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No Buddy is better than a Bad Buddy By Alex Wolff © 1994 Sea Wolff Diving Submit an article and receive 20% discount on our Sea Wolff Dive Log or Instructor Instructor Log

If you were ever the diver that raised his or her hand when the divemaster asked “Who needs a buddy?” than you know that buddy procedures are seldom followed effectively between unfamiliar buddies. Buddies can be the most important “piece of safety equipment” you have but they almost always come without a manual. My objective in writing this article is to promote awareness and use of good buddy procedures, helping you to write the manual on your future buddies.

This article is somewhat different than most articles that you have ever read in that it is interactive (you and I both need to participate for my objective to be achieved). I will not be listing a whole bunch of information for you to absorb but rather I will be requesting information from you. I will introduce a couple of topics and ask you to list some actions, behaviors, or just ideas relating to that topic. When you have completed the article, I encourage you to share your responses with your buddies and diving friends. Please get a pencil and a piece of paper before continuing.

WHY DIVE WITH A BUDDY? From reading the first paragraph, it should be no secret that I think diving with a buddy is generally safer than diving without one. This is not a condemnation on solo diving (which is a practice I neither promote nor condemn and should be handled as a separate topic). Sometimes it seems that diving with certain buddies is no different than diving solo. Diving with such a buddy is not necessarily safer than diving alone.

Before reading forward, spend four minutes listing reasons to dive with a buddy. For each reason, list the rationale behind the reason.

BAD BUDDY BEHAVIORS Think about your last 5 dives. Did your buddy do anything that you thought was less than perfect in regards to being your buddy? For that matter, maybe you did something that was less than perfect. Chances are, neither of you discussed it and just went home somewhat angry with each other.

Spend the next 2 minutes making a list of BAD BUDDY BEHAVIORS that you have seen in yourself, your buddy, or other divers that you are glad to have not had to dive with. Would you want to be your own buddy?

GOOD BUDDY BEHAVIORS Same thing. Think about your last 5 dives. Did you or your buddy do anything that you thought was a good or great buddy behavior? Did you see a buddy team that did something wish you and your buddy had done?

Spend the next 2 minutes making a list of GOOD BUDDY BEHAVIORS that you have seen in yourself, your buddy, or other divers. Are you a desirable buddy?

STAYING TOGETHER I will bet that almost everyone listed separating as a bad buddy behavior and staying together as a good buddy behavior. It is not always easy to stick to your buddy. On a night dive in low visibility, my buddy and I will sweep our lights into each others beam. If you can see what your buddy is looking at, you know where he or she is. During bad vis day dives, one of the behaviors we use to stick together is sort of a follow the leader. We each have an assigned spot - forward left or rear right, lined up with the leader’s shoulder, within the limit of visibility. If you know where you are both supposed to be, you can stay together fairly easily.

Spend the next two minutes listing ways you can stick together. Make separate lists for night good vis, night bad vis, day good vis and day bad vis situations.

ACCEPTING BUDDY ASSIGNMENTS A common misconception is that when the divemaster says “OK - you two are buddies,” is that you are stuck with this person for the rest of your life (at least until the boat drops you off). It’s not true. You are free to say that you prefer not to (polite refusal) dive with your assigned buddy. But how do you know you don’t want to dive with that person if you have never dove with that person?

The answer is simple, interview the diver. Are your objectives the same (I would never dive with a photographer or spearfisherman, they are solo divers and I wouldn’t have any fun), skill levels compatible, there are many more questions that you might ask. Keep in mind the answer may not be as important as the attitude with which it is given. If you ask someone what they consider a safe distance apart and they say they have never thought about it, you will see that dive twice during the dive - getting off the boat, and back on board the boat when the dive is over. On the other hand, if the diver says it depends on who the buddy is and the conditions, this is someone you might want to dive with.

Spend the next 5 minute listing questions you would want to ask a prospective buddy, the acceptable answers, and what the definite turn offs would be. How would you answer those questions?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS Now that you have spent 30 minutes going through this article and making lists of lists, the process has not been completed. Call your buddy, speak to the diver sitting next to you at your club meeting, or send me a copy of your responses, I will share them with my buddies. Most important, next time you are the chosen buddy, pass the interview!

Alex Wolff, a NY based systems analyst and PADI instructor, is the creator of the Sea Wolff Dive Log® for Windows™ and the Sea Wolff Diving Buddy Procedures Workshop from which this article is derived. You can send responses to Alex via EMAIL or at Sea Wolff Diving,4 23rd St  Jericho, NY 11753 .


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