Tips for Effective Use of the Buddy System

Hand Signals

  1. Choose your buddies wisely.
    The ideal buddy should feel that the buddy system is important. If you are partnered with a random buddy on the boat only to find that he is a lone wolf and deserts you underwater, stick close to the divemaster and ask for a different buddy for the next dive.

    2. Discuss your dive plan with your buddy before the dive.
    Let your buddy know if you are likely to have any issues that commonly lead to buddy separation, such asear equalizationtrouble on descent (I frequently see one diver drop like a rock while the other is stuck at 15 feet attempting to equalize his ears). Discuss how you will deal with these situations should they arise.

    3. Talk about your dive objective.
    If one member of the team stops to take photographs and the other wants to race over the reef in order to cover as much ground as possible, a compromise as to the dive pace will need to be made.

    4. Pick a side.
    Choose what side of your buddy you will remain on, and then remain on that side. This might sound silly, but it is easy to become disoriented underwater and knowing where to look for your buddy is helpful.

    5. Pick a leader.
    Even if there is a dive master, decide who will make navigational decisions during the dive. One buddy swims to areas he finds interesting, and the other follows his lead. If the follower wants to check out a specific spot, he simply notifies the leader and they move together. This makes the dive more organized and more enjoyable.

    6. Discuss a way to attract each other’s attention.
    This could include underwater noisemakers, rapping on the tank with a metal ring or clip, or even shouting into the regulator. If you and your buddy know what to listen for, you are more likely to be able to get each other’s attention underwater.

    7. Familiarize yourself with your buddy’s gear and refresh emergency procedures together.
    This doesn’t have to take a long time, a simple “my weights are released here and my alternate air source is here” and a brief review of the gear you are using usually covers the equipment. A quick discussion of emergency air sharing procedures takes about 30 seconds.

    8. Communicate during the dive.
    Discuss hand signal communications and then use them. Ask your buddy if he is okay periodically, point out interesting aquatic life to your partner, and communicate your tank pressure. Divers who are in constant communication tend to stay closer together and more aware of their partners.

Scuba instructors teach the buddy system for a reason: a diver using the standard single-tank equipment configuration cannot solve all emergencies himself. Stay close to your buddy and stay safe!

Why Preform a Pre-Dive Safety Check?

Most divers check their scuba gear as they are assembling it. Why is it necessary to check the equipment again before entering the water?

The Buddy Pre-Dive Safety check is an important safety check that should be performed by every diver no matter what level of diving proficiency. This check is performed by a Scuba Diver with his/her buddy before descending on a dive as a final inspection of the dive equipment before diving.  The Pre-Dive safety check ensures that your equipment is working, and also familiarizes yourself with your buddies equipment should you need to assist or receive assistance from him. Most Scuba diving accidents and incidents are said to be preventable by the diver simply having properly conducted a pre-dive safety check. Despite the warnings, most divers seldom perform this crucial scuba gear check before a dive, and rush to descend. Especially with your scuba equipment being set-up by someone else, a diver should always inspect his own gear and perform a buddy check before descent.

Between the time that a diver sets up his scuba equipment and the time that he rolls off the boat, a number of changes may be made to his gear. “Helpful” crew may close the tank valve so that air is not lost during travel to the dive site. A bumpy boat ride may shift gear around and damage or disorganize it. Even donning the scuba gear may cause some of the hoses to become entangled. The pre-dive safety check is a last-minute review to make sure that all of the gear is still functioning properly and arranged to the diver’s satisfaction.

A diver may be one-hundred percent certain that his gear is perfectly assembled, but does he have the same level of confidence in his buddy’s gear? Consider that if a diver’s buddy has an equipment-related problem underwater, it is the diver who has to help him. This can delay or even ruin a dive. Using the pre-dive safety check in buddy teams familiarizes the divers with each other’s gear, helping them to assist each other efficiently in the unlikely event of an emergency. A good dive buddy may also catch small mistakes in equipment assembly that his partner has overlooked.

PADI’s “BWRAF” acronym is highly popular with divers, and is an easy to remember pre-dive check. BWRAF stands for

B – BCD & Buoyancy: Check your buddies Buoyancy Compensator, check the low pressure inflator hose is connected correctly and do a quick puff to ensure the inflator button doesn’t stick. Also deflate the BCD to ensure it deflates correctly.

W – Weights/Weight Belt : Check that your buddies weight belt is on properly with the loose end tied correctly and tucked in a manner that will allow for quick release.

R – Releases: Check that your buddies BCD is strapped correctly and all belts are tightened.

A – Air: Check that your buddy’s air is turned all the way on and half a turn back. Make him take a couple of breaths while you watch the pressure gauge for fluctuations in the needle, or simply purge the regulator while watching the needle. Check that the tank is full and check all air connectors for leaks.

F – Final OK: Final check is a cursory visual inspection, of fins, mask, snorkel and testing dive flashlights if necessary, take a compass bearing, and check your dive computer before giving the all Ok sign to your buddy to begin descent.