The importance of being a self-reliant diver

The importance of being a self-reliant diver

While working as a dive instructor I used to ask customers whom I haven’t dived with before to assemble their dive gear before the first dive. This was to accomplish two things: so that the customers could familiarise themselves with the gear that they were going to be diving with, and for me to observe their levels of comfort and independence.

Often I noticed that customers, certified divers, putting their BCD’s on the wrong side of the cylinder (with the BCD facing away from the cylinder opening) or putting their regulator on upside down (with LPI hose on the right and regulators on the left).

This would give me a clear indication of how much assistance the divers would need during their dives. Sometimes divers have the mind-set of ‘Well I will always dive with a dive centre so I don’t need to be too worried about being able to… (insert a skill like navigation or monitoring their own air here)”. Other times they might just not have had enough time or opportunity to practice their skills until it became part of their muscle memory.

As divers we need to remember that passing a diving course by meeting the minimum standards are not always enough. You need to be able to perform them comfortably and independently. When you become certified as an open water diver (or the equivalent thereof) you are essentially qualified to go diving with a certified buddy, independent of a dive professional. This is what you are paying for, this is the requirement that needs to be met.

A dive qualification is not something that can be bought, it should be earned. Divers on their entry level course could benefit from taking a moment to ask themselves whether they feel confident and able to dive without a dive professional as they come closer to their qualifying dive. If the answer is ‘No’ then they need to work in a bit more practice with a dive professional either before or after qualifying.

If you find yourself in the space where you are a qualified diver but you are not comfortable with diving without a dive professional, firstly don’t feel judged. Get in the water and practice until you feel comfortable. Find the skills that you are maybe not so strong in and work at them until it sticks.

You may be asking: “I always go diving with a dive centre and will never just go diving with a buddy, so why can’t I just rely on the guide or instructor?” The honest answer here is that you don’t always know who you get. By having this view you are essentially placing your own safety in the hands of a stranger.

Say you did some research and decide to trust your dive professional with this huge responsibility. You might still end up diving with a group of 10 other people- all relying on the professional to keep them safe and check their air and control their buoyance while s/he is trying to navigate and point out interesting marine life.

While dive professionals are there to provide divers with a service and to assist and take responsibility (especially in the unlikely event of an emergency), it is important to realise that ultimately the responsibility of your safety lays with you.

*A version of this article first appeared at

Juanita Pienaar

Juanita Pienaar is a citizen of the world, recently settled back down in her home country, South Africa, after spending time traveling and living in Asia and Africa. She has a passionate love affair with the ocean and loves to share that passion by teaching scuba diving. She is a yoga teacher and fully believe in finding the balance in life. She has recently discovered the joy and freedom of wearing yoga pants ‘out-and-about’. Juanita loses herself in the written and spoken word.

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