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Diving alone

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Tom Arnold
Oct 11, 2002
Hi all,
Bound to be a touchy subject, but it's one that means a lot to whether or not I dive.
As I'm sure pretty much every freediver knows, it is not always possible to find somebody to dive with. This is my situation most of the time. Apart from my recent dive with Pekka (thanks for that mate, must do it again some time soon!), I rarely dive with anybody. When I say 'dive', I simply mean swimming underwater and not necessarily going anywhere deep. I just enjoy being under for a bit longer than your average person! This is partly because deep water is pretty difficult to find around the south coast of Devon :( . Anyhow, when I do go swimming alone, I never stay under for anywhere near my limits and I never go any deeper than about 10m if that.
If I told myself that I could only swim with a buddy, I would probably only get to go in the water a couple of times a year and might as well sell my fins and take up golf! :D
Is there anybody out there in the same situation? There must be!
Take care,
Hey Tom

You're bound to find others in a similar position, for various reasons. A good friend of mine who runs the beachcamp in Columbine nature reserve has nearly always dived alone, for years in fact. He's on this list and will probably respond to your post. I have dived alone occasionally, but like yourself, have kept it to within 10 meters and conservative. But it's not really about how deep or how long you go, it's just not a good habit to get into.

Last weekend, I wanted to dive, so I hooked up with a group of Scuba people, followed them out, and had a royal time !! Followed them on their dive, and dipped down to spend time amongst them every few minutes. I bumped into other groups as well, and there reaction to seeing a freediver suddenly cruise up to them on the bottom, say Hi, and cruise off, was worth a million bucs ! Maybe thats an alternative for you, not sure how much scuba you have going on ?? Or just find a mate, and get him hooked on this epic sport !!:eek:

Good luck !

Diving alone is okay with safty in mind

Hey Tom.

I personally think diving alone is a great thing to do. There are many ways to dive alone and be safe. Unless I'm going out with my best dive buddy I can't feel quite as in the "zone" with people around me.

Instead of going for deep dives with my buddy, when I dive alone I go for shorter and shallower dives. I feel very happy and safe. I feel like I'm part of the ocean. Something natural, like I was meant to do this.

If the person understands the risks of diving alone and act accordingly it can be safe and healthy.

It seems like the diving community is always saying never dive alone. (While most of us often do?) Instead I would like to see the community take a new direction about diving alone. Ofcourse diving alone is dangerous. But it's also an amazing experience and a blessing for most of us.

I would like to see the community support diving alone with strong emphasis on safty. I would rather hear, "Let your friends know when and where you are diving, set a time and have your friend call you if you dodn't, don't go if the current is strong, don't go if you are tired, don't push your limits alone, go for shallower and shorter dives, study the tide, add extra two minutes to your breath up and do it property.

I feel like it's really like everything else. You are not going to fly an airplane alone for the first time. But when you study and practice it although it's dangerous you could fly alnoe.

When I see NEVER DIVE ALONE!! in bold in my dive manual I just feel like we can do it some other way. Sure they are trying to save their butts. Sure, Tanya has the the ABSOLUTE WORLD RECORD OF 35M with no fins when when other people are going almost twice as deep. Sure she's doing it so the sports get recognized and doing the "right" thing in the huge picture but..

Freediving is one of the most natural and spiritual experience I have ever known. And if the diving community and the sport represents what freediving is in the at most puriest level we must stop the inauthenticity that is present in the diving community today.

We must have faith in the power of the water and the relationship with humans. I know in my deepest heart that ocean is not the one to false with. If the sports represnets the purity of the ocean WE must represent the purity of the sea.

Thanks for reading!
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Good stuff my friend!
I agree totally. I always see NEVER DIVE ALONE written all over the place, and I think that it's crazy to say that when if everybody stuck to that rule then freediving would most likely gradually die out.
Sure it is not as safe as diving with a buddy but it's a totally different experience and we all take the risks we want to take.
I have spent a few years as a regular skydiver as well as freediver, and looking at the statistics I have discovered that I am more likely to die on the way to the dropzone/divesite than I am when I'm there. We all know how dangerous driving is (far more dangerous than freediving) and yet we all do it.
Dive safe my friend,
Ok first - guilty as charged, I have in the past been known to stray into the water on my own. But, know I wonder how I could've been so crazy, I want to see my five year old grow up and I don't want to set a bad example for him.

Once you see the effects of someone blacking out and being revived at the surface you strongly question whether there is any possible way to do solo freediving safely. I don't think that letting your friends know where to start looking for your body after the fact is a safety precaution.

The reason the community tends to be harsh on solo diving is that none of the precautions that you listed will save you on that day where you get snagged in some fishing wire, or are dehydrated and suffer swb, or get a little sunstroke... <<insert list of incidents here>>

Freediving is not like flying, it's pretty rare that a pilot dies from passing out at 20,000 ft and not being revived by his co-pilot.

When you dive alone you take a huge risk. I don't believe I've ever heard of any statistics related to the number of deaths of solo divers vrs the number of solo divers, but I do know of some real live incidents. Including someone who died while practicing holding his breath in a hot tub.

Long story short, dive alone if you want to, have to, but don't try and justify or minimize the level of risk, it's there and its big.

Some alternatives you might want to consider are: diving with scuba divers (who are looking out for you) or having a buddy snorkel at the surface.
I allways ( 98% of the time ) dive alone.

And there is still a greater risk of beeing killed in my car than in the water. So that's my view, if you wanna talk safety, stop driving.

A guy in Norway just died freediving, and he was diving with 5 buddies! I never push myself when beeing alone, and for me that is 25 metres spearfishing. With friends I "feel" safe and push alot more, and the risk for me is therefore greater than it would be diving alone.

Cars kill, water is thrill, seriously look at the stats!
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I hear many people saying that when they dive alone they do so well within their limits. The danger with solo freediving is that your percieved limits are not necessarily what the dangers are.

I know a diver who blacked out at just 2m after doing his breath up. He had been packing and when he started his descent it affected blood flow back to the heart resulting in his blackout. And there are numerous other dangers that have little or nothing to do with what your percieved depth and time limits are.

I suppose everyone has to decide what level of risk they are comfortable accepting, but don't fool yourslef thinking that if you keep shallow and short you're not open to potential dangers.

Sure I like the romantic thoughts of being one with the sea when diving alone, but I can't say that I've ever been at depth and found that the experience is dimished because there is a buddy waiting for me on the surface. On the contrary, I found my diving enhanced and been more at ease being able to stay down longer because I know I have someone watching out for me.

And remember, if you do dive alone and end up dead, that fish you felt "one" with will be eating you for breakfast.

Jason Billows
Ottawa, Canada
It is quite sad subject.. I wish there would be a perfect buddy for my dives.... I hae done diving with Tom, now couple of times and it has been ok, but I should haev left muy gun home... freediving and spearfishing don't mix very well.. I mean that you have buddy spearing and you freedive.
Perfect buddy... would always have his eye on you when you dive, would not be on your way when you want to do something, would let you enjoy the sea or lake or what ever to the fullest.. :hmm would go diving everytime you do..

I do my hunting alone and when I used to freedive around here I did it alone.. it is just difficult to get people to dive with if there isn't strong diving community at your local area..

Hoping to find the perfect dive buddy..

When I hunt alone I purposely go to areas that I know are shallow so I cant dive deep. Just dont push it simple.

Very interesting and different points of views. :)

Maybe I am a little of a romanticist but I certainly do enjoy freediving alone.
I feel safety is safety. Weather if you are diving alone or not freediving is still a serious sport. Enough to keep your safety radar on at full all the time.

Just because you are diving with buddies it doesn’t mean it’s always safer. I’ve had moments where the whole 5 of us couldn’t get below 30ft due to sinus congestions. Or going out with a novice beginner who can’t dive deep. I’ve been diving with my brother lately and he can’t go below 25 ft. When I dive with him it’s almost like diving alone. He can’t come get me if I pass out at 35ft.

I feel that if “DON’T DIVE ALONE” is always strongly mentioned in a forceful manner people may have guilt trips when they are diving alone. I certainly have felt that. I don’t think that’s right. Matter of fact in my world :)t) I was meant to dive alone at times. I’m a firm believer that diving alone can be good medicine. I’m also a some what of a Buddhist and I do believe in reincarnation. I’m also in a way an old fashioned Native American. My teachers have always said to trust mother nature. I’ve studied at Native American tracking and survival school for few years and I know that good survivalist is a spiritual person who will follow his/her intuition. We are connected to the Earth like that. Just look at mammalian reflex. I choose not to think I’m violating the “golden rule” when diving alone. I do it with safety in mind. Matter of fact I put more safety around my diving when I’m alone than with a buddy.

Also if you keep telling people not to dive alone when people are with buddies people may think they can do what ever they want with buddies. And they might forget that the buddy can only go down to 25ft and going down to 50ft is taking pretty similar risk as to diving alone. And I am quite sure something like this happens a lot for people who are starting out.

Right now in my life I feel that diving alone with safety in mind is a very healthy thing to do. If I have an accident while I’m alone it is due to the same force that put me in this world. I will trust it as I would if I was diving with a buddy.

Plus you can’t go diving naked with a buddy! Or can you?:D
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I normally spear alone or with #1, who is now 11. I don't regard this as being particularly dangerous and feel just as comfortable in the water as I do sitting here in the wife's kitchen in front of the 'puter. I have two float lines for my float 10 meters and 20 meters just because I don't want it further away from me than that while I'm on the surface. The trade off is I don't dive deeper, but all but one of the bigger fish I have speared recently have been less than 10 meters deep. Mom tells me I was learning to swim underwater at the same time I was learning to walk and that was around 38 or more years ago.

There are a few things that can make for safer freediving/spearfishing/SCUBA diving.
1. Always dive with a buddy- not just any buddy, but someone who is physically and mentally capable of rescuing you if you do get in a jam. Keep in mind that this is a two way street. You don't want a buddy so big you can't rescue them if they need it.
2. Always carry a good quality, sharp knife- at least one, two are better. At least one of your knives should be located so you can reach it with either hand. A pair of wire cutters would also be a good idea. There's no telling what you might get tangled in when it comes to someone else's trash.
3. Always have a safety observer- either on the beach or in the boat, someone to just watch the two in the water. If you're using a boat the safety observer must know how to safely operate the boat.
4. Always have a two way radio or cell phone- both is better. These stay with the safety observer along with a list of who to contact and their numbers in case of emergency.
5. Know CPR- This goes for you, the buddy and the safety observer. Even better if all are EMT trained or paramedics. Should also have training in diving related injuries.
6. Have bottled O2 on hand- either on the boat or on the beach. I've noticed this item becoming more and more popular among recreational divers.

That's all I thought of right off the top of my head. I'm sure some of you can think of more to add to this list.

Driving to work is something I am required to do almost daily during the work week and that is far more dangerous than spearing. Even partying, when there is alcohol involved, or going out drinking with friends, which I haven't done in years, are much more dangerous than spearfishing.

Diving with a buddy is safer than diving alone, but then again, almost anything, even something as simple as eating, is safer with someone else there. You can also ask yourself this, "Am I doing all I can to make my activity as safe as possible?" "If not, why not?"

And I will ask this question: Is there a point at which safety becomes ridiculous? If not, what about spearfishing from a shark cage?
Originally posted by SpearSlinger1
. You can also ask yourself this, "Am I doing all I can to make my activity as safe as possible?" "If not, why not?"

And I will ask this question: Is there a point at which safety becomes ridiculous? If not, what about spearfishing from a shark cage?

Excellent points I think. Ultimately everything has some danger involved, especially living ;) And we know how that always ends up.
So it's a personal decision based on our own values and perceived responsibilities to others that gives each of us our "line in the sand". We can stay home in a plastic bubble, survive, but experience nothing. Or we can climb mountains, go to the moon, dive, or drive to work accepting that there is risk, but actually experiencing something of value.
Erik Y. (in philisophical mood today)
Well put you guys.

I like the whole bit about being in the bubble and spearing from a cage.

I heard an intersting story once. The seven nation's tribe up around upstate NY, including Mohawk nation has an old saying. They say that when a man(woman) is in trouble it's just the creater's way of telling you to go climb the tallest tree and pray.
For me it just depends. If you're a person who has grown up around an open ocean i.e. Calif. coast, South Africa, Australia etc. swimming, board & body surfing, etc. perhaps not even diving but you are an accomplished waterman, so to speak, then you have mastered a lot of things like entries/exits in large surf near rocks, you've gotten yourself into jams (you've been held under and rolled along the bottom by a monster set) and survived, you've got caught out on a stepladder day and patiently waited for that lull you thought would never come to get back in, then naturally you're going to dive alone (probably most of the time) and assume the risks. You know how the ocean can hammer you in any number of ways so you're careful. The dives I'm refering to would be like snorkeling from cove to cove, shore and moderate depth spearfishing, freediving in the blue 15 - 50 ft. and not being too goal oriented in your dives. This kind of scenario while perhaps not endorsed, is I'm sure, quite common.

But let's say you've just discovered in your pool or nearby lake that you can hold your breath for a long time and you like it. You've stumbled upon Topi's beautiful music-enhanced record dive video or read the SI article about Pipin & Audrey or have in some other way been introduced to freediving as another extreme sport. You're attracted to the sport for either it's ethereal or extreme nature and you want to do it. Most of what you're then trying to do is go deeper and prolong your apnea, your dives are more goal oriented. You've taken up the sport as pretty much competetive freediving and human aquatic potential. Nothing wrong with that, this is a great sport. If this is more like your situation then you should probably never dive alone. SWB looms for all of us. You should probably be part of some team of like-trained people who are all focused on the one person diving at a time.

Listen to the mentors here, be transparent so they know exactly what you're doing in what kind of water. The main thing where I live is to be comfortable and at cause in the water. If you ever feel spooked, weak or uncertain about anything get out of the water so you can dive another day.
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I have been diving as long as I can remember and very often alone. I must say that I have very rarely had serious problems while pushing my limits probably due to the fact that when I push myself I am most aware of the danger. The most frightening moments and the most serious injuries I have ever suffered have been doing very mundane things. This goes for just about everything not just diving. Complacence is a very dangerous thing whether it is driving a car, crossing the street or skydiving. I still dive by myself for the same reasons stated by others but I do my best to keep a healthy fear even if I am in my own pool. In fact I bet
many more people have died in the shallow end of their pool this year than in the entire history of freediving.
I very rarely dive alone, and if i do i do so beacause of lack of buddy. Now that my very favourite buddy lives in UK.. :( i've had to do some diving by myself. I've found that especially when spearfishing it is more likely that i'll catch some fish while doing it alone than with someone there. It must be somewhat a psychical thing since when diving with someone very close i'm much more worried about my buddy than me.. That ofcourse is extremely selfish thinking. Since if something bad would happen i would prefer that it would happen to me instead than to my buddy, since i feel that the grief of losing your near one is much more worse than getting hurt yourself.
I personally dont fear death and especially i've felt when underwater that if id die there it would be rather painless. Now dont get me wrong i'm defenetely not suicidal, but i do feel the presence of danger when freediving and i have to adapt to the fact that there is a possibility of death allways araund when i'm diving. That possibility is there whatever i do. I just feel it more strongly when submerged all alone with the sea. Even though i feel that presence i feel very calm as if God was there with me.

But for the sake of your near ones ( us here in db aswell.) and yourselves please dont dive alone. But since you'll likely to do so, be very carefull.

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It's good to hear some interesting responses to my post here. Good to hear from you Tuomo (I guess you are Pekka's brother?). I have done a dive or two with Pekka recently - it was really good to dive with him although you're right about the whole spearfishing thing - it is quite difficult when one person has a speargun and the other one doesn't, I kept on getting in Pekka's way the other day...sorry Pekka! It was lovely to dive with somebody else for a change, I feel very priveliged.
I think that diving with somebody else and diving alone are two completely different things and will probably always remain that way. When I dive alone it is purely for the sake of being in the water, feeling peaceful and close to God, and for the love of the ocean. When I dive with a buddy it is for the enjoyment of sharing the water and the experience.
I think that what Roin said was very well-put. I totally agree that there is a big difference between goal-oriented freediving and simply swimming around underwater. Before I discovered that I could keep my breath-hold going to about 4 minutes I was quite happy with just going down 3 metres and staying under for 30 seconds. However now I like to stay down until I need to come up if you know what I mean!
Dive safe everybody,
Hi all,

Question: diving with a buddy implies that one of you is on the surface as a "safety man" while the other dives. I often find myself getting separated from my buddy, or both of us down at the same time, etc. I wonder how many people who think they are diving with a buddy, really are.
Ofcourse it would be more helpfull if you actaully had someone watching your back all the time and that is how the 'dive buddy' thing should work.
But if you compare yourself beeing totally alone to having atleast someone in water with you, there is a big difference. If one indeed does pass out he has something like 8-10 minutes time before he starts getting serious damage due to lack of oxygen in brain. During this time if weighted properly he is likely to float on surface unconsious. ( Correct me if im wrong ) And the other diver is able to help him out.
It's not that black white though, but it is allways better to have someone in water with you.

And Lizardman, yes i'm Pekkas brother. ;)


Hey cliff.

I've had the similar problem. But now what we do is we use hand signals and watch our backs. After warm ups we do at least a minute down there and we are often going through tight caves 35ft below.

I've had a talk with my buddy on land and we agreed to watch the other one while other dives. And we try to be within 7ft of eachother during accent so we can swim down and grab eachother.

When we are doing 100ft or deeper dives I've asked my buddy to swim down a bit so he can see me. It's really cool to see your buddy disappear but it's kind of a scary thought.

Simple signs like two fingers tapping your mask then tapping your chest is a great way to let your buddy know you're gonna dive.

I've also found that talking between dives takes a lot of energy. You can stay in the "zone" with hand signals but when I talk I think and when I think it gets me out of the "zone".

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