One lesson that the dive instructor drills into the head of every student during basic scuba diving classes is, “Never dive without a buddy.”
It’s a lesson you learn early, and often, as you progress through the certification course.
Over the years I’ve noticed that “never dive alone” is a discipline that weakens, and one not even “strictly enforced” by some dive operations. Yes, dive operators require that no one go in by them selves. But when you dive with a group, and a divemaster leads the group on a tour, many of the members of that group forget all about keeping an eye out for a buddy.
The divemasters take over the duty of making sure every diver in the tour stays safe. Usually a divemaster leads, and another one follows, the group around the dive site. But some of those lines of divers are long enough that if one diver in the center of the group gets into trouble help from one end, or the other, of the line takes time to arrive.
Functioning as a skillful scuba buddy takes constant awareness, and practice. It takes the experience of one who commits to becoming an exceptional diver. It takes someone who deeply cares for their fellow divers, and goes out of their way to make sure their dive buddies have the best dives possible.
To become a scuba diving buddy that other divers want for a partner work on, and get very good at, these 7 dive buddy practices:
1. Speak up. Learn as much as you can about the dive site you’re about to explore. What is the bottom terrain like? Are there currents? Make sure you discuss these with your buddy during the planning phase of your dive activity. How long will you stay underwater? At what depths? What’s your procedure if you separate? Make sure you talk about all of these considerations. Don’t assume that your buddy knows, or thinks of, all these issues. Ask questions to find information you didn’t think of, but your buddy did, and neglected to mention.
2. Make sure the equipment safety checks are thorough, and mutual. Have a checklist that you both refer to. And don’t only check the safety items. Make sure that you minimize gear dangle. Continue these two-way equipment checks during the dive – check each other’s gauges to make sure the dive plan is still valid.
3. Be receptive to suggestions. We just don’t know it all. And sometimes we overlook things without noticing. If your buddy recommends a gear adjustment, points out a safety concern, or sends a warning your way at least think about how you should respond.
4. Don’t hog all the glory. Maybe you’re a natural leader, or used to leading, but your buddy needs to practice scuba skills too. When you share the lead with your partner during a dive your buddy gets the opportunity to practice observation skills, and the pleasure of discovering new sights first. She or he also gains experience at overseeing the execution of the dive plan.
5. Adopt a watchful attitude. Be aware of where your partner is every moment. Keep an eye out for any difficulties your buddy might encounter. Check her or his gear occasionally. Make sure nothing comes lose to dangle into the coral. Be alert for air leakage. Make sure the tank doesn’t slip from the buoyancy control device straps.
6. Point out your interesting finds. Don’t take it for granted that your buddy sees what you see. If you spot some funny fish antics, or unusual sea life, bring it to your partner’s attention. And encourage your partner to do the same for you.
7. Buddy duties don’t end when you come out of the water. Help your partner with equipment removal. Check that she or he feels okay. Be talkative now also. Discuss what you seen during the dive, and talk over any issues for future dive safety.
The art of functioning as an extraordinary dive buddy is a crucial scuba diving skill. Learn, and practice, to be the best underwater partner you can. And make your future dives more fun for you, and your dive buddy.