Want to be my buddy? Well, i don't want to be yours!

All divers know that you shouldn’t dive without a buddy, well, aside from solo divers but we all know they have something missing and apparently have no ability to drown.  Your dive buddy is basically your redundancy on the dive, by that I mean they have all the extra stuff you might need on the dive should you lose your own. My buddy is my alternate air source, my alternate depth gauge, backup mask, spool, extra set of eyes, extra brain and also extra arms or legs should I need dragged out of the preverbal shit, if it were to hit the spinny thing.

Best buddies!

The buddy system is a great idea as we’ve all had the experience of going for a piece of kit or air source and realising almost immediately it’s not there. That’s when super buddy steps in to save the day and hands you the octopus you figured had gone off on its own reef dive somewhere.

I am lucky in that I more or less have a permanent buddy in the form of wife-buddy. Wife-buddy is amazing. She has the same training as me, same(ish) number of dives, same kit and I know her diving ability and how she behaves underwater. Wife-buddy also brings tea and biscuits to the dive site. Likewise she knows me and my superior diving-god-like skills. This isn’t the norm and I appreciate that and I now know I am spoiled with this arrangement.

How do I know this? I’ll tell you.

25 dives post PADI AOW Kerri and I decided we would go on our first scuba trip, a venture to the south of Ireland in County Kerry. It also doubled as a birthday treat to me, resulting in it being a very cheap outing and obtaining a new dive computer. Happy man you say? – well, almost.

Like all the best dive plans, it doesn’t always go the way you expect.

We arrived at the dive centre, which also doubled as our accommodation, for the weekend diving. The plan was 4 dives over 2 days. All diving was to be done off the dive centres inflatable rib. We’d never dived off a rib so that was going to be an experience in itself, as we understood it would be slightly different to the hard hull boats we were used to giant striding from.

Onto the rib

Kit sorted we were shipped down to the shore and loaded onto the big inflatable orange thing that looked too small for this many divers. A fast, roughish 15 min trip took us to the dive site. As we were receiving our brief Kerri was slowly deciding she wouldn’t be diving today. Poor wife-buddy wasn’t a bit well.

Ok, so now what happens? We told the skipper it was only me that would be diving and asked what the arrangement would be for the buddy thing, seeing as mine was now proceeding to vomit over the side of the rib. Yes, poor Kerri appeared to be sea sick. To be fair, the weather wasn’t great and the journey out was a bit bad and she does suffer a little from travel sickness. All I could hope for was that all the chunder in the water would lure in a basking shark or stray whale.

Rough seas in County Kerry

In reality, at that point I could have cared less for the puke machine. I was completely horrified at the prospect of diving with someone else; I’d never done it before. Then it really hit me. Some guy is gonna be my buddy; he’s gonna have to rely on me 100% and doesn’t even know me. More to the point, I don’t know him. I’ve only done 25 dives!! I’m going to kill us both.

There are some things you just aren’t trained for, and diving with someone not only new to you as a diver, but also someone you don’t know from Adam is one of them. I know now exactly how to deal with the situation, but back then I had no idea. I had lots of shiny new kit and a look of dread on my face, if I’d have been the other guy I’d have binned it. He didn’t. He rattled through how many dives he’d done and we did some form of buddy check, which i’d never really experienced, and flashed hand signals that were the complete reverse of everything I’d been taught, plus he was a different agency to me and I immediately felt like the enemy. I really wasn’t happy about it.

Nevertheless as wife-buddy continued to vomit I was preparing to jump in with this random man. I fell backwards over the rib and immediately lost my mask. Well fuck me. Of all the idiotic, newbie, stupid, irresponsible things to do and we were only 30 seconds into the dive. Thankfully the guide was right on top of the problem and retrieved my mask. I now felt really bad about this. I was a crap new diver that shouldn’t have been in the water.

Kit now back together my new buddy dropped like a stone, I looked into the gloom….. nothing. The guy was gone, I was beginning to wonder if he was, in fact, the anchor. He was on a shot line so I knew where he’d be – at the bottom. I just had to follow. My breathing rate was through the roof and I really had to talk myself down the line, slowly. I reached the bottom, eventually, and my new buddy was staring right through me signalling that I should lead the dive. The dive brief had completely left whatever brain I had left and I randomly swam about in the horribly poor vis until the guy grabbed me and thumbed the dive. Thank Christ.

Back on the rib I received a rather aggressive de-brief.  I took too long to descend, my octopus fell out of its fancy ebay retainer and where did I learn to navigate? I felt like joining Kerri and vomiting over the side of the rib. My confidence was shattered and I felt like I had no place in the water, never mind as a buddy to this guy. I hated him at once and was contemplating killing him on the next dive. I gave my excuses, apologised and we switched tanks ready for the next dive.

Again, I now know I should have either opted out, switched buddies or told him to go decompress himself and leave me alone ……. you fat bastard. But, I’m a nice guy and he knew more than me; he’d done 9 squillion dives, all on a 3l pony. I got my head together and mentally prepared for the next dive. Buddy checks done, we fell in and with mask in place we did manage a decent dive. When we surfaced I got a high five, he explained how well I had behaved, I had done everything he said and was in fact a super buddy.


Well, you’re still a fat bastard and I still really want to kill you, and in fact have a spot picked out near that reef we just saw. We headed back to the shore, kit was taken away and I finally got the puke machine onto dry land.

Needless to say Kerri didn't do any diving that weekend and although my subsequent dives were excellent experiences (since I was with a guide not fat bastard) I didn’t necessarily enjoy the episode as a whole.

So, what did I learn from this?

  • The term “buddy” is a stupid name. The guy was not my “buddy” nor would he ever be.
  • Be nice to new divers. Everyone needs to learn, if you are more skilled than your buddy treat the dive and diver accordingly.
  • If it doesn’t feel right; don’t dive.
  • Don’t bring wife-buddy on a rib without a bucket.
  • Ebay octopus clips are pieces of crap.

I have since done plenty of dives with other divers and they have gone on to become my “buddy” and I will let them sign my logbook without me writing “fat bastard” above their signature once their back is turned. That said I approach the situation very differently to the experience above. I am very clear about my dive training, history, kit, navigation, signals and any skills or weaknesses I have or are feeling on the day. Also, if at any point of the day I’m not happy, I thumb the dive and go home a happy diver.

Having a wife-buddy is amazing, I’m a lucky guy, not as fortunate as her obviously, but pretty lucky nonetheless. We still do all our checks, we are quick to point out when things aren’t correct and have binned dives on occasion where things just aren’t right.

A buddy is there to save your life if needs be. Just make sure they actually want to.


  1. Thanks for the post.

    Interesting, I think it takes more to dive as a team, not less. You are not only going to use them to help problem solve, but potentially, you need to be able to rescue your buddy. That means you need to be better than solo diving as you are responsible for someone else!

    Too many divers think blue water diving as a buddy pair is really easy. How far can you breathe hold a swim to get to your alternate supply? Buddy diving is NOT same ocean diving diving.

    Fancy writing this up as an incident report using the templates here? http://www.disrc.com/index.php/home-page/incidentreporting/61-iladft-ccr-diving :)

  2. Certainly, team diving is a more difficult and required greater skills all round, especially when it comes to keeping contact in poor visibility.

    I am very aware of the breath hold swim, especially when we did it as part of our TDI course. It was a valuable practice.

    Keep your buddy within a reasonable distance is safe practice.

    I will certainly write it up if you feel it is appropriate.

    Thanks for the comment and the link.



Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

Safe diving buddy.