Perfect buddies
Some divers will go with anybody! Others like to stick to the same buddy. And every diver likes to indulge in a speciality - whether it is nudibranchs, wrecking, photography or mooching. The trick of happy diving is to find a buddy with complementary tastes, who will enjoy your style of diving, says Louise Trewavas. Get a mismatch, and its buddy hell!

NEVER DIVE ALONE IS THE FIRST RULE OF DIVING. Thats what every training agency teaches entry-level divers, though many appear to lose the habit faster than they lose their first snorkel.
Having carefully studied diving incidents over a number of years, it quickly became apparent to the training agencies that solo diving was a disproportionately risky business. Diving in a pair offers a far greater degree of safety - two brains (and two air supplies) being better than one.
A great benefit of British club diving is that buddy diving is the norm. The marshalling of dives by more experienced divers, and the accountability of divers for their conduct, means that everyone is expected to buddy check and dive in buddy pairs. Should you return from a dive without your buddy, serious questions will be asked!
In contrast, when you dive abroad, the only serious question being asked on your return will often be: When would you like lunch And for some reason, this seems to cause many divers to lapse into complacency when it comes to buddy diving.
Machiavelli advises that it is more powerful to be feared than to be loved. Perhaps buddy diving persists best where there is the fear of a stern ticking-off for ignoring the rules. But wouldnt it be nicer to believe that buddy diving is practised because it is, actually, the most fun
When Ive talked to divers about their buddy experiences, it is usually the tales of the mad, bad and infuriating buddy that are recalled first. Buddies, eh! It seems we cant live with them, cant dive without them...

Buddy Cheek!
PERHAPS OUR WILLINGNESS TO MOAN ABOUT BUDDIES is a useful way of sharing and establishing acceptable and unacceptable standards of behaviour among divers. For example, in the BSAC branch with which I learned to dive, the following story by Jonathan Lewis was an oft-repeated classic:
It was the end of the dive, and I was getting concerned that X was low on air, he would tell us.
He seemed remarkably unbothered, but I was watching his gauge during the safety stop and it was well into the red. When we hit the surface, he must have had less than 10 bar left.
Werent you worried about running out of air I demanded.
Oh no, he replied, I would just have gone on to your pony.
Well, that would have been an interesting exercise, because Im not carrying a pony! I retorted. What a buddy cheek!
With this story in mind, I set out to find out more about the attitudes of divers towards buddy diving.

My buddy nearly killed me, but Id still rather have one...
ANDY SAGAR CHECKED HIS BUDDYS AIR shortly after they arrived on the 50m wreck, and pointed out a leaking first stage. His buddy, who was diving with a single cylinder and a pony, shrugged it off; signalling that it was OK.
Andy thought no more of it until his buddy approached him, waving a contents gauge that read just 50 bar. With more than 20 minutes of in-water decompression stops to make, they bagged off and got to 30m.
The buddy then presented a contents gauge that read zero, and Andy started to hunt for the regulator on the buddys pony cylinder, which had become completely wedged out of reach. By this time, both men were becoming entangled in the lines of their SMBs....
As his buddys main cylinder emptied, Andy, who was diving on a twinset, pushed his spare regulator into his companions mouth. Unfortunately this was not enough to calm the buddy, who was determined to ignore the decompression requirements and ascend....
Andy had the unenviable choice of staying put, and letting his buddy try to ascend to the surface with nothing to breathe, or to stay with him and try to slow him down.
He held on, dumping his buoyancy and fighting the ascent for several minutes. At the surface, his buddy was angry and distressed; but, fortunately, both men experienced no symptoms of DCI....
Despite the bad experience, Andy says he still prefers to dive with a buddy. Its just nice to know that somebody is there. I came up to the Orkneys with my family once, and decided to go for a solo dive on barrier 2 in Scapa Flow. I got kitted up, went in from the shore, and spent an hour or so alone in the water. It was enjoyable, but it felt eerie. I definitely prefer to dive with a buddy....


Technical divers dont do buddy diving. But recently, me and my mates have started to look again at our diving practices
PAUL MEE IS A MIXED-GAS INSPIRATION REBREATHER DIVER. He dives with a group of like-minded tekkies and is no stranger to deep UK wrecks such as the King Edward (115m) and HMS Pheasant (85m). He spends many trips looking for undived wrecks, where the site and the conditions are unknown.
You rig your kit to be completely self-sufficient and plan your dive accordingly. If we do jump in as pairs, we split up as soon as we hit the wreck, he explains.
The main discipline for these divers is to tag in to the junction of the shotline and the line attaching the decompression station with an individual marker on the way down.
As divers return, they remove their tag on the way up. The last diver will see that only his or her tag remains, and detaches the decompression station, allowing the group to drift freely in the tide during deco....
The team approach provides a good level of safety because the majority of our dive time is spent decompressing, and when were all in one place together we can easily help each other out if anybody has a problem, says Paul.
Recent incidents on wrecks have led the team to rethink their strategy.
One lad was diving the Clan Macinlay out of Wick (60m) when his suit inflator jammed open and he was clinging, upside-down, to a piece of the wreck. All the buoyancy was trapped in the legs of his drysuit. He couldnt let go of the wreck to reach his knife or anything.
Luckily another two divers found him, and - after fighting the urge to laugh and take pictures - helped him upright and pulled his neck seal to release the buoyancy. He wouldnt have made it otherwise.
Ive also found myself at 90m on the Buitenzorg, with my ankle snagged tight into another divers line, where theyd reeled off from the shotline. I was stuck because if Id cut the line, the diver could have lost his way back.
Fortunately I was spotted and helped free - it makes you appreciate the usefulness of having another person there.
Technical divers will always have to dive in a self-sufficient way, but weve definitely decided to tighten up.
Its good discipline to always keep another diver within sight during the dive.


My buddy is perfect for me!
KAREN DURHAM DIGGINS is a member of Holborn BSAC 130. She dives in the UK and abroad with a wide range of buddies, but prefers to dive with Anna.
I met Anna for the first time when we were doing our sport diver training, and we instantly got on. She is paranoid about becoming positively buoyant, and I usually feel that Im negative in the water, so we used to hold on to each other during ascents - not because we actually had a problem, but just for reassurance!
Anna is short-sighted and is great at spotting small objects like shells and nudibranchs. Im long-sighted and usually miss all that stuff, but I appreciate the vistas and can describe the dive to her from a totally different perspective.
She is crap at navigating, and Im good. Im useless in the morning and shes brilliant - she gets up and makes me coffee!
We seem to share a sense of humour and spend most of our dives laughing about things. In fact, we seem to know exactly what the other is thinking and we both understand hand signals that would baffle any other diver. We just know how to look out for each other on the dive.
Its great to have found somebody who complements my diving so perfectly, and weve become firm friends. And I was chuffed to be best person to the bride at Annas wedding.


Buddies Bring em on!...
HELEN PORG HADLEY is an active UK diver, with no regular buddy. Dive buddies are a strange, yet essential part of diving. I hate to think of the number of people Ive dived with: some good, some bad, some bloody awful!
I may have started off depending on them to keep me safe as I explored an alien world, but soon Id progressed enough to realise that Dangerous Dave is called that for a reason.
This would be my personal ad for an ideal buddy: Wanted, buddy or team to partake in standard rec diving, must have low air consumption, nice steady pace, a good eye for beasties, and willing not to laugh when I fall flat on my arse on the boat! Chocolate supply an advantage.
I have solo-dived, but for me it was a trade-off between the freedom of being alone and being able to say: Wow! Did you see that seahorse Diving is all about sharing things, though not all my buddies have been the sharing kind.
I stopped to gaze in wonder at a dinner-plate-size anglerfish with hideous teeth on the F2 in Scapa Flow. When I looked up to share the find with my buddy, she was a mere hint of fluttering fins in the distance, not even a backward glance. Back on the boat, she got the huff because I hadnt managed to show her the anglerfish.
After a deep, technical dive, I surfaced with stage cylinders, and handed them up to the boat. The boats ladder was horrible, and I fell face-down onto the deck. Instead of helping me up, my buddy stood around laughing, while I learnt that I cant breathe with the weight of a twin-set squashing me flat. I guess he was only technically my buddy.
Ive caused my own mischief with buddies. We endured a dubious night of entertainment at a well-known divers caravan park, where Robbie Gibbperformed Bee Gees tribute songs all evening. The merest mention of Night Fever had us all incapable with laughter for the rest of the weekend.
So, while on a stop, I decided there was only one form of entertainment - bring on the deco dancing! My buddys mask flooded continuously once she witnessed me flapping about at 6m.
A dive with two buddies turned into an educational experience after I jumped in and discovered that Id underestimated the amount of lead I needed. The two guys I was diving with passed me a belt with a few kilos on it. Down we went, me clutching the belt in my hand, with a horrible feeling of impending doom, wondering How the hell are we going to do this one.
We hit the bottom in about 10m, and I was ruthlessly manhandled as both guys struggled to fit the weightbelt beneath my twin-set. Now Im rather tempted to forget it again - but only if Im with the right guys!


Buddy Language!

Buddy Lottery
Youve turned up on a dive trip alone, not knowing any other divers... its all a bit like the last dance at the school disco.

They always dive with each other. In fact, theyre now incapable of diving apart and will blub when separated.

Fairweather Buddy
Always there to borrow your spare torch; disappears the minute you snag yourself on that fishing line.

Beer Buddy
Nowhere to be seen under water, but talks a great dive in the pub.

Technical Buddy
Buddy Who needs one when youve got all these gadgets!

Stalker Buddy
One who insists on diving in your blind spot, ie behind and slightly above you, throughout the dive.

Dive-Leader Neck
Stiffness and leaking drysuit neck seal are symptoms of constantly keeping an eye on less-experienced buddies. And stalkers (see above).

Buddy Hell
They dawdle dreadfully. They shoot off unexpectedly. They never give you so much as a backward glance. They are completely self-obsessed, yet prone to running out of air. At which point, expect to witness the Tarzan Swim, as they come charging over to tear the reg from your mouth and smack the mask from your face with an elbow.

The Perfect Buddy...

...always manages to reach your far-flung fin, torch, or gloves for you when youre halfway through kitting up.

...spots that your kit is still tied onto the boat before youve attempted to stand up - and unties it for you.

...understands that your bizarre head-nodding and hand-waving gestures mean that your drysuit inflator has come off on the way down, leaving you shrink-wrapped into immobility. And plugs it back in and gives you a squirt of air. (Phew!) delighted that you pointed out that family of prawns/piece of rusting wreckage/old shoe.

...possesses a fantastic knack of finding the elusive John Dory/wreck/lost SMB reel, and spots the stuff you would otherwise have missed.

...enjoys the dive so much, its infectious.

...senses automatically when youre cold/bored/desperate for a wee and knows the quickest route back to the shotline.

...has a magic cargo pocket, from which emerges exactly the object that youre after: whether its a piece of string, a tub of Vaseline or a crowbar.

...warns you that you have snot smeared across your face - before youve walked around looking like Frankenstein for the whole afternoon.

...laughs with you about your cock-ups, but would never moan about you to the rest of the boat.

...brings biscuits/beer/chocolate!

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