Article written by Kevin Favreau
If you have been diving in the last several years, you’ve no doubt engaged in some form of teamwork while diving. The current standard being taught to new divers is still the buddy system. So unless you are a certified SDI Solo Diver, every time you go diving, you go with a buddy or a team. Dive enough and you will eventually experience the unfortunate problem of diving with an incompatible buddy, whether it was someone you were paired with on a dive charter or someone you personally misjudged. Finding a good fit in a dive buddy can be a challenging task but an important one. But what characteristics should you look for in a prospective buddy and how can you be sure you’ll make a good team?
We all know a dive buddy is there to share air in the case of an emergency. However, their responsibility does not end there. There is much more to be considered when choosing an appropriate person to dive with. First and foremost, you want to find a person whose personality fits with yours. If the two of you do not get along above the water, chances are you will not make a strong and effective team below. Personality compatibility makes for good team dynamics, as does mutual respect. The better you get along with each other, the easier it will be to communicate with each other and problem solve. Although being friends definitely helps, it’s not the only characteristic to look for.
When talking about dive buddies, the question of experience always comes up. It is an important quality to consider when looking for a dive buddy. Should you choose a buddy that has more experience than you, less, or the same amount? The answer is not black and white. Many people would prefer a partner that has more experience than them. It’s a natural tendency to want to partner with a person that can mentor you or offer advice on anything from finning techniques to gear configuration. However, it may be the case that experienced divers are looking for a similar level of experience in their prospective partner. Perhaps you want a person with the same general amount of experience so you can grow and learn together. Whatever your preference is, it’s important not to misrepresent your experience level for any reason. The buddy system is based on trust, and both of you should have an expectation of honesty and reliability. Safety in diving relies on this system of mutual trust.
A third characteristic to consider when looking for a good teammate is similar preferences and goals. Two people that have the same goals in mind will be a stronger buddy team than a team where one person is only half committed to the dive. Are you a photographer that likes to go slowly and look for macro opportunities? Is your buddy constantly moving too far ahead because he/she is bored waiting for you to get the perfect picture? Do you love cold water wreck diving but your buddy prefers warm tropical reefs? Do you prefer long exploratory night dives but your buddy prefers short, shallow day dives? Do you swim slowly but he chases after every turtle and ray he sees. I’m sure you get the idea. The point is, you will form a much stronger team when you have common preferences and goals. A person who is bored may very well become an inattentive buddy and lose that critical component of awareness. When either of you lose that, safety issues can arise.
A good dive buddy is a person who looks out for you and your safety, lends a helpful hand, and is someone to share new and exciting dive experiences with. Teamwork and good buddy dynamics are an important part of a safe and enjoyable dive experience. Your buddy will be someone who you respect and trust, has the experience level you are looking for, and enjoys the type of diving you do. So what are you waiting for? Get out there. Find a good buddy and go diving!
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