I have a different take on the word Buddy. Anyone who participates in recreational scuba diving has been drilled in the importance of the dive buddy system. Their life may depend upon it.
Divers underwater are completely dependent upon their equipment for keeping them safe and alive. The tank of compressed air and the regulator that releases that air at the proper pressure for breathing at depth are critical to keeping you alive. A failure of this equipment can leave you up to 120 feet below the surface with no air to breathe.
If you have been diving at depth for any length of time, you have built up excess nitrogen in your bloodstream that could be deadly if you surface too quickly. Basically, when you rise too quickly, the nitrogen comes out of you bloodstream in the form of bubbles like when you open a bottle of soda. The bubbles then travel to the capillaries in your body and block the flow of blood to your tissue. This is called the bends, or decompression sickness.
Your dive buddy is the solution to this problem. When your equipment fails, your dive buddy has a second demand valve or mouth piece connected to their air tank and regulator for just this purpose. If your equipment fails, you swim over to your dive buddy, signal that you have no air and grab the reserve demand valve mouth piece and put it in your mouth. You and your buddy can then make a gradual ascent to the surface where your equipment can then be serviced.
For this reason, you never dive alone. You also make sure you are physically capable of assisting your dive buddy in case of emergency. If not, then you don’t dive because you are endangering both yourself and your dive buddy.
I had an eye opening experience about ten years ago while diving at Turks and Caicos. I was on a dive boat with about 20 other divers. Those without a dive buddy paired up prior to the dive. On this particular time we had a dive master in training who was running the dive.
We started the dive by swimming into the ocean current. This is a good practice, because you swim against the current while you are still fresh, and you swim with the current on the way back to the dive boat when you are more tired.
The dive master in training missed the dive boat on the return and brought us to the surface about 200 meters down current from the dive boat. I was low on air (just under 500 psi) so that meant swimming back into the current on the surface where there is a tremendous amount of drag from all of the diving equipment strapped to our backs. Needless to say, both my younger dive buddy and I were exhausted after about 50 meters of swimming into the current. He was attempting to drag me back to the boat because I ran out of gas well before he did.
I finally called a halt to the foolishness of the two of us exhausting ourselves and told my buddy to take a rest. I signaled the dive boat that we were in trouble and they sent one of our guides out to give me a tow back to the boat.
After that experience, I gave up diving for almost ten years. I was just not in good enough shape to help out a buddy in an emergency situation.
On our recent trip to the Fiji Islands, I went for a shore dive with a dive master and one other diver around the reefs just off of the island. We never got deeper than 10 meters and we were never more than 150 meters from shore. It was wonderful to be back under the water again. I felt very comfortable for this dive. It did help that I spent a good deal of the previous summer building up my stamina swimming laps in the pool in our development. I did that hoping to be able to dive in the South Pacific. It was worth the effort.
Just remember, when diving, always pay close attention to your buddy. Both of your lives may depend upon it.
Couple diving photo from http://www.express.co.uk care of Getty Images.