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In freediving, you must be able to rely on your dive buddy with full trust. A good freediving buddy keeps a close eye, meets you underwater at the correct depth, and knows what to do in an emergency. If something is to go wrong, your buddy is your best chance of staying safe.
So we are going to look at what a dive buddy’s job is, and all the key aspects that make a great freediving buddy.
When you take a freediving program such as the SSI Freediver program, not only do you learn all about how to freedive, but also about how to be a good freediving buddy to someone else. Freediving is a very safe sport when it is practiced correctly and when basic safety procedures are followed by both the diver and their buddy.
A buddy is there to keep the diving freediver safe. It is an important role that is not to be taken lightly, but it is also a lot of fun and helps you bond and make life-long freediving friends!
The vast majority of freediving blackouts happen within the last few meters of the dive, or on the surface. This is why the safety diver (freediving buddy) will meet the freediver at the last part of their dive at a fairly shallow depth. Then they come to the surface together
On the way up to the surface, the buddy should be looking at the freediver’s face and looking for signs of stress or blackout. If a blackout should occur underwater, it is the buddy’s job to take the freediver to the surface, while making sure their airway stays closed.
On the surface, the freediving buddy should keep the freediver’s face above water and encourage them to gain consciousness again. If the diver does not come around quickly and is not breathing, rescue breaths would be needed.
The freediving buddy must know how to do all of these things quickly and efficiently, as it could mean the difference between life and death. This is why these skills are learned and practiced in freediver programs, but freedivers should continue to practice these skills regularly even after they become certified.
Now we know the main jobs of a freediving buddy, here are a few ways to make sure you are the best freediving buddy possible:
Some people start freediving or spearfishing without any formal training or instruction. This can be dangerous in situations where help is needed, and they find themselves inexperienced and unprepared.
Taking part in a freediving course will give you the skills and knowledge needed to act properly in an emergency.
It can be tricky to know where and when to meet the diver on their way up from their dive. A good rule of thumb is to meet them at one-third of their dive depth. So for example, if they are diving to 30 meters (98 feet), you would meet them at 10 meters (33 feet) on their way up.
The tricky part is knowing when to dive down so that you are not waiting there too early, or that you are not too late. With practice, you will get to know how long it takes to meet a diver at the correct place and in good time.
You can also ask the freediver how long a dive to this depth usually takes them to judge when they will be turning the dive at the bottom (around half the total time they told you). This is important as you might not be able to see them turning in poor visibility.
You can also use your dive watch to keep an eye on the timer. The best way to judge when to go is to hold onto the rope and wait to feel a sharp pull, which will indicate that the freediver has turned at the bottom and is on their way back up.
For a dive to around 30 meters (98 feet) or less, you can dive down when you feel this pull. For deeper dives, you might wait ten seconds or so before diving down. It all depends on how long the dive will take them, but you will get to know how to judge these things with practice.
When you have dived down and met the freediver at the correct depth, you will accompany them to the surface. This is a vital time to watch the diver and look for signs that they might have a blackout.
Stay quite close to the diver so that you can grab them quickly if you need to and stay slightly below them so that if they do blackout, you will not need to turn your body and swim back down to catch them.
As a freediving buddy, you should be looking for worrying signs such as the diver slowing down or seeming to lose coordination, a dazed look in the eyes, and bubbles coming from the mouth. On the surface, you might see that they have blue lips, and they might start to experience a loss of motor control (LMC).
When experiencing an LMC, the body will spasm and they will struggle to catch their breath. This can turn into a blackout so you should be close enough to them at the surface to grab them and keep their head and airways out of the water.
It is important to practice these buddying skills regularly and act out rescue scenarios to keep your skills fresh. Your role as a freediving buddy is the most important job you could have. The diver is putting complete trust in you to keep them safe and acting fast in an emergency could save their life.
Hopefully, you will never have to rescue another freediver. Blackouts are rare occurrences in freediving, especially when a freediver stays within their limits and progresses slowly in going deeper. But like with any sport, there are risks, and if an emergency should occur, a diving buddy should know what to do!
Are you ready to enhance your freediving skills? Then check out SSI’s range of advanced freediving programs.