During open water training we learn about the importance of always diving with a buddy and never alone—most importantly for safety, but also to share the dive experience. Diving with a buddy ensures we have someone there to help us, and to offer help to, should the need arise. It can also enhance our experience by having someone to guide us through a new dive site, help point out interesting things underwater that we may have missed, or simply sharing stories about the dive while filling out our logbooks. So not only is it important to dive with a buddy for all the reasons above, it’s also important to have the right dive buddy! Here are a few things you will want to consider before choosing a dive buddy.
Ultimately we need to be responsible for our own safety. Choosing a buddy that has your back and trusts you to have theirs is a big decision. A student recently asked me, “How close should you try to stay to your buddy during a dive?” My response was “How far away from your buddy would you be comfortable with if you needed their help?” After open water training, when an instructor and divemaster have been present to attend to any issues a student faces underwater, there is a belief that someone (aka their dive buddy) will always be conscious of where they are and if they’re alright. That is what the role of the dive buddy should be, and that’s what new divers are taught to do.
Reality can be somewhat different though and you could find yourself diving with someone who’s more interested in getting “the perfect shot” with their camera or GoPro, takes off to look at something with their super long fins and leaves you in their wake, or dives beyond your comfort or certification level into the deep abyss. So when choosing a dive buddy, ask what kind of diving they like to do; look at their equipment and ask questions about anything you’re not familiar with and what they intend to use it for on their dive;, and determine how familiar they are with the dive site, especially if you’re new to it so you fully understand the potential risks such as bottom depth or boat traffic on the surface.
So how do you find a great dive buddy and avoid a potentially dangerous one? Ask your dive shop (that’s us!) We can help pair you with a number of divers that will compliment your experience, interests, and personality to ensure you have a great dive. Join a dive club like the Regulators or an organization such as MUC (Manitoba Underwater Council) that hold events and offer opportunities to meet new divers. Another option is to go out to the lake and talk to other divers. Ask a lot of questions and, if their dive plans don’t align with yours, chances are they can recommend people to contact.
We are lucky to have such an amazing dive community here in Manitoba. There are great people out there always looking to meet new divers. So don’t worry if you’re new to the sport, new to the area, or returning to the water after a few years of being dry. With a little bit of effort and common sense, you will easily find a great group of dive buddies to share some fun, and safe diving.