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New Jersey Scuba Diving

The Buddy System

Here are a series of excellent articles regarding the buddy system, reproduced from their original sources before they "wink out", as so much good web content does. With regard to the Buddy System that is so entrenched in dive training, these articles are all negative. I feel no need to present counter-balancing positive arguments, since you can get that from any dive instructor with any of the major certifying organizations.

When you first get certified, you will have had the buddy system drilled into you. At this point, you still have basically no idea what you are doing, so just do it that way. A lot of what is in the basic open-water certification is silly and even unnecessary, but it won't get you killed.

As a newly-certified diver, you are a danger to yourself and everyone around you. Be glad that any operator will take you out, and don't rock the boat. If they want you to dive with a buddy, dive with a buddy. As crew, I've spent numerous dives paired up with newbies to make sure they have a good time and get back to the boat OK. Shallow-water shore diving can get very tricky, and things can go very wrong, and if you are not experienced, having a buddy can be a lifesaver.

But if you stay with the sport and become more experienced, you may find, as I have, that the buddy system is not all it is supposed to be. Think for yourself, but only when you have gained the knowledge and experience to do so.


The Buddy System Re-examined


PARALLELS ARE OFTEN DRAWN BETWEEN DIVING AND FLYING. Both take place in an environment where the ambient pressure is different than the earth's surface - where we spend most of our time breathing - and both require formal training to qualify as a participant. Yet, on one point the two activities diverge completely. In flying, the highlight of a pilot's life is his or her first opportunity to solo - to operate the aircraft alone. In fact, after earning a private pilot's license, aviators commonly fly with no one other than God as their copilot.

Not so in diving; the admonition to "never dive alone" is considered the hallmark of safe diving.

To most divers, entering the water without a buddy is tantamount to a pilot taking off without doing a preflight check of the airplane. But to assume that buddy diving is an absolute universal practice would be a mistake. Lots of divers dive solo. Some do it intentionally, but most end up sans buddy completely by accident.

While it clearly has its place in promoting safety, the buddy system is not perfect. Circumstances often arise when divers, who think they are buddy diving, find themselves on their own. Lack of attentiveness or distraction are probably the most common reasons. The result is either a miserable dive spent looking for each other, or an ill prepared and unintended solo experience. This scenario probably explains the majority of buddy-less dives.

In many situations, divers are lulled into a false sense of security by believing they are safe just because they are in the water with someone else. The reality, however, is that just because someone is diving with you does not mean you have a buddy. Unless the divers are attentive, willing and able to help each other, they are actually solo. They just happen to be in the water together. They are no more prepared to help each other than if they had no buddy at all. They are participants in a "false buddy system."

To illustrate the point, consider this all-too-common scenario: A diver without a partner signs up for a dive and is told to dive with a buddy. So, he is paired with another lone diver. With only a cursory exchange of names and pleasantries, the two confidently enter the water, secure in the fact that they are "following the buddy system." As nothing remarkable happens - which is the case on the vast majority of dives the intrepid pair exit the water, proof positive of just "how well the buddy system works."

But does this scenario really constitute proof that the buddy system works, or merely that diving accidents are so infrequent that the effectiveness of the buddy system is rarely tested? In all likelihood, because of their lack of familiarity with each other, and having made no attempt to plan for any type of emergency, it's the latter. What occurred was an example of a false buddy team - two divers in the same ocean at the same time who exited the water together.

As no problems were encountered, we will never know what might have happened if one buddy actually needed help from the other. To say that such a buddy system works is like playing a game of Russian Roulette and saying the gun wasn't loaded because the hammer fell on an empty chamber.

Another flaw in the buddy system is that it sometimes serves as a crutch by the incompetent or psychologically insecure. Some divers, who lack the ability or self-confidence to take care of themselves, assume they will be safe as long as they are diving with someone who can take care of them. This dependent buddy syndrome" is one of the dangerous situations imaginable for several reasons.

First, as buddy separation is a common occurrence, you can never assume that a buddy will always be around to offer help. Second, whether through lack of knowledge or simply an unwillingness to accept responsibility, not all divers can be counted on to help their partners. Finally, what if the assumed "stronger buddy" is the one who needs help? The dependent buddy may be useless. A dependent buddy has no place in the water except under the direct supervision of a professional. A buddy cannot be a quick fix for incompetence.

These situations all point out that at some time all of us end up solo diving whether we realize it or not. So, the key to safety is not in who or how many other divers accompany you, but in self-reliance. Only when you can take care of yourself can you truly be prepared to help someone else.

Achieving Self-reliance

Because of both its practical and psychological benefits, self-reliance should be a prerequisite for all divers - even those who would never consider entering the water alone. From the practical standpoint, a self-reliant diver is one who can handle problems even if a buddy is not around or paying attention. To a self-reliant diver a buddy is an aid, not a necessity.

From a psychological perspective, a self-reliant diver is a self-confident diver who knows -buddy or no buddy - he or she can handle whatever problems might arise. This translates into less apprehension and anxiety. The benefits are a reduced breathing rate, lower threshold of panic, and improved ability to pay attention to the dive and to his or her buddy.

Achieving self-reliance requires three essential conditions. The first and most obvious is that you possess skill competence. At minimum, you must be able to perform all the skills you learned in your entry-level course in a calm, deliberate manner and without the need for assistance. You should be able to do this in an environment typical of the conditions you normally encounter.

Skill competence also implies some familiarity with self-rescue and the ability to offer assistance to others. The willingness to help your buddy is meaningless if you don't know how to do it. But such knowledge and skill do not just materialize out of thin air. To gain these insights requires training, such as a diver rescue course.

The second element of self-reliance is that you maintain an adequate physical condition. The question is, what's adequate? That answer is highly personal and varies according to circumstance. Start by reviewing the kinds of environmental conditions you usually encounter. Do you normally dive in heavy or moderate currents or surf? At what depths and temperatures? you dive in open ocean or in a lake or quarry? Can these conditions change from day to day, or even hour to hour?

Your physical condition must match or, better yet, exceed the conditions you dive most often. What this means, of course, is that divers who dive primarily on the shipwrecks off the northeastern U.S. need more physical stamina than those who confine their diving to summertime excursions on picture-perfect days in the Florida Keys.

Third, and perhaps most important, self-reliant divers understand and accept their limitations. This may be the most difficult element to achieve because it requires a great deal of a quality many of us lack - self-honesty. We all have an internal vision of ourselves, and sometimes that vision belies reality. For divers whose self-image is overblown, the result can be downright dangerous. Truly self-reliant divers understand their strengths and limitations, and as a result, when they decide to dive, it's with a high level of psychological and emotional confidence. This is the final measure of a self-reliant diver.

The Decision to Solo

So far, we have based our discussion on the assumption that any breakdown of the buddy system's effectiveness is unintended and requires corrective action. This ignores an entire segment of divers who take a completely different approach to the issue of personal safety - those who intentionally dive without a buddy.

Although a comparatively small segment of the diving community, these revisionists contend that placing your faith in a system that's dependent on someone other than yourself is misguided. So, they conclude, better to rely only on yourself because you are, after all, the only person you can absolutely count on in the event of an emergency.

Furthermore, many solo divers contend that there are other reasons to abandon the idea of a buddy. They maintain that some diving activities, in fact, lend themselves to diving alone. For example, the last thing an underwater photographer wants is someone scaring the marine life, destroying visibility, or getting in the way of the picture. Indeed, many professional underwater photographers dive alone unless they need a model. Even in those situations where the photographer is accompanied, for a practical purposes the photographer is solo diving - his or her attention is devoted completely to getting pictures, not watching another diver.

Like photographers, some underwater hunters often Prefer to go it alone. Many lobster divers look at buddies as nothing more than Competitors for a limited resource. Having a buddy means that they will give away the location of their special spots and successful techniques. Spearfishermen sometimes feel the same way about buddies. Furthermore, they add, diving without a buddy is safer because in limited visibility a partner risks becoming an accidental target.

Another reason some choose to dive alone is simply because they don't want to be responsible for someone else. Ironically, many consider anyone who would dive solo as irresponsible, but devoted solo divers are often more responsible than buddy divers. That should not come as a surprise because a lot of careful consideration, planning, and self-reliance is essential to becoming a proficient solo diver. Many divers choose to dive alone even when others are willing to accompany them. They believe that diving alone is better than diving with someone they don't know, Of who is incompetent, inexperienced, unprepared, or unwilling to act as a true buddy. Frankly, that's difficult logic to counter. Ron Von Maier, author of Solo Diving: the Art of Underwater Self-Sufficiency, sums it up perfectly: "Any buddy is not better than no buddy."

Another big reason some divers go Solo is purely one of Practicality - they just have no one else with whom to dive. We often forget that diving is not a popular activity everywhere, and not being able to find a buddy can be a serious impediment. This is not a minor issue. One of the primary factors the diving industry points to in explaining why people drop out of diving is simply that they cannot find someone with whom to dive. While endorsing the Practice of solo diving for that reason is difficult, it's also difficult to rebuke those who do.

The final reason for going it alone may be the most compelling - the solitude. While there's certainly something to be said for sharing the experience, solo divers often feel that diving is best appreciated in complete isolation from others.

The underwater realm is, after all, a silent world; and some feel that the accompaniment of another diver is an intrusion.

The Solo Recipe

Solo diving is often misinterpreted to mean nothing more than jumping in the water without a buddy. That's not solo diving; that's just plain stupid diving. Because they have no one else to fall back on in case of a problem, responsible solo divers follow a planning routine that is often more rigorous than most buddy divers. In addition to the standard pre dive preparation, they follow a set of special rules and safety considerations.

Perhaps the most important rule for solo diving is that the diver has past experience in similar diving conditions. In other words, the dive is not beyond the diver's level of experience and personal comfort zone. This applies not only to the conditions present at the time the diver enters the water, but also to how those conditions might change during the course of the dive. It's one thing to enter the water on a bright calm day with no current, but if the weather or tide changes, no one will be around to help.

If in the planning process a solo diver determines that he or she can handle the dive only if conditions remain stable, then that's a good indication to abandon the solo plan and make the dive with an experienced buddy. This is an excellent illustration of the need for self-honesty mentioned previously.

Once in the water, perhaps the most important consideration for solo diving is air management. Some suggest that solo divers take the time to meticulously calculate air requirements and probable air usage. Except for mission oriented technical dives, however, divers rarely are willing to do this. A simpler and more practical planning guideline is to use the "rule of thirds." This simple rule says that you should plan to use only one-third of your air supply for the trip out, then another third for the trip back. The final third is a reserve for unforeseen circumstances, which, when diving without a buddy, can be a particularly vital consideration.

Another air management guideline is to calculate your returning air pressure in consideration of your depth. To do this, round off your actual depth to the next greater increment of ten, then add a zero to that figure. The result is the air pressure at which you should begin your ascent. For example, assume you are making a dive to 57 feet (17m). Round that up to 60 (18m) and add a zero. You should then begin your ascent when you reach an air pressure of 600 psi.

What if you screw up your air management plan and run out of air? No one, of course, will be around to give you an octopus or alternate inflation regulator (although a solo diver should still carry such a device if, for no other reason, a first-stage malfunction occurs). The only out-of-air contingency that will work for a solo diver is a completely redundant air supply, such as a Spare Air' or pony bottle. When a solo diver is making deeper dives, larger capacity pony bottles or dual tanks with independent valves or separate regulators are essential.

Von Maier, one of the few people who has written extensively about the subject, advocates two other commonsense rules for solo diving. The first is that you should never solo dive deeper than twice the depth to which you can free dive. This tends to impose a reasonable and personalized depth limit.

As few people do much free diving anymore, some might not see this as a usable guideline. Instead, you might limit a solo dive to a depth no greater than that from which you have performed a controlled emergency swimming ascent. That way you have the self confidence of knowing that even without air you can make it to the surface because you have done it before.

Von Maier's second rule is another sensible one: Your underwater distance from your exit point should not exceed the distance you can comfortably swim in full scuba gear while at the surface. Remember, getting to the surface is only half the battle. You also have to get out of the water, and there won't be anybody to help you.

The Final Analysis

There seem to be three central conclusions one can draw from this discussion of the buddy system. First, many diving duos are really "false buddies" who have little ability - and perhaps even equally little intention - to help each other. While they are diving nearby one another, they are, in essence, diving alone. A close cousin to the false buddy is the "dependent buddy" - the diver who views the system as a crutch for his or her own incompetence (and is sometimes encouraged to do so by a partner). This is analogous to those who contend they are competent swimmers because they always wear lifejackets. Actually, the dependent buddy problem is worse because dive buddies are even less dependable than lifejackets.

The second conclusion is that safety isn't in numbers, but in the ability to help oneself and the self-confidence this brings. In other words, a diver is only a worthy buddy when he doesn't need a buddy. As stated before, in true buddy system, a buddy is an aid, not a necessity.

The third and most controversial conclusion is that we should recognize that some divers do indeed choose to dive alone. Most often the reaction to solo diving is plunging our heads into the sand, or making practitioners feel as though they're committing blasphemy. But as prohibition and the current "war on drugs" have proven, you can't change human nature. If someone wants to solo dive, they will do it. Even if they're forced to enter the water with a partner, no one can control their behavior once a diver is on the bottom So, instead of preaching to the unbeliever we should recognize solo diving as a choice, and make sure that those who follow this path do so with the proper understanding and preparation.

As a general rule, you should not even consider solo diving until you have, at the minimum, completed a course in rescue diving and have at least 100 dives under your belt. Conversely, if you don't meet the criteria for self-reliance described earlier, you should nix any thought of solo diving even if you hold an instructor's rating and have a thousand dives in your logbook.

Buddy diving is a vital safety procedure and this article should in no way be construed as advocating the abolition of the buddy system. All diver training organizations rightly place great emphasis on it, and most dive operators and charter boats, likewise, insist that divers operate in pairs. Clearly, the buddy system should continue to be standard operating procedure for the vast majority of recreational divers. But to work effectively the system requires careful consideration, commitment, and cooperation. It doesn't matter if you're in the water with a hundred other divers; if you haven't planned to be a buddy team, then you're diving alone.

reproduced from http://www.cisatlantic.com/Trimix/other/solo2.htm


On Your Own: the Buddy System Rebutted

Buddies are not essential for a safe dive. On the contrary, buddies often increase the risk of a dive, either directly through unpredictable or unreliable actions, or indirectly, through an unfounded belief that security is enhanced by numbers alone, regardless of the training or state of mind of the buddy. In most instances, a competent solo diver would be much safer than the average buddy dive.

Most textbooks do not define the buddy system - an interesting point in itself. I define it as the situation that occurs when two divers of similar interests and equal experience and ability share a dive, continuously monitoring each other throughout entry, the dive, and the exit, and remaining within such distance that they could render immediate assistance to each other if required.

Obviously, this definition represents the ideal, and upon honest examination it's clear that it has little to do with the reality as practiced by most divers. The truth is that on most dives, the buddy system fails.

I've been an active diving instructor for 20 years, and a professional sport diver for 13 years; I've made over 5,000 dives and have personally supervised - without serious incident - over 90,000 dives. During this time I've seen buddies that were incompatible either through interest of ability; buddies that spent their dives looking for each other; divers dependant on their buddies; divers who claimed to be buddies on the boat, but who ignored each other in the water; buddies who failed to communicate; buddies who fought in the midst of a dive; and divers who failed to recognize distress in a buddy, let alone attempt to assist.

This last situation brings up a vital point. The buddy system implies that divers will be able to recognize a problem with their buddy and do something about it. Most are never put to the test, but experience indicates that if they were, many would fail. An analysis of diving fatalities in Australia and New Zealand over the past ten years found that 45% of the fatalities involved buddies who were separated by the fatal problem or who were separated after the problem commenced. Another 14% stayed with the buddy, but the buddy died anyway. Just being together is not enough.

From these observations, I've concluded that the buddy system is mostly mythical. It is unreasonable, unworkable, unfathomable, and unnatural. Rarely - very rarely - I see a couple who buddy dive as the ideal. In my view, most diving today is, in fact, solo diving, even if the divers claim to be buddy diving. Unfortunately, because it is taboo, most divers have had no specific training to qualify them for such solo diving.

How did we get ourselves into this mess? I am told that the "never dive alone" rule originated with the YMCA "never swim alone" program that was popular when dive instructor agencies were just getting going in the late 1950s. Why has the rule stayed with diving? Undoubtedly because people are nervous about being out of their natural breathing element and at the mercy of the monsters of the deep. Fear is the motivation for the buddy system. Divers do not want to be eaten. There is nothing strange in this fear; what is strange is the response to it: get a buddy.

There is an old joke that the buddy system reduces the chance of getting eaten by 50%. Regrettably, the divers that repeat this joke are often serious. Instead of finding out about real behavior of marine creatures, or developing fail-safe scuba gear and a back-up breathing system, the diving community has opted for the comfort of having a buddy. Many divers choose a buddy simply because they are alarmed at being alone, and not because there is a possibility of the buddy actually assisting in an emergency.

Unfortunately, few people defending the buddy system seem to address the critical point of whether it does, in fact, make diving safer as intended. Since the introduction of the buddy system 30 years ago, a large body of divers has developed who have made careers out of sport diving. These people must now look to their experience to decide whether or not the buddy system has worked, or whether it should be modified or even abandon.

Analyzing Dive Risk

All diving involves risk. As soon as you step near a full scuba cylinder you are at risk. And every step that you take getting on and into the water increases your risk. In fact, there is an escalating scale of risk as dives become more complex. In general, the risk of a certain dive is a function of the technical requirements of the dive and the environmental conditions. It has nothing to do with the diver.

In theory, we should be able to grade every dive for its risk factor. However, this is difficult in practice. Though many cave dive have been graded, ocean dives are another matter. Ocean conditions, being variable, may make a dive low-risk one day and high-risk the next. Nevertheless, an accurate assessment of the risk factor for any dive must be made before the dive is attempted. This is why experience is so valuable. and why risk assessment is a critical duty of dive masters and instructors.

The actual danger posed by any particular dive depends on three factors: first, the dive itself - the risk factor; second, the diver attempting the dive - the skills available to overcome the risk; and third, the buddy - the wild card - who may make the dive less or more dangerous.

Safe diving occurs when the diver's skills, experience, and knowledge match or exceed the skill, experience, and knowledge requirements of the dive. For instance, diving shallower than 30 feet in calm. clear, warm water devoid of marine life qualifies as low-risk. Yet such dive could be dangerous if the diver does not understand the consequences of breath-holding on ascent. Similarly, a dive to 200 feet in dark, cold water with a strong current is undoubtedly a high-risk dive, but one that can be made safely if the diver has the appropriate abilities and back-up. Professional divers make these kinds of dives all the time.

Of course, judging the danger of a dive is more a matter of probabilities than absolutes. A dangerous dive is one where it is likely that an injury will occur, a safe dive where it is unlikely - but not impossible - that an injury will occur. The point is that a high-risk dive - one that is deeper, longer, colder, rougher, involves penetration of a wreck or a cave, encounters a current, involves dangerous marine animals, or is difficult to enter or exit from - need not be dangerous if the diver can identify the risk factors and overcome them with disciplined diver education and training.

We must also realize that there is no such thing as a completely safe dive. Nobody knows all the physiological risks associated with diving. In addition, many marine phenomena - as well as many buddies - are unpredictable. A safe diver is one who is able to assess the risk factors accurately and has a sober knowledge that his or her ability is sufficient to overcome these risks.

The crucial question in the debate between buddy diving and solo diving is how does the buddy affect the safety of the dive? Does he or she effectively add to the natural risk of the dive or reduce the risk of the dive? This obviously depends on the buddy. In many instances it would be safer to dive alone. For instance, many instructors would agree that it would be safer for them to be alone than with a student on a training dive.

The one remaining piece of the puzzle is to determine how being alone, per se, affects the risk of a dive. That is, does the buddy play an essential role in the dive? Is it possible to make a dive without a buddy and survive? Clearly, while we cannot survive a dive for more than a few minutes without a functioning regulator and a tank of air, we can certainly survive without a buddy.

Then what role does the buddy actually play? Theoretically, the buddy acts as a kind of safety factor. He is not essential, but has the purpose of preventing problems by recognizing them in the dive partner and stopping their development or effecting a rescue. Therefore, being alone does not affect the natural risk of the dive, but it does deprive the diver of a possible safety factor.

However, it is equally true that, although an ideal buddy might provide a safety factor, a less-than-ideal buddy might actually constitute an additional risk factor.

Dangerous Buddies

Let's examine some scenarios in which the buddy system makes diving more dangerous:

  1. The dependent diver
    This is the diver who depends on the buddy for vital information during the dive. Such divers are all too common. The dependent diver lets the buddy do the navigating, or keep an eye on the depth, or determine the safety stop, or even set his gear up for him. When he gets separated from his buddy, he is unable to cope, especially if he is afraid of being alone. The dependent diver is a direct consequence of the buddy system, and without it he would not exist.

  2. The psychological support syndrome
    Two inexperienced divers have paid for a dive trip but when they arrive at the dive site the conditions are worse than they have experienced before. Not wanting to let each other down, and boosting each other with comforting words, they attempt a dive of too high a risk level for their skills. Now they have to cope not only with the dive, but with each other. A solo diver can choose to abort a dive without affecting anyone else.

  3. The angry diver
    A diver really keen for a dive after a difficult week at the office gets buddied with someone who spends half the dive on the descent lines pointing to his ears and going up and down. The rest of the dive the buddy is seething with frustration and primed for disaster if a problem occurs. A solo diver blames only him or herself for any dive difficulties.

  4. The untrained diver
    As mentioned earlier, divers are often, in reality, diving alone even if they have a buddy, yet very few are trained for it. They spend hours in the pool practicing buddy and octopus breathing - which are very soon forgotten - and not enough time on individual survival skills such as weight belt control, buoyancy control, solo ascents, self-rescue, and skin diving (I happen to believe that a far better rule for safe diving than "never dive alone" is "never dive deeper than twice the depth you can skin dive to"). A solo diver has every incentive to perfect his diving skills.

  5. The falsely confident diver
    Some divers actually believe that they will be able to communicate with their buddies in an emergency and that their buddy will be able to assist them. Underwater communication with that pathetic set of hand signals is a bad joke, and the divers most likely to be able to recognize problems and do something about it are experienced divers - the ones who are least likely to get into trouble. I have made two life-saving underwater rescues. In both cases, I rescued someone else's buddy. The other divers failed to recognize the problems and do anything about them.

  6. The high-flying diver
    This guy has gone hang gliding, parachuting, rock climbing, kayaking rapids, and flies a stunt plane. He takes up diving, is a natural, and thinks it's the most wonderful thing he has ever done. Then he finds that he is not allowed to pursue this by himself. So he develops the technique of getting a buddy. losing him as soon as possible during the dive, then having a great dive by himself. [Ed. note: women usually have more sense.] A solo diver does not have a buddy to lose.

In spite of all the failings of the buddy system as currently practiced, I believe buddies do have a place in diving. In fact, they are essential. But the buddy's place is not in the water with you, it is looking out from the boat or from the shore while you dive. Most diving incidents occur at the surface; the surface is surely the most dangerous place. Yet, divers who would not dream of diving alone think nothing of leaving an empty anchored boat.

Buddy for Pleasure, Not Safety

Some of the most wonderful moments in my life have been when I have been alone in the ocean surrounded by its creatures - just me and nature. I treasure those moments and aim to have many more of them. I'm a very careful diver; I dive just about every day and test myself regularly with 60- to 70-foot skin dives. And I dive alone with the crew of my boat keeping a sharp lookout. However, sometimes I am able to share great ocean experiences with special people, and this can be wonderful too. But these divers are other independent divers.

For safety, all divers should be completely independent and focus their energy on keeping themselves out of trouble. For joy, share your dive with another independent diver. For training, dive with an instructor until you are ready to be independent in the conditions that you aim to dive in.

The buddy system is not essential for a safe dive since there are other ways of proving the same safety factor, such as carrying back-up breathing systems and gauges, improving diving skills, and diving well within one's limits. But if you do decide to dive with a buddy, it is vitally important that you are certain that the buddy will be a safety factor during the dive and not an additional risk factor. Any buddy is not safer than no buddy.

I believe that all divers should be trained primarily as self-sufficient - solo - divers. They must learn to take personal responsibility for their actions in the water. If they are not capable of this, then they should still be in the care of an instructor. Once they are capable divers, if they then wish to share their dive with another independent diver that they trust, that is excellent. But the present hypocrisy that states that solo diving is unsafe while paying lip service to a buddy system that is so obviously failing is retarding the development of diving and increasing its danger needlessly.

Bob Halstead is the principal of Telita Cruises
P.O. Box 303, Alotau, Papua, New Guinea

reproduced from http://www.cisatlantic.com/Trimix/aquacorps/survive/nobuddy.htm


Why the Buddy System is Dangerous

I am confounded by the illogic of many of those who try to defend the buddy system, even the spokesperson for a training agency such as PADI - the same folks who preached the dangers of dive computers and Nitrox a few years back. Here is some of the nonsense I've heard and why it is just that:

The buddy system makes diving more fun and practical

Of course, neither has anything to do with the buddy system. Fun is touted as sharing the dive and the after-dive experience with your buddy. Practicality means helping your buddy lug around equipment, get suited up and other niceties. These benefits can be enjoyed with any dive companion without that person being a "buddy" for whose safety you are legally responsible.

The buddy system makes diving safer

Safety is the only issue that gives the buddy system credibility. Let's be perfectly clear here: I am not calling for the complete abolition of buddies. Anyone who feels uncomfortable under water without someone around and anyone who is willing to assume responsibility for a buddy can benefit from it. A beginning diver will naturally feel anxious if teamed up with an experienced diver.

However, the advantages of an ever-present buddy dwindle rapidly as divers acquire confidence through experience and additional training. In fact, most of today's experienced reef divers rarely stay close enough to their partners to be considered good buddies. And let there be no misunderstanding: For the buddy system to work, one must be constantly aware of his buddy's situation. Anything less invites failure should an emergency occur.

Anyone who has dived understands the dilemma: We dive in order to be distracted by the wonders of the underwater world, yet we impose a system of diving directly at odds with that purpose. As a result, rather than increasing safety, the buddy system as currently practiced fosters a false sense of security and increases the likelihood of panic.

The fear of being sued by a buddy is exaggerated

This response is incongruous: Certification agencies employ teams of lawyers to draft liability waivers that they ardently defend in court. It is also hypocritical: You and I are forced to sign these same documents before we dive with any operator. You bet the training agencies worry about legal liability. Why are they telling you not to?

Fellow divers: It's time to stand up for your rights

Do you recognize this scenario? At a dive resort the divemaster assigns you a buddy who is a stranger. You don't know this person's skills, gear or habits. You're not comfortable. You say, "No thanks, I'll dive solo." the divemaster replies, "If you're going to dive today, you will accept this buddy." You recall some fine print about your prepaid vacation being non-refundable for missed dives. You accept the stranger as your buddy. You're stuck and liable, like it or not.

The divemaster and his boss are only doing what they feel is necessary to protect them from liability, waivers aside. Unfortunately, they are protecting themselves by coercing you with the threat of cancelled dives into a liability situation. Are you willing to accept this? I'm not and I don't think you should be either.

I urge you to become certified as a solo diver, to carry your own solo diver liability release, and most of all, to refuse to be used as a patsy in someone's attempt to lesson their own liability at the expense of yours.

A former lawyer, Paul Humann is co-author of the popular Reef Fish Identification books and a licensed private pilot who, by virtue of education, training and experience, is allowed to fly solo, a far more dangerous undertaking than diving ever could be for passengers, himself and those on the ground.

reproduced from http://www.atlantisdivers.com/Editorials.php


Solo Diving Certifications

Are we hypocrites, or just following established guidelines established by reasonable people to protect our clients??

The April 2001 issue of Rodale's Scuba Diving has numerous articles acknowledging the practice and practicality of Solo Diving. I'm going to enter the articles and acknowledge the authors of each (rather than plagiarize these good peoples work)

Let's welcome the new millennium by finally ending the absurd controversy over solo diving and grant certification status to experienced divers through formalized process.

Codifying solo diving with practical standards makes sense for two reasons: First, divers are who currently diving independently without formal training will be encouraged to receive the instruction they need. Second, the buddy system is deeply flawed. It fosters dependent behavior in many divers and is a proven not to enhance safety. In fact, it may do just the opposite for many divers forced into the role of buddy.

Buddy Diving: A Brief History
Diving has changed significantly since the first YMCA certification courses were offered in the 1950s. Back then, dive training was typically conducted by water-safety professionals who based scuba curricula on their prior experience. The buddy system was essentially borrowed from swimming and lifeguard training. In entry-level scuba, the buddy system can make a lot of sense. Two divers can help each other gear up, conduct buddy checks, perform cooperative tasks or simply provide moral support. All this is great so long as a dependent relationship doesn't develop for the weaker member of the team.

A Brief Farewell
However, with experience, divers tend to become more focused on personal dive goals and, unless the buddy teams are well matched with common interests, the system becomes a burden. Eventually, most who stay in the sport will reach a level where genuine independence is desired except in special circumstances. If they have been trained properly to assess risk and to practice self-reliant skills, there is simply no valid reason to compel their allegiance to the buddy system if it no longer suits their needs.

A Dirty Secret
In fact, divers who zealously practice buddy diving by the book are usually relatively new divers who are at the least equipped to render meaningful assistance without endangering themselves. Perhaps more importantly, reliance on the buddy system may actually foster dangerous complacency and inattention to detail in these divers. Even casual observation on the deck of any dive boat would suggest that very few divers pay the kind of attention to their gear, site conditions, dive plan, and navigational requirements the way they should, especially if they were suddenly forced to be self-reliant.

The Legal Lunacy
Let's consider another twist that occurs daily: being assigned a buddy you don't know or don't want. It's a terrible intrusion on an individual's right to make an informed decision, and potentially on his right to dive, to force him to assume the burden of an irresponsible or dangerous buddy. Remember, recent court decisions have reinforced the notion that you have an implied legal responsibility to a diving buddy. Do you want to be sued because some bozo you met two minutes before the dive decides to take a one-way trip over a wall or has a coronary swimming back to the boat?

The "Helper" Myth
Besides being forced to by operators, perhaps the only reason many divers remain tethered to the buddy system is the "it's safer!" claim: Two divers can help each other in the event of injury, panic or equipment failure. Unfortunately, dive accident statistics and actual reports tell a much different story. In reality, buddy partnerships fail more often than they succeed. The reasons: Buddy diving encourages dominant and passive roles, one diver's ability to help the other is negated by separation or inattention, and few buddies have the actual experience or skills to assist another diver in the sudden onset of equipment failure, panic or an out-of-air situation.

Solo Certification: To the Rescue
If you conclude, as I do, that the increased training and skills required for independent diving will make you safer than the buddy system poorly practiced, then what would such a certification consist of? My modest proposal: A training program that builds independent skills and establishes your self-reliance as a diver:

Prerequisites
advanced diver certification
minimum of 100 logged dives
approved diving physical examination

Required Curriculum
Enroll with the good folks at www.AtlantisDivers.com ( this is my quote )

"Solo diving will not be for everyone, but for many it will be liberating, allowing a more fulfilling experience or our sport."

With these skill areas practiced to proficiency, qualified scuba divers can be certified as solo divers and pursue independent activities. Such a certification allows an effective assumption of risk by the solo diver who can now stipulate on a waiver release of liability that he accepts the legal responsibility for his solo diving and has been formally credentialed by a training agency. This is exactly the legal "out" that most operators want in order to allow solo diving from resorts or live-aboards and to provide a legal posture that can be defended.

Solo diving will not be for everyone, but for many it will be liberating, allowing a more fulfilling experience of our sport. More importantly, we can start treating divers like adults who can make their own decisions with no more pious rules that we all know are ignored as often as observed, and for good reason.


New "Solo Diver" Certification

An interview with Brian Carney
Training manager - Scuba Diving International

Rodale's Scuba Diving:
Why is SDI offering a Solo Diver C-card? Aren't you a little ahead of the curve on this one?

Brian Carney:
Maybe. But it's not an unfamiliar position. We were the first to certify 10-year-olds and require open-water students to have computers. But our instructors think we're a little behind the curve.

RSD:
How so?

Carney:
They've been asking for it for some time. Since most of our instructors are also TDI (Technical Diving International) instructors, they deal with experienced divers who want to walk on a boat, shoe a Solo Diver ID, and not be bound to another diver they don't know and who may be a danger to them. If they're going to do it, we want to make sure they're prepared and qualified to do it safely.

RSD:
Speaking of danger, you're going to be accused of getting people killed, ruining the sport's popular image and returning us to the bad old days of macho daredevils. How will you respond?

Carney:
By saying that there are pros and cons to buddy diving and to solo diving. The key is to be rigorously trained, confident and experienced, whether it's in the buddy system or as an independent diver. Properly trained and executed, both systems can be safe. Our main concern is that there are literally thousands of divers going solo right now who lack the requisite training t do so safely. They're accidents waiting to happen. If they're going to do it, we want to make sure they're prepared and qualified to do it safely. We think it's time some agency stepped up to the plate and made a commitment to it for everyone's sake.

RSD:
This sounds familiar. I remember some concerns about Nitrox ...

Carney:
... and deep diving and dive computers before that BCs before that. It's been a constant theme: certification agencies resist change, fail to provide updated training, and divers pay the price. That's one of the reasons SDI/TDI was founded: to provide what other agencies refused to.

RSD:
You and I are talking in January 2001. When do you expect the new certification to be available?

Carney:
In time for the spring season, late March, early April. Divers can simply go to any dive store affiliated with SDI/TDI or to our web site: www.tdisdi.com


Mike Ball Dive Expeditions: Solo Diving in Action

Things are always a bit different Down Under. With Australia's premier dive live-aboard company, Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, going solo is "no problem, mate" with four big ifs:

  1. If you have the experience and age
    You must be 21 with proof of a minimum of 100 dives, five in the last year. Those younger than 21 must have divemaster rating or higher.

  2. If you have the right equipment
    Including a fully redundant air system with a minimum of six cubic feet of air; a "Dive Alert" horn or equivalent; safety sausage; dive light; dive knife; compass.

  3. If you successfully demonstrate independent diver skills
    Surface snorkel 100 meters in full scuba gear; use safety sausage and air horn; navigate 100 meter course with 75 percent accuracy; hover at 15 feet for 3 minutes and clear flooded mask; ascend normally with redundant air supply.

  4. If you follow safe dive procedures on each dive
    Including dive planning and adherence to the plan, adequate safety stops, ascent rates, hydration, rest, etc.

reproduced from http://www.atlantisdivers.com/Editorials.php


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Disclaimer:

I make no claim as to the accuracy, validity, or appropriateness of any information found in this website. I will not be responsible for the consequences of any action that is based upon information found here. Scuba diving is an adventure sport, and as always, you alone are responsible for your own safety and well being.

Copyright © 1996-2016 Rich Galiano
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