Penned with Valentine’s Day in mind, Kirsty Andrews devotes her latest column to buddy love.

Finding the perfect buddy is a job for Goldilocks: a submerged companion who stays not too near, not too far, but just right. Similar interests, complementary equipment, similar gas consumption if you’re lucky, similar enthusiasm. Doesn’t find your odd habits annoying and you don’t seem to notice theirs either. Tricky to find, but worth holding onto; a relationship to last a lifetime. 

Can you remember your ‘first date’ with your favourite buddy? Did nerves abound, and were you on best behaviour, looking to your buddy for cues as to what to do? Politeness personified: “After you through that awkwardly-shaped hatch into the engine room”; “No, after you.” Or maybe one of you was more confident and took the lead, showing the way for the less experienced partner, even showing off a bit. You were at your most attentive, not quite sure how your buddy would behave and whether they were to be trusted yet…

Woe betide a broken buddy pairing; arguments underwater can get heated... There’s no mistaking the body language underwater and not many spots to storm off to

Then, trip by trip, your relationship blossomed and you became inseparable; the first names down on the expedition list, your keenness multiplied by two and your enjoyment of the dives immeasurably increased. These days, you fit together like a wrinkly hand into an old glove; you know each other’s finicky habits and pet peeves; you know exactly what your buddy’ll be thinking, where they’ll be, when it’s time to head up, and as you both surface you’ll have no hesitation or embarrassment in pointing out that stray bit of snot on their cheek.

Woe betide a broken buddy pairing; arguments underwater can get heated: whose turn was it to put up the dSMB anyway? There’s no mistaking the body language underwater and not many spots to storm off to, especially if you’re on a liveaboard for the next week. Buddies who fall out are a Diving Officer’s headache, as they necessitate a frantic rejigging of the rest of the pairs, perhaps for the rest of the season and beyond.

Of course, talking of a Diving Officer’s responsibilities and from a club perspective, natural pairings are all well and good but it’s the ‘utility players’ that are most valuable. Those generous-hearted souls who are quite happy to take a turn with anyone if it serves the DO’s purpose, or even two at a time if the need arises. These mellow minglers may seem to be undiscriminating, but actually, to a trip organiser, they are the real heroes. “First timer? All new equipment? Not been in the water for ten years? Been rejected by your last four buddies? Come on in with me, the water’s warm(ish).” 

Going back several years ago when I last wore the Diving Officer’s mantle, getting buddy pairs right was in my view the most important factor in ensuring a stress-free trip full of contented souls. I’d even wrench apart regular pairings (how heartless) in order to balance the teams, but the status ‘happy to go with anyone’ never failed to bring a smile to my face. Here’s to you, ‘polygamous’ buddies, on behalf of grateful Dive Officers everywhere I’ll send a St Valentine’s Day card to you all.

Article ‘My buddy Valentine’ by Kirsty Andrews first published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 141 March 2024.

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