SCUBA diving is a buddy sport. Just having somebody there isn’t enough though. A warm body is not necessarily a buddy.
I found that out the hard way early on in my diving career. I had two great experiences as a new diver that showed me exactly what a buddy should be and shouldn’t be and I’m grateful for both.
These experiences have provided me with clear principles about what it means to be a dive buddy.
GBR – Cairns, Australia 2002
I was a relatively new diver when I went to Australia.
Okay, before I go on – if I ever decide to visit the same places twice… one will be Australia! Great people, great country, great diving!
So, I was traveling alone with Down Under Dive and had the good luck to meet another single diver from the US. Dave was from Wisconsin and being from Colorado we almost spoke the same version of english and both needed a buddy.
We were on a dive out of a small boat at about 60 Feet on a wall just sort of moving along. I was having the time of my life!
My mask strap broke. I wear contacts so opening my eyes underwater is an option only my optometrist would love. This was my 26th maybe 28th dive ever and one of my first in the ocean. There I was, 60 feet of water above me – can’t go there – ‘I’ll die!’ and 100 feet or more below me – well that’s not a great option either. I didn’t panic… but I was, without question, outside my comfort zone. After what seemed like an eternity I realized that I had caught my mask as it drifted from my face (thank God for small mercies) and… I was breathing. Okay, I have my mask and I’m breathing. I said it to myself a few times. Then I felt Dave’s hand on my BCD strap. The tension told me I was going up. I tried to relax and felt the tension on my BCD lessen. I got my mask back on and we ascended safely.
When we reached the surface Dave asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I was okay but that I was done for the day. He said ‘Okay – no problem.’. He never mentioned it again except to look over my mask and see if he could help and he never used the incident to give me a hard time or blame me for a lost dive.
A few years after returning from Australia I was diving with our local shop on the Marina at Carter Lake. We did this annually to help clean up the area under the docks (Eco-Dive). I geared up, dropped into the group, got the brief and buddied up with another single diver. No problem.
Everything was going great, I’m swimming along looking for ‘treasures’ when I started getting dizzy. I realized all I could see around me was green (Carter Lake is not known for it’s clarity, warmth or brilliant blue hues). There was no surface, no floor, no left, right, up or down. Where was my buddy?
This time, I had the option to dump my BCD and find the bottom since the Marina is in 30-40 Feet of water. I settled in the muck and got my bearings. I eventually found my wayward buddy and we swam in until we could stand.
By this time I just didn’t feel right and told him that I was done. Now, mind you, there were 20-30 divers in the water, plenty of people to buddy up with. In sharp contrast to Dave’s understanding attitude this guy proceeded to try to push me to keep going and berated me for calling it a day.
When I got home I had a fever of 104F – the flu. I had no business in the water and I’d definitely made the right call when things didn’t feel right to me.
These two experiences provided me with a clear understanding of what I want in a dive buddy and the kind of dive buddy I want to be.
It sucks when you have to call a dive. I know that. But our lives and those of our buddies depend on us being at our best underwater. A good dive buddy is someone you can trust to be there when you need them on the dive and to understand when you need a longer or additional surface interval. It’s also okay to hook up with another dive buddy if your buddy needs a break but it’s never okay to pressure a diver into the water or shame them for responsibly calling a dive.
The surface interval’s over… get out there and dive!
© 2013 Stephen Krausse