Going it alone…Solo Freediving

Several posts to our forums area on the topic of Solo Freediving had me think back to my first experience with this controversial subject.

Many in the dive community feel that solo diving is a no no due to the inability to be rescued if something should go wrong. I think that each person needs to weigh his or her level of experience along with a healthy dose of reality to see if going solo is an option.

My experience was one of what could have been called a perfect day of diving.

I had made my first trip to Hawaii to the island of Oahu. I and my family had taken a 5 day vacation from the cold Pacific Nortwest and had been doing the typical tourist stuff. On the last day, I was able to be dropped off at Sharks Cove for a couple of hours of diving before heading to the airport to fly home.

I suited up and checked the conditions – flat, calm and water as clear as gin. Quite a change from the murkey conditions I typically dive here in the Northwest.

With my gear on and my trusty Nikonos II w it’s 28mm lens attached, I waded in. There is nothing like sinking into warm water with unlimited viz to make a freediver just relax and enjoy the view.

I started swimming out – marine life was everywhere. More fish than I had ever seen, huge underwater lava fields – it was very dream like.

I had started my ritual of diving, then surfacing, trying to get my rhythm to increase my breath hold times to start photographing. I took a few shots, just because, and then surfaced. I repeated this for several minutes.

I then noticed off in the distance a commotion. As I swam closer, I saw a snorkeler trying to ride the back of a sea turtle. That really angered me – I swam over and with my camera started to look like I was taking photo’s – must have scared the offender, for he immediately swam off, not to be seen again. I swam with the turtle side by side. Diving and surfacing, almost like an underwater ballet. The turtle was skittish at first, but then relaxed when it realized that I wasn’t there to harrass it, just to dive and play. I was able to get within 10 feet of it. Then closer… I started to shoot images. We would dive, I would get along side and snap a couple shots, then surface. We did this for what seemed like an hour, but in reality was only a few minutes.

Then I let my aquatic friend swim off to the deep blue.

As I swam back to shore, I realized that I had witnessed a special event that was forever imprinted in my memory. Could I have experienced such an event had I been diving with a buddy? Maybe, maybe not.

But I was also keenly aware of where I was at all times while still experiencing the moment I was having at this point in my life.

My bodily processes, my position in the water, distance from shore. Everything.

When I got back and changed to get ready to fly out, I felt a peace and at the same time a fear that I hadn’t experienced before when freediving. I had become self reliant – personally responsible for my actions, and the potential concequences if something had gone wrong.

I had experienced what it truly meant to go solo.

Would I do it again? If the conditions were right. Diving solo is not for everyone. But those who choose to do so, experience those things that could not occur with a dive buddy. I prefer to dive with someone in the waters I frequent. The conditions are too unpredictable to dive solo.

It takes a clear head and fair assessment of your dive site to make that judgement call.

Diving solo – an experience only you can have.