Well, the question of solo diving certainly seems to have touched an exposed nerve! So many additional responses were received that it was necessary to devote this issue's Members Forum column again to the concept of a solo diving specialty certification in order to print the comments of our membership.
It is obvious that the issue addresses one of the long held and basic tenets of sport diving. It should come as no surprise the majority of the membership finds the idea has little merit--after all, this is the way we all were initially trained (remember the law of primacy). What is surprising, however, is that a significant portion of the membership believes that there is nothing wrong with solo diving, and that many feel that a course in solo diving would be in keeping with our association's mission of providing safety through education.
The percentage of respondents' beliefs were about the same as in the last issue, with two-thirds opposed to sanctioning of solo diving, and one-third in favor. However, even in the arguments raised by those opposed to the concept there was tacit acknowledgement that the activity occurs. In many cases, the authors stated they they dive alone, but that it too dangerous to condone for others.
Those in favor of the concept compare solo diving to other activities perceived as hazardous. Flying an airplane was the most common analogy used. "Since pilots are licensed to fly alone, why can't we dive alone?" The secondary arguments included "solo diving would increase self-reliance," "solo diving will increase safety by instilling stronger self-rescue skills," or "NAUI could incur liability by not teaching solo diving skills."
All of the arguments, on both sides of the question, have merit. But this is an emotional issue. Put aside any personal beliefs on the issue and think calmly for a moment. Ask yourself the following questions: "Why is it acceptable for me to dive alone, but not acceptable for others?" "Why can't we instill stronger self-rescue and self-reliance skills without sanctioning solo diving?"
Periodically we must all sit back and question our own beliefs rationally. Sport diving has changed from the early days when we were first learning collectively to pursue it safely, and it continues to change. Sometimes the reasons for the way things were done before no longer exist, or equipment and/or techniques have been developed to mitigate prior problems. As instructors, we set the standards under which diving training, and ultimately post-training activities are conducted. It behooves us to keep that in mind, and not blindly follow dictums which have been handed down to us from our predecessors. I urge you to consider your beliefs on various topics and practices, not just the question of solo diving, as it is through such reflection that we will find our way into the future of sport diving.
QUESTION: "Should NAUI sanction solo diving, perhaps by offering a solo diving specialty certification? Why/why not? Do you personally solo dive?"
A. I certainly appreciate that there is probably a fair amount of successful solo diving being conducted. However, there have been too many documented cases of a diver's life having been saved only by the presence of his/her dive buddy. For reasons of safety, NAUI just cannot back away from the buddy diving concept.
--Jim Corry, NAUI 7184L; Washington, D.C. (Has taught all levels to ITCs both privately and at UCLA. Currently serves as Chairman of the Diving and Water Rescue Committee of the National Association for Search and Rescue. Has authored many articles about diving safety.)
A. Yes! The idea of a Self Sufficient Diver Specialty course is over due.
Here's why: It would put more focus on self rescue skills. The ability to solve problems underwater, independent of a buddy is an important skill. Most instructors, when they teach, dive alone. This is possible to do safely because of the self rescue skills experienced divers develop and take for granted. Teaching people to dive alone would give these skills the importance they deserve.
How many times has the following happened to you? A lone diver surfaces and starts waving his arms. When you reach him he has nothing in his mouth, thinks he is drowning, is too tired to get back to the boat, and says something about losing his buddy. I rescue guys like that about twenty times a year. These divers have buddies, but have poor self rescue skills.
I think a prerequisite to certification should be one hundred logged dives. This sounds like a lot, but really is not. If somebody is only doing ten to twenty dives a year they are not getting enough water time to maintain advanced skills. It is also unlikely that these people need to dive alone. Many of the people I work with dive alone, but most of the dive a couple of times a week. They are using their skills (thus maintaining them) almost daily.
I think Self Sufficient Diver training should start early, perhaps as early as Openwater I. But certification as a specialty should not take place until the diver is active enough to merit it.
--Paul McCallum, NAUI 9194; Los Angeles, CA (Instructor and underwater photographer.)
A. NO!!! Even though our sport has had limited research, the little we have done clearly shows that it is not a good idea. We also know that when divers get separated they can also get into trouble, and they may not survive.
Most divers will try, or read about and then try, new techniques that are promoted by the agencies. Some divers have been known to night dive or deep dive without proper training, therefor it is only natural to assume that they would then try to solo dive without training, because "It is all right with NAUI."
It would prove interesting to watch our organization leaders explain to governments, NAUI members, and the general public the resulting jump in diving fatalities if solo diving is condoned. Pure solo diving would be very difficult to control given a mixed group of divers trained and untrained for solo diving. It would not be long before they would all be diving solo.
I could see the downfall of a well established safety practice, and the demise of our prestige. In the past we have lead by sound leadership in the raising of standards which in turn has inspired others to raise their standards. Hopefully we will not follow the road to destruction by abandoning the practice of buddy diving.
--D.P. Miles, NAUI 4687; Trenton, Ontario, Canada (Has taught all levels from skin diving to ITCs including many specialties, with an emphasis in dive rescue and leadership programs. Has served in many volunteer board positions, including being a current member on the Ontario Underwater Council Board of Directors. Recipient of the NAUI Canada Silver Pin and NAUI Special Recognition Awards.)
A. I would recommend every NAUI Instructor read the NAUI Credo; 3.1 #13 in the Standards and Procedures Manual; and the April 1989 Skindiver magazine editorial by Bill Gleason on "Do our heroes grow up to be cowboys?" Once read, think of this; if we do not condone non-buddy diving now and if someone gets hurt while diving alone later...they can not sue us afterwards.
--Clarke E. Skinner, NAUI 6858L; Valencia, CA (Instructor for Sport Chalet, Instructor Trainer)
A. Ever since I took my first basic course, I was told that one should never dive alone because of the multitude of things that could go wrong. Throughout this course, we always relied on the fact that our buddy was close enough that they could lend assistance if needed. In fact, to insure that our buddies were nearby, we would always be checking to see that each of us were in view and that if we were not, then there was an agreed upon procedure that would reunite us. We were so hung up with buddy diving that we almost forgot why we went diving in the first place. I wondered, is this what diving is all about?
As professional instructors we tend to get so caught up in the safety issues that we forget how to teach diving so that people can enjoy the underwater world. Many times people will enter the water with their buddy and start the dive together only to find that the activity that they want to do, such as spear fishing, photography, lobstering, or exploring is not conducive to diving with a buddy.
Numerous times I began dives with a buddy in sight and nearby, only to lose them shortly afterward because they were behind a rock, in deeper or shallower water, taking a picture, or chasing a fish. In all these times, both I and my buddies enjoyed the dive with no problems even though we had been solo diving for a few minutes. During those times one thought our instructor taught us was always in mind, "Always dive with a buddy." With some divers this creates a certain level of anxiety which may result in panicking. Divers should be taught to think about how to safely enjoy the dive without worrying about themselves or their buddies.
From a legal point of view where negligence is a concern, we would be liable for not teaching self-sufficiency more than if we did teach self-sufficient diving. We should concentrate more on individual safety as opposed to safety only with a buddy. In this case, we have an obligation to our students to insure that they have the skills and knowledge required to take the appropriate action needed to get them out of difficult situations.
Creating stringent prerequisites and offering a specialty course for exceptionally qualified divers would only serve as a deterrent to someone who wants to feel more comfortable in the water and become better skilled in self-sufficient, self-rescue techniques. There are no standards as such that would prevent people from doing whatever they feel is comfortable. If we feel that a specialty course is needed, we should make sure that any prerequisites established can in fact be validated, and would not turn away divers who wish to continue their diving education as well as improve their skills.
Flying a plane requires individuals to take many safety precautions. Before people are licensed, they must complete a solo flight. When taking flying lessons, you are taught to make safety checks before the plane leaves the ground (pre-flight check), and how to take appropriate actions if some malfunction should occur. Divers should also do pre-dive checks and be taught how to take appropriate action to get themselves to a safe environment. As professional scuba instructors, we may be able to learn from flight instructors as well as the flight training industry.
We should spend equal time in open water courses discussing and emphasizing safe self-sufficient solo diving as well as buddy diving. As divers progress through certification levels, more training on solo diving should follow. Some specialty courses should also include solo diving skills (photography, hunting and collecting), while others may require a buddy for safety purposes (wreck and ice diving).
Let's get our heads out of the beach sand and recognize the fact that individual safety is of primary importance, and it is the individual that needs the skills and knowledge to become self-sufficient so that they can truly enjoy a safe diving experience. As NAUI Instructors and recognized leaders in the industry, we should take more of a leadership role in recognizing that training for solo self-sufficient diving is indeed keeping with our purpose of "Safety Through Education." Throughout the years we have all talked about solo diving--now it is time to act.
--Francis Linnehan, NAUI 4464; Chelmsford, MA (President of Down Under Diving Ventures, Inc. Has taught all levels of diving to ITC staff experience. Has taught in many areas of the country, including North Atlantic, North Pacific, and California coasts.)
A. When we take students to the local quarry for their first open water experience, I become very conscious of following all of the instructions that the students are given. This includes the buddy system. As leaders, we should never forget the law of primacy--students are always observing us for clues. For example, when placing a float and ascent line, I always request another assistant accompany me, or I tow the float out with the first group of students and instructors. This way, I am never seen diving alone, although technically I do not have a buddy in the latter case.
This example highlights a point I wish to make. When I escort a group of students, everyone is my buddy, and yet no one is really my buddy. Students can feel comfortable in the knowledge that we, as leadership divers with rescue training, are well prepared to help them should the need occur; yet they are not as prepared to help if we run into difficulty. The point is not that they are insufficiently trained, but that they are still in the learning process. Essentially, we must assume that we are diving solo under these circumstances.
When I dive for sport, I always dive with a clearly defined partner--I believe in the buddy system. Unfortunately the matter turns from a black and white to gray during certification dives. Students are preoccupied with their own interests, my problems are secondary to them. In fact, we teach them a priority structure: 1) Themselves, 2) Their buddy, and 3) Other divers. To students or other leaders, I fall into the third category. For that reason, I slow down and take a few extra seconds to double check my own gear, and mentally review self-rescue techniques. I also now wear a pony bottle on every dive, and two knives if entanglement is a potential risk.
Regardless of what happens with the solo diving issue, those of us in the instructional ranks should consider our unique position in the buddy diving system. Even if solo diving is not offered as a certification for normal sport diving, it might be a valid addition to the leadership level curriculums for the reasons described above.
--Edward Kabak, NAUI Z8391; Royersford, PA (Assistant Instructor teaching at Penn State University and with private instructors.)
A. Absolutely not. The liability and insurance problems would be enormous. NAUI must continue to strongly emphasize that the "buddy" is the sport diver's prime safety asset. We must not abandon our motto of "Safety Through Education," by adopting a less safe fashion of diving than presently advocated. Momentary solo descents by instructors or divemasters are outside the realm of recreational/sport diving, and are to be considered, contextually, professional diving. Students will not emulate this solo diving if it is emphasized that your conduct is that of a working professional (albeit you may be having fun).
--Steve Broussard, NAUI 7147; Chicago, IL (Scuba Instructor at Chicago State University, and has taught introductory through advanced and specialty courses. A practicing attorney, he has lectured at ITCs and Branch workshops on legal aspects of underwater instruction.)
A. While the idea and practice of solo diving is neither new nor novel, I feel that sanctioning the activity would raise problems. I am no stranger to solo diving. Each time I enter the water with four ESEs, not only do I lack a buddy but also have four liabilities. But having an instructor or commercial diver with extensive diving experience (generally more than the proposed 100 dives) dive alone is different from telling John and Maybelle from Lookback, Kansas that they are now free to dive solo on their next trip to the Great Lakes.
I have confidence that if NAUI decided to institue this course they could do it safely and effectively. The real problem is in its interpretation. For years we have been telling divers it is nearly a crime punishable by death to dive alone. Now we "go back on our word," and with what good reason? So all of us who are already diving alone still can?
Additionally, my insurance company would have a collective stroke if I made a practice of renting gear to solo divers. In fact, on my Waiver and Rental Agreement it is mentioned that thou shalt not dive alone. Someone should investigate the insurance problem before taking any actions.
And industry standards would be affected. How would it look to the other agencies and how would they manipulate it politically were a solo diving specialty to become reality? Would they say "NAUI is not promoting safe diving practices?" Politically it is very volatile.
If this course is initiated, it should be restricted to leadership level people and certain limited numbers of commercial divers, professional photographers, and other diving professionals. (Another nightmare--how professional is "professional?") A mandatory spare air requirement would also be necessary. Alternatively, we might include safe solo diving practices within courses designated for professional divers, but it would be important to emphasize that it is not permissible for the lay public to solo dive just because a few divers are successfully getting away with breaking safe diving standards.
--Leslie Sternberg, NAUI 6092; Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii (Instructor for Dive Maui, Inc. Has taught all levels of diving from introductory courses to ITC staff experience.)
A. Solo diving violates one of the basic premises of sport scuba diving: "Always dive with a buddy." In offering a solo diving certification a concern regarding increased liability arises. With the exception of leadership courses, NAUI sanctions sport scuba diving. Solo diving is a professional diving activity.
One of an instructor's responsibilities is to motivate a student to develop safe diving practices. Incorporating a sport solo diving certification decreases the safety factors built into sport diving. Buddy diving offers much more than assistance in emergency situations. Two or more sport divers can assist each other through all phases of a diving activity, from pre-dive planning to exiting the water for the mutual benefit of each diver. Beyond safety considerations, solo diving takes away from the camaraderie two people can gain by sharing similar experiences. This serves to reduce the level of enjoyment of scuba diving as a recreational activity.
Sport divers dive for recreational pleasure and solo diving should not be available for sport divers. Professional divers dive for different reasons, enjoyment is not the sole motivating factor. This distinction between sport and professional diving is important. To ignore the fact that sport divers solo dive is ignorant--it happens. But for the safety of sport divers this activity should not be sanctioned and a solo diving certification should not be offered. Experienced professionals do not desire and do not need additional certification at this level, so it also is not necessary for that group of divers.
‑‑Shawn David Powell, NAUI 8725; Casper, Wyoming (Has taught diving at the University of Oklahoma, taught courses from Openwater I to assisting with ITCs. Presented papers at ICUE '86 and '87, and also published in other journals.)
A. Over the past years, a lot of the diving fatalities I have seen involved divers scuba diving alone. Their common activity was spearfishing. Topside they had dive buddies, but once the hunt began each person was on their own. The victims' bodies were either found a day or two later, or not at all. The main loss of time searching for them was simply the lack of a definitive location where the victim was diving. I am sure had the buddy system been enforced throughout the dive these incidents would have been prevented or at least the intensity would not have been as bad.
In the openwater diver courses, self rescue exercises are already initiated from mask clearing to equipment handling and from dive planning to emergency swimming ascents. A back-up system, the "buddy system," teaches the divers to be responsible for looking after each others' safety. This portion of the training should not be taken for granted by the instructor, assistants, or students because of its importance in the future. Legalizing solo diving would just produce and induce more overconfident divers to dive alone, thereby giving rescue teams more work to do, waste taxpayers' money, and giving the sport a bad reputation.
--Carlos N. Santos-Viola, NAUI 5687L; San Francisco, CA (Former Training Director and General Manager of Aquaventure Phils, Inc. Has taught all levels to ITCs. Former Safety Chairman for the Amphibians Scuba Club.)
A. Solo diving is the antithesis of the buddy system. If you could define the buddy system, you would immediately discover that everyone violates it. Since we are all violating it, then we must be solo diving. And if we are all solo diving, then there can not be much wrong with it. The fact is, there is not anything wrong with it, and we do not need a certificate to prove it.
The buddy system originated in swimming pools. NEVER SWIM ALONE! Anyone growing up around an aquatic facility (YMCA, Girls' Club, etc.) has seen such a sign. It is an assist to help lifeguards to have their charges keep track of each other.
Several things are troubling about this issue. No one has been able to do the following: (1) Satisfactorily explain what "buddy system" means, (2) Measure how dangerous sport scuba diving is, or (3) Identify where that danger comes from.
Some people will tell you that the buddy system is the only safe way to dive. They believe that scuba diving is so unsafe that you can not do it without bringing along your own rescuer. Is this true? Of course not! If this were so, we would discover another problem...not all divers can rescue all other divers. Therefore the buddy system would exist for some but could not exist for all. Some divers are frightened by the prospect of having to "rescue" someone (especially a total stranger with whom they have been "buddied"). No diver should be made to feel morally or legally obligated to rescue any other diver. Forcing two people who do not know each other to dive together (common in resorts) is certainly not guaranteeing their safety, especially when most are fully occupied just taking care of themselves.
The question of a separate solo diving certification implies that there is a different skill level associated with solo diving, perhaps taking more (or less) skill. A few interesting thoughts on this topic...if you solo dive, you will never have to rescue anyone on the surface, or buddy breath underwater. If we decide solo diving is therefore easier than buddy diving, we should be able to shorten the diving course.
Incidentally, there should be no double standard in this issue. If the axiom "NEVER DIVE ALONE" is true, then we should not see examples of diving leaders routinely breaking it (instructors setting floats, divemasters freeing anchors, etc.)
Compile a list of other solo activities which might be considered "dangerous." My list includes: driving an automobile, flying an airplane, sport parachuting, hang gliding. Now order them from most to least dangerous. I would do so: parachuting, hang gliding, flying, driving, scuba diving. This is my arrangement because I can not do the first three and I believe them to be more dangerous than driving an automobile. Driving an automobile is the most dangerous thing I do. Unless scuba diving is the most dangerous activity for you (and you would have to have experience in all the activities "less" dangerous), then you have no argument for prohibiting solo diving. The rewards of solo diving far outweigh the modest risks. There are some risks involved...not as many as driving an automobile, and more than sitting on a couch.
Think about it. We fly planes solo, we hang glide solo, we parachute solo, we drive automobiles solo...and no one points a finger at us! But, get in the water alone, or lose sight of your buddy (and you know how often that happens in the course of a dive), and a jury of self-appointed experts will point their collective finger at you. Well...give them the finger back!
I have dived alone and will dive alone. In the company of students on training dives I am as good as alone. By-and-large, even in the company of experienced and trusted friends, there are times when I am alone. Considering everything, most of my dives have been done essentially alone; there is nothing wrong with this. I do not go out of my way to dive alone because it is more fun to share the experience with someone. Solo diving is acceptable, but we do not need a solo diver certification to show it.
--Fred Calhoun, NAUI 380; Boston, MA (Private Professional Instructor, has taught all levels of diving to ITCs. Producer of the Boston Diving Show. Past North Atlantic Branch Manager. Recipient of NAUI Outstanding Service Award.)
A. The basic tenets of sport diving are safety and fun. Buddy diving increases the likelihood that both can be met. A well functioning buddy group (preferably a pair) are not only able to communicate discoveries and ideas underwater but they can provide essential backup for each other if unexpected problems arise. The significant number of fatalities seen in supposed buddy diving situations has led some people to expound the merits of solo diving. Often ignored is the quality of the buddy interaction. Obviously, having a buddy that is inattentive or even antagonistic to your goals is a mistake. A suitable partner picked with care, however, will not only provide security but the capacity to relive the dive long after it is finished. I feel it would be completely inappropriate for a sport diving organization to promote any solo diving operations. The goal of NAUI is to serve the recreational population in the best way possible--buddy diving is it!
--Neal Pollock, NAUI 7068; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
A. The subject of solo diving should not be an unquestionable "no-no," nor should it be offered as an advanced specialty course. Instead, it should be a subject area that is covered in the NAUI Diving Rescue Techniques Specialty course. It should cover the special circumstances under which solo diving would be the most expedient course of action to take, such as various rescue scenarios.
The danger inherent in sanctioning or offering an advanced specialty course in solo diving is that it would be seen as a merit badge of ability, and be something for students to aspire to. Furthermore, it would be a course that would be particularly attractive to the student that finds buddy checks, dive plans, dive buddies and all other divers, including instructors, nothing more than an inconvenience.
In summary, I think that the circumstances that warrant solo diving should be taught, but within the confines of the NAUI Diving Rescue Techniques Specialty course.
--S.P. Marchese-Ragona, PhD, NAUI 10630; University Park, PA (Teaches part-time at Penn State University. Has taught Openwater I, II, and rescue. Currently is involved in research to quantitatively evaluate safer diving practices.)
A. The topic of solo diving has been addressed before. In 1979, while participating in a NAUI Instructor Trainer workshop in Vancouver, B.C., I presented the question "When do you teach solo diving techniques to your students, during the advanced or assistant instructor class?" This started a lengthy, somewhat heated discussion amongst more than a dozen of the top NAUI Instructors in the North Pacific.
At the 1979 IQ in HOuston, TX, Lou Fead addressed solo diving during his presentation "Buddies Speak Out." Fead had conducted a survey with the help of NAUI headquarters which identified some interesting facts and perceptions. Evidence indicated that maybe the buddy system, as we know it, was not working very well to prevent accidents. It appeared that buddies became more independent with diving experience and growth in self confidence.
After the 1979 IQ and long talks with Fead, Spence Campbell, and several other leading NAUI Instructors, I submitted an article for NAUI News on solo diving, which was published in 1980. It was obvious then, as it is today, that most divers (I would estimate greater than 90%) will dive alone under one or more of the following conditions:
By Accident--Buddies become separated while diving.
By Choice--Photographers and hunters often choose to dive alone because they want to focus all of their attention on their task.
By Necessity--Rescue and instruction fall into this category.
By Misinterpretation--Leader/Follower...the follower follows, but has no buddy. Fifty feet behind the leader in clear water off the Cayman Wall is NOT buddy diving. This is called the "SOB" (Same Ocean Buddy) System.
Do divers dive alone? YES!! There is no question that solo diving is common and most divers will occasionally be underwater alone. The real questions are...Should NAUI Instructors teach solo diving techniques, and when?
Some of the instructors have indicated that solo diving should be taught as part of the diver rescue training. I agree 100% with this suggestion. We teach and motivate people to enter the ocean alone, in a high stress situation, to save the life of a diver or swimmer. Have we ever evaluated their abilities to get dressed into their equipment and make a safe entry, dive, and exit without assistance?
Here is another concept to consider: We must address the difference between buddy diving and buddy dependent diving. A new, learning diver is dependent and should be diving with a trained, professional diving leader.
Maybe we should teach solo/independent diving techniques in the entry level class. Shouldn't your students be capable of getting all of their own equipment assembled, entering the pool/confined water, and comfortably demonstrate skin and scuba skills with self confidence prior to being eligible to accept the responsibilities of a buddy?
Buddy separation often creates unnecessary stress in the new diver for several reasons. (1) Personal discomfort from a lack of self confidence. (2) Lack of confidence in the other buddy's abilities. (3) The belief that being underwater alone is dangerous. (4) The threat of criticism from other divers, especially the instructor and dive buddy.
When a diver encounters a situation which causes stress, anxiety begins to influence thoughts and decisions. Judgement is impaired and mistakes are made. The person overreacts to the situation and someone gets injured.
If, however, we were to teach divers to respond in a positive manner to accidental solo diving, we may prevent unnecessary accidents. New divers need to be self confident and independent.
Buddy diving is a bonus, not a necessity. Buddy diving can increase enjoyment, and, in some rare situations, enhance safety.
By yourself, you may choose to hike through the woods, thinking your own thoughts while listening to the waterfalls and birds, or soar high above the ground in a silent glider or parachute, or drive your car through the mountains while listening to your favorite mood music on the radio, or walk along the beach early in the morning listening to the waves crashing on the shore and the sea gulls screeching,...or glide over a coral reef or sandy ocean floor observing fish, crabs, octopus, and numerous other submarine creatures go about their daily chores of survival.
Sometimes taking a calculated risk in an alien world turns out to be "just what the doctor ordered." The emotional and psychological therapy may be vary valuable.
Is solo diving extraordinarily risky? I do not think so. The risk is in the mind of the diver and how she or he reacts to the environment and situation.
Should we condone solo diving? I do not think we have a choice. Our attitude as professionals about solo diving will not change the fact that divers have and will continue to enjoy the underwater world...alone.
--Tom Hemphill, NAUI 2491; Federal Way, WA (President of Emerald Seas Ltd, a professional diver training and consulting company; and General Manager of Emerald Seas Diving Center, a full service diving resort and training center on Orcas Island. Former NAUI National Sales Manager and Business Consultant. Has trained more than 3,000 divers at all levels up to and including Instructor.)
A. As a military diver I have been trained to dive solo by some definitions. The major difference is we have surface tenders, dive supervisors, chambers, and a means of communication with the crew (signals or wire communications). Additionally, hundreds of training hours are spent practicing and perfecting procedures. The number of hours required to hone the skills far exceeds the economic realities of all but the most diligent divers. When diving alone is compared to driving or flying alone, the problem should be reduced to the ability to seek assistance. Planes are required to have radios. Automobile drivers do not have the same problem with receiving assistance that a lone diver somewhere in the vast oceans of our world faces. Although teaching instructors may find themselves in a situation where solo diving is required, a good technique is to utilize your teaching assistant as a buddy. If an assistant is not available, it may be more advisable to buddy the instructor with a student buddy team than to send the wrong signal to your students. Buddy diving is safer...who has not overlooked something that your buddy has corrected? Not to mention that buddy diving is more fun. -
-Joe Kilgore, NAUI 8740L; Pearl City, HI (Director of Training and Instructor for Down Under Divers, a NAUI Pro Facility. Has taught Openwater I through Divemaster as well as some specialty courses. Was Diving Officer for an Army Combat Unit.)
A. No, absolutely not. While a solo dive may be necessary to attach a line to a wreck, these dives are short, quickly done by an experienced divemaster who knows the wreck and with people on board in case of an emergency.
Unlike being on land, underwater you have lost or reduced many senses. You are dependent upon equipment, have a limited air supply, and are extremely susceptible to activity-related maladies (DCS, nitrogen narcosis, hypothermia, and others). Each dive is unique and different, and may involve interactions (with equipment malfunctions, physical stress, marine life injuries, line entanglements, etc.) which could lead to panic. While no dive is 100% safe, a buddy helps make it so.
A buddy helps you suit up, checks your equipment, reminds you of depth-time and air supply limits, witnesses unusual occurrences, removes entanglements, helps with entering and exiting the water, and lowers stress and exertion levels.
You may need assistance if an accident occurs while diving. Your buddy provides your extra set of hands and eyes to provide that assistance if needed. If you need help and are diving alone, no fish is going to help you!
--Gordon Ronald Hurlbert, NAUI Z8187; Laval, Quebec, Canada (NAUI Assistant Instructor, owns and operates Dive Five.)
A. I have closely followed the raging debate over solo diving and should NAUI sanction a self-sufficient diver course. I thought NAUI already did, it is called Openwater I.
In this course students are trained, or should be, to solve the problems that divers in their area face everyday. When a student graduates from a NAUI Openwater I course he/she should already be a self-sufficient diver. This does not mean they are capable of diving alone, nor should they be encouraged to do so.
It has been said "a bad buddy can kill you!" While this may be true, a good buddy can save you. These are the two extremes of buddy diving and there are more realistic viewpoints that deserve to be explored. A buddy can be there to help with equipment problems, making things go a little smoother. A buddy can provide or summon help in an emergency.
A buddy can be a set of extra eyes and hands in many ways (have you ever tried to bag an eight pound Maine lobster by yourself?). Most importantly, a buddy is a person with whom to share a good day's diving, someone to share in the excitement of being underwater. In short, a buddy can make diving a safer and more enjoyable sport.
I believe it is time we stop using the excuse "a bad buddy can kill you" and take the time to find a good buddy. You will be glad you did.
--Jeffrey Heim, NAUI 10880; Wayne, PA
NOTE: The views expressed in this column are opinions held by the individual members referenced, and are not those of NAUI or the editors of NDA News.]Questions for the next issues:
Questions for the next issues:
For the September/October issue: "Should NAUI require mandatory diver recertification? If so, what should it entail? If not, why not?"
For the November/December issue: "Should NAUI offer training through a specialty program in Nitrox Diving? Why/why not?"
For the January/February issue: "What could be done to improve the marketability of NAUI's products, programs, and services?"
All members are encouraged to respond. This column is for you, the membership, to develop. Answers should be kept fairly brief, preferably no more than two or three paragraphs. Responses to each question will be collated by the editor, condensed if necessary, and printed in this section. New questions may also be posed for discussion. Questions should be concise, and should stimulate a wide cross‑section of the membership. Include with your responses or questions the following information: your name, address, phone number, NAUI membership number, dive‑related employment, past diving accomplishments, and a review of your dive teaching experience. Send your materials to Jeffrey Bozanic, c/o NDA News, P.O. Box 14650, Montclair, CA 91763‑1150.
Compiled and Edited by Jeffrey Bozanic, NAUI 5334L
Sources, Jul/Aug 1989, (1:2), pp. 10-15.
Solo Diving, Part II
NAUI Members' Forum #12
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