experienced diver gets into trouble AND is successfully rescued by their buddy. I'd bet not very often. The kind of trouble that experienced divers get into, about all the buddy can do is bring back the corpse.

The only problem with this is that how do you decide who qualifies as "experienced."


And then comes the underwater photographer. The underwater photographer complicates things further. Even experienced divers are rarely an appropriate buddy for a photographer. Not many people are prepared/willing to dive at the pace of a photographer: swimming around looking for something interesting, and then parking there for 15 minutes. I find that nearly every time I start off with a buddy, they have abandoned me before I am finished with my first subject.

Since I stared diving with a dSLR, I almost always end up diving solo, even when I am diving with friends who are equally experienced. That said, I feel that my hole in my photography is that my photos very rarely include a model.

The ideal solution for photographers is to hire a guide to help search for subjects and double as a model. This kills two birds with one stone, I get what I want (both a model and someone to look for interesting critters) AND I get a buddy who won’t abandon me (which makes the lawyers happy on commercial dive boats).

Unfortunately I do not have the extra cash to hire a guide for every dive. So I am just careful to choose destinations / boats which will let me dive solo. If only I could convince my wife to learn to dive so that she could model for me.

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#15 nopro



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Posted 31 July 2007 - 12:12 AM

I do around 50 dives every year and half of them are solo dives. I only take pictures for fun so I'm not forced to dive in any situation. The basic rules I use are familiarity and comfort. I won't dive a questionable (difficult site) alone the first time I'm there. I have two pony bottles to choose from depending on depth and conditions (13 & 19). I don't use a pony if I'm staying above 50 to 70 ft. I practice pony accents occasionally so I know what to expect if something goes wrong at 100 ft. Remember your air consumption increases when something is wrong. If you don't feel safe in the specific situation you should skip the dive or have an experienced buddy with you. If in doubt don't, it's better to miss the shot that the next dive.

Edited by nopro, 31 July 2007 - 12:15 AM.

#16 Islandbound


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Posted 31 July 2007 - 12:32 AM

I go out on the average 4 dives a week or about 16 hours and only once every two weeks or so does someone ever go with me. Even then its usually just a ride along in the car with several people who then leave me once we get to our destination. Taking photographs is a lonely hobby to me but one in which I get absorbed in that keeping up with someone is time consuming. Most of the people I go out with are spearfishing for thier dinner and are usuall at the 70' end of the tether on their Riffe anyway.

I went out on a dive boat this past Saturday with 10 other divers who the divemaster buddied up initially but then left it at thier discretion if they would continue the day that way. For me, being tankless, he just shrugged his shoulders about matching me with anyone. None the less the boat anchored in 40' then 60' waters which for everyone else was probably great, for me it meant long long dives to get photos. I do wear a bright red hood and carry a water whistle for signaling though if I get separated. He did a good job watching me though and even signaled me from the boat when he spotted surfacing turtles and even a HUGE school of Bonita.

This was my dive buddy from the first anchorage!
Posted Image

Edited by Islandbound, 31 July 2007 - 12:36 AM.

#17 Paul Kay

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 01:18 AM

Any discussion about solo diving always raises blood pressure in my experience. If you look at the statistics (the last I looked at were from BSAC) you may well find that solo diving increases risk. That said, its your life, your decision, etc,. I personally prefer to dive with a buddy with whom I get on with very well (usually my wife) underwater, which has often led to the both of us getting good shots because the other has spotted something really interesting and shares the find. I think that Cousteau used to recommend the buddy system - mostly for reasons which haven't changed in half a century.

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#18 Cerianthus


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Posted 31 July 2007 - 02:10 AM

I dive with a double tank setup, but definitely need more practice... I had an out of air situation during the last trip. The dive center had closed the isolator, and my regulator is so d#^$mn good, that I only discovered that I was very low on air during the last few breaths.

I figured out what was wrong breathing of my buddies octopus, but then realised i could use my own.... normally I have the other stage hanging from my neck, but now the cord was broken so I didnt automatically reach for it.


The practice I need is in opening and closing my own valves....Needless to say I triple checked the valves after that dive....


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#19 Nemo


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Posted 31 July 2007 - 02:49 AM

Some of the most relaxing dives I have made have been solo, with or with out my camera. Not having to consider someone else and keep an eye for them frees you to fully immerse (parden the bun) yourself in the experience. I dive CCR with a good deal of redundancy and in 34 years of diving have never needed a buddy or needed to offer assistance to a buddy. It is all in the traning, the hours spent practicing, and in the respect for the enviroment you have put yourself in.
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#20 jonny shaw

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 04:52 AM

Of course, nothing feels better than having total freedom to go where you want to, have no responsibilty for anyone else, spend ages setting up the shot.... I love it.

The other side is the fact that you have to know the site, be confident and have sufficient redundancy

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