A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed
As scuba divers, the buddy system is ingrained into our brains from the minute we start our open water course. We are taught to stay close to our dive buddy once in the water but becoming dive buddies begins whilst on land and often ends up with you keeping in touch for a lifetime!
The Social Network
Scuba diving is a fun social activity and offers opportunities to meet and interact with people from all over the world. You will share adventures and see amazing things that most people will only dream of. The Buddy system is designed to make diving safer, but it will also make your dives so much more fun too.
When joining a scuba diving course – or as a certified diver a regular fun diving trip – you may not have a recognised friend or buddy with you. However, you need not worry as you are sure to make friends very quickly.
During the confined water phase of an open water course your PADI Instructor will pair you up so you can start to practice the buddy system or maybe you have already become friends with others on your course and you can choose accordingly.
Check Me Out “Because We Really Aren’t Fish”!
One of the first skills you will you practice on your open water course is the pre dive safety check – otherwise known as the buddy check. You will check each other’s equipment to ensure you are aware of where your buddy’s equipment is, as well as how it works.
This check should be completed before every dive, whether it’s in a swimming pool or an open water dive in the ocean or a lake. Your buddy will make sure your tank is turned on, the weight belt is worn correctly, and all the straps are fastened. They will even take a picture of you so you can share with your friends on Facebook.
PADI use the acronym ‘Begin with Review and Friend’ – an easy way to remember the buddy check.
It stands for the following:
B – BCD
W – Weight belt
R – Regulator
A – Air
F – Final ‘OK’
Different Scuba Instructors have different acronyms they will use to help their students remember this. My favourite one is ‘Because We Really Aren’t Fish’ which is the main reason we have to do a safety check.
We’re Better Together
Once in the water the buddy system is both divers responsibility. You should consciously ensure you are always within a safe distance from your dive buddy. This means in poor Visibility you should be within touching distance. However when the visibility is good – like it is on Koh Tao for most of the year – you can be further apart but never out sight.
It’s more fun if you and your buddy stay relatively close to each other anyway. This will provide an extra set of eyes for spotting marine life. If you are too far apart you will not be able to get your buddies when you spot something really interesting and want to show them.
Scuba diving is all about sharing your memories and adventures and if you are lucky enough to spot something really cool like a Turtle your buddy can back up your story when you are bragging about it later!
Lending A Hand
Your buddy is also there to give you a helping hand underwater in the unlikely event you experience any difficulties during a dive. A common example may be cramp. Your buddy can help by assisting to release a leg cramp by holding your fin allowing you to stretch and flex the calf muscle.
Another example may be if your hoses get a little tangled – your buddy can tidy them up for you much easier than you can or the most common one – if your tank band becomes loose then they can reposition it.
A buddy team also reinforces one of the most important skills you will learn in your open water course – air management. Good buddy teams always check each other’s air regularly to ensure a safe end to the dive.
These scenarios are practiced during the PADI Open Water diver course so don’t worry, we’ll show you how.
What happens if you lose your buddy underwater? Don’t worry, there is no need to panic. As is covered during the open water course, the standard response to this scenario is to search for no longer than 1 minute then, if you still haven’t found your buddy slowly ascend to the surface where your buddy is probably already waiting for you having followed the same protocol.
Once reunited you can decide whether to continue the dive or head back to the boat for a debrief and cup of tea.
Fun and Games
Scuba diving is so much more fun when you have someone to share your experience with. Whether it be on your first open water dive when you are feeling a little nervous or when you’re down at 40 metres on a Deep speciality dive taking part in a narcosis test.
The experiences you share underwater with your buddy will give you memories that will last a lifetime and at the same time you will be so much more relaxed and comfortable in the knowledge someone is always by your side looking out for you.
Author: Neil Davidson (PADI MSDT #294100)