Dirk, Tony and Cecil on the surface at North Paw

Be my buddy…

Many experienced divers have very low tolerance levels for new divers, especially on a boat. It is sad that they have quickly forgotten that they were once a greenhorn, new to the world of diving and slow in getting ready once the boat had reached the dive site. These are usually the divers that will do stupid things thinking they are “exceptional divers” and in fact they are the ones that should know better. Experience comes with time, time underwater exposes you to many different situations and we all learn from these sometimes silly mistakes and sometimes dangerous errors of judgment.

An Open Water course, irrespective of the certifying agency, is essentially an introduction to the basics, and all the skills you acquire during your course will not be of a huge benefit in a dire situation unless you hone them from time to time. Many a diver will not have removed their mask underwater since they did their first dive course and I know of many such divers who have never performed any of the skills since the training days of their course.

You will seldom see an experienced diver doing a buddy check, but you will often be asked to turn their air on for them after they have kitted up and are ready to roll into the water. You will seldom see them checking their buddy’s training level, but will often see them alone at the bottom without a clue as to their buddy’s whereabouts. You will seldom hear anyone on the boat voicing any concerns about the dive site or the dive conditions, yet you will hear all of these thoughts after the dive. Imaging swimming around underwater blissfully unaware of the near-panic state half the group are in. What will you do if you are suddenly faced with a group of panicked divers?

Dirk, Tony and Cecil on the surface at North Paw
Dirk, Tony and Cecil on the surface at North Paw

A  few simple tips

Imagine this… You are qualified and ready to explore the world. You book a dive and are allocated a buddy on the boat on the way to the dive site. “Hi my name is Bob!” and a few minutes later you backward roll into the water. Descending slowly you look at your buddy Bob, who is descending like a rocket as he is wearing twice the required weight and wonder, “Can he dive? How long will he stay down? What will I do if he sucks his cylinder dry in 10 minutes and refuses to surface alone?”

Diving is a very safe sport. Follow the rules and things just don’t go wrong, but deviate, modify and ignore them and a good dive can turn bad very quickly.

  • Know your buddy. Prior knowledge that your buddy has problems equalising will prevent you sitting on the bottom waiting for 20 minutes for them to descend.
  • Know how his equipment works, know his dive style and know his level of experience
  • Have a plan that includes the depth you will go to, the route you will follow, who will lead and what your planned low on air pressure will be, will he ascend alone, do you both have an SMB, a knife, a snorkel and a whistle?
  • Know what feature of his attire you will use to recognise him as divers all kitted out in black look very similar in 3 metre visibility.
  • Know your own equipment well, know your limits and voice your apprehension if it is there before the dive Knowing your buddy is terrified of jellyfish makes it easier to understand their need to swim at high speed in the opposite direction when confronted by one.
  • Do a thorough buddy check: it takes but a minute, remember that there is a 100% chance that a problem experienced underwater by either you or your buddy is going to be your problem, so plan your dive and dive your plan.

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Tony

Scuba diver, teacher, gadget man, racing driver, boat skipper, photographer, and collector of stray animals

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