A funny thing happened to me this past weekend.
By Alex Brylske
Photo by Joseph C. Dovala
I was on a dive charter that included mostly tourists from up north who were escaping the ravages of winter. As is common, some were couples while others were alone. The couples of course had their buddy assignment covered.
The diver in question was vehemently refusing to dive with a stranger, insisting that he be allowed to dive solo. (He also apparently produced a card verifying a “solo diver” certification.) The captain would hear none of it and broke off the confrontation with the ultimatum that “you either dive with a buddy or you’re not diving from this boat.” Begrudgingly, the diver agreed.
After the dive, the angry would-be solo diver was more than eager to talk, so I spoke to him about the incident. It turned out that, indeed, he had taken a course in solo diving and said that he rarely ever dived with a buddy. His rationale was, in my view, quite solid and involved two premises. First, he resented having to dive with someone who he believed was less qualified than he was. He saw it as, in his words, “a baby-sitting assignment for which I had to pay.” He went on to cite several examples from past experience where he had to assist less qualified buddies with problems, thus ruining his own dive.
Second, and more importantly to him, what he enjoyed about diving most was the solitude, and that experience was spoiled by having an “intruder” (buddy) along for the ride. He also believed that, in most cases, people delude themselves into thinking that, just because you have a buddy, you’re safer than if you don’t. According to him, even if a buddy pair stays close enough to realize that the other has a problem (which he thought rarely happened), they probably wouldn’t be prepared to render any useful assistance, anyway. “Divers never practice emergency skills once they get out of training,” he insisted, “so good luck if you ever really need a buddy’s help in an emergency.”
I have to admit that the only two people who I personally enjoy diving with, and welcome as buddies, are my wife and my best friend. Anyone else is just an imposition and, frankly, I too would prefer to go it alone. I know for many of you reading this, that’s heresy, but I’m willing to wager that more folks subscribe to the sans buddy position than we realize.
So, I’m eager to hear what you readers think. Please post your comments below. Meanwhile, whether you dive with a buddy or you don’t, safety requires prudent, sensible decision making. And it requires that you regularly practice what to do in an emergency, too.
So, before opting out of the buddy system, particularly, make sure you know what you’re doing.