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A debate of solo diving vs solo snorkeling

Discussion in 'Solo Divers' started by Spiiina, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. Spiiina

    Spiiina Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
    It is nice to see that so many divers are open to solo diving. I did my first solo beach dive a couple days ago and stayed an average of 14ft with 18ft as the deepest. I know that I should be certified for solo diving, however I have dove and snorkeled this particular area enough that I am familiar with it and decided dive it rather than snorkel. It was a great dive, needless to say.

    So a dive buddy of mine is quite upset about this and is fully against solo diving (I do appreciate his concerns). After I made the statement "I think diving solo is safer than snorkeling solo" it is now his goal to make me to look like an idiot. He insistently (and of course condescendingly) is telling me to ask the dive instructors what they think and report back to him(so he can give me the "told you so" bit or at least imply it). My goal by writing this is quite the opposite and more in attempt to validate my thought process and possibly make him more open-minded. I know that everyone will have their own opinions on the right way, but the thing that "grinds my gears" (trying to stay PG) the most is when someone isn't willing to hear you out.

    So, of course, I'm not going to the dive shop because they obviously will say it's a bad idea 1)for legal reasons and 2)because they don't want you putting yourself in more harm than necessary (they want you as a customer, right =).

    His arguments are that weights keep you on the bottom and you are breathing compressed air, which I understand can have serious risks associated with it.

    Here's why I think diving alone is safer than snorkeling alone (please let me know if these are valid or if I'm way off base):
    - You can stay closer to the bottom to avoid fighting the current
    - You also avoid boat traffic staying closer to the bottom
    - You are less likely to swim into a manowar tentacle (I saw them the day I went and I have been stung while snorkeling)
    - You have a BCD which can double as a life preserver, God forbid you need it.
    - You can still technically snorkel/swim on the surface with the gear and drop your weights if need be (hell, drop it all and snorkel)

    So to sum it up, I don't trust boaters or manowars and prefer not to fight the current. As far as breathing compressed air, I make it a point to stay aware of my breathing and not push my boundaries... not to mention my computer starts yelling at me at 1500psi and again at 1000psi. In my mind they both have their risks and you have to decide which ones you are willing to take, my choice being a dive.

    Thoughts? Am I crazy? :confused:

    Thanks in advance for the input!
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  2. waterpirate

    waterpirate Solo Diver

    # of Dives:
    Location: Delmarva peninsula
    The only reasons that really matter or you own. You should find a more like minded diving buddy and move forward together to solo? if your dive count is accurate it is awfully soon to be soloing, but hey this is the net and you may have mad in water skills. All that being said there is a huge differance between the hydro atlantic, and that reef you are on.
  3. dkktsunami

    dkktsunami Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Georgia coast
    I would prefer, when I have a buddy, that the buddy be a competent solo diver. This is a person that is comfortable in the water, capable of self-rescue, a person that has thought out the dive in advance, and some one who maintains his/her equipment. An experienced solo diver is a better buddy.
    Kharon likes this.
  4. Kharon

    Kharon Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Upstate NY
    Don't see where having someone along snorkeling or snorkeling alone would make any difference whatsoever with any of your points.

    I have been snorkeling exclusively solo for more than 55 years and have never had an incident. The biggest problem is the morons that don't know what a dive flag is. Having someone there with me would make absolutely no difference other than to have one more person available for injury. To help ameliorate this situation I now carry a flare gun on all dives and while snorkeling. Makes it easy to get their atttention.

    I also mostly dive solo. If I do buddy up I wholeheartedly agree with dkktsunami - another solo diver makes the best buddy.
  5. BCSGratefulDiver

    BCSGratefulDiver Mental toss flycoon ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: On the Fun Side of Trump's Wall
    Since your buddy suggested asking instructors what they think, let me give you a response from the perspective of an instructor ... one who also solo dives.

    There is nothing inherently unsafe about solo diving ... just as there is nothing inherently safe about diving with a buddy. In both cases, what determines your level of risk is your skills and your mental approach to the dive.

    What makes solo diving inadvisable for most newer divers is a lack of skill and inadequate experience to understand the significance of many of the choices you'll commonly be facing.

    Depth has less to do with risk than you might believe ... unless you can stand up and breath surface air, you should not consider depth to be a significant risk mediator. And while all of the points you made above are technically valid, they're not the risk factors you should be thinking about when you consider whether or not solo is right for you.

    Let me ask a few questions ...

    • How comfortable are you removing your mask and putting it back on? Can you do it without losing buoyancy, or without the urge to bolt to the surface?
    • When was the last time you practiced a controlled emergency swimming ascent (CESA)? Do you know how deep you can safely do one from? When was the last time you practiced it?
    • Do you carry a redundant air supply? Are you proficient deploying it? When was the last time you practiced deploying it?
    • What would you do if you suddenly found yourself in an entanglement situation that required you to remove your BCD? Are you wearing the correct gear to even do that without the risk of losing your rig? When was the last time you practiced that skill?
    • What routine do you use to assure all your equipment is functioning properly and your air is properly turned on prior to entering the water?
    • What risk factors do you consider when deciding whether or not the dive you're anticipating is appropriate?

    Solo diving is at least as much about your mental approach to the dive as it is your physical skills. You have no backup brain to rely on, and therefore risk mitigation relies more heavily on good decision-making prior to the dive. Look at conditions and ask yourself whether you can get in ... and more importantly get out ... without the liklihood of needing assistance. Ask yourself what can go wrong, and how well prepared you are to deal with it if it does. The biggest problem most newer divers have making a realistic risk assessment is that they don't really KNOW what can go wrong ... they lack the context to even consider what risks they need to prepare for. Many of those will be dependent on the site and environment you're diving in.

    Solo diving should not be undertaken because of either a lack of buddies or a lack of buddy skills on your part ... a better approach to both of those situations is to consider alternatives that directly address those deficiencies. Your decision to solo dive should be based entirely on your desire to solo dive ... and you should take the time and effort to receive either the training or the skills development to go into it with your eyes open. Anything less is purely rationalization ... based on either lack of effort, lack or desire, or lack of funds to go into it properly.

    The questions you ask are not uncommon among newer divers who really want to dive, and are running into a wall of not having sufficient dive buddies to go when they want to. Rationalizing why it's easier/better to just solo become an easy alternative ... but almost always lack a realistic look at risk assessment. What usually keeps these divers out of trouble is that on most dives, nothing goes wrong ... and therefore it becomes easy to develop a false sense of security. But dive often enough and you'll inevitably be faced with a problem that requires an appropriate decision or response ... and an inappropriate one will likely result in injury or death ... so the purpose of training is to teach you which responses are appropriate and which are not. Lack of training leaves it up to you to figure it out ... and increases the liklihood you'll make the wrong choice at a critical time.

    A few years ago I wrote an article specifically for people at your stage of development who are considering solo diving. I won't make a recommendation about whether you should or not ... but I will ask you to read and consider the article before you solo again ... NWGratefulDiver.com

    ... Bob (Grateful Diver)
    Steve_C, CWSWine, LeadTurn_SD and 4 others like this.
  6. Spiiina

    Spiiina Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Thank you all for taking the time to respond. Thank you especially, Bob, for the detailed info. There is definitely more I need to learn and practice and I'm just jumping the gun and being ignorant. I'm fine with taking off the mask and not freaking out and have gotten into the habit of triple checking my setup after having issues at one point with my BC not being sufficiently sealed. It's been about 6 months since I've practiced a CESA and I have not yet made the purchase of the redundant air supply (stupid I know). I'll also have to practice taking off the BC more underwater which of course I'll do with an instructor or buddy in a confined setting. I'm going through my advanced classes now(which I know aren't so advanced) but plan to take the rescue diver course and will look for a shop that teaches solo diving.

    Thanks again for your help!
  7. CT-Rich

    CT-Rich ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    I agree with the others against soloing so early in your career. Personally, I would say the likelihood of running into a problem solo free-diving versus SCUBA is greater. When you run into an issue with SCUBA, your first actions are always to make sure you have a ready supply of air and think through your problem. When free diving you are under a lot more pressure to figure out a solution. There is also the added likelihood of a shallow water blackout while freediving. There are a lot of considerations about experience, location, equipment and physical conditioning for both SCUBA and Free diving that need to be considered but everything being equal solo free diving a higher risk activity because of the limitations of breathholding and the possibility of blackout.
  8. Spiiina

    Spiiina Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Thanks for the input Rich!
  9. cnar

    cnar Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Barbados
    Solo scubadive/freedive/snorkel/swim came natural to me. I actually didn't know it was scorned upon in diving until my open water course. My initial purpose for diving was to be able to go diving anytime I felt like just like I snorkeled. Of them all free diving to me is the most dangerous because of the risk of blackouts. If I'm only snorkeling I still wear weights but obviously there is less risk since I'm not below the water. If I know for a fact I won't be diving I leave the weights in the car.

    Swimming can also be quite dangerous. When swimming there is no snorkel or mask just my goggles. You breathe based on the technique you're using, tread water or just float on your back when necessary. In choppy water it is not easy but some do wear snorkels and mask when swimming. Personally I'm not a kid anymore so I don't swim much.

    I've been entangled once snorkeling. It was that episode that made me buy a dive knife because I got pulled under by fishing line. My 2nd entanglement was diving. I guess the beauty about diving is if you get caught you can at least still breath and deal with the situation calmly. In snorkeling when you're pulled under or free diving and you're hook on line each passing second is precious.

    For me the major risk in diving solo or otherwise is technique or lack thereof. On all of my solo dives I usually spend from 5-7 minutes between 10'-20' during my ascent. As these are shore dives I head to shore following the bottom and usually surface in water 4' deep.
  10. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: NorCal
    Wrong question. The question is do you enjoy solo diving? If yes, you will have to use discression when discussing your dives, as it seems you are amongst non believers. As for dive shops, they are against it untill they can sell you Solo dive training, I think it comes after they run out of other training packages.

    Bob NWGD (above) and others put out a lot of good info on diving, as you need to be a good diver to be a good solo diver. As for how you solo, that is something you will have to work out over time, as there is more than one way to approach solo. My advise is to research the activity, and work your way deeper over an extended period of time, because it is much easier to deal with problems when shallow, and gain the experience you need when you do go deeper. Keep up your freediving skills as they are very handy when diving.

    That is a seperate question. When I started diving, crazy and SCUBA they were considered synonymous.

    The most important thing to plan when solo diving is to make sure that you are not diving with an idiot. Dsix36

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