There’s much more to being a good dive buddy than shaking hands and introducing yourselves. Your responsibility as a buddy extends from the moment you begin to don gear to the moment you take it off, and at no time should you relinquish that responsibility to anyone but a dive master or instructor. Buddies check each other’s gear, establish communication both topside and below, and make sure the dive is performed safely by each diver. In the world of SCUBA diving, buddies reign supreme!
As a preliminary measure, divers should try to ensure that they are paired with someone who has a similar skill set. The dive master will typically be responsible for this, but if you are uncomfortable with your buddy choice for any reason, don’t be afraid to speak up. For example, a beginning diver will find it hard to keep up with someone who is a strong swimmer with extensive experience. Likewise, experts will find that they will enjoy themselves more when their partner has a relatively equal level of experience. You can’t be a good buddy to someone if you don’t know what you’re doing, or if it doesn’t interest you to trail along with a newbie. Of course, there will invariably be exceptions to this rule.
Most divers value excellent communication skills. Your dive master will have a set of hand signals for the entire group to use, but if you have specific concerns, consider developing hand signals that you and your buddy can convey to each other. Remember to check in with your buddy every few minutes to maintain a constant connection. It is important to respond to every hand signal with the “OK” or other appropriate signal to ensure you’re both on the same page.
Being a good buddy should include sharing interests beforehand so you each have an idea of how the other likes to dive. For instance, some divers are content to drift along, enjoying the larger picture of the reef and its inhabitants, while others will want to spend more time carefully examining a particular area. Although you’ll want to strive to stay with the group, you and your buddy can certainly enjoy your own sights together and get the most out of your dive.
Most important of all, you must be willing to meet the needs of your dive buddy. If your buddy cannot equalize, for example, you’ll need to stay with them until they can, or until the dive master intervenes. If you have a problem during the dive, you should be able to count on your buddy to help you resolve the problem or get you to safety. Diving with a buddy is no doubt more enjoyable, but will certainly increase your chances of survival in an emergency situation. Be a good buddy, and help others to be good buddies in return!