Buddy Systems & the deception of good viz

What's wrong with this picture...?
No, not the composition... What is wrong with the divers in the picture...? There doesn't seem to be a Buddy System in place, does there...?

This picture was taken in South Africa, and the situation is not the exception. A recent diving fatality has brought the importance of the Buddy System back into sharp focus!

Criticism is always easy, and we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, it is often only when an injury or fatality occurs that attention is drawn to a particular issue - and then frequently only passingly... We all teach Dive Buddy systems, but somehow we don't always seem to follow them - especially when the viz is good. Why not? What is behind this? Are we simply careless, independent or undisciplined...? Or is there more to the story...?

So the question is: 
Why do buddy systems fail - especially in good viz?
How close is close enough when the visibility is so clear?

We would really like to get your views on this. We don't want a simple "diver's should..." response. We would really like more of a "diver's don't follow the Buddy System because..." response. In fact, why not make it "why I myself sometimes don't..." Let's be real about this, so we can change... 

To contribute your thoughts, click here to give us your views.
Posted in


Arthur Coulter - March 26th, 2015 at 5:12pm

Divers don't follow the buddy system when the dive master guide has moved on from pointing out something interesting on the reef to the next one and now the divers are left to decide....do I follow immediately or do I stay and then fall behind? My buddy has seen it and being just below me has moved thinking I am within a few meters. The DM should shepard the group and not move on until everyone signals that they are happy to move. The DM may signal to divers constantly. ..where is your buddy? until it becomes or seems compulsary during the dive.

Jan Botha - March 26th, 2015 at 6:21pm

Diver's don't follow the buddy system because they get distracted by something they want to focus on - especially those who have cameras. When concentrating, and getting that one more shot or composition, the time seems to stand still. In the meantime the rest moves on or assume the buddy is where the buddy was a few seconds ago. It seems that a buddy does not swim away on purpose, but often gets stuck or left behind.

Gerard Cannoo - March 27th, 2015 at 2:07pm

After completing the survey I'd like to add a few thoughts... Yes, I've also done stupid things, dived alone, made my own equipment many years ago (a re-breather - without knowing how to correctly use it and oxygen closed system) and despite some very stupid things I've survived. Surprisingly or luckily?? I've also had some very bad experiences as a result... Looking at this and looking back, when navy diving and I was often the supervisor, the lone diver had a line attached and a code of 'pulls'. One pull - you OK? and the like... When doing hull searches divers were physically linked by a piece of cord around a meter long. These days I ask my dive buddy to ensure she or he is always within arms reach of me and if I'm unaware of his or her proximity I stop and find them. We tend to dive in a lead / follow or next to one another formation with the idea that both are equally aware of the near presence of the other whether in sight or not. While this is seen as 'paranoid' or 'too much' or 'overkill' by some friends; it is the condition I agree with my dive buddy or we don't dive. We also acknowledge we're no longer in our twenties and thus invincible! (We're late forties and early fifties). The couple of times I've been in a possible situation over the past few years, hand stuck in a hole, kit snagged, dropped or lost something and the like it has been clear, shallow, inshore or somewhere on the edge of "safe" and each time it could have ended in an incident or even badly - but because I was there my buddy didn't have an unpleasant experience and because he or she was there I didn't have an unpleasant experience! It's worth the bumps to know your buddy is in reach and as concerned for your safety as his or her own; and that any event will immediately be dealt with - you won't need to find or catch up... Hope this is of interest!

Bill Burstrom - April 4th, 2015 at 8:04pm

Too often Buddies are paired together who haven't dived together and established an understanding of what they expect. For instance, somebody who is used to a camera buddy will automatically bridge to the group and hurry his buddy along when necessary. There needs to be verbal communication on the surface about what is expected between buddies.

Tom Louw - June 30th, 2016 at 11:15am

On the topic of Buddy diving I would like to comment and also agree with the other divers. I have had the experience when diving in P.E where I did not have my regular Buddy with me(which is also a family member) .The DM has grouped us (About 12 divers) in pairs so each diver has a Buddy. Unfortunately I had an experienced diver who knew the diving environment.He went on his own and I had to try and keep up with him and not really enjoying the dive. The DM was in the front and I think that he assumed everybody is still in a group close by. I then decided to surface and return to the boat.End of my dive(Expensive)

Greg Lightcap Jr - May 18th, 2019 at 2:40pm

Divers don't follow the buddy system because it takes a level of discipline that is rare in the recreational diving environment. We have far too many deaths of divers who were alone when they died (86%). Whether

diving alone, seperated by carelessness, or seperated as a result of an emergency, the fact remains that relying on the buddy system as gas redundancy is unsafe. We need to either change the environment, change training, or require all divers have a dive buddy AND be carrying a redundant air source.


immersion and bubble formation Accidents Acid reflux Acute ailments After anaesthesia Air Quality Air exchange centre Air hose failure Airway control Alert Diver Magazine Alternative gas mix Altitude changes Altitude sickness Aluminium Oxide Ama divers Amino acids Anaerobic Metabolism Annual renewal Apnea Apnoea Archaeology Arterial gas embolism Arthroscopic surgery Aspirin Aurel hygiene BCD BHP BLS Back adjustment Back pain Back treatment Backextensors Badages Bag valve mask Bahamas Balancing Bandaids Barbell back squat Barometric pressure Barotrauma Basic Life Support Batteries Bench press Benign prostate hyperplasia Beth Neale Black Blood flow Blue Wilderness Blurred vision Boat safety Bone fractures Bouyancy compensators Boyle's Law Boyle\'s Law Bradycardia Brain Breast Cancer Breath Hold Diving Breath hold Breath-hold Breathing Gas Breathing Breathold diving Broken bones Bruising Bubbleformation Buddy Exercise Buoyancy Burnshield CGASA CMAS CO2 COVID-19 COVID CPR Cabin pressure Caissons diseas Camera settings Cancer Remission Cancer treatments Cancer Cannabis and diving Cannabis Cape Town Dive Festival Cape Town CapeTown Carbon dioxide Cardio health Cardiological Cardiomyopathy Chamber Safety Chamber science Charging batteries Charles' Law Charles\' Law Charles\\\' Law Charles\\\\\\\' Law Charles\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\' Law Charlie Warland Chemotherapy Chest compressions Chiropractic Citizen Conservation Cleaning products Coastalexcursion Cold Water Cold care ColdWater Cold Commercial diving Commercial schools Compressed gas Consercation Conservation Contaminants Contaminated air Coral Conservation Coral Reefs Corals Core strength Corona virus Courtactions Crohns disease Crowns Crystal build up Crystallizing hoses Cutaneous decompression DAN Courses DAN Profile DAN Researchers DAN medics DAN members DAN report DCI DCS Decompressions sickness DCS theories DCS DEMP DM training DNA DReams Dalton's Law Dalton\'s Law Dalton\\\'s Law Dalton\\\\\\\'s Law Dalton\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s Law Danel Wenzel Dauin island Deco dives Decompression Illness Decompression Sickness Decompression Stress Decompression illsnes Decompression treatment Decompression Deep diving Deep water exploration Delayed Offgassing Dental Diaphragms Diseases Dive Chamber Dive Computer Dive Destinations Dive H Dive Industry Dive Instruction Dive Instructor Dive Medical Form Dive Pros Dive Research Dive South Africa Dive Training Dive Travel Dive accidents Dive buddies Dive computers Dive excursions Dive fitness Dive gear Dive heallth Dive health Dive medicines Dive medicine Dive operators Dive planning Dive safety Dive safe Dive staff DiveLIVE Diveleader training Diveleaders Diver Health Diver Profile Diver infliencers Diver on surface Divers Alert Diving Divas Diving Kids Diving Trauma Diving career Diving emergencies Diving emergency management Diving fit Diving guidelines Diving injuries Diving suspended Diving Dizziness Dolphins Domestic Donation Dowels Dr Rob Schneider Drysuit diving Drysuit valves Drysuits Dyperbaric medicines EAPs EAP Ear pressure Ear wax Ears injuries Eco friendly Education Electronic Emergency action planning Emergency decompression Emergency plans Emergency underwater Oxygen Recompression Emergency Enviromental Protection Environmental factors Environmental impact Environmental managment Equalisation Equipment care Evacuations Evacuation Evaluations Even Breath Exercise Exhaustion Extended divetime Extinguisher Extreme treatments Eye injuries FAQ Failures Fatigue Faulty equipment Female divers Fillings Fire Coral Fire Safety Firefighting First Aid Equipment First Aid Kit First Aid Training First Aid kits Fish Identification Fish Fitness Training Fitness to dive Fitness Flying Fractures Francois Burman Fredive Free Student cover Free diving Free flow Freedive INstructor Freedive Training Freediver Freediving performance Freediving Gas Density Gas laws Gas mixes GasPerformance Gases Gastoeusophagus Gastric bypass Gastroenterologist Gear Servicing Gordon Hiles Great White Sharks Gutt irritations HCV HELP HIRA HMS Britanica Haemorhoid treatment Hazard Description Hazardous Marine life Hazardous marinelife Health practitioner Heart Attack Heart Health Heart Rate monitor Heart rates Heart rate Heart Heat stress Helium Hepatitis C Hepatitus B High temperatures Hip strength Hip surgery Hippocampus History Hot Humans Hydrate Hydration Hydrogen Hydroids Hydrostatic pressure Hyperbaric Chamber Hyperbaric research Hyperbarics Hypothermia Hypoxia IdentiFin Immersion Immine systems In Water Recompression Indemnity form Indian Ocean Indonesia Inert gas Infections Injections Instinct Instruction Instructors Insurance Integrated Physiology International travel International Interval training Irritation Joint pain KZN South Coast Kidneys Kids scubadiver KwaZulu Natal Labour laws Laryngospasm Lauren Arthur Learning to dive Legal advice Legislation Leukemis Liability Risks Liability releases Liability Life expectancy Lifestyle Lightroom editing Live aboard diving Liver Toxicity Liver diseas Low blood pressure Low pressure deterioration Low volume masks Lung Irritation Lung function Lung injuries Lung squeeze Lung surgery Lung MOD Maintenance Malaria Mammalian Dive Response Mammalian effect Marine Biology Marine Scientists Marine conservation Marine parks Marinelife Master scuba diver Maximum operating depth Medical Q Medical emergencies Medical questionaire Medical statement Medication Mehgan Heaney-Grier Mermaid Danii Mesophotic Middle ear pressure Mike Bartick Military front press Mixed Gas Mono Fins Mooring lines More pressure Motion sickness Mozambique Muscle pain Mycobacterium marinum Nausea Nautilus Neck pain Neurological assessments Nitrogen build up Nitrox No-decompression Non-rebreather Mask Normal Air Nosebleeds O2 providers O2 servicing OOxygen maintenance Ocean Research Ocean pollution Open water divers Orbital implants Oronasal mask Osteonecrosis Out and about Outreach Oxygen Cylinder Oxygen Units Oxygen deficit Oxygen deicit Oxygen dificiency Oxygen ears Oxygen equipment Oxygen masks Oxygen supply Oxygen therapy Oxygen P J Prinsloo PFI PJP Tech Part 3 Partner Training Philippine Islands Philippines Phillipines Photography Physioball Physiotherapy Pills Pistons Planning Plastic Pneumonia Pneumothorax Poison Pollution Pool Diving Post-dive Pre-dive Preparation Prepared diver Press Release Professional rights Provider course Pulmanologist Pulmonary Bleb Pulmonary Edema Pulse Punture wounds Pure Apnea Purge RAID South Africa RCAP REEF Radio communications Range of motion Rashes Rebreather diving Rechargeable batteries. Recompression chamber Recompression treatment Recompression Recycle Reef Conservation Reef surveyors Regulator failure Regulators Regulator Remote areas Renewable Report incidents Rescue Procedure Rescue breathing Rescue breaths Rescue training Rescue Resume diving Risk Assessments Risk assesments Risk assessment Risk elements Risk management SABS 019 SafariLive Safety Stop Safety SaherSafe Barrier Salty Wanderer Sanitising Sara Andreotti Saturation Diving Save our seas Science Scombroid Poisoning Scuba Air Quality Scuba Injury Scuba Instructor Scuba children Scuba dive Scuba health Scubalearners Sea Horses Sealife Shark Protection Shark Research Shark conservation Shark diving Sharks Shoulder strength Sideplank Signs and Symptoms Sit-ups Skin Bends Skin outbreak Skin rash Snorkeling Snorkels Sodwana Bay Solomon Islands South Africa Spinal pain Splits Squeezes Stability exercise Standars Stay Fit Stents Step ups Stroke Submerged Sudafed Sulawesi Supplemental oxygen Surface supplied Air Surfaced Surgeries Surgery Suspension training TRavel safety Tabata protocol Tattoes Technical Diving The Bends The truth Thermal Notions Tides Tips and trick Tooth squeeze Transplants Travel smarter Travel tips Travel Tropical Coastal Management Tunnelling Tweezers Ultrsound Umkomaas Unconsciousness Underground work Underwater hockey Underwater photographer Underwater photography Underwater pho University of Stellenbosch Urinary retention. Vaccines Vagus nerve Valsalva manoeuvers Vape Vaping Vasopressors Vasvagal Syncope Venting Virus infections Volatile fuels Washout treatments Wastewater Water Resistance Water Weakness Weigang Xu West Papua Wet diving bell Wetsuit fitting Wetsuits White balance Wide angles Winter Woman in diving Women In Diving SA Women in diving Work of Breathing Workout Wound dressings Wreck divers Wreck dive Wreckdiving Wrecks Yoga Youth diver Zandile Ndholvu Zoology abrasion acoustic neuroma excision air-cushioned alert diver altitude anemia antibiotics antiseptics bandages barodontalgia bent-over barbell rows bioassays body art breathing air calories burn carbon dioxide toxicity cardiovascular cerebrospinal fluid checklist chemo port child clearances closed circuit scuba currents cuts dead lift decompression algorithms decongestants decongestion dehydration dive injuries dive medicing dive ready child dive reflex dive tribe diver in distress diver rescue diver training dive diving attraction doctors domestic travel dri-suits drowning dry mucous membranes dry suits dry e-cigarettes ear spaces elearning electrolyte imbalance electroytes emergency action plans emergency assessment equalising equalizing exposure injuries eyes fEMAL DIVERS fire rescue fitnes flexible tubing frediving freedivers gas bubble gas poisoning gastric acid gene expression health heartburn histidine hospital humidity immersion and bubble formation immersion pulmonary edema (IPE jaundice join DAN knee longevity lower stress malaise marine pathogens medical issues medical procedures medical risk assesment medications mental challenge micro-organisims minor illness mucous membranes nasal steroids nasal near drowning nematocysts neurological newdivers nitrogen bubbles off-gassed operating theatre operations orthopeadic outgas pain perforation phillippines physical challenges pinched nerves plasters polyester-TPU polyether-TPU post dive posture preserve prevention psychoactive pulmunary barotrauma rebreather mask rebreathers retinal detachment risk areas safety stops saturation scissors scuba equipment scuba single use sinus infections smoking snorkeling. spearfishing sterilising stings strength sub-aquatic swimmers ears tattoo care tecnical diver thermal protection toxicity training trimix unified standards vision impaired warmers water quality