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How to become a good dive buddy?

Discussion in 'New Divers & Those Considering Diving' started by Jafo123, Jan 20, 2008.

  1. Jafo123

    Jafo123 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Hinton,Iowa
    188
    0
    I have read several comments on what makes a good dive buddy. They are all good ideas and I won't argue with any of them. I could probably use with some improvement myself. What I want to know is HOW is a new diver supposed to get trained to be a good buddy? Yes going with an instructor is a good idea but it's going to get to a point where even he isn't going to hold you hand all the time. Going with another diver with more experiance again another good idea but there again for how long. If you dive with a new diver where do you draw the line in teaching him or her to be a good buddy and give up? I'm willing to dive with any new diver right out of OW class but they have to understand there will be disscusions before and after the dive about what I expect and what I have seen in there awarness. If they are trying I'll keep on diving with them even if they have the occasional slip up.
     
  2. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many. Rest in Peace ScubaBoard Supporter

    36,349
    13,624
    I think awareness is a difficult thing to build, and I'm not sure any of us is through doing it. Certainly, when I started diving, I was so BUSY mentally with all the things I had to do -- buoyancy, checking my gas, trying to figure out where I was -- that my situational awareness was pretty poor. In addition, nobody had ever told me anything about where to swim to be visible to my buddies, so I tended to the typical beginning diver behavior of swimming along BEHIND whoever knew what they were doing.

    But I had a very patient teacher, who pointed out the things I was doing wrong (but did it kindly) and who was willing to keep diving with me, despite those errors. He taught me a great deal over a couple of months, and then sent me off to get some training that would continue the process. Since then, I've mostly dived with other, similarly trained people, and one of the things we do is discuss expectations BEFORE the dive, and debrief it afterwards. That last thing is a big part of getting better. If nobody ever tells you where you have fallen short without realizing it, you will never improve.
     
  3. RJP

    RJP Scuba Media & Publications

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: New Jersey
    13,460
    6,055
    Communicate at three important points in time:

    Before the dive - about experience, training, goals of this dive, hand signals, gear, buddy check, how often you'd like to check air, turn point, lost buddy procedure, anything and everything. At a minimum the "before the dive" communication should catch a bad buddy pairing before you even get in the water.

    During the dive - everything from "OK" to "Check out that eel." Now of course I'm not saying to pester your buddy the whole time, but communicating with each other ensures you're close enough to do so, understand each other, and keeps you aware of what each other are up to

    After the dive - debrief the dive, ask what they meant with this hand signal, or why they did that when you saw a certain thing, ask them about your trim, find out if you were too close or not close enough, ask if there was anything you could have done to be a better buddy

    The amount and focus of the communication at each of the three time points will vary by situation - vacation insta-buddy different than your every-weekend local buddy - but the three "Before-During-After" time periods should be addressed on every dive.

    My main buddy and I have become much better buddies with each other, and with other divers, as we always work on making sure that we communicate with each other and have an understanding of the what the other diver's wants and needs are.

    Lastly, everyone here seems to focus on "at what point do you decide that this guy/gal isn't a good buddy for me." I would recommend that each of us also evaluates ourselves in that respect, and if we decide WE are not a good buddy for them, we need to determine what we can do to address that. That might be a function of skill level, comfort in the water, or similar. Further, could be a function of diving style (eg pure rec vs DIR) or goals (eg photo vs hunting). At that point WE must decide if we want to address the differences ourselves to become a better buddy to that person or simply buddy with someone else. At that point, even that comes down to communication: tell the person either "I know you really want a lot of room and space for your photography and I'm more of a 'right at each others shoulder' kind of guy..." if you want to bail on him or you might say "I'm sort of a DIR-leaning kind of guy, and believe in doing an S-drill at the start of every dive. If you want I can show you how that goes on the next one..." Then you either decide to dive together or not, but everyone knows where they stand either way.
     
  4. Jim Kerr

    Jim Kerr Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: NorCal
    308
    1
    As a new diver I asked alot of questions from more experienced divers and read everything I could that would help me improve my buddy skills. I think that with all these certifications some agencies have, it would be a good idea if they have one just for buddy skills. I realize there are some agencies that incorporate good buddy skills as part of some courses they teach but not all do.
     
  5. Jim Lapenta

    Jim Lapenta Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Canonsburg, Pa
    17,170
    9,232
    Training should start with the first class session. Going thru my YMCA AI and Instructor course now. A new class started wednesday night with swim tests and skin diving skills. We already have an idea of who needs to be with who. Talking reveals interests, comfort levels, personalities, etc.

    If a new diver has not had it drilled into them how to be a good buddy, how to find a good buddy, and how the buddy should act and react then the instructor has not done their job.

    When diving with newbies or anyone whose buddy skills are lacking, because there's lots of experienced divers out there whose buddy skills suck, I do everything I can to determine just where the deficit is. It may be that they were never taught where to be in relation to the other. Maybe proper buoyancy skills were never taught. And some people just think they know it all and the way they dive is fine. These I give up on and let Darwin handle it.

    And at some point the diver does not get trained to be a good buddy but rather he/she trains themself. When they get tired of looking behind them to see where their buddy is they learn to slow down, when they are always looking at the bottom of the buddy's tank they learn to communicate to the buddy to slow down. The same goes for looking up or down. They learn to adjust their buoyancy and position in the water column so they compliment each other. Most newbies cannot follow me 8-10 inches off a silty bottom with out vis going to hell. But I can come up to their level of 2 ft off and try to set an example with my finning techniques, speed, and other techniques that allow me skim the bottom. I also make sure that when critiquing someone else's technique that I know what I'm talkng about and do it in such a way as to be as helpful as possible.

    If they don't want to hear it or are just not interested fine. But chances are I'll not be diving with them again unless I'm getting paid to. As to when do you give up? That's a personal call. As long as what they are doing is not unsafe I have alot of time. I'm also willing to hear what they expect from me as far as my skills are concerned. And at this level I'd better be able to explain exactly how and why I do what I do. Not just "because it's the way I do it."

    As a DM heading towards instructor I'm held to a higher standard and rightly should be. I don't believe in holding someone's hand. I have done it with a couple students on their first dives due to uneasiness, crappy vis, and because of the pair in front plowing up the bottom. But as far as buddy skills a good instructor should be able to communicate what is required by effective classroom presentation, pool practice, ow dives, and most imporantly by example. The same can be said for any one mentoring a new diver. Don't assume what you are doing is right. It may be right for you but what about them? You may need to adjust your buddy skills to fit the person you are "helping". Because in them the faults may not lie.
     
  6. RJP

    RJP Scuba Media & Publications

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: New Jersey
    13,460
    6,055
    Forgetting for a moment all the debate over which agency/instructor/philosophy would or wouldn't be able to pull this off and whether it would therefore mean anything...

    That's a damn good idea!

    Even if not any sort of "official" thing, it's something that shops and/or clubs could sort of do informally.
     
  7. Minipinny

    Minipinny Registered

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Vancouver BC
    42
    0
    For me, building good buddy skills took some time. When I first started to learn to dive over a year ago, they mention all the basics in the class but that wasn't really enough to make me a competent diver right after the course. For months I became "the follower" and I had to rely on my buddy to help me figure things out like maintaining neutral bouyancy, maintain my safety stop at 15 feet, burping my hood when my mask would not clear, etc... Things that you can't learn all at once in a mere 2 weeks of OW training.

    I agree with TSandM about having to learn everything all at once - bouyancy, weight check, safety stop, etc.... And to be a good buddy you have to be able to know your basic skills first before you can help your buddy. Otherwise all good intentions can be fatal in the end.
     
  8. MBH

    MBH Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: GA
    600
    1
    I believe that it all starts with the divers attitude, training, common sense, and the desire to improve.
    Here's my mindset and duty if I'm your teammate or buddy;

    I have your reserve gas supply so I always have to be aware of where you are, what you are doing, and be prepared to get to you quickly should you demonstrate any sign of distress.

    If we are not in touch contact then I have to maintain a position that enables you to see me or my light beam.

    I'm the eyes in the back of your head, keeping a look out for any equipment issues that might develope.

    I'm your extra pair of hands that will assist you when you need an extra hand.

    We are a TEAM. We'll descend together, we'll solve our problems together, and we'll ascend together. You are coming back with me, period.

    I expect the same from you.
     
  9. Malene

    Malene Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: France
    183
    4
    I think you need to learn to be a good buddy, as you need to learn the basic skills, and that for both experience is the most important.
    I really like the advices in this thread and another similar, especially as I am not a very experienced diver who dives only during my holidays, and because I don't have a regular buddy. Thanks especially to RHP and Dave 4868 for their input:
    - communicate before, during and after the dive,
    - don't try to impress your buddy
    - do not put pressure on your buddy
    Now I will keep that in mind next time I go diving
     

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