When you are researching snorkeling destinations, you might read something that encourages a buddy system. While this encouragement is a definite plus in the sport of snorkeling, further investigation into what is involved in the actual practice of this system is often lacking. This may lead you into thinking that just having another person with you should be sufficient. While the thought is a good one, it is just a start of what truly constitutes a buddy system. It's best definition would be that it is a cooperative effort in which individuals are paired together or in a team to accomplish tasks in an efficient and safe manner. With this in mind the buddy system can be broken down into three main areas which would be safety, enjoyment and practicality.
It should be considered a given that safety is of the utmost importance in snorkeling and the use of an established buddy system will reinforce this. Members of the buddy team are responsible for their own safety but if they are rendered incapable of providing self-help, your buddy is there. Such instances could include but not be limited to cramp removal and overexertion. Buddies would also act as reminders of safety procedures in both the planning and execution of the snorkeling excursion which includes locations of safest entry and exit areas and evaluation of environmental considerations that may adversely affect the adventure.
Having a buddy system in place has it's practical applications as well. You can assist each other with donning and doffing equipment such as fins. Assistance with entering and exiting the water and even act as another pair of eyes to make sure that no hair is caught in the seal of the mask. In the water, you may spot some fascinating and wonderful marine life that others may not have seen. Buddies cooperate together to keep the minor stresses that can occur at a minimum.
This aspect of the buddy system should not require an explanation but it is true that snorkeling, when shared with someone else, is extremely enjoyable. Sharing in the new and exciting marine life that was seen and in the case of the spotting of an elusive or rare marine animal vouching to others that it was seen is more credible. They are catalysts for lasting friendships with the promise of many snorkeling adventures in the future.
THE BUDDY TEAM ITSELF
One may think that the ideal number of people for a buddy team to be two but in reality three is much more idyllic. This would consist of two people in water and one person out of water whether it be on land or onboard a boat. The"out of water" person can keep track of those who are in the water and providing assistance in cases of buddy separation or if an emergency situation were to arise provide or summon land based assistance. Those person's reading this who have participated in professionally run snorkeling tours by boats may not realize that the boat crew is actually acting as the "out of water" buddy in these instances. Two person buddy teams are more of the norm but emergency assistance procedures should be discussed and agreed to prior to entry into the water. Children should not be paired up together as buddies but they should be paired with responsible and mature adults at a ratio of at least one adult to one child. While in the water buddies should maintain a relative distance and be aware of each other's location at all times.
Use of a buddy system should be encouraged and while much of what it entails could be considered common sense, reminders are always beneficial.