Buddy System Has Basic Flaws
Since the very first scuba certifications were offered back in the Stone Age,
teaching new divers the sanctity and infallibility of the buddy system has been
mandatory fare. The message is that the buddy system is proven safe and one must
dive in buddy pairs if one wishes to dive safely. But there are several logical
flaws to this absolute rule.
Unfortunately, as equipment and training have evolved, the buddy system
has become a crutch for many divers, rather than the safety net it was
designed to be.
To begin with, the overarching assumption is that
both divers are well matched in experience and orientation, and equally capable
of helping each other. Sadly, this is rarely the case when one dives with a
randomly assigned buddy, and the usual outcome is that the more experienced
diver acts as an unpaid instructor for their less experienced dive mate. This
constitutes a wonderful bonus for the new diver, but in the event of a real
emergency, the inexperienced diver probably cannot offer appropriate assistance
to his more experienced buddy without compromising his safety as well as that of
his stricken buddy.
Another point to consider, given the cost of
charters, price of gas driving to and from the dive site, lunch, and a nitrox
fill, is that if experienced divers take their responsibilities in the random
buddy sweepstakes seriously, their dive is unlikely to be the recreational
experience they signed up for. Essentially, the more experienced buddy is paying
for the privilege of coaching a perfect stranger, and probably doing so for no
thanks at all.
The second flaw in the buddy pair logic is that
the ONLY perfect team is two people and this configuration is easy for newbie
divers to work within right from dive one. This is simply untrue. A two-person
team IS one of many configurations that CAN work, but it is not intuitive to a
newbie diver and requires skills that are by no means innate and that are seldom
drilled thoroughly enough to stick in today’s diver-training classes.
Technical divers whose exposures are typically
longer, deeper, and altogether more complex than a traditional recreational dive
find that the optimal size for a dive team is three people or more, they refer to
this as having redundant buddies and the benefits of this team configuration in
real emergencies are legion. However, effective communications in multi-person
technical teams requires that each team member enjoys a degree of awareness that
allows them to expand their attention to things more than an arm's length beyond
their body - the typical attention zone for many divers untrained in this type
of diving. Each team member is also a capable and self-sufficient diver who
would be able to complete the dive on a contingency plan without relying on any
of those buddies if something separates them. In short, they have taken the time
to develop and perfect skills that counter the most common instances of
equipment failure and operational "malfunctions." Well-trained solo divers do
the same thing.
Early dive training programs adopted the idea of a two-person buddy system
because it made a lot of sense at the time since scuba gear was far less
reliable then than it is today, and things like SPGs and BCDs were concepts for
a future generation of divers. However, those pioneer divers were taught to be
self-sufficient. Courses were tougher and more focused on water skills than
today's typical certification class.
- Solo divers are self-sufficient.
- Solo divers understand their limitations.
- Solo divers plan dives in great detail.
- Solo divers have skills that translate well to buddy diving.
Buddy System Has Basic Flaws
Solo Diving and Risk Management
Solo Divers Make Better Buddies
When Not to Dive Solo