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Scuba Diving "Solo"...
Should the scuba industry sanction solo diving? If so, should there be specialty certification and card? Have you ever personally been solo diving?
"Solo" diving - Humm... We have solo pilots, why not solo divers? Solo diving certainly has a bad connotation most of the time and certainly is strongly discouraged for those that are below the Master Diver rating. On the other hand, training divers to be self reliant and proficient at problem avoidance, recognition, and solution are cornerstones of a good quality Master Diver course.
What's the purpose of the Buddy System? The Buddy system's purpose is two-fold: to enhance enjoyment and to increase safety. Viewed in this perspective, one could argue (if one had a sense of humor) that once a student was trained in solo diving, he/she was then ready to move up to buddy diving. But in a more serious vein, I believe that there are situations when solo diving is indicated.
Consider this scenario; Buddy #1 is a Master Diver with 250 hours of bottom time and is an accomplished, well trained, well informed, all around good diver. Buddy #2 is a recently certified Basic Scuba Diver with less than 10 hours of bottom time and is still a bit apprehensive before the dive. It is my opinion that, Buddy #2 has a buddy, and Buddy #1 is solo diving! Given most emergency situations, the less experienced diver will nearly always look to the more experienced diver for help and the less experienced diver is more likely to have a problem to begin with.
Scientific and working divers, including resort divemasters who must check an anchor set, may find that the task does not warrant a dive buddy. Emergency situations often require solo diving that deviate from routine practices. Now, the aforementioned, certainly step outside of the normal every day sport diver as does not apply to most divers.
Ok, then lets talk about most divers. "My dive buddy couldn't go with me, and I just had to get wet, so I went alone." "My buddy was low on air, so I stayed down for an extra 10 minutes." And then there's your A-typical Cowboy; "Ah hell, I've been diving for 10 years (Basic Scuba Diver certified) and I don't need a buddy, besides, buddy's just scare off the fish I NEED to kill! Do these types of dives happen? Of course they do. Should NAUI offer a specialty course for these divers and situations? Humm...
Teaching the buddy system teaches dependence. Dependence on someone else. A subconscious reasoning that self proficiency is not required because their buddy will bail them out. Well, consider this, both buddy's are relying on the other to "bail them out". Just imagine how students might perform if they had to make one solo dive towards the end of their Basic training. The need for navigation, air consumption, independent emergency procedures would take on a whole new meaning.
A Solo Scuba Diver course would have many benefits, including: Defining the skills and conditions necessary for solo diving, legitimize solo diving for those with the experience and training to do it safely, show the novice diver there are skill to master before contemplating solo diving, help remove the false sense of security accompanying buddy diving, reinforce that it is desirable to have the skills of a completely independent diver, emphasize self rescue and self evaluation, and the best benefit of all, it would make buddy diving safer.
Dive safe, dive often,
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