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 fails...no 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"...you 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 you...you 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 :)