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This part disturbs me. "surface, take a couple of breaths, then disappear" I’m wondering if he black out on the surface during his recovery, and people just sat and watched; or did he dive again after only a couple of breaths?
Disturbing indeed. How many articles like these have we read throughout the years? No matter where we live, we have all seen these short storys "Young freediver drowns... was diving near this place... disappeared... sad loss".

I get scared everytime I read about this. It could have been me, or someone I know. Or anyone. Maybe you? The guy, according to the article, was 25 years old. That is not very young or very old. It is the perfect age. Young and strong. Similar to all the other freedivers who have 'just disappeared'. What is really going on here? Have they all acted foolishly? In what way?Everyone? Or did a few follow all the rules in the book and still lose? That is what I want to know. The articles never go deeper (no pun) than just stating 'sad loss'. Disturbing indeed.
Tommy, it is very disturbing, especially for someone who dives solo like myself. I guess no one who died while freediving or scubadiving solo ever thought it would happen to them, or that they were on what was to be their last dive ever. I don’t willingly put myself in harm's way and I consider my solo dives pretty safe overall given how conservative I am but I am aware that I am increasing my risk somewhat by being alone.

Is this foolishness? I don’t think so because I honestly feel more at risk driving on some of these lousy NZ roads, so to be truly safe, I really should stay at home and never do anything? That’s never going to be any fun so I’ll just do the best I can and try to be as conservative as possible, after all I have so much to see and so little time to see it all. Maybe it’s easier for me because I am a bit older and wiser at the ripe old age of 34, I don’t feel driven to push any limits alone. I don’t think I would have been quite so mellow about depth and time when I was 25:(


My general view is the same as yours. Living, is in itself a risk. One can never be a hundred percent safe. It's all about finding the compromise between enjoying life and not overdo it. That I agree on.

What concerns me is this 'conservative' thing. How do you know you are not exceding some sort of limit when diving? You are obviously here, so you haven't commited the ultimate error yet (and I hope you never will of course). Still, how do you decide when to head for the surface?

It seems to me, at least, that when one turns around and heads back to the surface is not much more than an educated guess. "Oh...I can feel the contractions not far off now.. and with 10 meters to the surface I better get back up...". A vauge, but obvious input from the body combined with expericene and knowledge of when one is close to the limit (how close?) is what gets us all back to safety. At least that is the case for me, even though my experience is very limited (so far). I sort of guess I am getting close to my limit, and that is when I abort. Feels like a gamble every time. And then I get home and read about some poor guy who 'just disappeared' doing the same thing I just did. Scary stuff.

Am I conservative enough?

I sure try to be conservative, everytime, but maybe he was trying the same thing? This is what gets to me. Sure, life is about risks, but when things like these happen, I really would like to know a litte bit more. I would like to know what he did wrong. I would like to hear something solid. So I can say to myself "Hey, he only messed up because he ignored this fundamental thing". Like those who get AIDS because they mess around without condoms. Doesn't bother me at all. I can hear that on the news all day, no problem. It is so obvious how to avoid it (get the condom on before you do the locomotion).

How to avoid drowning while freediving does not seem so obvious. Am I conservative enough? I hope so. I don't know for sure, but I guess I am. Maybe he thought the same thing? The article scares me for that reason alone.

Maybe if we could compare notes to see how we approach this in a practical fashion it would help (for me at least) to ease the mind a bit. My idea of conservative is this; Whenever I do dynamics in the pool (for example) I always try to surface before I get contractions. Sometimes I am slightly stubborn and go on with 3 or 4 contractions before I abort. Then I ask myself, was that pushing it too much or not? I have no idea, it just 'sounds' resonable. So I think I am conservative. How conservative? Good question...

So, now I am curious, how do you measure things in order to decide if it is conservative enough to be safe (or resonably so)?

This question, of course, also goes to others reading this thread. Someone just died doing what we all love. Please share your conservative 'safety approach'.
"How to avoid drowning while freediving does not seem so obvious .... Someone just died doing what we all love. Please share your conservative 'safety approach'."

Seems pretty obvious to me. Don't do any deep freediving alone. Get educated (reputable freediving courses generally require you to sign a form saying you will not freedive alone), learn the risks, and you are less likely to draw the ignorant counter-responses against us all like happened in Queensland (no weight belts for snorkelers on the Barrier Reef charter trips allowed now). Every time this happens it reflects badly on the safe people amongst us that have more than half a brain cell and know that you HAVE to to dive with a buddy if doing any sort of depth, even one dive.

When spearfsihing my mate and I keep a general eye out for each other in the shallows, but when we move to deeper water we ONLY dive deep if we are together, and if we are not able to watch each other, we limit our dives to the shallow water. I never want to turn up at his parents' house with a policeman and have to tell them bad news. I reckon I'd never get over that.

"I consider my solo dives pretty safe overall given how conservative I am"

Ash, just don't kid yourself. You need a good dive buddy. Who are you anyway? Come and train with us in the lake or pool some time.
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Tommy - you're right, the decision about when to head back to the surface is just an educated guess. There is no line where you go from safe to unsafe in the blink of an eye but I try to skew the odds in my favour as far as possible. The following parameters are what I have adopted while diving solo:

1. Limit depth. I do most of my diving in the 8-12m range. Never more than 20m on a solo dive.
2. Limit bottom time. I don’t dive to the point where I get even close to having contractions on the bottom. I am usually on my way up in about a minute, less if the dive is slightly deeper than normal. Total dive time is about 1:10 to 1:20 max and it doesn’t worry me to see 30 or 40 seconds total dive time on my D3.
3. Take surface intervals of never less than 2 minutes. Usually between 2:30 to 4 minutes even on shallow dives and much longer if I feel I need to.
4. Weight to be positively buoyant quite deep. I am usually positive at about 8-10m.
5. Hook breathe after every dive.
6. Be as hydrated as possible before getting in the water.
7. Only dive when I feel up to it. Get out of the water if I feel tired.
8. Maintain a decent level of fitness.
9. Leave my ego at home.
10. Never do wet statics or dynamics without a buddy.

Is this enough? I can’t see what else I could do except stay home (which isn’t happening) or get a buddy (which is something I am working on) so it will have to do for the moment. I would love to hear what other solo divers consider safe but I know it’s going to be based on their own capabilities. I suppose that someone who can dive to 60m is going to laugh at my levels as being insanely conservative.

Hi Reid. I don’t think I am kidding myself, just doing the best I can. I was curious to find out what depth you consider shallow and what qualifies as deeper water?
BTW - Thanks for the offer to train with your group. I know John and was going to start diving with you guys but things have been a bit complicated over the last few months. I’ve been living in Tauranga and working in Auckland, so my weekends are spent down here and my weeks are a mess. I should be settled here full time as of early next year and I am hoping to hook up with some freediving locals.

I follow Ash's system exactly, normally diving between 6 and 15 meters depth. I surface WELL before my limit, I'd even estimate my average dive to be around 55 seconds. If I see no fish, I surface. I will go past that if hunting and close to a shot, but my mind will be aware that I'm past 1 minute.
I have yet to meet 2 spearo's who dive together, one up, one down. ( But then I have'nt dived with Blue water hunters.) Spearo's keep a general eye on one another from what I've seen, but I think think it's safer to assume that you hunt alone. Taking that approach, I hope that my buddy notices quickly that he has'nt seen me for a while if the shit hits the fan...and I'm sure he's thinking the same.

Not perfect, but I'm interested if this is 'the norm' with most spearo's.

personal "rules" when diving solo

I'll weigh-in here because I think most freedivers dive solo despite knowing that it is safer to buddy.

My personal rule is to begin ascent when I feel the first distinct urge to breath, which is well before contractions begin. I don't do aggressive dives until I have been in the water a half hour at least, and usually an hour or more. This assures my dive reflex is well kicked-in, but more importantly gives me lots of time to sense how my body is performing.

I took the Performance Diving clinic with Kirk Krack and Martin Stepanek this Spring, and I follow their recommended protocols religously. i.e. breath-up, recovery breathing, surface intervals, etc.

My dive depth and time varies greatly depending on the many variables of that day: how I feel, recent training, recent diving, etc.

One day last month I dove 15 times, nearly consecutively, to my PB, which I had previously hit but once in a diving day. By any objective measure I was pinning the danger meter way in the red. But I felt well within safe limits based on how my body was performing.
Wow this is turning into a great thread. I also solo freedive alot and I'd like to think I'm playing it safe. I would really like to highlight Ash's comment; "I guess no one who died while freediving or scubadiving solo ever thought it would happen to them, or that they were on what was to be their last dive ever."

I worked as a flight instructor for a couple years and I remember telling my students exactly that so many times. No-one ever thinks it will be them, and no-one ever thinks that this will be the last flight/dive. If they did of course they wouldn't fly/dive that day! As Tommy pointed out, we never get to find out what went wrong when somone goes missing in the water. When we lose an aircraft, no exspense is spared to find out what went wrong. And I read all the accident/incident reports that I can in an effort to learn from the mistakes of others. In freediving we don't have that 'luxury.'

So, I continue to freedive solo. It's not ideal to say the least, and whenever I can dive with a buddy. On solo dives I take all the safety precautions possible. My list is similar to Ash's and include all of his points being slightly more conservative in:

1- depth (12m);
2- total dive time (no more than 1:00 in the cold water!);
3- I also weight to be neutral at the bottom of my dive on solo days. This is a bit of a pain, but I can always grab my line to stay down at shallower depths, and it only ever takes one kick to get up from the bottom!
4- I also NEVER PURGE while solo. On this I'd like some feedback!! From what I understand purging reduces the CO2, but does not increase O2 saturation. So my theroy is that without purging the discomfort/urge to breathe will be very strong much sooner. Hopefully LONG before any kind of a problem. However I'd like this theroy critiqued mercilessly by the experienced freedivers in the group and anyone else with some good thinking on this topic!

5- always take my float and flag with me. Biggest reason here is to avoid the 'evinrude haircut' :blackeye !! But I also really like having my line along with me. It's nice to be on the bottom with a line to the surface to haul yourself up on if you lose a fin, flood your mask ect.

My 2 cents worth on a very important topic.

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hi everyone,

I do agree that risk is part of life. But I think that nobody should freedive alone, especially not at night like it said in the article.

I can understand how pleasant it is but you shouldn't take it that easily, I mean : "I'll go and see when I would go back to the surface". Driving is sometimes really more danderous, that's right, if you think about death before acting you would never do anything. As it was said, you've gotta be responsible and think about the consequences. Take it slow and choose a safe way anyway.

Freediving is not that popular, especially not in the medias. Most of them are talking about something they don't know about, so let's say that the informations in the article might be false or incomplete. They should have told something about security instead of just trying to say what happened. No matters, I feel sad for it.

have some nice dives

Hi all,

Interesting thread. Like most of us I dive alone (same ocean) quite a lot and used to do much more. In general, I follow ash's system, but without being too structured about it.
His #9 is probably the most important part. My times look a lot like his. These days, I avoid dives deeper than 9 meters if solo or same ocean. Deeper dives (13-30 m) I have gotten pretty serious about a tight buddy system.

Jeff, I'm surprised nobody dives tight together, maybe something about the conditions? It is very hard to do, but if you can find the right spearo buddy, diving a tight buddy system with him or her is the best way to dive, my most pleasurable spearng, very productive too.

Aaron, not purging at all will definately make you want to breath sooner while doing little or nothing for 02 supply. That should work very well to limit your dive time to well within your 02 limit.

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I used to freedive on my own, but that was because I had no partner. Now days I have steady diving partners that go out once a week so I dont feel the need to do deep dives on my own. :) But for those of you who do dive on your own I think the conservative approach is the best way, but there is always that calculated risk involved.
I'm just new to these discusions, and offer only an opionion. I've been freediving for several years now, I've taught it and have been a competitor as well. Whether out having fun or training for competition, I would never justify a solo dive. Yes, life in itself is a gamble, but why take one if its easily prevented by something as simple as a buddy. If you take a look at the majority of all freeding fatalities, most could have been prevented with the presence of a buddy. The 2 fatalities that occured in Cayman certainly would have. One of them was a friend of mine who, after I had found out had been freediving alone, I gave a tongue lashing to and had him promise that he would call me to be his buddy if he wanted to freedive. 3 weeks later, he drowned while freediving alone. While it may seem like we're being conservative and not pushing our limits, we have to realize that out limits will vary daily. Fatigue, dehydration, mental preparaion etc. all play an intricate part in every freedive. With the increasing popularity of freediving and the interest the media is showing in it, we all have a responsibility to try and keep the coverage as positive as possible. The 2 deaths in cayman has prevented the gov't from endorsing the sport, where several world records have been set, which is unfortunate.
Just something to keep in mind. At least think of your famiies, and how hard your death would be on them.
Happy New Year to all
dive Safe

Until recently my standard line was that it was either freedive solo or don't dive at all. That has changed though since I found someone crazy enough to dive here in the Toronto area with me this winter! However I continue to freedive solo.

I think if I was in your situation, having lost a friend to the sport, you and I would have a similar opinion on this topic. After reading your post however, I am rethinking my stance. I have never said that solo freediving is okay, and I even went as far as to make a list of "strict" rules to follow while freediving solo. But the other day (after posting my set of rules above) the conditions were grand, the vis was better than I'd ever seen in this particular location, and I dove deeper than I'd ever been before. Obviously a gross violation of my "strict" rules. It was an easy dive (I'm not excusing myself...) on a day when I was feeling great. My perceived safety net certianly cannot keep me safe even if I did follow all my rules, let alone otherwise.

I don't know if I can bring myself to stop solo freediving completely. I realize that as I say that it sounds a bit like the person with liver disease saying "I dunno if I can lay off the bottle." I hope I'm not the reason someday that someone else vows never to freedive solo, but at this point I'm unwilling to say that "I'll never freedive solo again." Of my last 20 dives, 12 were solo. When you only have one buddy, one nice day and schedules don't line up it's hard to stay out of the water.

While I deliberate this point I think I'll spend some time with my wife and kids, thinking about how much I owe them.

Thanks for making me consider this again, I know you're steering me in the right direction.

Just a few names to conjure with: John Bachar [solo climber], Peter Croft, Robert Alain [Alain Robert? Always forget], B. Moitessier[legendary french single-handed sailor, re-wrote the book on heavy weather sailing], Reinhold Messner, etc. etc. There is in fact a tradition in many fields of athletic endeavour, a soloist tradition. This tradition has not infrequently yielded great insights not only to the technical aspects of an activity, but also to the true potential of human psychology and psycho-somatics. Read some of the writings of such athletes [eg : Messner] and you start to see another side to the picture of "risk vs. reward." These athletes did what came naturally to them, they didn't seek "risk-taking behaviour" or some kind of "extreme encounter" with death [see one-dimensional hollywood flicks such as "point break"]. What they did was often a natural progression out of long experience in their fields. For my part I am grateful to the likes of B. Moitessier as are many others for his unique approach to life and his sport. We live in times now that seem far more certain, deceptively predictable in comparison to the earlier half of the 20th C from which many elite soloist "adventure" athletes emerged. Focus on leisure activities by high-tech innovators has led to rapid improvement in safety gear in many fields and also to the rapid increase in participation in what were once considered "high-risk activities". There are a lot of aspects to be considered in this matter of "soloing." WHile it's true that people have died emulating the great solo athletes, perhaps proceeding with inadequate experience, I think the tradition itself is valuable. As for presenting a positive image of freediving, I think that's relatively unimportant when compared with such issues as the rapid and continuous damage that commercial fishing and industry are doing to marine environments world-wide.
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Hi, Cali. Long time no see.

I think that the right way to look at is this: if you freedive solo enough times you will drown freediving solo.

Why ? Simple. Everything in th universe varies. Your physiological parameters vary. Some days up, some days down. The environmental parameters (current, temperature, animals, chop, etc. ) all vary, too. Up and down.

Dive solo enough times, and there will come a time when random variation in all these gazillion variables randomly sets up a combination that will result in you blacking out and drowning.

And, almost certainly, under circumstances wherein a buddy save would be a piece of cake.

That's a good way to think of the risk. The question then becomes: how many times do I have to roll the dive before it comes up craps ?

And, Cali was right again - even if you like the number, even if you like the odds, YOU ARE NOT THE GAMBLER ! You are toying with the happiness, peace of mind, sanity and welfare of all the people who like you and love you. You're putting THEIR suffering on the table, not yours. You won't feel a thing.

That really doesn't seen so bold, now does it ?

It's easy to say you should give up freediving until you find a buddy if you already have one.

Everything with a probability larger than zero will eventually happen given long enough time. True. A thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters will eventually write Shakespeare. I still think it can be more dangerous to drive a car than to do conservative freediving in the style mentioned earlier in this thread, yet we all drive cars. How does that work?

The problem is, that diving solo does not kill you. If that was the case then everyone diving solo would die.

The death that started this tread, happened for reasons unknown. Let's not blame the 'solo' part too much without looking a bit 'deeper' (no pun) first.
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Didn't say you should give it up. Just be clear what you are doing: you are gambling with other peoples' lives.

Didn't say or impy all solo divers will die. Rather, it is that all solo divers will e v e n t u a l l y die - if they do it enough. There is nothing profound or mystical in that statement: it is the same as saying that you will eventually die eating canteloupe unless you die first under some other circumstances. Point is, your death diving solo will almost certainly be a death easily,easily prevented by a buddy.

It is no secret that perhaps 95% my lifetime freediving has been solo. I didn't know any better. I never heard of anybody blacking out until August 2000, some 45 -odd years after I first took a deep breath and dropped beneath the Atlantic waves.

Now, having rescued blacked out divers perhaps 100 or do times, I am quite convinced that a) it happens, b) it can happen to absolutely anybody, c) it is usually unexpected, d) they all would have died if they were alone, and e) none of these people did die.

And now, to my sorrow, there have been a number of freediver drownings in my life. None were solo divers ! All were under very, very extreme circumstances. All were absolutely devastating to the people left behind, including me. And that's why I look upon solo diving with a very, very jaundiced eye.

Look, not all people who drink a liter of whiskey and then drive he wrong way on the autobahn at 200 kph get killed, and yet none, I think, would deny that is an activity that kills !

Random chance, my friends. Is there anyone among us who has never had the experience of suddenly, inexpicably coughing ? Sneezing ? Gagging ? The body does these wierd things sometimes. No big when they happen in the living room, but very big when they happen 50 meters down or at 120 kph on a tight, closing radius Alpine switchback.

Blah-blah. I think the main thing I want to say is that when you kill yourself unneccesarily, it is very, very, very, very painful for your friends and family. Keep that in mind, please. It is in many ways even more painful than a suicide, where at least one can imagine the person found relief from some awful suffering.
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