Responding to feedback on last's month piece about scuba diving in threes - here's a more in-depth discussion...

Last month’s item prompted a member to offer the following feedback: 

Whilst Jim's note on diving in threes was an interesting read I was disappointed because I had hoped for a discussion on procedures such as pros and cons of one leading or one following.

In part the answer was in the final paragraph, “It does have to be said that all were very experienced divers and we all knew each other and our diving skills well.”

Additionally, the key considerations are included within Safe Diving under the subject of ‘Diving in a three (or more)', which as well as advocating that diving in a buddy pair is preferable also reiterates the above point that “trio diving is not for the inexperienced or those unfamiliar with each other.”

As indicated previously there are occasions where diving in a larger group than a buddy pair are either necessary or indeed essential (including rescue based training – see Safe Diving). But to consider some of the pros and cons as requested. 

One leading, one following

Clearly, someone taking a lead during a dive provides a degree of direction and decision making as well as monitoring and control of the important dive conduct procedures with regard to depth, time and decompression requirements, etc. However, with the exception of very early training dives or experience dives led by a Dive Leader where such responsibility is essential, a dive with a pair of experienced divers should be one of mutual agreement as to the dive plan and conduct.

Personally, I am less convinced by the concept that ‘leading’ implies absolute control and authority in such circumstances and passive ‘following’ can be a recipe for boredom, annoyance or dispute. Anyone, in any buddy pair, should be able to propose a modification of a plan - “I would really like to look at that feature over there…” - or indeed signal the end of the dive as a result of their personal comfort level (“I’m cold/bored/unhappy etc…”).


The implication that someone is leading the dive can also be taken that they are the only ones responsible for the monitoring of the dive? At the level of diver appropriate for diving in groups larger than a buddy pair, each should be proficient at monitoring their own gas, decompression status, and comfort levels. However, as made clear in Safe Diving, “All three divers should consciously and conscientiously monitor both of their buddies.” Thus ensuring that if necessary any of the group are immediately in a position to assume control of the group.


One of the concerns with diving in groups larger than a buddy pair is the potential for separation. Proper monitoring by all involved should prevent this. However, being self-sufficient with independent bail-out gas supplies and the ability to deploy a DSMB unassisted are also essential conditions for all divers in such larger groups. This is not, however, an indication (or excuse) to engage in solo diving and any decision to terminate the dive should apply to the whole group.

Think SAFE – Dive SAFE

Jim Watson
BSAC Safety and Development Manager


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