An SFDI buddy recently provided this true account of a dive trip gone very wrong. The names and dates have been changed to protect the innocent.
This dive trip occurred when our buddy (let’s call him Leo) was a beginner.
Leo had become certified some years earlier but had not done any diving, so when he decided he wanted to get back into the sport he booked a refresher course with a dive shop in Miami-Dade County.
For some unknown reason, the dive was a night dive… and Leo had never before been night diving.
Leo was provided rental gear at the dive shop and then rode together in a van with some other divers who were chatting in Spanish, to the dive boat where he was assigned a dive buddy who spoke little English. Unfortunately, Leo is an English speaker with minimal Spanish language skills…so there was a significant communication gap.
Leo recalls the diving conditions as being somewhat rough and very dark.
When he dropped into the water he found the tagline was well above the surface, just out of reach. He expended a significant amount of energy bobbing up and down before he got a hand on the tagline. And the water was very dark!
There were people in front and behind Leo on the tagline. Unfortunately, he lost track of his buddy.
When he finally reached the descent line he was out of breath and hyperventilating. He paused there for 30 seconds or more in an attempt to calm himself, but the hyperventilation persisted.
Fortunately, Leo decided to terminate the dive and re-boarded the dive boat. He stripped off his gear and continued to hyperventilate for nearly 10 minutes aboard the dive boat. He was thereafter completely exhausted.
Leo’s dive experience progressed from isolation in the van, to uncertainty in the boat, anxiety and a fear of drowning in the water, and a panic attack. Fortunately Leo made it back aboard the boat. This situation could have ended very differently!
There are lots of things we can all learn from Leo’s account of his worst day of diving. I’d say two of the most significant are:
1) Preparation is everything!
2) Always look out for your dive buddy, and your boating buddies, and your SFDI buddies!
Leo tells me this experience, years ago, still effects the way he dives, and his tolerance for the unexpected during dives.
Please, always be the best dive buddy you are able to be, above water and below.
Be safe! Dive safe!