Tips for Effective Use of the Buddy System

Hand Signals

  1. Choose your buddies wisely.
    The ideal buddy should feel that the buddy system is important. If you are partnered with a random buddy on the boat only to find that he is a lone wolf and deserts you underwater, stick close to the divemaster and ask for a different buddy for the next dive.

    2. Discuss your dive plan with your buddy before the dive.
    Let your buddy know if you are likely to have any issues that commonly lead to buddy separation, such asear equalizationtrouble on descent (I frequently see one diver drop like a rock while the other is stuck at 15 feet attempting to equalize his ears). Discuss how you will deal with these situations should they arise.

    3. Talk about your dive objective.
    If one member of the team stops to take photographs and the other wants to race over the reef in order to cover as much ground as possible, a compromise as to the dive pace will need to be made.

    4. Pick a side.
    Choose what side of your buddy you will remain on, and then remain on that side. This might sound silly, but it is easy to become disoriented underwater and knowing where to look for your buddy is helpful.

    5. Pick a leader.
    Even if there is a dive master, decide who will make navigational decisions during the dive. One buddy swims to areas he finds interesting, and the other follows his lead. If the follower wants to check out a specific spot, he simply notifies the leader and they move together. This makes the dive more organized and more enjoyable.

    6. Discuss a way to attract each other’s attention.
    This could include underwater noisemakers, rapping on the tank with a metal ring or clip, or even shouting into the regulator. If you and your buddy know what to listen for, you are more likely to be able to get each other’s attention underwater.

    7. Familiarize yourself with your buddy’s gear and refresh emergency procedures together.
    This doesn’t have to take a long time, a simple “my weights are released here and my alternate air source is here” and a brief review of the gear you are using usually covers the equipment. A quick discussion of emergency air sharing procedures takes about 30 seconds.

    8. Communicate during the dive.
    Discuss hand signal communications and then use them. Ask your buddy if he is okay periodically, point out interesting aquatic life to your partner, and communicate your tank pressure. Divers who are in constant communication tend to stay closer together and more aware of their partners.

Scuba instructors teach the buddy system for a reason: a diver using the standard single-tank equipment configuration cannot solve all emergencies himself. Stay close to your buddy and stay safe!


Should You Start Solo Diving?


Ideally, a diver should only solo dive when it is necessary for a specific dive objective or safety concern.

If you are considering starting solo diving, be sure that you meet all the criteria in terms of mental and technical preparation, and take the necessary training and precautions to be a safe, informed solo diver.

What Is Solo Diving?

Solo diving refers to self-reliant scuba diving without a buddy. Solo diving was once considered a form of technical scuba diving, but is slowly becoming an acceptable practice for responsible and experienced recreational divers.

Why Solo Dive?

Solo diving is not appropriate for every diver or dive plan, but there are many situations in which solo diving is arguably advantageous.

  • Photography: Underwater photographers and videographers often prefer to solo dive. Solo diving allows photographers to minimize disturbance to the environment, such as sand or silt being kicked up into the water. Diving alone allows photographers sufficient time to capture the ideal images and footage without being rushed. Finally, removing the responsibility of a buddy gives photographers the ability to focus on their craft, rather than being distracted by caring for a dive partner.
  • Solo Travel: A diver who arrives at a dive site without a buddy is often randomly assigned one. This buddy is a stranger in terms of experience, responsibility, and personality. Many divers prefer to dive alone than to be paired with someone they don’t know. An incompatible or mismatched buddy in terms of experience and skills can constitute a potential safety risk.

Why Is Solo Diving “Riskier” Than Buddy Diving?

Solo diving has an added level of risk compared to diving using the buddy system. By ditching his dive buddy, a solo diver loses not only the buddy’s redundant equipment, but his redundant brain and judgement. A solo diver should be self-sufficient, experienced, and responsible, as well mentally prepared to dive on his own. Divers must mitigate the risks of solo diving as much as possible through proper training.

Why Is It Important to Offer Solo Diver Courses?

Solo diver training courses have existed in their current form since 2001. Although the existence of solo diving courses is still a topic of debate, advocates of offering solo diver training have some good points. It’s better to offer courses for these individuals than allow them to dive solo without the proper gear, techniques or training. In addition, many dive scenarios (including working dives) require solo diving.

Prerequisites for Solo Diver Training

Most solo diver courses require a minimum of 100 logged dives to enrol in the course. Solo diver courses start with a rigorous testing of  basic scuba diving skills. The goal of these prerequisites it to ensure that only experienced, confident divers are certified to dive solo.

What Do You Learn in a Solo Diving Course?

  • Gas and Emergency Management

Solo divers must be able to calculate their air consumption rates in order estimate their planned air consumption for a dive. It is important to have an effective gas management plan, including an additional, independent source of breathing gas containing sufficient gas for the diver to reach the surface in case the diver’s primary source of breathing gas is compromised. This is essential because a solo diver does not have a buddy with a second regulator to donate gas to an out-of-air buddy. Along these lines, a solo diver must learn how to rig, carry, and use an effective bailout system.

  • Dive Planning:

Solo divers learn to develop dive plans within the limits of their training, experience and equipment. This prevents a solo diver from diving outside his comfort zone, which could lead to panic or unforeseen hazards.

  • Additional Dive Gear:

Solo divers must carry additional dive gear, including an additional air source and redundant emergency tools such as line cutters to mitigate the potential risks associated with diving alone. A solo diver course trains divers in the configuration, assembly and use of the additional dive gear required to solo dive safely.

  • Training Dives

Training dives in a solo diver course are rigorous. In addition to detailed dive plans and advanced navigation patterns, solo diving students are presented with a range of emergency scenarios. These simulations occur without prior warning and must be solved on the fly. This might seem tough, but such training is necessary considering the risks of solo diving.

Torben Lonne is the Editor in Chief at online magazine.



It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Peter Timm, a legendary South African underwater explorer who played a part in one of the most extraordinary animal rediscoveries of our time.

Timm, 51, and his diving partner Adele Stegan, 45, died on Wednesday after aborting a dive at 60 metres near a reef known as Aliwal Shoal on South Africa’s eastern coast. Just what caused the pair to surface too quickly remains a mystery, but experts suggest that decompression sickness (DCS) is to blame for their deaths. Adele1

The diving legend worked closely with Earth Touch on our production of Dinofish, a National Geographic co-production about the rediscovery of the coelacanth – a fish long thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs. He was the first person to see the ancient creature in its natural habitat.

“Peter was hardcore – not just in appearance and stature, but in his resolute passion for the ocean, deep-water exploration and the coelacanth,” Earth Touch producer Ben Hewett said.
“In the short and memorable time I spent with Peter, it was clear that his first coelacanth sighting left an eternal impression on him,” Hewett said. “Peter would talk about them and treat them with the same love and loyalty as he would a family member … I think to Peter they were part of his family. He would risk life and limb to spend time with these magical creatures. Our documentary would not have been possible without his amazing experience, unquestionable expertise and steel determination.”



What to Expect on Your First Scuba Dive


Scuba Diving Takes a Little Getting Used to . . . But It’s Worth the Effort!

Some divers take to scuba diving like fish underwater. They put regulators in their mouths and off they swim! However, this is the exception rather than the rule.

For most new divers, scuba diving feels a little strange at first. Be patient with yourself, don’t rush through skills, and take your time. By the end of your first dive you will already feel exponentially more comfortable underwater than you did when you first entered the water

Scuba Courses Are Taught in “Baby Steps”

New scuba divers are not expected throw on a full set of scuba gear and leap off a boat into the deep blue sea on their first scuba dive. A dive student’s first dive will be at a controlled dive site such as a pool or shallow bay. At least one area of the dive site will be shallow enough to stand up in. What’s more, before ever entering the water, a scuba instructor will explain to new divers how all the dive gear work, and will familiarize them with simple techniques used to dive safely. The first skill you are likely to try is breathing through a scuba regulator with just your face in the water

Breathing Through a Scuba Regulator:

Breathing through a scuba regulator for the first time can feel strange. The act of breathing itself, especially in very shallow water, feels almost exactly like breathing in the air. The aspect of breathing through a regulator that is disconcerting is that a student is required to put his face in the water and inhale. This is not a typical human behaviour, and it is completely normal to be a little hesitant to put your face in the water and inhale at the beginning.

The most important thing is to exhale fully after each breath. This prevents divers from hyperventilating and feeling starved for air. Some students adjust to regulator breathing after just a few breaths, while others take longer to gain confidence in their scuba equipment. Take your time! Be comfortable with breathing at the surface before descending into the water.

The Noisy Underwater Environment:scuba_gear

Divers who have done research into scuba diving have probably read about the silent, relaxing underwater world. This is not completely accurate. Breathing underwater is surprisingly noisy! Once a diver becomes accustomed to breathing underwater, he starts to tune out the bubbling sound of exhalation and the comforting whoosh of air as he inhales, but at the beginning, the sounds are surprisingly loud!

Water conducts sounds much more efficiently than air does because of its density. Sound waves travel more quickly in water, and reach each of diver’s ears almost simultaneously. Pinpointing the origin of a sound is difficult, as the physics of sound wave transmission underwater make it seem that all sounds are coming from directly behind a diver’s head. While this can be confusing at first, after a few dives you will adjust to this aspect of the underwater environment and will hardly notice it.

Underwater Vision

Most scuba masks cut off a diver’s peripheral vision. At first, this can be disconcerting and may make some divers feel slightly claustrophobic. As with most aspects of the scuba diving, new divers will quickly acclimate to their limited field of vision. Imagine that you are driving a new car with some significant blind spots. These blind spots can be annoying the first time you use the vehicle, but after a few trips, you will become aware of exactly where the blind spots are and will learn to turn your head when you need to see into an area which is out of your field of vision. Scuba diving is just the same! If you cannot see you instructor, simply look left, right, up and down and you will find him.

The physics of underwater light transmission have a magnifying effect. Objects appear about 33% closer than they actually are. The implication of this is that your dive buddy, instructor, the floor, the surface, and any other objects seem nearer than they are. Most experienced divers do not even notice the magnification because a diver’s brain quickly learns to adjust to the difference.

A good way to speed the learning process is to reach out and touch objects such as the pool floor, pool wall, or your dive buddy. This will teach you quickly how distant these objects really are.

Never touch corals, fish, or other aquatic life.

Weightlessness and Freedom of Movement:

One of the best parts of scuba diving is the feeling of weightlessness.

Scuba divers can fly up, down, left and right. The weightlessness of scuba diving is one of the most freeing sensations in the world. Divers can move easily in three dimensions. The trick is to relax into the weightless feeling of the water and let the water and your buoyancy compensator (BC) support you.

Don’t fight the water.

At first, a new diver may feel that he needs to move to stay in position — he doesn’t. Try to be as still as possible and enjoy the freedom from gravity. It’s like being an astronaut!

The Density of Water Restricts Movements:

Water is, of course, denser than air. A diver who tries to move quickly will feel resistance to his movements from the water, and may quickly exhaust himself.

Underwater movements, including swimming and arm motions, should be slow and controlled.

You Might Need to Pee:

The human body reacts in unusual ways to the underwater environment.

Being surrounding by water lower than body temperature may lead to a physiological reaction known as cold water immersion diaresis.

The body speeds up the synthesis of urine, leading to the need to urinate underwater. On ocean dives, many divers simply pee in their wetsuits, but if a new diver is learning to dive in a pool, or is using a rental wetsuit, he may need to hold it!

Don’t worry; needing to pee underwater is a completely normal consequence of scuba diving.

Scuba-Diving-EquipmentIt Is Normal to Forget Skills, Hand Signals, and Other Instructions:

The underwater environment exposes new divers to a completely new world. On your first dive, your brain is working hard to adjust to the feeling of weightlessness, the magnification of the water, underwater breathing, and all the other aspects of the environment listed above.

This is a huge amount of information to process, and sometimes instructions which seemed clear on the surface such as the use of hand signals and the steps of underwater skills get pushed to the back of a new diver’s mind. It’s okay!

Be patient with yourself and enjoy the new sensations. It is a new, delightful world down there!

By Natalie Gibb, Guide


Freediving – Freediving vs Scuba Diving



What Is Freediving?

Freedivers do not use tanks; they use only their lungs to descend and explore the underwater world. For many scuba divers, freediving sounds like an activity for super-humans.

While freediving might seem intimidating at first, most people can learn to freedive. Like scuba diving, freediving simply takes time and dedication to master. “How deep/long can a person really dive on a single breath?” “Isn’t it dangerous?” “Those people are crazy!”

Why freedive?

Freediving could offer you freedom, a new challenge and increased comfort in the water.

A single breath-hold dive is shorter than a scuba dive, but a freediving session allowed you to be in the water for several hours, and you could cover a lot more ground. The reefs were alive with sounds that you will never hear when diving on scuba. Aquatic creatures are not scared off by the noise of the bubbles and seemed more curious. Plus, the freedom you feel without all the extra gear, relying solely on your lungs for air, is unbeatable. You suddenly feel like you belong underwater with the fish. You are not just a visitor anymore, you are at home.


Freediving isn’t about taking risks; it’s about minimizing risks to make successful dives. Whether you freedive for recreation or competition, the number one safety rule is always to dive under the direct supervision of a buddy. Freedivers tend to pay careful attention to the safety precautions as they generally are very aware of the potential for blackout


Obtaining professional training ahead of time will not only teach you to dive with the proper safety measures in place, it will also improve your technique and minimize your learning curve. Freedive training differs from scuba training because freediving skills require physical adaptation, whereas scuba skills are learned motor skills. In fact, freediving, like mountain climbing, has the unusual distinction of requiring physiological adaptation to an external environment. Divers lower their heart rates, shunt blood to their cores and promote other physiological responses. The more you freedive, the stronger these adaptations become.

When looking for a course to fit your needs, look for one that is comprehensive. You should be learning a lot more than just how to hold your breath and go underwater. Perhaps the most important element is the safety training



Although there is less gear involved in freediving, the gear used is quite specific to divers’ needs. You can make do with the gear you currently use as a scuba diver, minus the tanks, BCD and regulators, of course, but as with many sports there are some gear choices designed to improve performance and make your diving much more comfortable

Long-blade fins

Long-blade fins are probably the most iconic piece of freediving gear. The fins are about 3 feet long and because they push more water with each kick than shorter scuba fins, they get you moving like no other fin can. you can kick less and go farther, conserving energy.

Low-volume masks

Low-volume masks are important because they permit divers to keep more precious air in their lungs rather than having to spend it all to equalize the mask. This increased reserve is useful for equalizing the ears and sinuses in addition to prolonging dive time

Proper wetsuits

Even the slightest chill when freediving can cause your oxygen consumption to skyrocket. Proper wetsuits are also important for safety reasons. A freediver should always be positively buoyant in case of a near-blackout or blackout.

Basic safety rules

  • Do not push your limits without proper education
  • Dive under direct observation of your dive buddy. Tell him/her what you plan to do.
  • Do not hyperventilate (no deeper/faster breathing). It can lead to black out without warning. 2-3 slow deep breaths is enough as preparation
  • Do not go deeper if you feel pressure on your eardrums. Equalize all the time.
  • Accept no discomfort.
  • If problems – drop your weights.
  • Do not exhale, or stop on the way up (it enhances the risk of Shallow Water Blackout). Swim straight up.
  • Your lowest level of oxygen is 20 seconds after surfacing. Keep breathing
  • Rest without moving between dives. Rest twice the duration of your last dive.
  • Secondary drowning (death) may occur up to 24 hours after small amounts of water has entered your lungs.
  • Use a dive line to a secure buoy if you plan to push yourself. Stick to the dive line.  NEVER ever swim passed the bottom weight!
  • Do not take air from scuba bottles. Do not freedive after scuba diving, rest more than 12 hours.
  • Drink lots of water before a freediving session. Do not be hungry, or too full.
  • Do not dive deep when you are cold. Don’t dive with fever, infections or drugs in your body.
  • Evaluate the dive site. Know about currents and good exit points. Do not touch reef or animals (they or you might get harmed).
  • Relax, Enjoy and listen to your body.


Freediving offers a challenge that teaches you what you are capable of doing, and it’s often a lot more than you think. Even if you have never thought about trying freediving before, it’s a sport worth exploring. It’s an activity for all ages and a great complement to scuba diving.

It can be a challenging sport or just a new way to experience the underwater world.

So give it a try.monaco_free_diving3


Can You Dive on Your Period? – Menstruation and Scuba Diving – From Natalie Gibb

Can you dive on your period? Yes!


Many female scuba divers may be worried about shark attacks, bleeding underwater and other considerations when diving while menstruating, but may be hesitant to ask a male scuba instructor for advice. Rest assured, diving on your period is perfectly fine, but you might want to take a few precautions.


Will Sharks Attack Me If I Dive on My Period?

Thankfully, sharks are not going to smell your blood and come chasing after you if you dive while menstruating. Studies have been conducted to observe sharks’ attraction to human blood. Sharks appear curious, but not aggressive when human blood is in the water. In fact, sharks are most attracted to fish gastric juices (not even fish blood) which make sense as a fish that is leaking gastric juices is definitely disabled and easy to attack.

Furthermore, a menstruating female loses only a few milliliters of blood a day. Most females will find that their period actually stops when they are submerged in water; the vaginal opening stays closed and the increase in ambient pressure helps to keep fluids from leaking out.


Diving While Menstruating May Increase the Risk of Decompression Sickness:

Diving on your period is relatively safe. However, studies have shown that scuba diving while menstruating may increase a diver’s risk of decompression sickness. One study observed that females were almost twice as likely to experience decompression sickness during the first week of their menstrual cycle. Additionally, divers who were taking oral contraceptives (the birth control pill) were more likely to get decompression sickness than those who were not. This study showed a correlation between menstruation and decompression sickness, but more research is needed before conclusions can be drawn.

The reasons that menstruating divers appear to be more susceptible to decompression sickness is not understood. Suffice to say that bodily changes occur during menstruation that appears to make nitrogen elimination less efficient. Consider also that menstruation can lead to dehydration, which is a known contributing factor in decompression sickness.


Divers would be well-advised to dive more conservatively while menstruating. This includes making fewer, shorter, and shallower dives with ample safety stops than they would during other times of the month.


Diving with Extreme Premenstrual Syndrome/ Physical Discomfort:

Some woman experience strange side effects during PMS and menstruation. Other women experience extreme physical discomfort. Diving with extreme cramps is just horrible. Be cautious or don’t dive is you experience extreme PMS or side effects during your period.


Blood Control:

How does a menstruating diver deal with fluid loss on a dive boat? Underwater, most divers stop menstruating. The vaginal opening collapses, and no water or body fluids enter or exit a diver’s body. Additionally, most divers use wetsuits, which limit water circulation. Any leaking fluids are likely to stay inside the diver’s suit.

However, a diver on her period may need to control blood and fluid loss on the surface before and after a dive. Tampons work very well for fluid control, and can be left in during a scuba dive. In fact, because the vaginal opening usually seals shut during a dive, the tampon is unlikely to even get wet underwater. The same cannot be said for the tampon string, and this is when embarrassing situations can happen. A wet tampon sting can wick fluids down and out of a diver’s body after a dive, and this can cause some leakage.. Leave your wetsuit on until you are able to switch out the tampon.



 [1] “Women and Scuba Diving” JE Cresswell, M st Leger Dowse, 28 March 1991, PubMedCentralCanada.

[2] Diver’s Alert Network (DAN)

[3] The London Diving Center Online, “Considerations for Women and Diving”

[4] Journal of Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine; 1992 July; 63(7) 61-68

[5] Journal of Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine; 1990 July; 61(7) 657-9

[6] J. Obstet Gynaecol; 2006 April; 26(7) 216-21 PubMed

[7] Journal of Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine. 2003 November; 74(11) 1177-82


Passive Communication and Scuba Diving

US Navy 110615-N-OT964-323 Chief Navy Diver Ry...

US Navy 110615-N-OT964-323 Chief Navy Diver Ryan Oakley, right, assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.1, and a Pakistan Navy diver give an OK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What Is Passive Communication?


Passive communication is communication that does not require or provoke a response. During open water certification, student divers typically learn active communication, which involves the use of hand signs, light signals, written notes, or signals made with an underwater communication device such as a noisemaker. Passive communication is more subtle, and relies on factors such as diver positioning and movement. Members of a dive team with strong passive communication skills can confirm that all team members are present, breathing, and calm without using hand signals or otherwise disrupting the flow of the dive.


Types of Passive Underwater Communication:




By far the most effective type of passive communication is positioning.


During an open water dive, buddies should maintain a side-by-side or a slightly staggered position in a team of two, or a staggered position in a team of three. Divers determine which diver will be on the left/right before the dive, and maintain this positioning whenever possible. Buddies stay within each other’s peripheral vision and no more than a few feet from each other. As long as a dive buddy stays in position, he is “okay” and no communication is needed. However, the moment he moves from his teammate’s peripheral vision, active communication is needed.


For example, if one buddy stops to check out an interesting fish, the other should immediately notice that his buddy has stopped swimming and turn to establish visual contact with the buddy. The buddy can then point out the fantastic fish. Another example is a diver who stops to solve a problem. He will lag behind and fall out of position. His teammate(s) should notice, stop, and communicate with the lagging diver to solve the problem.


Following and Leading Properly


A second form of passive communication is accomplished by a diver fulfilling his role as either a leader or a follower. Before a dive, the buddy team should determine which diver will be leading and which diver(s) will be following. The leading diver establishes direction and swim pace, but the following divers also have an important role to play. They must be attentive to the leader and adjust their positioning to his. If one diver wishes to change direction, ascend, or modify the team’s movement in any way, he communicates his wish with the dive leader. The leader then communicates the adjustment with any other divers, and modifies his actions to accommodate the requested change. As long as no changes are required by the following diver he stays in position, passively communicating with the leader that everything is okay and that he approves of the navigation and pace.


 Passive Light Communication


Passive light communication is of great use on night dives and on dives where visibility is reduced.


Passive light communication works similarly to passive positioning communication. Divers take care to direct their light beams so that they are clearly visible to all team members. Divers use their lights to illuminate the area in front of the dive team. A diver should be able to see his teammates’ lights without turning or glancing over his shoulder. Divers should react immediately if a light disappears.


Besides light position, light movement is a good form of passive communication. Light movement (as opposed to light signals), is the manner in which a diver shines his light beam around the dive site. A diver’s light beam should move slowly and smoothly as he looks around. By moving his light beam calmly and deliberately, and by returning his light beam to position in front of the dive team every few moments, a diver passively communicates that all is okay. Jerky, uncontrolled movements indicate a problem.


Touch Contact


Any diver who faces the possibility of extremely reduced visibility  should be familiar with touch contact signals. Of course, there are both active and passive forms of touch contact communication. Active touch contact communication includes pushes, pulls, and hand movements to indicate stop, start, and entanglement. Passive communication is accomplished by the following diver maintaining a firm but calm grip on the leading diver’s leg or arm to communicate that he is in position and that all is well.


Ascents and Descents


Passive communication on ascents and descents requires a concentrated effort from all the members of a dive team. In open water, buddies should descend and ascend facing each other, maintaining visual contact between team members, and adjusting ascent/descent rates so that team members stay within a few feet of each other for the entire depth change. As long as the divers maintain this positioning, all can be assumed to be okay and the divers may proceed with the ascent or descent. In the event of a problem, face-to-face positioning allows the issue to be easily communicated.


The Take-home Message about Passive Communication in Scuba Diving:


Efficient passive communication is rarely taught in open water certification courses, but it is worth perfecting. Passive communication makes diving more efficient by eliminating unnecessary signalling and improves dive safety by encouraging stronger buddy awareness.