Buddy Communication 101
Some of you may have heard the phrase “I took up diving so I don’t have to listen to my husband/wife/partner”! Most of the time, this is said in jest, but let’s investigate a little further…
It is true that, with most forms of scuba diving, verbal communication is not practical, but in fact, communication and trust are key components of diving safely and getting the most from every dive! The better you know your buddy and the better they know you means that communication becomes more and more effective.
When you dive as a ‘buddy pair’ you are there to look after each other in case of emergency, hence it is essential that you know what and how to communicate with each other. Buddys may have different types of communication with different levels of sophistication. This can range from simply swimming over to your partner and tugging their fins to Buddy Watchers – devices that you strap on your wrist that vibrate at the push of a button – and sophisticated signalling equipment attached to various pieces of dive equipment.
Two sets of eyes are better than one. Another reason to communicate underwater is when you find some interesting creature to observe. This could range from our beautiful Saint Lucian turtles swimming in the blue with a sunburst background to a dusky jawfish poking out of his hole in the sand showing you the eggs he is carrying in his mouth! Having both divers looking around independently provides more opportunity to effectively explore the underwater world.
Communication plans therefore become important both for safety and enjoyment. Different types of signal might send different messages. A single tap on the cylinder, metal to metal, might mean ‘come and see’, whereas continuous taps of three might indicate an emergency. These signals need to be agreed in advance of the dive so both parties are ‘speaking the same language’.
So, now you have the attention of your buddy and they are looking at you quizzically – what now? Scuba diving has a language all of it’s own (well, not entirely true but for the purposes of this article, the statement will suffice). For example, thumb and index finger forming a circle with the other three fingers spread out asks the question, ‘ok?’. The same gesture back answers ‘ok.’. Other gestures communicate different responses such as ‘not ok’, ‘go up’, ‘go down’ and so forth.
The creatures you see under the oceans also have signs and it can sometimes be amusing trying to figure out what has been spotted if you are not familiar with the signal, or if the creature is well camouflaged or particularly small!
Having a common understanding of this language again enhances the enjoyment and safety of the dive. No more post dive ‘did you see that cool flounder hiding in the sand?’ receiving the abrupt response of ‘no’.
Now we get ‘wasn’t that amazing to see the shoal of baraccuda just off Turtle Reef!’
Going back to our original premise – although verbal communication may be impractical and possibly undesired underwater, hopefully we have convinced you that communication is a key skill in scuba diving.
So, all in all, you may not be listening to your other half, but you are probably hearing an awful lot more!
(First published in ‘Tropical Traveller’)