Offering the simplicity of free soloing while reducing the potential consequences of a climbing fall, deep water soloing (DWS) is one of the best ways to enjoy nature. As climbers identify more areas to enjoy the unique pursuit, the sport has been growing in popularity.
It is worth noting that the potential for injury during deep water solo is real, and understanding what you should do to stay safe is extremely important. In this article, we will help you understand how deep water soloing works, how to identify landing dangers, and the precautions you should take to avoid injuries.
What is Deep Water Soloing?
Deepwater solo – which is also known as psicobloc – is a type of rock climbing that solely relies upon the availability of water at the base of the climb. The purpose of the water is to protect the climber against injury from climbing falls that can easily result from the high-difficulty routes.
The climber scales rocky cliffs over the ocean without using climbing ropes. In case of a fall, the climber ends up in the deepwater below – this ensures that he/she does not sustain injuries.
Getting Started with the Deep Water Solo – Everything You Need to Know
Start in An Accessible Place
When getting started with the deepwater solo, you must find a location featuring easy access. If possible, find a location that has cliffside ladders for easy access to get in and out of the deep water. This should help you explore deep-water soloing in a comfortable setting.
Hawaii’s Ka Lae, which is also known as South Point, is an ideal place for exploring DWS. The rocks in the location are pretty sticky – this makes it an easy and accessible location to climb. The dark igneous lava rock cliffs that usually delve into the pacific blue waters offer beginners a perfect stage to try DWS.
Other places that you may want to try to include Olympos in Turkey, the bountiful coast of Majorca in Spain, and the sandstone cliffs that line Lake Powell in Utah.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Most people assume that this concept is obvious. However, when you are bringing in another element like an ocean or a body of water into the rock climbing experience, the scope of variables and factors widens. For example, after wearing your climbing shorts, you may need to take into account the high surf and tide advisories for ocean locations.
For rivers and lakes, you must be up to date on the water levels to know whether it is possible to climb a spot safely. Also, you may need to determine whether your location has sharks, seals, sea turtles, jellyfish, underwater boulders, and reef before attempting the climb.
Do Not Go Alone
This is a golden rule for almost every outdoor and adventure sport. When exploring new locations that are generally less frequented by people, going alone is not advisable.
For deep-water soloing, spotting is extremely crucial to have a fun and safe experience. The communication between the climber and the spotter is extremely important when the possibility of swimmers and waves (as well as watercraft and animals) can come into play when kicking off the climb.
Also, an extra pair of eyes to help you spot shallow and deep spots underneath a selected route is always helpful. Ocean conditions can change at any time and having a solid team with you can help with everyone’s well-being. Along with the climbing safety, having a good crew can help amp you up on your DWS mission – this will help you push yourself to new heights.
Carry the Right Gear
The right gear is paramount to any climb. Deepwater soloing is unique in that it won’t require you to have crash pads often used in traditional bouldering, or the climbing helmet, clips, ropes, and carabiners often used when sport climbing. You can almost call it minimalist.
However, to access certain locations, you may need some special gear, like boats, personal watercraft, or kayaks. As well, getting to the remote locations via kayak or a boat will require you to bring food and also apply sunscreen correctly.
You will need to bring rock climbing shoes that won’t mind getting wet and a dry bag to keep your gear from soaking. Since you will see a lot of interesting sites, you may want to bring waterproof camera gear to capture the sites.
How to Enter the Water Safely
The best way to avoid injuries during a deep water solo is to understand safe entry techniques. Two primary methods exist – these are armchair entry and standard entry. Below, we will take a deeper look at both options.
Typically, you will enter the water feet first. Your legs should be positioned together and your arms will be held tightly to the sides of the body.
Before the entry, fight the urge to glance down. Instead, look toward the horizon – this will help you maintain an upright position. Looking down can easily result in tipping forward – this can easily increase the risk of damage to your eyes, ears, face, or a concussion.
The standard entry is often the safest and easiest position. This is the reason it is considered the default position.
This is the most ideal position for shallower water (less than 10 feet deep). It is also used in long and faster falls. With this technique, the climber pulls his/her legs up toward the chest and leans back as if he/she is sitting in a lounge chair with the arms extended to the sides.
This method can be difficult to master. However, it dramatically decreases the impact by allowing you to contact the landing zone with more of your body. When performed correctly, the armchair entry can absorb a 30-foot fall in as low as 5 feet of water.
Additional Safety Tips
- Learn how to swim – Once you enter the water, you will need your swimming skills to get out.
- Understand the water levels before climbing – The water levels often fluctuate due to tides, rough seas, and lake levels.
- Determine if submerged hazards exist – Inspect your chosen location for flotsam, reefs, and rocks. Keep in mind that the seafloor is always moving – even boulders can easily move with the tide.
- Understand that calm water has a harder impact compared to interrupted water. Interrupted or rough water may, however, be more difficult to exit.
- Identify egress locations – consider placing fixed ropes for both routine and emergency egress.
Q: Is Deep Water Soloing Dangerous?
When not done correctly, DWS can be dangerous. Some of the dangers often associated with the sport include drowning and traumatic injury. The drowning risk is often increased by the sudden nature of immersion while traumatic injuries are often caused by either collision with submerged hazards or poor entry.
Q: Can Climbing Shoes Get Wet?
Rock climbing shoes are generally safe to submerge in water. If they have a leather upper, they may stretch a little bit more when wet. However, the shoes can safely dry out and maintain their performance and shape.
Q: What Does Psicobloc Mean?
Psicobloc is another name given to deep-water soloing. It is a form of solo rock climbing that relies upon the water available at the base of the climbing route to offer protection against falls.
Globo Surf Overview
DWS is one of the most enjoyable experiences that any adventure lover can have. Although the water beneath the climbs often reduces the chances of injuries that usually result from falls, one has to be extra careful to stay safe. For example, before starting a deep water solo, it is crucial that you investigate the water depth, check to see if there are hazards hidden in the water, and also have a good team with you to help if you have any issues.