Plan Your Dive & Dive Your Plan Series: Part 1 “The Buddy System”

Plan Your Dive and Dive Your Plan Series: Part 1“The Buddy System”

Why do we have a buddy system in SCUBA diving? Why do we stay in a group? Why do we discuss this in the dive briefing? In a word, safety. First and foremost, in the unlikely event that a problem occurs with a diver’s air supply, entanglement, entrapment, or a health issue, we count on assistance from our buddy.

When a diver disappears from the group or abandons their dive buddy, the dive ceases to be fun for those who must begin searching for the “lost” diver. Regardless of whether the searcher is a buddy or a professional dive leader, the stress factor is huge!

I found myself in this situation when a buddy agreed to follow my lead and then abruptly turned back to shore without signaling me. Thirty seconds later, I was shocked to find that my “buddy” had vanished.

I searched underwater for the standard minute and then went to the surface. Although the water was very clear, my buddy was nowhere in sight. I was beside myself with worry and stress. Did my buddy have a heart attack or get injured? I stayed at the surface as recommended by Safe Diving Practices and continued to look underwater and at the shore until I determined that I needed to get help to search. I headed in and when I was almost back to shore, I saw my “buddy” exit at the shoreline.

I have to say my first reaction was instant anger followed by relief. After I calmed down enough to speak, I asked why this person chose to abandon the dive, the response was “I felt tired and did not want to continue the dive.” That is a perfectly valid reason to end a dive. But what happened to communication? It is not acceptable, or safe, to leave your group or buddy without signaling. Lastly, I was left without a buddy. What if something had happened to me and I could not get help? I have chosen to never dive with this person again.

Other important concerns when diving together are nitrogen loading and decompression issues. When divers stay in a group, they are more likely to have similar dive profiles and so can have the same dive times and surface intervals. Makes sense, right?

So, remember to stay with your buddy or group and have a safe and fun dive! Aloha, Teri