As many of you will know and many more will find out that enter the fantastic sport of diving that finding a really good dive buddy can be quite difficult at times. How many of you have gone out on a Dive Charter only to find that the buddy that you were put with swims off in a different direction once you hit the bottom, not to be seen again until you reach the surface? I have had this happen on quite a few occasions and if you are a new diver with less than 50 odd dives you may find this unsettling.
So what should you look for in a dive buddy
Well the first thing that comes to mind for me is diving with someone that I can get along with above the surface as well as below. Then you really want to find a buddy that has a similar air consumption rate so neither one of you are missing out on dive time. Taking that into account it helps if you both have the same interest in the diving, an example of this would be if you are into photography and doing underwater video. For many divers it is a real bore watching someone shooting film while they hang in the area to make sure that you do not forget or overlook your air consumption.
Now taking the points above into account you really are limiting yourself of potential buddy possibilities. Take an active approach to eliminate this problem by seeking out like minded dive buddies.
About my Current Dive Buddy
My current Dive buddy is only an Open Water Diver with around 28 dives under her belt compared to my level of a Rescue Diver with in excess of 280 dives in the last 2years. Some people may wonder why have I chosen someone that is less qualified with less experience. Firstly we get on really well as friends and talk till the cows come home about diving, and then there is the fact that I can spend time with her to build her confidence.
An example of this is how a while ago I decided to go on a dive that she had planned with a local dive club and she was glad that i went as she was feeling very stressed about the crew once she hit the water. Taking the time I calmed her down and got her breathing to a nice rate before we made the dive. This was a great dive and we had a good 70 minutes dive on 15 liter tanks. The other major factors for me include how our air consumption is almost exactly the same at any given depth. She is really happy hanging around while I am filming watching her air as she does her own thing in close proximate in case of any problems that she may have. Checking her air gives her a real accurate idea of the level that I am at and that is very reassuring. We both have an interest in underwater videographer and Mel takes some great footage as well at times sharing the joy of filming. Most of my diving is to a depth of not much more than 20 odd meters as the light levels are too low below this point for filming. On a lot of our dives I encourage Mel to dive and converse with other divers aboard the charters as well as join them under the water. This allows me to film them as a group and gives Mel experience with other divers and to see for her how others dive.
Trust In Your Buddy
When diving we are in a hostile environment in the sense that we cannot take water into our lungs so having a buddy that you trust with your life should the need arise for their help is paramount. I have full faith in my buddy being able to assist me if I for example run out of air. Recently I was very low on air not completely as I used the same tank from my second dive for my third dive. The transition of approaching Mel and taking her alternative air source was a very calm procedure. This allowed us to continue our dive for another 12 odd minutes before resting at the safety stop on my own air supply before surfacing. This brings me to some interesting questions that I have been asked!
How many of you can honestly say that you would trust your buddy with your life? Well I trust mine with my life and that goes both ways. I would never allow my buddy to risk it all on low air levels in a failing situation as I would prefer that they went for help. If your buddy was in a serious situation like entangled in a ghost net or fishing line and you were low on air would you risk it all to save them? The first thing that comes to mind is self preservation but I can honestly say I would sooner die trying than not try at all. Unfortunately for me and other divers Melanie is returning to her studies in the coming weeks but I will look forward to diving with her in the future, as I am sure the others that have dived with her will as well. I am sure she has met some other great divers and learned a lot from myself and others about how to tackle stressful situations and how it is important to calm yourself before taking that dive.