Diving is a bit like a team sport: Throughout a dive, it’s important to remain aware of where you buddy is and how they’re doing. But being a great buddy doesn’t happen automatically — and that’s ok. Being a reliable and conscientious dive partner may take a bit of time and practice, but it is something to strive for to promote everyone’s safety and enjoyment.
A Dynamic Duo
A good diving duo melds well, shares a common understanding of safety, has complementary or closely matched abilities and agrees to the dive’s expectations.
Before a dive, buddies should work together to determine the pace of the dive, considering depth, time, activity and adaptability, and then should make a plan based on the slower or less experienced diver. While you’re hashing out the plan, be sure to communicate what it is you want from the dive to ensure your desired outcomes match. For example, two divers who appreciate the beauty of the ocean and enjoy taking pictures would be a suitable match. When the roles complement each other, it’s easy to enjoy the dive.
Throughout the dive, communication is paramount. Underwater, the pair must communicate clearly, effectively of course, wordlessly. Beyond understanding hand signals, an ideal buddy pair might even be able to understand facial expressions, gestures and feelings through eye contact. The roles of leader and follower may be swapped periodically throughout the dive, so consider how that might play out. Most importantly, a good dive buddy will not push you out of your comfort zone or beyond your skill level.
Stay alert throughout the dive: In addition to monitoring your equipment and surroundings, keep an eye on your buddy, too. Stay close to ensure their safety, but far enough away so you’re not bumping into each other. Make eye contact periodically and even try listening to their bubbles. If you find yourself speeding away, slow down to match their speed.
If your buddy was assigned to you, you can still communicate and coordinate before and during the dive to ensure everything is going well for both people.
Emergencies and Beyond
Problems can arise quickly underwater, and situations can go from bad to worse in moments. A dive buddy is someone to rely on should an emergency occur. With good situational awareness, a dive buddy is cool under pressure and quick to react properly.
A buddy is of course invaluable in the event of an out-of-gas emergency, an equipment malfunction or an entanglement situation.
But a good dive buddy goes beyond emergencies: A dive buddy can be an extra set of hands when donning scuba gear before the dive. Even before the dive, a dive buddy can offer opinions about new dive gear, the destination or the dive site. During the dive, a buddy can offer hand-signal reminders about how much air they have left (to avoid the emergencies mentioned previously) or reminders about planned and actual depth. More important than that, a buddy can provide camaraderie and entertainment. With someone nearby, the excursion becomes instantly more enjoyable. (Let’s be honest, a safety stop becomes a bit more interesting when you have a buddy to make faces at or communicate with via silly hand signals.)
Where Do You Find a Buddy?
So where do you get a dive buddy? A dive buddy can be just about any certified diver, and it need not be an exclusive relationship. New dive buddies can be found via social media groups or channels, dive clubs, training courses or through a network of friends and fellow divers. But before you embark on the dive, make sure you trust each other. Get to know your buddy as best as you can given the time available to you before the dive.
But if you’re solo for your next dive adventure, don’t fret. Buddy teams can be assigned and agreed upon on boats, and dive guides are often happy to partner with anyone who is not paired up.
Whether you’re diving with your spouse or someone you just met, keep in mind that the more you can bring to the partnership the better. Having — and being — a great dive buddy enhances both safety and fun.