The ‘Buddy’ System in scuba diving is key to making sure that both you and your diving partner enjoy the dive and stay safe during it, yet a lot of people aren’t really aware of what it means to be a good buddy.
Most divers assume that being a good buddy means being free when a friend wants to go diving and checking they’re ok once in a while throughout the dive. Wrong! These sort of buddies are good enough for a quick splash in local rivers or lakes you’re used to diving and you want a quick splash. This doesn’t mean you’re safe. A good buddy would always be conscious of the following:
Sticking to a plan
A lot of divers will have a quick chat about what they want to do when they’re below the surface but that is usually as far as it goes. This is a friend. A good buddy will discuss at length a full dive plan with contingency procedures should something go wrong and would make sure that both they and you know the plan perfectly before taking to the water – especially if it is a new stretch of water neither of you have dived before.
Talking about a plan is important, but if it is all thrown out of the window when you descend into the water then there really wasn’t a lot of point. To become a good buddy, not only do you have to talk about a strong plan but you need to stick to it. This means making sure that your partner also sticks to it. If they decide to deviate from the planned route to investigate a dark cavern, then a good friend would follow them into the unknown. A good buddy however would urge them back and continue with the plan, then make a second dive with a plan to investigate the cavern. Not only does this mean that you get a second dive out of the site, but you are also more prepared should something go wrong when adventuring into the unknown.
Many would assume this is a given point when diving – helping each other with their kit. Yet too many times have I been at a dive site and seen people struggle into their BCD’s while the buddy is standing watching them. This is wrong. A good buddy would immediately offer their help and make sure that their partner is comfortable in their kit. Not only does this mean that you’re a nice person, but it means that you’re less likely to swim into problems when in the water.
Occasionally divers will buy new kit they have never used before and often they have done some research into how to use it, but this doesn’t compare to firsthand experience from another. I myself recently bought a pony bottle (which I hadn’t even considered previously) and only with thanks to buddies have I learnt the best way to dive with one. If it hadn’t been for my buddies advice and guidance, diving with the pony bottle would be a lot more uncomfortable and as a result the dives would be less enjoyable.
As a part of the PADI open water course, all divers are taught to undertake a buddy check on the surface prior to entering the water. A good buddy will continue this practice once they pass their course. This should be a second nature in divers and yet many seem to think that the checks aren’t important or that they don’t need to check again. A good buddy will complete a full buddy check before EVERY dive! Once you peel off your kit after a dive, it should be a top priority to check that it has all been put back on again properly and a good buddy knows this.
Not only does a good buddy show their worth on the surface, but also when they are at depth. Active communication is probably one of the most crucial elements of being a good buddy and it is one that can prevent issues under water. Nearly all divers check that their partners are ok (If they don’t check then I’d recommend you don’t dive with them again). Good buddies though check clearly and frequently that the partner is ok as well as staying close. They also make frequent gestures to indicate the right direction to swim and at what depth to level off. This along with the ability to clearly convey compass readings, is what makes a good buddy effective.