I was Gordons buddy
Youre buddied up with a youngster, but he has slightly more experience than you - so no need to make allowances, then. After all, its so often the youngsters who have to make allowances for the older diver. But then there was Gordon... Keith Lunt had the pleasure

THE WEEKS DIVING HAD STARTED OFF WELL. On holiday with my family for a week, I had arranged five dives to gain more experience.
ÂÂÂÂ Buddied with the instructor twice, an experienced and easy-going diver once and, for my first night dive, another diver also on his first night dive, and with never more than four divers in the group, I had felt really good on the first four dives.
ÂÂÂÂ Buoyancy had improved a lot and my confidence was high. Was everything going too well
ÂÂÂÂ It is time for my last dive - my first boat dive and my first on wrecks. Seven of us will be diving from a crowded RIB. Sitting in the sun on a wall, I wait for the rest of the group to gather their hire gear together.
ÂÂÂÂ The dive school had picked me up at my hotel as arranged and completed a few other pickups, starting with Gordon. All the instructors had smiled earlier when I had heard his name mentioned at the dive centre.
ÂÂÂÂ As he wobbled out from the magnificent glass-fronted reception, his dad confirmed the arrangements with the instructor, packed Gordon, about 14, into the van, then skipped lightly back to the hotel. Silence fell across the van as Gordon heaved himself in.
ÂÂÂÂ Being used to the set-up, I had quickly grabbed my hire gear and moved it outside ready to load into the van. Now I watch the other divers assemble their gear and bring it outside. Eventually Gordon brings out his selected gear.

We are loading the bottles into the back of the van when I notice an instructor checking Gordons equipment and reminding him to bring it all back. Strange, I think, havent heard that line before.
ÂÂÂÂ The short drive through the hot volcanic landscape is quiet as we watch out of the windows. Seven people of at least three nationalities makes group bonding difficult.
ÂÂÂÂ At the dive site we grab the last parking space and climb out. A quick briefing in two languages and we are asked to move quickly as were late (spent too long loading up says the instructor, looking at Gordon) and the boat is approaching the jetty. We are booked onto the RIB for 3pm and it is now 2.55. We have the boat only until 4.
ÂÂÂÂ Then we are buddied up based on experience. Im diving with Gordon. We have the least experience in the group but he has a few more dives than me, so in theory we should be at about the same level.
ÂÂÂÂ Everyone else introduces themselves to their buddies and shakes hands. My buddy is already wandering back to the van. Ill speak to him later, I decide. Maybe hes a bit shy - after all, the rest of the group are about twice his age.
ÂÂÂÂ We unload the gear and put the boxes down in buddy pairs. As we start setting up, Gordon walks over, picks up his equipment and walks off. Im not aware of having any personal problems, so maybe he just wants to sit on the rocks as he gears up.
ÂÂÂÂ Everyone else is into their wetsuits and ready to go, watching Gordon struggling into his and trying not to overheat in the July sun. Never mind, hes into it now. Then he starts to put on his fins.
ÂÂÂÂ Someone points out the 200m walk to the jetty, then the steps down to the boat.
ÂÂÂÂ Just checking they fit, he assures us. Isnt it a bit late for that We all don BCs but Gordon is struggling. Being the friendly buddy, I help him on with his BC. He struggles for a couple of minutes, then the releases are fastened.
ÂÂÂÂ For his next trick he takes a slurp out of his regulator, then two long breaths from his alternate. Need to check the pressures OK, he says, offering me his alternate, dripping with saliva, and returning his regulator to his mouth.
ÂÂÂÂ He wants me to put that in my mouth Only if my life depends on it, and after washing in salt water, I decide.
ÂÂÂÂ I look puzzled, so he removes his regulator. I got into the water with the oxygen turned off yesterday. Want to check its OK. I dont point out that pure oxygen at 20m could kill him. Instead I point to the needle on the pressure gauge and assure him its not moving from 210 bar as he breathes as hard as the regulator will allow.
ÂÂÂÂ When his checks are complete, he turns and walks off, leaving me to complete my own checks. Thanks buddy.

Somehow we set off first to the jetty, probably because we only had to buddy-check Gordon. I introduce myself but my offered hand is ignored.
ÂÂÂÂ Gordon is using a 15 litre cylinder when the rest of us have 12 or even 10 litres. I would have thought teenagers would need less air. Yes, he reassures me, but I kept running out so theyve given me a bigger one. At least to empty it you must have switched it on, I reflect.
ÂÂÂÂ I also notice that he has at least six 2kg weights around his back and a couple more on his front, which seems a little excessive for someone of about 5ft 6in in a wetsuit, with a 15 litre cylinder.
ÂÂÂÂ The instructor told me Im deceptively buoyant and need a little more weight, so I chose this belt. Deceptively buoyant
ÂÂÂÂ Of course, we dont arrive at the boat first, as Gordon has problems with his fins. He has taken them off but they dont like being carried. The skipper hurries us into the boat.
ÂÂÂÂ Gordon starts down the steps after me, but somehow another two divers board between us. He boards last, followed by the instructor, who virtually pushes Gordon from steps to boat.
ÂÂÂÂ The other buddy-pairs are sitting together discussing the dive, but we cant do that - because of Gordons delays on the steps were on opposite sides of the RIB, me by the bow, him by the stern. At least, on the short dash across the flat sea to the wrecks, its not me sitting beside green-faced Gordon.

Masks cleaned and on, fins on. Backward roll into the water, bob to the surface and give the OK. Switch to snorkel and swim round the back of the boat to meet Gordon.
ÂÂÂÂ As the side of the boat nearest the descent line comes into view, Gordon rolls over the edge then bobs up, facing away from the boat, face down and arms flapping. A couple of coughs later, he has still not OKd me or the skipper. Hes not in distress, but the next diver is about to roll in on top of him.
ÂÂÂÂ The skipper shouts but Gordon doesnt hear. I drag him away as a diver splashes down next to him.
ÂÂÂÂ Gordon holds down the inflator button on his BC and listens to the regulator popping. I reassure him that its the overpressure valve and over-inflate mine to demonstrate, but he starts to swim back to the boat as the next diver enters, almost on top of him.
ÂÂÂÂ The instructor stops him and tells him its the overpressure valve, and how far out of the water does he want to be lifted with 16kg of lead on his waist
ÂÂÂÂ We can see the wreck but the sand is not quite visible 20m below us. We all OK and give the descend signal - except Gordon. His BC has stopped popping but hes fiddling with something. Regulators in place, check the time and start the descent.
ÂÂÂÂ Six divers start together, in what is almost a piece of beautiful synchronised swimming. But shouldnt there be seven of us Gordon is still at the surface, dumping air. I take a deep breath to slow my descent and wait for my buddy.
ÂÂÂÂ But now hes coming past me, then past the others. The speed of his descent flicks his feet out in front of him and he mimics a dying fly, on his back with arms and legs pointing at the surface.
ÂÂÂÂ I breathe out fully and follow. Gordon remembers that he needs to put air into his BC to stop his descent.
ÂÂÂÂ No, now hes going up. Did he mean to ascend Does he have a problem Do I need to ascend with him I wonder, as he passes before me like a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

hspace=5All eyes are on Gordon as he dumps air. Swapping positive for negative buoyancy he drops through the water, past us all and heading straight for the 20m mark. He is also drifting away from me and towards the instructor.
ÂÂÂÂ He slows, stops and ascends again, dumping air, before descending once more. I slow my descent to be slightly above the other divers, then fin forwards towards him.
ÂÂÂÂ Nearing 20m, I take a breath, add a bit of air to my BC and stop my descent above the sand. Whats Gordon doing Hes face down in the sand. A long press on the inflator button and hes suddenly in the kneeling position.
ÂÂÂÂ OK I signal. No response, only occasional bubbles as he exhales, then violent arm movements and stabbing.
ÂÂÂÂ Whats wrong Does he need air Is the pressure too much for him No hes signalling me to look in front of him. He dumps air and lurches forward, stabbing at and almost crushing a 5cm flounder with his finger.
ÂÂÂÂ He hasnt noticed that the floor is littered with them, but he looks pleased with his find.
ÂÂÂÂ The last buddy pair joins us and the instructor signals OK. Five divers respond; Gordon watches his flounder swim away. The instructor indicates to follow and we set off at an easy pace.
ÂÂÂÂ Gordon swims off ahead of me, catches up with the instructor and positions himself about 15cm above and to the left of his knees. I catch up and take station behind and to the side of Gordon, where he can see me when he turns round to check Im OK, as I assume he will at some point. Isnt that what buddies do
ÂÂÂÂ We admire the first wooden wreck at the bottom of a 10m drop-off. As we turn right to line up on a channel through some rocks, Gordon takes the instructors fin straight in his face. The instructor signals OK, with as much sarcasm as he can muster under water, and Gordon nods! I watch as he fixes his mask and drains it. Then were playing chase with the instructor.
ÂÂÂÂ I try to persuade Gordon to drop back and swim with his buddy, but leg-prods and fin-tugs elicit no response and Gordon takes another fin in his face from the instructor. A few more and the instructor has given up apologising.
ÂÂÂÂ By now were in slightly deeper water, and Gordon is losing his buoyancy. I would try to indicate to him to dump some air but he never looks my way. Hes too busy trying to maintain his position by waving his outstretched arms.
ÂÂÂÂ Eventually he steadies himself a few metres above us, but the arms keep flapping for the rest of the dive. Never mind flying fish, we have a flying Gordon.
ÂÂÂÂ Its a 40-minute dive and I check that I have enough air left. I try to remind Gordon to do the same. No response.

We continue along the edge of the drop-off, watching the fish around the wrecks below, then start to turn, heading into shallower water. Another kick to his face and Gordon starts a runaway ascent. The instructor and I grab for him as he frantically dumps air, then lands on the bottom again.
ÂÂÂÂ We continue. As I turn back from looking at another wreck, I see that Gordon is swimming almost next to me. Has he learnt his lesson - or is it the other diver wearing matching hire gear I look up - that could be Gordon about 6m above us, finning down hard. I know its Gordon when, as he regains depth, he swims straight over to the instructor and almost cuddles him.
ÂÂÂÂ Back at the ascent line, we all respond to the instructor by signalling how much air we have. Im happy with my 100 bar. The instructor pulls Gordons gauge off him as his signal is met with a blank stare, and looks at it. Then he signals Gordon and his look-alike to ascend immediately. This is one signal that Gordon does see, but only at the third attempt does he understand.
ÂÂÂÂ Relief. Im buddied with another diver who swims with me, not the instructor. He offers me OK signals and responds to mine. After a swim around an iron wreck, with barracuda swimming lazily above us, we return to the line and start our slow ascent to 5m, my new buddy watching me all the way as he leads us up the line. At 5m we check our watches and watch the instructor blow bubbles for three minutes. My buddy waits for me to finish my safety stop. Then we continue our ascent together and OK at the surface.
ÂÂÂÂ Gordon has removed all his gear and spread it liberally around the RIB. Down to his last few bar of air, but he had enjoyed the dive. He had found his own flounder.

All the gear is unloaded onto the jetty. We each pick up our own and head back to the van. I turn around to check that my buddy is OK, and see him struggling to lift his gear. After a hand-up with his BC, he walks off.
ÂÂÂÂ Dont you want to take the mask back I ask. Now I know why an instructor checked through Gordons gear before we left.
ÂÂÂÂ Back at the van, the gear is loaded. Conscientious young diver Gordon is filling in his logbook over the back seats. So thats why there was an extra set of gear for the rest of us to load and why theres a queue to get into the van.
ÂÂÂÂ Gordon, if we ever meet again and youre old enough, the rules of the dive shop say you owe me a beer for finding your mask. But lets not buddy up again. Ive learnt a lot from our dive together. We may be buddy-diving, but dont rely on your buddy to help you the way you expect to help him.
ÂÂÂÂ Perhaps I should have checked his experience at this depth and offered him assistance. But he was slightly more experienced than me and between explanations of running out of air and being the last to get ready, he didnt really want to speak to me.
ÂÂÂÂ And, after all, it wasnt your fault that the instructor had to break into the van after the boat had returned to the harbour with the key to the van safely in the captains pocket. Or was it
ÂÂÂÂ (The names have been changed to protect the guilty)

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