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Solo Diving in a Technical World

Solo Diving in a Technical World

Being a solo diver, whether diving alone or in a buddy pair, offers many benefits to both safety and recreation but does inherit a higher risk factor when applied in the wrong scenario.

dive-log

How Logging Your Dives Can Make You a Better Diver

Here are a few items you can include in your logbook to help you stay organized and honest, track progress, and work on self-improvement as a diver.

55 Things Divers Born After 1985 Won’t Understand

This article is the first of three that will address the differences in generations in the industry: Things divers born after 1985 will not understand. A presentation at DEMA titled Inside the Millennial Mind – How to connect with #Millennials to increase business, presented by Lauren Kieren (Millennial) and myself (old guy). Finally an article by Lauren titled, Things divers born before 1985 will never understand.

What Makes a Solo Diver?

Solo-Diver

Photo provided by: Bill Downey at Downey Diving

Diving and divers come in all different forms; some dive to see wrecks, others the deep walls and still others just for the marine life. Most dive to enjoy and share the experience with their family or favorite dive buddy(s), but there are those times when dives are better done alone.

Diving solo is not for everyone or for every situation. Divers who enjoy taking still photos or capturing the motion of underwater life on video will often prefer to be a solo diver, as it disturbs the environment less and allows them the time they need to capture the images. There are also those who like to solo dive for the safety aspect, such as those going spear fishing.

The final deciding factor for a solo diver is the diver’s own personal comfort level with the thought of solo diving. Besides the equipment and proper training, solo diving is a mindset. Divers who want to dive alone need to understand what they are about to do and accept the responsibility. A big part of a good solo dive plan is ensuring the diver is mentally prepared; this is a critical turning point in the dive or no-dive decision. Unlike divers who dive in the buddy system, there is no one there to provide an outside perspective or to use as a check and balance.

The solo diver is a well-trained, properly equipped and mentally prepared diver. He solo dives for a reason, creates a well-thought-out solo dive plan, and gives that plan to someone on shore. He has also done a risk benefit analysis and decided that the dive is worth the risks normally associated with solo diving.

To learn more about solo diving visit us at https://www.tdisdi.com/sdi/get-certified/Solo-Diver-Course/

Contact SDI TDI and ERDI

If you would like more information, please contact:

Tel: 888.778.9073 | 207.729.4201
Email: Worldhq@tdisdi.com
Web: https://www.tdisdi.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SDITDI

Solo Diving Manual

The Evolution of Solo Diving

An Interview With Brian Carney

EvolutionThere has been quite some buzz, on and off, about the concept of having a Solo Diving course available to divers. In 2001, Scuba Diving International (SDI) led the way on this initiative and produced training course materials that stress independent diver skills and its practice, becoming the first and only agency to offer a Solo Diving course in over a decade.

We found this interview from way back in 2001 when Brian Carney was still the Training Manager for TDI and its newly formed sister agency, Scuba Diving International (SDI). The focus of the interview was on the newly created certification called “Solo Diving.”

Why is SDI offering a Solo Diver C-card? Aren’t you a little ahead of the curve on this one?
Carney: Maybe, but it is not an unfamiliar position to be in. We were the first to certify 10-year-olds and require open-water students to have computers. But our instructors think we’re a little behind the curve.

How So?
Carney: They have been asking for it for some time. Since most of our instructors are also TDI instructors, they deal with experienced divers who want to walk on a boat, show a Solo Diver certification and not be bound to another diver they don’t know and who may be a danger to them.

Speaking of danger, you’re going to get accused of getting people killed, ruining the sport’s popular image, and returning us to the bad old days of macho daredevils. How will you respond?
Carney: By saying that there are pros and cons to buddy diving and to solo diving. The key is to be rigorously trained, confident and experienced, whether it’s the buddy system or as an independent diver. Properly trained and executed, both systems can be safe. Our main concern is that there are literally thousands of divers going solo right now who lack the requisite training to do it safely. They’re accidents waiting to happen. If they’re going to do it, we want to make sure they do it safely. We think it’s time some agency stepped up to the plate and made a commitment for everyone’s sake.

This sounds familiar. I remember some concern about nitrox.
Carney: And deep diving, and dive computers before that, and BCD before that. It’s been a constant theme: certification agencies resist change, fail to provide updated training and divers pay the price. That’s one of the reasons SDI/TDI was founded; to provide the training other agencies refuse to.

Now, 11 years later, we asked Brian to give us his input about Solo Diver and what he has seen it do to the sport of diving.
Carney: Wow, thinking back to the day we launched that program, Sean (Sean Harrison, VP) and I had no idea just how big it would become. Today it is one of the more popular specialties divers strive to achieve, like becoming a Dive Master. But I think the thing that is most gratifying is now divers are taking advantage of a course to properly train them how to solo dive, as opposed to just doing it on their own. In addition, dive operators around the world are accepting and requiring the Solo Diver certification in order for divers to dive on their own.

So what are YOU waiting for? Get on over to a local Dive Center today or contact WorldHQ for more information. Take a look at the course description here: https://www.tdisdi.com/sdi/get-certified/Solo-Diver-Course

Look for new developments in Solo Diving planned for 2013…you’re going to love it!

Contact SDI TDI and ERDI

If you would like more information, please contact:

Tel: 888.778.9073 | 207.729.4201
Email: Worldhq@tdisdi.com
Web: https://www.tdisdi.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SDITDI

Far from Alone: You Have Tether, etc…

Far-From-AloneEvery diver is taught from the beginning of training that the buddy system is the most reliable way to get you out of a bad situation and, for the most part, this works very well. Public safety divers don’t always have this choice but they are not really solo diving either.

Public safety divers are frequently called to dive in some of the worst conditions. Often times public safety dives are zero visibility, where even if the divers had a dive buddy in the water with them it would not help. On the other hand, public safety divers probably have some of the best redundancy built into their dive plan if the team is structured and equipped properly. The structure of the team should be such that they have one diver in the water with a designated tender on land and a second diver, often referred to as a back-up or 90% diver, also with a designated tender.

The diver’s equipment includes a lot of the same items a solo diver might use: redundant air supply, back-up cutting devices, back-up mask, etc, but one item really sets them apart: the tender line. This line is a direct link to someone on the surface who can render assistance right away. Sometimes this communication takes place with a series of line tugs and other times it is verbal communication. While this may sound like a minor difference, it is major. Nowhere in solo dive planning is there a check box for back-up divers or tenders.

So next time you get ready for a dive and you are thinking it is a solo dive, remember this, if your team is trained, equipped and structured properly, you may be in the water alone, but you are far from it. Before any dive, a risk-benefit analysis must be completed and only on very, very rare occasions is it acceptable to get into the water before the entire team has arrived on scene and is ready.

For more information on ERDI training, check us out at https://www.tdisdi.com/erdi/

Contact SDI TDI and ERDI

If you would like more information about SDI/TDI/ERDI, please contact:

ERDI
Tel: 888.778.9073 | 207.729.4201
Email: Worldhq@tdisdi.com
Web: https://www.tdisdi.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/PublicSafetyDiving

Self Sufficient: “Taking Care of Number One”

Self-SufficientRecently in a discussion about solo diving and how it fits or doesn’t fit into recreational diving, a colleague mentioned that public safety divers were far removed from solo diving, given that PSD divers have the support of a team, a backup diver, communications and a whole host of support systems. Well, that is a fair statement. However, that is not to say that divers should not have to worry about self-sufficiency.

While ERDI divers depend on tethers, communications either via hard-wire or wireless, and even possibly surface supplied air, developing self sufficient skills is an enormous additional tool that can be available to the public safety diver. Let’s take a quick look at some of the various components that add up to increasing self sufficient skills.

  • Redundant Air. We’ll start with one of the most obvious pieces of equipment and that is a bailout bottle or pony bottle. Any dive team SOP should include this as a mandatory item for any diver that enters the water. Regardless of depth…3 feet/1 meter or 33 feet/10 meters, a properly mounted and easily available redundant air source must be on the diver. Certainly how this is deployed is dependent on your team’s protocols and training. This would also include surface supply air utilizing a switch block.
  • Equipment. This surely is a consideration and a topic that could easily go on for several pages. It is worth briefly mentioning that in addition to a redundant air source of at least 18 cf/3 liters, deploying with two cutting devices that are mounted in appropriate places should be part of your dive kit. What is an appropriate place? A knife/rescue shears/line cutter should be within arm’s reach. Leave the “twelve inch shark killer” in the dive locker, and not on the outside of your leg. If you are using brighter and more powerful primary lights, deploy with a smaller, easily mounted backup light. Like a cutting device, it should be within arm’s reach.
  • Awareness. Insure that your situational awareness skills are good and pay attention. Of course at times, it will be impossible to ever see your SPG; still, you can get a sense of where you are in terms of remaining air by knowing the depth of the operation and an estimate of the time at depth. Now, I realize this is a very broad statement, and at times, impossible to know. However with training and practice, it can become an acquired skill. If the diver is using electronic communication with their tender, then it becomes much easier to havethe tender monitor both depth (with knowledge of the dive site) and time.
  • SAC Rate. Both the diver and the tender should become proficient at calculating the diver’s surface air consumption rate. While I won’t go into the actual methods to calculate this as there are plenty of resources available to do so, learning how to calculate your SAC rate will not only give yet another tool, it will also go a long way in boosting your air consumption “awareness”. Knowing how we, as divers, consume air gives a greater understanding and appreciation of the dive plan needed for a given mission at a given location.
  • Training. There is no substitution for a well-oiled machine…a well-trained team…to keep everyone safe so that everyone gets to go home. Training for and in the conditions your team will encounter is necessary to insure favorable outcomes, whether the dive is rescue or recovery. Repeated actions, realistic scenarios and post critiques of previous operations provide the foundation of training. And oft-repeated actions lead to muscle memory which is part of being self sufficient.
  • State of Mind. Without a doubt, your state of mind plays a big role in self-sufficiency. You can have the tools i.e. redundant air source/spare mask/multiple cutting devices and a secret decoder ring, it won’t make a difference if your head is in the wrong place. Focus on the job at hand, rely on your training and be the professional that you are. If you aren’t focused, perhaps it is not your day to dive.

For more information on ERDI training, check us out at https://www.tdisdi.com/erdi/

Contact SDI TDI and ERDI

If you would like more information about SDI/TDI/ERDI, please contact:

ERDI
Tel: 888.778.9073 | 207.729.4201
Email: Worldhq@tdisdi.com
Web: https://www.tdisdi.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/PublicSafetyDiving

The Self-Reliant Diver

Self-Reliant

Photo by Juergen Hitzler

Many years ago, Scuba Diving International (SDI) released a solo diver course which remains today a very popular course. Creating this course was not a big stretch given our background as a technical agency. The name of the course was also pretty easy: diving by yourself had always been called ‘solo diving.’ The course was designed to fulfill two needs: teach divers the proper techniques and skills to dive alone, and strengthen the buddy system so one diver was not a dependent diver.

In technical training the self-reliant diver techniques and skills are taught and these fit in well when you have a dive buddy. These techniques and skills teach a diver who is diving with one or more buddies how to address and take care of their own needs, and in the worst case scenario, go to their buddy for assistance. During the dive planning stage, this is discussed and agreed upon by all divers in the team. Another big difference is the equipment used. Self-reliant divers generally dive with standard equipment in a standard configuration.

Solo divers are trained completely different. Solo dive planning begins with bringing the proper equipment for solo dives, which is different than the equipment used when diving in a buddy system. Solo divers also do not rely on another diver to be there should something go wrong; they bring redundant equipment and have a ‘Plan B’ that will allow them to get out of the situation. The foundation of a good solo diver is that they know their personal limitations. There are times and situations where there are benefits of diving alone; these include: photographers, videographers, spear fishing, etc.

A good self-reliant diver makes an excellent dive buddy and a very competent diver. By taking the SDI Solo Diver course, a diver can accomplish both levels with one course, they can learn the skills needed to be self-reliant and should the occasion arise, they can perform a solo dive.

For more information on the SDI Solo Diver course check us out at https://www.tdisdi.com/sdi/get-certified/Solo-Diver-Course/

Contact SDI TDI and ERDI

If you would like more information, please contact:

Tel: 888.778.9073 | 207.729.4201
Email: Worldhq@tdisdi.com
Web: https://www.tdisdi.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TechnicalDivingInt

Risk Management for Solo Divers

risk-managementDiving is risky. How risky depends on a whole laundry list of factors, but let’s agree that there are more risks involved with diving than, say, sitting in your basement watching curling on TV. Now using the same logic, we can probably press home the point that Solo Diving carries an additional level of risk over and above the “run of the mill” stuff associated with regular diving. There are a few subtle points of contention in that last statement that we will get to in a few paragraphs: let’s simply agree that solo diving carries a few risks that are unique to… well… diving solo. Fact is that there are a whole lot of people who will give anyone admitting that they dive alone or who are even thinking about diving alone the sage advice that they are crazy. “You are risking certain death, because solo diving is nuts,” is the usual line.

A while ago, a brand-new training agency – called Scuba Diving International (SDI) – took the old-school recreational diving market by the scruff of its neck and gave it a good shake. They did so by launching a unique specialty course called Solo Diver, a program that taught recreational sport divers what tools and techniques would help them stay safe when diving on their own. This was something no other agency had dared do before.

The logic behind the launch was that as risky as solo diving might be, divers were doing it anyway – many unaware they were effectively diving alone. At least with a structured and sanctioned training program in place, people could at approach solo diving with the right mindset and equipment to do it with the proper controls in place.

When the folks at a training agency come up with a brand new idea like: “Hey, let’s teach people to dive solo,” taking that concept from a doodle on the back of a paper napkin to a full-blown program with instructor guides, student materials, and standards underwritten by a reputable insurance company, involves a great number of steps that follow a well-defined pathway.

The first step is to define what it is you intend to teach. For the top brass at SDI, solo diving was defined as self-sufficient diving. It might be someone diving alone in the water with nobody else around. But it could also be defined as someone diving with a buddy who is way less experienced and upon whom they would rather not rely in the case of an emergency. It might also be someone who dives with other folks in the water, but who is doing “their own thing,” which is a diplomatic way to describe the buddy skills of most underwater photographers! It may also describe a travelling diver who finds himself on a dive boat coupled with an “Insta-buddy” whose experience, abilities and dive habits are a total mystery. And it fully describes every instructor who takes students into the water in a class setting. In an emergency, that instructor MUST be capable of “self-rescue,” because it would be unfair and perhaps unrealistic to rely on a student to help.

Having defined what solo diving is, the next steps are to understand and define just how risky each of those situations is, and if those risks are manageable. In essence, with its solo diver program, this involved SDI’s training advisory panel is looking really closely at that blanket statement that “You are risking certain death, because solo diving is nuts…” to see if it is indeed true or simply blinkered thinking.

In the world of diving, risk management always begins with a risk identification stage: what risks does the activity – in this case solo diving – carry with it and what are the potential outcomes of these risks? The next stage is to assess each of the identified risks on a scale that stretches from Very Likely to Extremely Unlikely. And the third stage is to come up with a tactical plan that avoids or mitigates ALL the very likely and likely risks, as well as dealing comfortably with the risks that have only a small chance of happening.

Perhaps the most commonly cited “additional” risk associated with solo diving is running out of something to breathe. To the classically trained old-school open-water dive instructor – and graduates from his courses – flipping your buddy the OOA sign and breathing from one of his regulators is the tried and true solution in this scenario. Obviously if you are diving without a buddy, there is nobody with whom to share gas. Clearly, that presents a challenge.

To someone with a background in technical diving, and the folks who started SDI certainly had that since they were all experienced technical diving instructors, the concept of running out of gas and relying on a buddy to get you back to the surface, is careless at best. For example, what if your buddy isn’t around; what if her gas supply too is down to seeds and stems; what if you really should do a safety stop and your buddy isn’t in the mood to hang around at six metres for a few minutes before surfacing?

A far most constructive and robust solution is to NOT run out of air, and this can easily be accomplished by using a real gas management plan.

Properly trained solo divers knows their personal gas consumption rates. They know how many litres of cubic feet of gas they have at the start of their dive and they budget their time and depth, not just on the time that their PDC (personal dive computer) will allow them before decompression, but more importantly the time and depth that their STARTING GAS VOLUME will allow them while keeping a sensible amount back for contingencies. There is nothing difficult or revolutionary about teaching proper gas management to sport divers; however, it is often neglected. For a solo diver it is a required and an important skill to master if one wishes to dive with any margin of safety.

There is of course, another side to the running out of gas scenario: equipment failure. While the practice is common among sport divers, diving with a single regulator first stage, and therefore no redundancy should that piece of kit decide to go on vacation while at depth, is extremely risky. Once again, the “normal” solution is to rely on your buddy to help. For someone committed to self-sufficiency and diving alone, the better solution is to carry a back-up. A properly equipped solo diver carries a small volume cylinder of gas fitted with a regulator and SPG. In the parlance of technical diving, this extra cylinder is often called a stage bottle, but in the language of solo divers, it becomes a buddy bottle. Effectively, it supplies enough gas to get the diver from his maximum depth back to the surface at the prescribed ascent rate, including a safety stop, with a margin of contingency gas… just in case.

Another risk that is presented by those who pooh-pooh the idea of diving without a buddy is getting lost or entangled. The thinking is that with a buddy in tow, he will offer assistance. He will help if you are confused about the location of the exit, lose your mask, or are attacked by a strand of kelp or discarded fishing line. Once again, this shifts an awful lot of responsibility for one’s own well-being off your own shoulders and into someone else’s. There is another way.

SDI solo divers are taught to carry and use a delayed surface marker buoy and a spool or reel so that it can be deployed from depth. This effectively becomes the diver’s personal ascent line and alleviates one issue. Carrying and being able to deploy a back-up mask deals with another. Entanglement is a more sticky issue. Solo divers are taught to avoid areas where entanglement is a real threat, but just in case carry more than one cutting device (and train how to extricate themselves from an entanglement using one of those tools and or common sense). In all three of these issues, one of the key guidelines is to avoid panic. Stop, think, act are the watchwords and are perhaps more valid for a solo diver than for any other.

The ability to control panic when things go pear-shaped at depth is a function in part of experience, and SDI’s take on the prerequisites for diving solo are for the diver to have logged at least 100 dives. The agency believes that although logging that many dives offers no guarantees, it’s a workable benchmark.

There is one other risk that’s quoted as unique for those without a buddy to keep them in check. When diving alone, it is possible to drift beyond one’s comfort zone and into the land of panic. A buddy, in the best-case scenario, provides a sober second opinion and will help prevent you from pushing beyond the limits of your training and experience.

Once again, well-trained solo divers follow a personal dive plan that takes this “shortcoming” into account. They are taught to draw up a plan that outlines goals, waypoints, contingencies and LIMITS. Those limits include ones that take into account the limitations of their equipment, their training and their experience. They are also trained to “self-assess” their personal stress levels before a dive and to call off any dive that seems too much for them on that particular day. One of the responsibilities accepted by solo divers is to plan all their solo dives well within those limits.

Solo divers are also encouraged to share and discuss their dive plans with a friend or family member BEFORE putting the plan into action and going for a dive.

Finally, there are some risks that simply have to be accepted. For example, having a medical emergency underwater while diving alone has a very small chance of happening, but the magnitude of the potential outcome is the most serious possible. A good risk management plan will have some suggestion to mitigate that risk, but it is one of that specific risk – maintain a healthy lifestyle and work to stay fit – but that can never be totally avoided. If that is unacceptable, never dive alone.

When SDI brought Solo Diving from behind the curtain and began to teach regular divers how to do it, the agency believed that self-sufficiency begins with good training and part of that training is realistic and detailed risk analysis. In doing so, they have helped to produce a cadre of better divers, and ironically, a lot of really good potential dive buddies!

Click here to learn more about SDI’s Solo Diver Course.

To find out more about solo diving, contact your local SDI facility today.

Contact SDI TDI and ERDI

If you would like more information, please contact:

Tel: 888.778.9073 | 207.729.4201
Email: Worldhq@tdisdi.com
Web: https://www.tdisdi.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SDITDI

Solo Diving – Coming Out of the Closet


by Mark Powell

Have you ever ended up separated from your buddy or dived with a buddy who’s not really paying much attention to you? Are you an instructor who takes students on their first dives?

At some point all divers have been, or will be, diving solo – whether they intend to or not.

This presentation by leading technical diving instructor Mark Powell challenges the common misconceptions around solo diving and provides useful, informative tips on how to stay safe and get the most out of your diving.

A must watch for all divers, recreational and technical alike.

Filmed at the London International Dive Show (LIDS) in April 2012.

Contact SDI TDI and ERDI

If you would like more information, please contact:

Tel: 888.778.9073 | 207.729.4201
Email: Worldhq@tdisdi.com
Web: https://www.tdisdi.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SDITDI