What is the PADI Self Reliant Diver specialty Course?
The PADI Self Reliant diver specialty is a challenging course that teaches you to look out for yourself underwater. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you only follow the Self Reliant principles when diving on your own. Through the course you learn how following these principles in every dive can provide major benefits to you and those around you.
Who is the Self Reliant diver specialty for?
To take part in this course you must have minimum 100 dives and be at least 18 years old. This course is designed for those who are fairly experienced and comfortable in the water and in their own abilities.
This course is ideal for recreational divers who may want a bit more freedom underwater to spend time on their own. It is also for divers who wish to become a much more competent diver within the buddy system. Another massive benefit of this course is for Divemasters and Instructors who lead groups.
As dive leaders, we often don’t have an assigned buddy. This is not to say we are diving on our own, but our main job is to guide and look after those who are following us. This isn’t unsafe, it is the way that dive groups are all over the world, and is completely fine. But as a Self Reliant diver, you have the ability to not only solve other diver’s problems, but also your own. For example, a diver in your group has got really excited about seeing a whale shark and has forgotten to look at their gauge as they are, understandably, focused on this magnificent creature. They look down and signal that they are running low on air.
Without following the Self Reliant principles you would probably have to share your own air with this diver. However, following the Self Reliant principles, you have a redundant air source. So now you can unclip your pony tank and attach it to this diver, allowing you to take your time whilst making your way to the safety stop in a much more comfortable manner. There is now no need for them to breathe from your octopus during your ascent.
What equipment is needed?
Following the Self Reliant Diver principles you need to carry a spare of everything that the dive would otherwise be difficult without. This sounds like a lot, however, the only extra equipment you need to carry is:
- redundant surface signalling devices, one audible one visual
- redundant depth gauge and bottom timer, or computer
- spare mask
- cutting tool
- redundant air source
Pictured is almost all of the extra equipment you need to take. It’s really not that much, is it?
If you’re like me and like to have spares with you anyway then this really isn’t a lot at all! Most professional divers who guide groups will carry a cutting tool and a spare mask as a minimum as well as a spare DSMB too.
My Self Reliant course experience
As a budding professional diver doing your Divemaster course or a fully fledged instructor with a full time job, we all have the desire to learn new skills. I found that the Self Reliant course is the perfect course to do that.
During my Student level Self Reliant course I had a fantastic time because I was able to test myself. I practiced skills that I had only known about in theory up to that point. Skills such as:
- switching between air sources
- learning to dive for a period of time with no mask
- knowing how to check my computer and compass with my mask off.
The trick to doing that last skill is to cup your hand above your eye, exhale and catch the bubbles. If you have created a good enough seal between your hand and forehead, you can use the air pocket like a mask.
In the three dives of the course it is really hammered home how important it is to stay on top of your gas management and your No Decompression Limits (NDL). When diving alone there is no one else to remind you to check! Part of the course is about noting and writing down the factors that limit our dive times. This all has to be completed whilst doing other skills such as switching from your primary air source to your redundant air source.
Do what you love
I did my Self Reliant specialty on a 4 day live aboard. At the end of the trip I managed to get a dive in just on my own. I went with all of the back up and redundant equipment required to do such a dive. The ability to dive on your own is just surreal. You can spend as much or as little time looking at whatever you want when you are a Self Reliant Diver!
For someone like me who is very enthusiastic about finding the macro life. Using my new found abilities, I spent the majority of that dive with my nose in the sand looking for short nosed pipefish, nudibranchs and shrimps that all love to hide there.
Having enjoyed my course so much I decided to do the Self Reliant course as an instructor specialty. This means I can teach people the joys of Self Reliant diving as well. It teaches us the basics of more technical diving, how to switch between air supplies underwater, and how to be more confident in our own abilities underwater as well. Even if you don’t want to do technical diving, the ability to switch safely between air supplies is something side mount divers do all the time. So now you’ve mastered that skill you can transfer it over to side mount diving too!
If you would like to find out how this course can improve your diving and your skills. You can contact us here.