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Dive buddy separation.
Greg - 8/17/2008 6:38 PM
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Category: Educational
Comments: 14

As a scuba instructor, I’ve witnessed some interesting things underwater. As the owner of Dive Buddy, one of those "interesting things" stands out more than all the rest: dive buddy separation.

It never matter how experienced the diver, many divers don’t stay within a safe distance of their dive buddy. And if you’re the type of diver that says "I’m fast enough to get to my buddy if there’s a problem" better be Flash or Aquaman because it only takes a fraction of a second for something to go wrong. Chances are, you’ll end up chasing your buddy to the surface or missing the problem all together.

So what is a safe distance? Whether it’s right or wrong...this rule of thumb has worked for me over the years: Stay within one kick of your buddy. That means you shouldn’t have to kick your fins more than once to physically reach your dive buddy. Optimally, you would want to stay within arms reach all the time...but that’s not always possible.

If you don’t maintain a safe distance from your dive buddy and there is a problem, try to react as quickly as you can...but keep in mind your own safety. You don’t want to rush quickly to the surface or ignore other dangerous situations undwater just to help out your buddy. Ever watch the reaction of an EMS crew when they arrive at the scene of an accident? They don’t jump out of their ambulance and rush to the victim. Instead, they are quick paced, but always watch their surroundings so as to not put themselves in trouble.

If you notice your buddy shooting to the surface...get to them as safely as you can so you can lend a hand and not become another victim.

If you didn’t maintain a safe distance from your buddy and you turn around to find that their gone...another rule of thumb is to look for no more than 1 minute, then head to the surface (again, do it safely). If your buddy isn’t already at the surface or doesn’t show up shortly after may need to consider sending out a search party (that’s a completely different blog though).

My overal point is this...stay close to your buddy (one fin kick away) at all times. When you’re descending, stay together. I like to say that if you’re buddy is having problems equalizing, then so are you, stay with them. During the dive, stay together, regardless of how clear the water is. When you’re ascending, stay together.

A little "closeness" makes you a better dive buddy :)


Granitehawk - 1/08/2009 1:05 PM

I had a bad experince this summer my dive buddy and I were about to desecend and I went first , He was about 30 sec behind me and blown 50 feet behind me , I had some Equipment malfuntion and was unable to surface and no one there to help. I now stay close

steelheadfish - 11/02/2008 10:24 AM
well i know many many divers flip a breaker on solo diveing, but always prepare for a solo dive, even with a buddy, prepare to be alone! prepare to handle all your own problems yourself, if your buddy shows up it is a bounus. I drag a 30cu pony at all times and carry your backup gear even in shallow dives.
kalidescoperain - 9/30/2008 4:47 AM

My 2 cents. I prefer holding hands, just to make sure we don’t wind up getting separated. Plus, we can point out fish to each other. Someone in the group will think it’s the funniest thing ever! I don’t care, it works to stay close and help with ascending/decending.
ajax2664 - 9/26/2008 10:37 PM
I have been diving a long time (’76) and this year I ran out of air twice in one trip. This was due in large part to stepped ascents from depth and my group was experimenting with stepped deco. The point is that my Buddy was within a few feet, and even at 30 feet, I was glad to have him next to me. I believe in self rescue first, but the Buddy System is indispensible..
j0esm00 - 9/12/2008 8:37 AM
Now think about the logic here I went up faster than her to stop her. Hmm two divers with the bends would have been sure death. Good thing I let out all air on the way up and stop her at 70. I am sure 100 foot per minute wasn’t good and I had an angel that day. My point okay you don’t have to hold hands but if you don’t want your death or your partners death on your hands staying close is just smart. Get past the ego of I’m a skilled diver and leave the testosterone on the shore cuz let’s face it Mother Nature is much bigger and stronger then all of us put together.
j0esm00 - 9/12/2008 8:35 AM
Wow Okay I know that people have a right to their own beliefs and that’s all great. However I am astonished about how many people are not concerned with being close to their buddy’s!!!! First being close to your buddy doesn’t mean you are relying on them to help you it means it’s the closest thing you have to air if there’s an issue IE their spare reg hello they don’t have to be skilled to hand you that or you take it from them. (Of course if you’re like the guy above with ponies strapped to him not the case but not very stream lined and more chance for error) So here’s the deal I once thought that going to 90 feet while my partner stayed at 80 feet so I can take pictures of garden ells was okay. I was there about 30 seconds and I heard a shriek and looking up here goes my partner to the surface. Not wanting her to die of the lung embolism I had to stop her. Now think about the logic here I went up faster
Spearo - 9/09/2008 11:13 AM

Yes I do belive that "two heads are better than one" specially UW but..

There comes a time in our lifes when we grow up and no longer need to "hold hands before crossing the street" become more informed, experinced at what we do and are awere of the consequences, same is with diving.

There are some (me been one) who "buddy" on and off the boat, "buddy" on the way down and "buddy" on the way up when that time is up but please let us do our diving too. We have the equipment and the tools on us and in our heads so please relax and enjoy yours too.

Its not all that bad.. with time, lots of experince, decent equipment, planning and always redundancy many of us do "cross the street" without holding hands all the time and it’s not the end of the world.

 To depend on your dive buddy (at times with as little experience as you) for your safety is not what it should be all about but yes we must crawl before we walk.

ScubaHawk - 8/20/2008 2:59 PM


Great advice! I have a dive buddy who is an SOB. She is my wife and I love her very much, but she believes that as long as she is in the "Same Ocean Buddy", we are OK. I am an xprofessional mariner who has learned many times over that the ocean is a harsh environment and that redundancy is the key to survival.

I always dive with a completely redundant pony bottle system not in case I run out of air as I am very cautious with my air supply and generally dive the rule of thirds. But, my wife and I have both had first stage regulator issues while at depth. The ocean will break things, especially things that are mass produced for a competitive price.

I am prepared to take care of myself underwater, but I like diving with a buddy as some things are not in my control and can’t be fixed by myself.

SCUBASMITTY - 8/19/2008 10:51 AM
chgodvr - 8/18/2008 9:07 PM
A little communication before the dive goes a long way! I’ve been in situations where 25 - 30 feet of separation was fine; other times I was glad to know my buddy was being brushed by my fin because that is as far as I could see. Talk the dive out before hand.
Froggie - 8/18/2008 4:27 PM
Call me "old school" but after 50 years of diving and 40 years as an instructor, I have my own preferences for buddy closeness. I don’t want ANBODY constantly within an arm’s reach of me during a dive. We were all trained to be self-sufficient and I instill that in my students. Know your abilities and don’t exceed them. Keep up with your buddy but don’t ride on his back!!
Fitzy - 8/18/2008 12:38 PM

Good rule of thumb about the 1 fin kick max. Try this...

Let 80% of the air out of your lungs right now. No, pinch your nose and close your mouth and try to breath in... (Or better yet, put your reg in your mouth, turn off your air supply, and breath normally (on dry land only please)) No air? How far away do you want your buddy to be THEN!

I know, running out of air doesn’t happen to you, you pay attention to your supply. But what if your gauge is broken / stuck, or you don’t recognize the slow leak coming from behind you...

Good post Greg. You get points for this one. :-D
Nesher - 8/18/2008 3:07 AM


Thanks you for posting this in your blog. I strongly believe in the importance of the buddy system for both diver safety and enjoyment.

This is a really good reminder for us to always practice being a good dive buddy.
divemaiden - 8/17/2008 7:38 PM

With some of my buddies, I don’t have a problem with them maintaining a safe distance, I have a problem with them maintaining ANY distance. They’re usually swimming right on top of me, or right into me all the time. One of them swam so close, he hooked my hoses onto his tank and I coudn’t get his attention to stop. I felt like a turtle flipped on its back. Luckily, we were swimming in a group and another diver eventually noticed and came and unhooked us. But, I guess, this is for another blog, huh?