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Thinking to go Solo - some questions

Discussion in 'Solo Divers' started by stepfen, Mar 16, 2019.

  1. stepfen

    stepfen ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Greece
    I'm not solo certified yet. I have to admin though that during a recent diving trip to Indonesia I did a few solo dives and I LIKED it. Hence I am thinking to get solo certified soon.

    Main reasons to do so: First I LIKED it, second soon my working schedule won't match with my regular buddies' ones. Third the concept of having the gear in my car and whenever I feel like it go to dive (eg after work - my work place is 10 mins drive from nice shores) sound very attractive, and finally since I do UW photography it is probably the only way to really enjoy it.

    Just for completeness a bit of my background: I've been OW certified 3 years ago, AOW soon afterwards and Nitrox (although I've never actually dove Nitrox yet). I have 150 dives so far, about half land based around Indonesia and the other half local shore dives around my home town. I own and maintain myself the basic recreational gear (BPW, regulator, computer, suit, a 15lt steel tank etc).
    Local dive condition usually are: very clear temperate water with no currents and hard bottom at max 100ft/30m. The nudies I am after usually are around 80ft-100ft (25-30m) but I don't mind shallower.

    I had a short discussion about all these with a local tech-inclined instructor (mainly affiliated to IANTD). I was a bit worried at first that he would be negative/reluctant about it but on the contrary he encouraged me.
    He said it will be with SSI (I think IANTD doesn't have solo programs). He also mentioned H valve for redundant air supply. The discussion was short and we didn't elaborate on these.

    Here the questions start:
    - I don't see SSI mentioned often in solo certification discussions in SB. PADI and SDI are almost solely mentioned. Is there any reasons people don't do SSI ?
    - I didn't ask but I hope that the instructor won't mind doing the training with a slinged pony. But just to be prepared for his reaction, from the instructor point of view are there any strong reasons to avoid ponies? I understand that h valve will be easier for both of us (I've never slinged a pony before, one less tank to carry and to worry about etc). But from a safety point of view a pony is clearly the way to go for me.
    - I understand I need to buy a pony and an extra regulator soon. From the calculations I've done 3lt(20cu ft?) are more than enough to safely bring me to the surface from 100ft/30m within NDL. Soon though light deco might come to play. I understand there is no end to this (more time, more gas, bigger pony), but how people usually handle this?
    - Are aluminum or steel ponies preferred? I read that steel is more popular in Europe, but having one on my side and given its weight won't cause balance/trim issues?? Aluminium should be almost neutral so it shouldn't cause such issues. Thoughts?

    I have more questions but I'll stop here for now.
    Thanks in advance for any replies.
    markmud likes this.
  2. happy-diver

    happy-diver Skindiver Just feelin it

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: same ocean as you
    knowone elses approval is required

    there is no better diving circumstance

    how does this provide alternate air

    a slung pony for rec solo is an encumberance slinged by those told to do so
    and pretending to tech

    best do some more calcs

    steel is slim and buoyancy maintaining and fits much more air
    just as is your choice of steel 15L as opposed to rubbish aluminium

    Here is the only real solo diver I know
    dressed appropriately for Greece in his taverna gear


    unlike most, one of the few real solo divers that actually exist

    that if you noticed is being quite tardy with his dangling pony reg attached to the
    3L steel 50% nitrox bottle he never notices is there

    gunna have to get a better photographer

    and he's having so much fun, look at all that fun


    lotta Greek food gone through that perfect specimen, and retsina

    got a better photographer

    might have to buy her a filter
  3. markmud

    markmud Self Reliant Diver--On All Dives. ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: South Lebanon, Ohio
    Hi stepfan,

    Go for it!! Do the SSI Independent Diver Cert.

    PADI and SDI seem to be the dominant training agencies for Scubaboard folks. I think it is an availability issue more than anything else. My LDS has gone SSI where they were PADI before. So maybe things are changing.

    Also, SSI really isn't a tech agency; whereas, PADI and SDI/TDI are. Many Scubaboard divers have tech training or visions of tech training in their future (IMHO).

    Many old school instructor/dive-ops still cling to their religious dogma and don't allow certified solo divers to dive from their facilities, but the dinosaurs are dying off--and good riddance to them.

    My instructor did not care. I did both during training. Sling or back mount are equally good and equally unnoticed. For back mount, rig the pony upside down so you can reach the valve. You may need a longer LP hose for your second stage.

    For divers with a good SAC/RMV, 19 cf is all you need. Some divers are worried that they will freak-out and blow through 19 or 30 cf in a few minutes. Divers with freak-out problems should not dive--they are a danger to themselves and us. Practice pony bottle ascents (after being properly trained) until they become second nature, and 19cf will be over kill.

    Aluminum ponies/stage bottles are preferred here because they are neutral. I don't need to change my sinker plan if I sling my 13cf, or back mount my 6cf, or sling the 13f and leave the 6cf back mounted on the same dive. I am a little heavy, but not bad.

    Best thing you will ever do, IMHO.

    Lostdiver71, caruso and mi000ke like this.
  4. hroark2112

    hroark2112 Tech Instructor

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Raleigh, NC
    Slinging a pony is fine. As a solo diver it’s a good alternate air supply. When you’re buddy diving and your buddy goes OOA you can just hand it off to them and get to the surface.

    Just my opinion. I’m quite sure someone will tell me how wrong I am.
  5. CWK

    CWK Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Probably on a LOB somewhere
    Solo diving is not legal in Indonesia as far as I am aware.
  6. a878bob

    a878bob Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Michigan
    Why not just dive sm with alum 80's? It checks all the boxes.
  7. stepfen

    stepfen ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Greece
    Thanks for all the info.

    That can actually be a problem. In both countries that I usually dive (Greece and Indonesia), solo diving is theoretically not allowed. In practice though I think that in both countries this is not really enforced. In Greece coast guard is mostly concerned about illegal fishing (fishing with scuba is a big no here) and looting of ancient artifacts. I hope that, if caught, they will be ok after I show them my camera and some nice nudibranch pictures.
    Anyway please don't report me to the authorities :)
  8. stepfen

    stepfen ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Greece
    SM is something I haven't tried and to be honest it's not an option for now as I'm about to get broke after buying all my gear. Also although my SAC is still improving, usually an AL80 is not enough for me. Finally most of the local dives are from shore and they usually include quite long surface swims. I might be wrong but surface swims with tanks hanging around me doesn't sound very comfortable.
  9. a878bob

    a878bob Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Michigan
    If you have a reg for a slung pony, then you have a reg for the second 80, instead of buying a 30cf, just get a 2nd 80, the cost difference is minimal. Then you have 2 80's, more than enough for the dives your talking about. Sm tanks don't hang. Plenty secure and comfortable for surface swim. The only cost to a sm rig is the wing, get some one used. Done and done.
  10. MichaelMc

    MichaelMc Working toward Cenotes ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Berkeley, CA
    If you're thinking of SM, AL40s make good ponies and good tiny sidemount tanks. Tiny sidemount tanks (AL40 or LP50) are easy to surface swim if snugged up with bungees with a good sidemount harness, not just flopping on the side with a stage rig. I've got an xDeep sidemount harness. LP50s aren't as good as ponies as they're more negative. LP50s are sweet sidemount tanks, but not as multi use as AL40s.

    You could get an AL40 as a pony and experiment with sidemount rigging it off your backplate. I did that with an LP27, but the AL40 is better. I sidemount 40s and 50s.
    hroark2112 likes this.

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