Scuba Diving Solo: What You Need to Know

Scuba diving with a buddy is safer and more fun than scuba diving solo. Imagine you’re out there alone and a family of whales passes by. It’s an amazing moment but also a bummer because:

#1 There’s no one to share the experience with

#2 You don’t have a witness to confirm this unbelievable story

So why would anyone scuba dive solo? Is it even legal to scuba dive alone?

In this article, we’ll answer all your questions about solo scuba diving and explain the PADI ® solo diver certification course Self Reliant Diver.

But first, a story.

One day I was teaching an Advanced Open Water Diver course with four students (two buddy teams) and no divemaster. One overly clever student asked me, “who’s your dive buddy?” I expressed hope the student divers would look out for me, but technically he was right. I didn’t have a designated dive buddy.

a diver in cold water wearing a dry suit

Dive professionals like me aren’t the only ones who may find themselves diving semi-independently. If you’ve ever been buddied up with a passionate photographer or videographer, you know what I mean.

Is it safe to scuba dive alone?

Unless you have an insanely reckless buddy, it’s always safer to dive with someone else. At the very least, they’re an ambulatory second air source who can come to your aid.

That said, some people take a “same ocean, same day” approach to being a dive buddy. If you often find yourself more than a few fin kicks from your buddy, the PADI Self-Reliant Diver course will teach you potentially lifesaving skills.

PADI Self-Reliant Diver Course

Learning to dive independently is for experienced divers only. I want to put a big emphasis here on “experienced.” To enroll in the PADI Self-Reliant Diver course, you need to be:

  • At least 18 years old
  • A PADI Advanced Open Water Diver
  • With 100 logged dives

diver alone at the surface with DSMB orange safety sausage

Solo scuba diving means you’re on 100% your own. If a problem arises, it’s up to you to solve it. That’s why the Self-Reliant Diver course includes practice:

  • Swimming without a mask
  • Navigating to various points, including your exit
  • Using a surface marker buoy (DSMB)
  • Carrying and switching to a redundant air supply
  • Calculating exactly how long your dives should be

If you have the discipline to follow self-reliant diving techniques, solo diving can be an exciting new adventure. Even if you’re not interested in the thrill of scuba diving alone, learning how to handle problems on your own can make you a more confident diver – with or without a buddy.

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Is it legal to scuba dive alone?

A PADI Self Reliant Diver certification does not guarantee you will be allowed to scuba dive alone. Individual countries and dive operators may have rules and regulations that require diving with a buddy.

Solo scuba diving? Everything you need to know about the Self Reliant course

Solo scuba diving? Everything you need to know about the Self Reliant course

On a recent poll in the Girls that Scuba Facebook group when being asked about dive training that people found very beneficial, Self reliant scuba diving seemed to pop up the most. So we thought we’d dig deeper and find out more about what exactly self reliant diving is?

What is the self reliant diver course?

“Self reliant diver” is a course that is a PADI certified program and has become more and more popular over the past year. Many other agencies also run a self reliant program and it can also appear under other guises and in some circumstances is called “Solo diver”. It is not the encouragement to go diving alone by any means, it is purely the train of thought, that you are prepared to deal with the majority of any possible emergencies by yourself.

The self reliant course trains you to be pretty much “ready for anything” and self prepared.

Scuba diving, along with any adventure sport has an element of risk. We, as humans are not designed to breathe underwater, and as such, have to rely on our equipment and skills to ensure that we return to the surface safely.

Scuba diving as a whole is not dangerous with DAN reporting 1 fatality out of every 212,000 dives in 2010. Doesn’t seem much I know, and when put in perspective against other adventure activities ( 1 in 116,666 fatalities when skydiving) or even non-adventure activities like driving a car statistically diving is safer. This is just to give you a general perspective on scuba diving.

Now, of those fatalities, and in general, any accidents when diving, the main cause is diver error. No matter how comfortable you are with anything in life, it is all too easy to become complacent and that is when you make mistakes. Running through the same checks and routine every time you go diving can seem easy which is when you can forget.

As a scuba diving professional there is an additional pressure on you, whether you are guiding certified divers or teaching students. You need to mentally and physically prepare yourself and then go through the same again for your class or clients.

So why are we mentioning this? Complacency when preparing is what can lead to accidents, whether when preparing your class or clients or yourself. And then, once you are out there diving you have to watch out for everybody. A client or student has a problem, they have their buddy to turn to and then you as their additional back up brain. One of the first things that is taught in the course is how valuable and important it is to dive with a buddy, but what if you have a problem as a leader? Who is your back up? This is when the principal of self reliant diving comes into play.

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So what does the self reliant course actually involve?

After looking at the values and important of diving with a buddy, one of the first principals that is looked at is the philosophy or diving without a partner and the mental preparedness. Are you ready to go self reliant diving? Are you ready to be able to deal with any emergencies independent of anyone else? Have you thought about the consequences of diving by yourself if you choose? Have you methodically prepped and checked your equipment? Have you formulated a dive plan and will subsequently stick to it? Have you informed others of your dive plans? These all need to be covered before you even get to actual diving.

The second principal is redundancy which very much falls under onto your equipment preparedness. When diving as a self reliant diver you are pretty much ready to deal with any emergency. So what back ups do you need? Think everything you can, from mask, and timing device, depth gauge to a separate air source. A back up air source in this case is a completely separate tank and regulator. When training for this type of scuba diving you have a few options including diving with a twin set or with a pony tank, and deco reg. You carry the pony bottle on your BCD so in case of an emergency you have a completely separate air source to breathe from. In case of a computer fail, you have a back up computer (ideally) or if not a watch and separate depth gauge to ascend safely. If you have a problem with your mask, you have a back up.

By having all of these additional fail safe systems in place it adds an additional level of safety to your diving.

Dive planning and gas management is the next step in the self reliant course. One of the skills you cover when completing a self reliant dive course is that you will calculate your Surface air consumption rate (SAC). This is how much air you breath at the surface from any given tank. It can then be used to calculate your air for any dive using any size scuba tank or dive depth. The reasoning behind this, is so that you can make a more accurate plan when you set out to go scuba diving. By knowing your average air consumption when scuba diving you can ensure that you take plenty of air with you including a reserve for your planned dive.

So why take self reliant training?

As a dive professional I feel personally that it is even more important to have this training, because how many times are you leading a group of divers, that if something should arise, will come swimming to assist? If you teach a lot of discover scuba divers or open water divers then not many I would think. When you are guiding or teaching you have to be self sufficient, so that you can look after any of your own problems without needing to reach out to your students who may not be able to calmly deal with something as they are focusing on their training. For any student that I train to a professional level I include self reliant training and its principals as there is no such thing as being over prepared when diving.

So, you may be reading this and thinking, well, I am just a recreational diver and why would this benefit me? Ask your self this, are you always diving with someone you know really well? Have you ever been buddied up with a new person? If that’s the case then absolutely you should look at getting self reliant trained. By having this mentality when you dive of being doubly prepared and more self sufficient, you will be able to enjoy your dives so much more and explore the world.

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Georgia King

About the Author
Georgia King, a Course Director, originally from England, has been teaching for 13 years. She runs all professional and technical training courses at Oceans Unlimited a CDC center on the central pacific coast and is currently helping them expand their marine conservation education center and marine awareness programs along with her own company Go Pro Costa Rica. When not bubbling under the waves she can be found hiking the local rainforest with her crazy pooch.

At the start of the 2020 dive season, Sandusky County Parks and Divers Incorporated developed a way for properly certified divers to enjoy the quarry without a buddy. There is now a permit process for any properly certified diver to get permission to scuba dive alone at White Star Quarry.

Please read the rules very carefully and make sure you adhere to them in order to avoid a fine. If you do not follow the guidelines and permit agreements to the letter, it may result in a ticket (fine) from the Park Rangers and loss of this privilege. .


  • Solo Diving in White Star Park is prohibited unless properly certified.


BE SURE TO FOLLOW THE PARK RULES. Solo diving is not for everyone and definitely not for those people who have not been trained or equipped to dive as a self-reliant diver. The buddy system has been long established as a safer way to dive for most people. Solo diving at White Star is a privilege that we have worked very hard to attain. There are compromises on both sides. Please do not abuse this privilege since it can be taken away at any time by the actions of a few. Just because you are a good diver does not mean that you are qualified to solo dive.

The rules are simple to adhere to, read them carefully. Invest in a pony bottle system and a high quality regulator system for it. You may have your own opinions of how this should be accomplished but if you are choosing to solo dive at White Star you need to follow the intent of the rules or don’t dive solo here. We are excited to be one of the few places that allow qualified divers to solo dive. If you are not yet trained to dive this way, talk to your dive center or instructor and find out how you can earn this certification.


These are some of the active educators that use White Star regularly for training who offer a Solo Diving Course.

If you wish to be featured here as a Solo, Self-Reliant or Self-Sufficient Instructor, Please send us your information via the contact page.




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