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 young woman depleted her 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 was being designated an "unnecessary skill") and as it turned out, he had no secondary regulator. So, when the object of his surface fantasy approached him, he had no available option to assist her!

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 too complex a skill for divers to master.)*  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 (and practice) signals and emergency procedures before a dive. 


* Historically, I have often heard the terms, "unnecessary skill / knowledge," or  "too complex a task," used to justify removing confidence building skills / exercises from training programs (to shorten training time to create more "cost-effective" basic courses). Typically, it would appear that some such decisions were driven by economic factors, as opposed to human inability to learn.

Incidentally, during this time at umich (during week 14 of a 15 week course (3 hours lecture & 2 hours pool / week)), basic students learned single regular buddy breathing  by using a two regulator configuration (primary and secondary, held side by side in one hand simulating single regulator exchange so that each diver used a separate regulator to limit possible disease transmission) while swimming through hula hoops with one diver having only one fin and the other diver without a mask. Students completed this exercise without incident.

At one time, using a demand oxygen delivery system (the DAN regulator) was also considered by one major US training agency as "too complex a task to teach." 


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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 200 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 2001-2024 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