Underwater Wakulla- June 15, 2017

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Every Diver Rescues their Buddy By GREGG STANTON

Every Diver Rescues their Buddy

I do not believe in the solo diver. I understand the notion that every Instructor is solo diving because new dive students are ill equipped to handle complex rescue requirements. I understand that spearfishing is considered a solo diving activity because fish are more likely to spook with twice the noise, movement and incoming shafts. I understand the most hazardous creature underwater is your buddy.

I always considered my most inexperience student a viable buddy. On a training dive on Stage II (a tower now gone, but still underwater) in Panama City I was so involved with the project, I suddenly ran out of breathing air. I did not want to panic anyone, so I approached each student and asked to buddy breath, as though it was a sudden drill. By the time I made the circuit of 8 students, we were on the surface. Everyone said I should pull such drills more often. There is nothing more convincing than the real thing. No, I did not tell them.

Fish do acclimate to the sound of bubbles. I found myself abandoned by a spearfishing group not too long ago and figured I was doing OK. Near the end of a successful collection of fish, with blood in the water, I turned to face a shark sweeping into my space clearly interested in my catch. I recall thinking of my question on my basic exam: Why use the buddy system? One answer was, so that the risk of a shark injury would be cut in half. Or I swim faster than my buddy. And suddenly, the shark turned 90 degrees and fled! I looked up to see my buddy grinning as he turned his Shark Shield on. The shock wave chased my aggressor away!

And true to force, most of my challenges underwater have come from my buddy, running out of breathing gas, getting lost, having equipment failure, etc. But they were all educational. A very long time ago my new diving buddy and I were at 60 FSW in Hanauma Bay, when he suddenly ran out of gas. We had recently been taught buddy breathing (no extra second stage back then). I calmly reached for the regulator in my mouth but could not pull it out!? The neck strap that came with all regulators was firmly attached and would not come free. My young friend calmly watched, then placed a hand on my chest, another grasping the mouthpiece, and wrenched the regulator out of my mouth. The strap snapped with a loud crack and we made out way up to the surface. I think I was 17 years old. We then cut all of the straps off of our regulators. Interesting that these widow-makes are finding their way back into our inventory.

When I was trained to dive in 1965, the UDT divers out of Pearl Harbor required my father train with me. I was 16. At the time I thought this an intrusive problem. He became my first buddy, but I soon developed more friends that dove in high school. It was soon after that, I began dating. As a freshman in college my Father, my date and I went diving one day. We found a great cavern off shore. But, my date ran out of breathing gas at the entrance. My Dad recued her with buddy breathing while I watched.

I’m glad he did, as I soon married her and we have been together for more than 50 years. The next rescue you or your buddy makes, my be your own or that of a loved one. But it only works when you are both there.