The dive agency experts are thrown an unusual topic – neither on training nor equipment, but what advice can they offer on what to do if you meet someone on social media, arrange a dive – and then don’t like the way they dive or behave?
John Kendall, Global Underwater Explorers: “One of the big strengths of GUE’s training and its system is that divers who have taken it anywhere in the world have been taught by the diving trainer exactly the same procedures and processes. That means that, as a GUE-trained diver, you can meet up with any other GUE-trained divers and know how they dive.
“Unfortunately, this doesn't preclude that diver being a bit of a prat. I have had some awesome dives over the years with GUE divers who didn’t even speak the same language as me because, once under water, we could communicate easily.
“It is rare, but occasionally I dive with a diver who isn’t behaving as I think they should. Often this comes down to a lack of awareness, either of me as their buddy, or of their environment.
“While it is tempting to simply walk away at the end of a dive, chalk it up to experience, and start coming up with excuses as to why you can’t dive with that person again, a more-productive (if harder) route is to simply talk about the issues.
“Often you will find that the diver has never had any feedback about their behaviour. One route of softening the talk is to suggest a post-dive debrief from the diving trainer, and then start by asking ‘Is there anything I could have done better?’.
“That way you open the door to honest feedback, but do be prepared to be given feedback, and to take it constructively. By building this debrief into every dive you do, it will become much less awkward when you need to do it with a buddy who has issues. You will also become a better diver.
“The other thing you can do as part of the debrief is to offer to spend the next dive helping the diver improve. Now, if at this point the diver just tells you to get stuffed, then I would consider my job to be done, and I would simply tell the diver that I wouldn’t be undergoing diving training with them again. Sometimes just being straight is the only option.”
Garry Dallas from RAID: “Meeting and taking diving training with someone for the first time is just one part of scuba diving’s social aspect and part of human nature – that’s why we love it!
“Sure, you might meet someone who doesn’t necessarily follow the same principles and protocols as you do, but that doesn’t mean they are unsafe – unless they are!
“In that instance, you have three options:
- Gently let them know that you won’t be diving with them again, and end the comradeship.
- Give them a piece of your mind and end the comradeship.
“These two options don’t really help anyone much, and could potentially result in either party not diving again for fear of repercussions. Or:
- Have a good, constructive debrief about the positives of the dive and discuss where either party could benefit from improving their own or the team’s disciplines, planning, logistics, organising, signalling, gas-management, protocols, trim, buoyancy and awareness.
“The result of the third option, most likely, will improve the team’s safety throughout their future dives and make diving more fun for everyone.
“Not everyone was born to be a diver. Neither were we born to drive cars or motorbikes but, with help, tuition, empathy and diving practice while being approachable and considerate, we can do both easily.
“We would all like to be, and can be, the best diver we can be, through good diving practice within the restraint of our commitments. Never put yourself on a pedestal. There is always someone better than you, and someone worse. Putting yourself in this mindset and diving to the level of your less-experienced buddy is humbling, compassionate and very appreciative of the buddy.
“This conduct is good role model behaviour, inspirational and an ambassador for good diving practices. If you have these qualities, RAID UK & Malta would love to hear from you!”
IANTD’s Tim Clements: “Online and social media offers us all so many more chances to meet divers than before. This can be great for finding like-minded individuals, or just occasionally we find someone who doesn’t fit our ethos or idea of safe diving.
“The rules here are very much like those of online dating – no one runs out of gas on the forums (shame sometimes), but when you dive with someone the first time, it needs to be in a ‘safe place’.
“It would be pretty irresponsible to hop in for a cert-busting dive with a buddy you don’t know. If they’re going to be a good buddy, then they will respect a relaxed ‘checkout’ dive and some small talk.
“As instructors, this is something we need to be aware of too – we are always meeting new students and, in some cases, these unknowns can present a risk to us as educators. But we can also work thorough any issues, and the sense of achievement when any student develops new skills makes overcoming their particular issues, especially safety-related ones, worthwhile.“
“Plenty of phone chats first, some talk about what they want from a course, and their experience all form a better bond and set some foundations for realistic, constructive progress.
“Quite often a student with initially unsafe or ill-informed attitudes can progress much further than they thought with the right bespoke training. So get to know your buddies, from either the club or online, start easy and work up to the lifetime diving relationship. Bless.”
Photographs by Mark Evans