You've been trained not to dive alone because buddy diving is safer, easier, and in most cases it will be a lot more fun.
The scuba diving buddy system employs an organised routine of checks and procedures between two or more divers.
The collective cooperation and a genuine willingness to help between the pair or group, significantly reduces the risks of a serious accident and increases the likelihood of a rescue in an emergency situation.
But what makes a good buddy, and maybe even more importantly, how does diving with bad buddies potentially increase the possibility of an underwater disaster?
The ideal buddy system in recreational scuba diving is when two divers share physical and visual closeness together before the entry, during the dive, and immediately after the exit.
This allows continuous monitoring and an ability to respond immediately if called upon to assist.
The most effective and beneficial justification of having a partner with you is a low-on-air emergency or an entanglement problem, such as with fishing nets or hanging ropes.
The buddy system uses a set of procedures and safety checks prior to the dive and appropriate responses to scuba equipment failure underwater.
It is preferred that the buddies have equal or similar levels of dive experience and a mutual interest of the agreed underwater objectives.
A tip-top superior dive buddy is someone that is trustworthy, considerate, reliable and observant. Having some mechanical aptitude or physical strength could be extremely important to tackle gear malfunction or inert diver problems.
Your best buddy should be right there with you sharing the fun and enhancing safety throughout the dive’s entirety – like a wing man. Of course we stress that this partnership is not one-way traffic.
Each individual has a responsibility to display the qualities of effective behavior for each buddy's benefit and for optimum protection.
Valued scuba buddies are serious about dive safety and the welfare of the team. They are committed to methodical Pre-Dive inspections as standard procedure for every dive.
They are typically knowledgeable about emergency equipment and its use. They care about your well-being and comfort levels installing high levels of confidence and reassurance.
Further qualities and attributes include good communication skills. Establishing clear gestures and concise hand signals before you descend underwater are paramount to avoid misunderstandings while you are both submerged.
The best buddies stick together and respect the decisions made about the maximum depths, directions and objectives. You should always agree at which point to end the dive and when to ascend together.
It's useful to have scuba buddies who are able to identify the common signs of anxiety before diving. Most beginners will not openly admit their fears, especially the fear of deep water.
One of the main reasons behind an unwillingness to show fear is because it may clash with the excitement shown by a dive partner.
As a result, it is common for 'uncomfortable' divers with uneasy feelings to still get in the water and try to make the dive.
So, what makes a good diver buddy in this kind of situation? First, try talking with your buddy to see if you can identify the stressor before you even get wet.
Second, make sure both of you understand the details set out in the dive plan and everyone is comfortable with it. The typical signs of an anxious dive buddy will include:
Even the best dive buddy in the world will be unable to plan for every eventuality underwater. So, if you do see signs of anxiety from another diver, remember your basic scuba training - stop, think, breathe normally and then act accordingly to try and prevent panic.
Pro Tip: In some severe cases, the dive may become too overwhelming to continue diving. If so, ascend to a shallower depth or a less stressful environment. But, never be afraid to end the dive at any time - using safe ascent rates.
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