Solo Diving: Would You?

Solo Diving: Would You?

Tomasz Szymanski

It was not until 1999 that solo diving was formally entered into the certification roll by SDI. Although PADI, NAUI and other agencies have not included this type of diving certificate until now, solo diving has slowly gained acceptance among diving enthusiasts around the world.


Obviously, it is one of the most debated topics in the diving community.

What is solo diving? Should PADI or NAUI sanction solo diving? What does SDI require for you to be considered for a solo diver course?

Solo Diving Defined

The British Sub-Aqua Club defines solo diving as the “Plan to conduct all or part of a dive without a buddy”. Simply put, it is diving by yourself.

From one aspect, advocates of solo diving often regard diving instructors as “solo divers” because they dive with novice students who have little or no experience and who do not have enough skills to rescue other divers should an emergency arise.

Angelo Giampiccolo

Angelo Giampiccolo

Why Dive Solo?

Diving alone is strongly discouraged by most diving certification agencies, especially for those who do not have a dive master certificate such as a Master Diver certification from PADI or Master Scuba Diver training certificate from NAUI.

Unpopular as it is, many experienced divers who have exceptional skills in self-sufficiency opt to dive solo for the following reasons:

Focus. Consider the case of underwater photographers and videographers. Some if not most of them prefer to dive unaccompanied so that they can focus more on their mission and have a wider prospect of capturing outstanding images without relying on a buddy. Chances are, with two or more divers swimming around, underwater life are more likely to be disturbed.

Independence. The buddy system has become a standard through the years as it is purposely meant to give aid to another diver in case of distress or emergency.

On the other hand, it unconsciously fosters interdependency among dive buddies which, for most solo divers, could distract their diving pleasures.

Ethan Daniels

Ethan Daniels

SDI Solo Diving

Many have speculated whether or not solo diving certification is a marketing approach of SDI. The hope is, however, that it will be adopted by other agencies such as PADI and NAUI.

Let’s take a look at the SDI solo diving program. To qualify for the course, one must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be at least 21 years of age.
  • Must have logged at least 100 dives.
  • Must have a signed medical release to guarantee that a diver is in excellent physical condition at the time of the course.
  • Must be a certified Advanced Diver.

The SDI solo diving course includes 8 hours of class and 2 dives. Among other things that are comprehensively covered in the class are the advantages and practical use of backup systems along with the use of other specialized sets of equipment which are regarded as “must haves” in solo diving.


We are often told in almost every non-SDI diving class not to dive alone, as we are posed to hazards when diving without a buddy.

Paul Cowell

Paul Cowell

But to solo divers, the technological advances in specialized equipment and backup systems should be enough to guarantee a diver’s safety along with the skills needed to solo dive.

Speaking of safety: Diving is truly unsafe IF you dive untrained; that is why we attend scuba classes and learn the ABCs of diving. Diving without a buddy is even more unsafe if you are untrained to do solo dives.

Whatever reasons you may have, venturing into solo diving still rests on your individual decision. Make sure, however, that you are prepared if you consider to dive solo.

Equip yourself with the necessary dive skills, knowledge and equipment before taking that big plunge of your diving adventure. After all, safety should always come first.

Have you ever dived alone? How was it and will you do it again?

About The Author

Torben Lonne

Torben is a top skilled PADI MSDT instructor. He has worked several years with scuba diving in Indonesia and Thailand - and dived most of his life in most of the world. He is also the co-founder and chief-editor of you can always catch him here [email protected]


  1. Michael Jensen

    I don’t understand why anyone would ever dive alone. If you see a really cool thing, you would have on one to share it with.

    Like you come up from the dive, normally you would be high-fiving your mates and cheering.

    Alone you would come up and all you could do is brag, and who is to say they would believe you if you don’t have proves.

    No man, I wouldn’t go alone. Also is something goes wrong it is always good to bring a friend, just in case..

    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Michael,
      I agree there is no fun in coming up from a fantastic dive where you see Mantas. And have no one to share your dive with.
      The people doing solo diving then have a purpose for the diving etc underwater photographing.
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Andy Hemsworth

    I love doing it solo.
    Give me the peace of mind to focus on my own diving and photos without having to think of a buddy or where the group is going.

    • Steffan Johnson

      I think I have it the same way. I take a lot of pictures and every time I spend time taking a good picture the group is long gone. Better diving alone so I can take my time and not worry about the group.

  3. Ron Keffer

    I have many dives under my belt. I prefer to solo dive for many reasons. I do photography, I dive shallow where most of the life is. Usually around 20-50 feet. I like to look at what is on the bottom and in crevasses, I like to find various life conducive to the area. In most cases, unless it is visible, your buddy is not always understanding your problem. If I am out of air, I can surface at 50 feet with no problem, I can fill my BC by blowing air into the bladder. I am a safe diver, never taking any chances that I am not comfortable with. I can spend an hour on one rock taking pictures. Most divers miss all that. The dive master usually points out some life, but probably 95% of the life that exists on a dive is never seen. I have been diving since 1980 and for five years, I helped out three instructors in Monterey Bay. I have continued to dive each and every year since. I have done as many as 16 dives in one day. beginning at 6 am until 12 midnight. I love night diving and going solo there as well. Sure I dive with a group most of the time, we call that “same ocean buddy system”
    Do I recommend that you solo dive, absolutely not, until you have a number of dives completed and you feel absolutely confident and have the knowledge to do so.

    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Ron,
      Thank you for sharing your solo diving experiences and reasons. It’s a considered choice of going solo and that I can’t but respect. I’ve tried many buddy dives where I where taking pictures and the others weren’t and it’s annoying everyone on the dive! The buddy who has to wait and me who has to hurry taking pictures.

  4. David Tombs

    Like Ron I sometimes dive alone. Although I have done this to 57 metres I would most certainly not recommend it to that depth. Most of the time it is shallow in the 5- 10 metre range in sites that are well known to me, with minimal hazards from current, traffic, fishing line or navigational difficulties. It is easy to over estimate the ability to deal with a difficulty on your own. I feel, like Ron, that you should be very experienced, self critical, fit and with either deep technical or cave training where there is emphasis on self recovery. Don’t do it for ego, or without a good reason.

    • Torben Lonne

      Wow David, a 57 meters solo dive.. Done as a tech diver or done with regular dive equipment?

      Great tip: Don’t do it for ego, or without a good reason.

      There are way to many dive accidents because experienced divers show off without reason.


  5. David Tombs

    Hi Torben, it was not planned as a solo dive but my buddy was taken ill on the way out to the site. I would not have planned a dive so deep. Actually was in very good conditions. It was a ww1 costal u boat. No, full tec kit, I actually think people who go much deeper then 40m without tec training or kit are reckless. Things go wrong without ego, showing off is simply asking for trouble.

  6. John Jerrehian

    The solo diving era continues to grow as better equipment, training and experience offer higher levels of safety.
    First, I think it has to be a conscience decision or mindset of the individual before considering. Many people will never feel comfortable solo diving know matter what their experience level, training or equipment is like. Not everyone wants to go into a cave either. So, first step is making sure a solo diver has the ability to mentally and physically take care of themselves in critical situations.
    With this said, I very much enjoy solo diving. Have done it for years and have done training to support my passion to dive. I have a back up air supply, timing device and depth gauge. With this said, I very much enjoy diving with others too but can’t always find someone to dive with. When I do dive by myself I am much more cognoscente of what I am doing at all times, (vs. paying attention to a buddy doing something that is distracting to my well being). I find this particularly true with divers who have limited diving experience and require much more attention than someone of equal or similar diving experience.
    In reality, tech diving and free diving are “solo” in themselves and I find both more difficult than scuba diving itself.
    So, as the controversy continues whether solo diving is accepted and safe, I can only look at my self, my experience, my equipment and say yes.

  7. Mountie

    I have made probably 2000 solo dives over the last 36 years.
    I learnt to dive in an area with usually poor viz so often lost my buddy. I now take photos so I prefer that way.
    I service my own equipment so I know I can rely on it, I have rescued a few buddies over the years but have never had a problem myself.
    The comment about depth is irrelevant as its is equipment readability that counts.


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