Paired up with a new buddy? Here’s what you’ll want to ask them to make sure the dive goes well.
If you don’t have a regular buddy, you’ll find yourself paired up with a new buddy, a so-called insta-buddy, on a number of scuba dives and dive trips. Some divers prefer solo diving in order to avoid getting stuck someone who might be a bad diver. Sometimes having a dialogue can turn what would've been a bad experience into something positive.
Most of the time, these people are perfectly capable scuba divers and will make for a fully competent buddy. Sometimes you might even find a good friend for life with whom meeting somewhere in the world to scuba dive becomes a grand tradition.
But other times, you may find yourself paired up with a less-than-experienced diver who is completely out of his or her depth (sometimes literally).
How do you tell one from the other?
Asking these five questions will help determine if you’ve made the lucky draw, or if there are things you need to address, or even canceling the dive.
1. How much do you dive?
The total number of dives in one thing, the frequency of your scuba diving is something else entirely.
A diver with a hundred logged dives may sound like a solid choice for a buddy, but if those dives were during a year-long trip around the world a decade ago, and he or she hasn’t been near the water since you could essentially be dealing with a beginner.
Do you know why we Dive with a Buddy?
A diver with the same number of dives spread out evenly over the past couple of years, with the latest one only a few weeks before your dive together, will have the basics down and a much better grasp the skills needed for a pleasant, problem-free scuba experience.
2. Where have you been diving?
This will say something about the nature of your insta-buddy’s type of experience.
If you're doing all your dives around a shallow, warm water reef, there's a big difference between that and doing cold water dives, wreck dives, or drift dives. That's not to say you ideally want your buddy to have some technical dives under his or her belt, but a bit of variation in their logbook means they'll likely not cramp up should they plunge into unexpected conditions.
Even if you’re diving with a relatively experienced diver, this question will give you an indication of how they might react underwater in the conditions your divemaster, ship captain or dive operator explained to you.
3. What are you looking forward to most on this dive?
Putting the focus on the upcoming dive makes the whole thing less interrogative, and it also gets your buddy to start mentally preparing for diving into the water with you.
This can sometimes trigger some lingering nervousness that a person has pent up inside, either in their speech patterns or body language. Any sign of nervousness will give you a heads up and the chance to help your new dive buddy alleviate his or her nerves. Establishing confidence in this way also provides an opportunity to turn what would've been an unpleasant dive into an actually good buddy relationship.
4. What do you expect from your buddy?
Discussing things like how fast you like to swim (especially if water currents need to be taken into consideration), going over the signals of communication, where you like to position yourself in relation to your dive buddy will establish where you stand and what you expect.
And by phrasing it as a “how would you like me/us to do the dive”, you've got a more diplomatic way of addressing this, rather than simply making demands of your buddy. Opening up this subject also gives your partner the chance to air his or her expectations, giving you the chance to know their approach to scuba diving.
5. Anything I need to know about you, your condition or your gear?
Divers vary, as do equipment configurations. The buddy check is a good tool to make you and your buddy familiar with each others’ equipment. Openly asking if there’s something that you need to be aware of can be a good approach. As dive gear is always an easy conversation to start, even between complete strangers, it's a way to establish a dialogue.
Also asking about anything else that you need to know about your buddy can help them open up about whatever is worth knowing, such as if they need to descend slowly in order to be able to equalize, that they've never enjoyed diving below 60 feet (20 meters), or if they have a tendency to cramp up.