Couple Communication


Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

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A young couple met on a dive boat while on a dive charter near Catalina Island, California. Because hormones were quite active, and the chemistry between the two was in sync, the couple was thinking about post-dive activities and not about their diving. The girl was a novice and was depending on the "macho" male for her safety. During the dive, the girl ran out of air. So, in a near-panic, air-starved  state, she went to the man she had dreamed about and gave him a very vigorous "out-of-air" signal. Unfortunately, this guy had only been trained to share air with an octopus (single regulator buddy breathing in many circles has been designated an "unnecessary skill") and his secondary regulator was in the shop. So, when the object of surface fantasy approached him, he had no octopus and thus, no available option to assist her with her crisis!

So, to defend himself from this approaching air-starved-dive-parasite,  he kicked the girl in the chest to drive her away from him. She then bolted for the surface and embolized on the ascent. The good news was that Catalina is one of the best places in the world for emergency management of dive accidents. Fortunately, the girl was rapidly transported to the chamber on Catalina island. After regaining consciousness in the chamber, she told her story to the chamber attendant and he told the story to me.

Now, it turns out that this particular chamber attendant is a real 'hard-ass" about dive safety and training procedures. This was, historically, at a time when single regulator air-sharing was first being removed from most recreational training in favor of purchasing a second regulator. (The reason given for removing single regulator air exchange was that buddy breathing was to complex a skill for divers to master. Incidentally, at umich, basic students shared regulators while swimming through hula hoops with one diver having only one fin and the other diver without a mask). He wrote the training agency involved and asked them to comment on the male diver's behavior. The response he received was. "Our diver acted appropriately 'cause buddy breathing causes accidents!"

The points are:

1. 100 feet down, out-of-air is NOT the appropriate time to find out about potential air sharing difficulties.

2. The buddy system works best when each diver is self-reliant.

3. Depending upon  strangers (some cave divers called it a "trust me dive") is generally not a good dive travel strategy.

So, it is just good practice to establish signals and emergency procedures before a dive. 


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About The Author: 

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 100 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America. 

  Copyright 2001-2022 by Larry "Harris" Taylor

All rights reserved.

Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education