Buddy System vs Solo Dives

In scuba diving there is a system whereby you have a "dive partner" and this is referred to as the "buddy system". For some considerable time it was considered unsafe to dive alone and this was frowned upon by certification agencies. More recently however that thinking has enjoyed something of a revision. So what are the pros and cons of each type of diving?

Buddy System

Using the buddy system in diving means you dive with one or more partners, but no more than two. By doing this it is thought to reduce the risk of an accident or otherwise increase the chances of survival if anything should go wrong. With this system, each diver has a responsibility towards their partner, or partners, in the case of one becoming trapped - perhaps by a rope/chain, or other submerged danger. Your buddy also look after you in the event of a medical emergency, or if there is a malfunction with your gear.

If there are more than 3 divers, then the buddy system cannot always be utilized to its full potential. With recreational diving it is thought preferable to dive with just two rather than with a third diver. With three divers it is possible for one to become separated or for the attention of two of the divers to be centred away from the third. Of course this system is only as good as the people who dive together. If one of the buddies does not fulfil his/her responsibility then the system fails. It is definitely a good idea to use the buddy system if you are a novice diver. An alternative to the buddy system is to dive in a large group but this carries the inherent danger of one diver becoming separated from the rest due to poor visibility, or simply by becoming distracted and falling behind and this not being noticed.

Solo Diving

The word solo says it all - it is when you dive alone without a "buddy". Solo Diving was previously known as "technical diving". This practice is now considered to be acceptable – only if the diver is trained in self sufficiency and able to bear the responsibility of their own safety, when diving alone. Diving instructors, by virtue of their position, can be considered "solo" divers. The person they are diving with is usually a novice and not capable of rescuing them. Underwater photographers are also more likely to be solo divers as their attention is focused on getting the best shot and not on their partner. To participate in solo diving one has to be certified and to dive safely, well practiced. Solo divers tend to err on the side of caution when diving and neither dive too deep, nor in more dangerous situations. Any diver who wishes to ensure their safety when diving solo should make use of the practice of redundant equipment. In other words, they should carry an extra set of equipment in case of emergencies and be able to access it if needed.

Even though some solo divers have argued that it is more of a safety risk when having to watch out for another diver - and unfair to place the responsibility on the most experienced of the pair, statistics have shown that using a buddy when diving is considered to be more prudent.