Experts in freedive physiology agree that diving under the direct supervision of a dive partner is the best way to prevent a fatal blackout. An unwitnessed blackout means the victim has little to no chance of being rescued. Your best hope of surviving the greatest risk in the sport – freediver blackout – is having someone you trust watching you during your entire dive with constant and direct supervision, ready and able to rescue you should you require this.
What makes a good dive partner? Someone committed to your safety above all else. If he/she is not evenly matched with your own skill and ability, choose to dive within the limits of your parter’s ability. Keep in mind that in an emergency adrenaline kicks in increasing your heart rate and robbing you of precious oxygen. Breath-hold and depth limits will be compromised in a rescue scenario, so consider your partner’s abilities when you choose a max depth and have them do the same.
To avoid becoming separated choose to dive one up, one down. This plan provides the diver at the surface time to fully recover from his last dive while shadowing the diver below. Even after a diver surfaces, the partner should observe him/her for a full 30 seconds, as this is the time required for inhaled oxygen to circulate to the brain. Many blackouts occur after a diver has surfaced and is breathing.
What’s the best way to rescue a blackout victim? These are skills best taught in a professional freedive course such as PFI or FII, but essentially you want to protect the airway and hold the head in a neutral position as you swim the victim to the surface. Rescue breathing and/or CPR should be performed if the victim fails to begin respirations on their own and rescuers should contact Emergency Medical Services for support.
A recovered freedive blackout victim should stop diving for the day and be checked out at a medical facility to ensure the lungs are clear, even if they think they are okay. Freedivers should practice rescue skills with their partner from time to time so it becomes second nature.
There are many benefits to partner diving besides safety. Sometimes it takes two to land an elusive fish and the teamwork can be rewarding and enjoyable. If you are in heavy current or sharks are lurking about, it is good to know your partner has your back.
At DiveWise our motto is “Live to Dive Another Day.” Effective safety is proactive. It doesn’t happen unless you make it happen. So, who’s your designated diver? Send us your story with a picture of you and your dive partner and you may be featured on this site and/or our Facebook page!