In my view there are 4 stages of diver development that sit outside the normal core diver training programs. Even though I believe these sit outside these programs, these stages are very much interlinked with training and in some instances a necessity to advance.
In this blog, I wanted to discuss these stages in a little bit of detail to give you an overview. I am planning on expanding on this concept in further blogs and cover them off individually. 3 of the stages are very much a linear progression from one to the next; Reliant-> Self Reliant -> Contributing. The 4th Solo branches off after the Self Reliant Stage.
Disclaimer, just because you move up a stage or 2 does not mean you will always stay at that stage for every dive you do. There are 2 things that effect this, 1) Your kit set up for a particular diver. 2) The complexity of the dive itself. For example, there are a lot of dives where I would class myself as a ‘Contributing Diver’ however if I am doing a progression dive where I am expanding my own experience, I would most likely slip into the ‘Self Reliant’ stage. If I am on a beach dive (where I leave the redundancy equipment at home) or if on a course, learning and experiencing something completely new, the chances are I will be very much back to being a ‘Reliant’ diver.
Now it’s important to try and understand what stage you are at for each individual dive, but also just as importantly what stage your buddy is at, as well as any other members of your group. This knowledge will give you a greater understanding of the limits of the dive and what are the most probable outcomes/solutions to any problems/issues that may arise on the dive. This will help in making the most realistic dive plan.
Reliant (Dependent) Diver
This is where all divers start and where many stay. This is not a bad thing, it just limits the dives that can be done safely. Divers are very much reliant on their buddy as a source of control, leadership, equipment redundancy and problem resolution. One of the core issues with reliant diving is if there is an issue, the diver in problems is actually taking something away from their buddy! Be that equipment, gas, and thought process (Basically the other diver needs to concentrate on helping their buddy while also trying to concentrate on their own diving). This greatly increases the risk. Some of the common ways these risks are mitigated by these divers is; limited depth, diving more as a group, less challenging dives etc.
Becoming self-reliant is a big step, as it involves a large shift in mindset around control and problem resolution. There is also the addition of redundancy equipment. The challenge for a self-reliant diver is to not forget about their buddy or dive group, this is not solo diving. This is one of the biggest issues I see with self-reliant divers, they are paired with a buddy or group on the surface then when they enter the water they act as if it is a solo dive and all the buddy protocols go out the window. This is extremely dangerous when their buddy or group is made up of Reliant Divers, and even with a self-reliant buddy, not all situations can be dealt with alone. The basic concept around being self-reliant is if you have an issue, you are no longer taking anything away from your buddy because you have a set skills and equipment to deal with it. This is what normally happens, the diver has an issue, they deal with it while their buddy waits on hand to offer assistance.
In solo diving you are completely alone and Kırıkkale there comes the greatest risk. It is the understanding of the situations you will not be able to deal with alone that if you get caught in you will die. Now just because a diver goes diving by themselves does not mean they are at the Solo stage in my view. I have known plenty of divers who fit into the reliant stage but are happy to put on the same standard basic equipment and go diving by themselves. In my view the biggest shift from the other 3 stages is identifying the risks that could now kill you, and how focused you must be not to fall foul of them. Nothing brings this home like your first solo dive, when you find out what being alert actually means and you realise how much you rely on other divers subconsciously. What could be considered as a normal risk when diving as a pair now becomes a life and death one. Once you have had this heighten awareness and experience it on a regular basis it becomes difficult to shift and when you go back to diving with a group or buddy.
There are a couple of arguments I see made around either Instructors while instructing being solo or a qualified diver diving with a less qualified experienced diver, this is wrong in my mind, as if something happens your students/buddy will try and help, and there is a high possibility they will get you to the surface. There is also a high chance you can direct them to assist in resolving the situation. As mentioned above in Solo diving you only ever have only yourself to rely on.
This is when you have a diver who is self-reliant but has further skills, knowledge and equipment to add to a dive. A lot of the time you find a Contributing diver diving with divers at a lower stage, so many of the benefits cancel themselves out. But what if you have a couple or a group of Contributing divers diving together? Now this is where the real magic happens and what true team diving is all about. It is all about the Synergy of the team such as the sharing of leadership during various portions of the dive. When an issue arises, as the diver deals with it, the others are already on hand ready to assist or are already doing so, and already taking the next steps. Synergy of the divers makes this very different to two reliant divers diving together. Aristotle’s quote ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ very much comes into play here. This level of diving is normally learnt when Divers progress into the Technical arena. Having said that, there is no reason why Recreational Divers can not reach this stage.
Being truthful about where you and your buddy sit in relation to these stages, and planning dives around this, will lead to safer dives.
I hope this article has given you a reasonable overview of where my thoughts are on this subject, and as mentioned will be looking to expand on these individually in later posts. As always would love to hear others views and thoughts on this.