My SCUBA instructor always stressed that you should never go diving alone. If you have equipment problems, your buddy can help you. If you meet an aggressive shark, your odds are 50-50 instead of 100-1 against.
Of course that`s not the only reason we have a buddy. Suppose you find yourself with an air problem – which shouldn`t happen if you are regularly checking your air – if you are diving alone you`ll have no option but to execute an emergency swimming ascent (something you probably haven`t practiced since your Open Water training). In the same situation with a buddy close by, you can use his alternate air source. Note the term `close by`, there is little point in having a buddy if you swim off in different directions!
How close is `close by` you may ask. You should stay close enough to attract each other’s attention and reach one another in a matter of seconds if needed.
Choose your buddy carefully and discuss and plan your dive before entering the water. Obvious things to decide include the basics such as who is going to lead, which side of each other you will be, what you both want to get from the dive, emergency procedures you will follow, hand signals and one thing that is sometimes over looked, how will you attract each other`s attention. Not everyone appreciates his buddy grabbing his fin and not everyone responds well to being physically prodded and underwater horns are often thought of as a bit excessive. Try a tank banger or knock a couple of stones together and remember another essential that should be decided is who will buy the post dive beers.
During the buddy check, familiarise yourself with your buddies gear and make sure he does the same with yours. If you buddy has been trained by a different dive association to you make sure you agree which procedure you will follow in, for example, an out of air situation. Look up the procedure that NAUI teaches its divers to that which PADI use and you will see that they teach different responses. Unless this is agreed between buddies at the start of the dive this could lead to an escalation of the situation.
It`s often the case that when diving with a group, the Divemaster or Instructor will assign you a buddy. Don`t be shy, introduce yourself, follow all the steps for a buddy check but if you aren`t happy with the buddy assigned to you, ask for another.
Remember, you were taught to dive with a buddy and apart from the obvious safety in numbers school of thought, it`s fun to have someone else to share the adventure with.