What is a Buddy Check when Scuba Diving?
A Buddy Check diving is a pre-dive safety check conducted with your dive buddy. A Buddy Check will help keep a diver safe underwater. In this post, I describe what a Buddy Check is and how to complete a PADI Buddy Check using the acronym BWRAF. As a scuba woman, I also explain the importance of pre-dive safety checks. Scuba divers always dive with a buddy. Our buddy is someone we share our diving experience with, and they are our support if anything goes wrong.
Pre dive safety check
Drama in the deep – no thank you – not for this senior scuba diver. Dive safety is in your hands and your buddy’s. Start your checks on land. Set up your tank ensuring it has at least 200 bar of gas. Breathe through your regulator and octopus watching the needle on the air gauge, it should remain steady.
Check all hoses are connected and your BCD inflates and deflates. Speak up if your tank isn’t full, if you suspect a leak, or a worn O ring. The saying is small bubbles, small troubles. I don’t like have any troubles so I am very conscientious about my safety checks.
My Cressi R1 BCD has a built-in handle which is a great way to check the tank strap. Once the BCD is on the tank I hold the handle and give the cylinder a vigorous shake, to ensure my tank strap is secure. If in doubt about anything – ask. This is not a Buddy Check; this is you being responsible for your dive. Catching a problem on land could be the difference between diving or not diving.
Why do divers do Buddy Checks?
A Buddy Check is a way of ensuring you have all the dive equipment you need and everything is working properly. A Buddy Check confirms you both have air on, familiarizes you with each other’s dive gear, including alternate air sources, and releases. Whether you dive regularly with your buddy or are allocated one on a dive trip, Buddy Checks are a must, designed to keep scuba divers safe. My Buddy Check is a natural part of my dive, something I never skip.
My Buddy Checks were painstakingly slow when I learned to dive, now they are second nature, completed in a couple of minutes. I still follow my open water PADI training and use the acronym BWRAF or my version Big Whales Rule All Fish. I am a lot faster now and I have caught problems, which is why we perform Buddy Checks.
Why is a Buddy Check important?
One time my gauge dropped to zero as I was breathing through my regulator; someone had turned off my air. (Josh you were taken out of the will after our volcano climb.) I often forget to inflate my BCD in the flurry of getting ready and putting in integrated weights. Thankfully I have good buddies and I haven’t sunk to the bottom of the ocean yet. These are all reasons why a Buddy Check is important.
How to do a scuba diving Buddy Check
Know the dive plan and discuss it with your buddy, be familiar with your equipment, and know your buddy’s gear. It never hurts to review hand signals; especially if you are diving with a new buddy. Before entering the water, a good dive company will do a final check – if they don’t ask them to. I also get my buddy to check my mask for any hair that may be caught. I prefer not to have to deal with a leaking mask during my dive.
BWRAF for Buddy Checks
B – Buoyancy/BCD. Fully Inflate your buoyancy compensator, checking the emergency valve works. Check all deflating valves are working. Be familiar with your buddy’s low-pressure inflator hose and its buttons as they all vary. Confident everything is in working order, inflate your BCD, ready to enter the water.
Ensure toggles for your dump valves aren’t caught under a strap or entangled. Somehow, I managed to tangle my dump valve and octopus up. My buddy and I were an hour untangling them. Thankfully we did our PADI Buddy Check and realized before we began our dive. Literally or lives could have been jeopardized.
W – Weights are on and secure, know the releases, make sure they are fully secured. Remember right-hand release for weight belts in an emergency. Weights should be evenly distributed, the end of the belt tucked away tidily.
Integrated weights are clipped in securely and weights evenly distributed – listen for the click to know the weight pockets are secure. It is an expensive lesson to learn if you lose a weight pocket – trust me I know!
R – Releases – know where all quick-release straps are in case of an emergency, straps aren’t twisted, clips are done up, and secure. Integrated weights can be tricky, check your buddy and know how to release theirs. Any extra equipment is secure and tucked away. The tank strap is nice and tight.
A – Air Source – air is turned on, check your tank is at least 200 bar and the air tastes fresh. Breathe through both your regulator and octopus. Do a few breaths and watch your gauge as you breathe; the needle must stay steady. As per DAN’s guidelines, your cylinder valve should be fully open. It can be confusing as many divers do a quarter-turn back. Originally designed to protect valves from leaking, it is no longer necessary with improved valve design. Scuba diving’s best practice is to leave your cylinder valve fully open to prevent diving accidents. I have included a link to an article by Chloe Strauss from DAN. (Divers Alert Network) See Old Habits Die Hard
F – Final Check and fins/mask. Have you defogged your mask? Are you comfortable – is the tank too high or low? Does anything feel lopsided? Mask on? Fins on? Little things can catch you out, you’ve added extra weight and deflated your BCD while doing it and then forgotten to inflate again. (Me) Where’s your dive computer? I have found mine in my wetsuit pocket after a frantic search.
- Begin With Review And Friend
- Being Wary Reduces All Failures
- Big White Rabbits Are Fluffy
Always wait for the all-clear before entering the water, another diver may be under you. Nobody wants a diving accident. Once in the water signal you are ok by placing your hand on your head or waving your arms if you are not ok.
By performing Buddy Checks divers ensure both their dive gear and their buddy’s dive gear is in good working order. The benefits are multiple. A Buddy Check helps prevent dangerous situations underwater. A pre-dive check can also relieve anxiety as you are confident your equipment is in good working order. Air being turned on allows you to breathe underwater!!
Buddy Check Diving
I am a lucky scuba woman as I have a network of buddies and we often dive as a group. None of us needs much encouragement to dive – especially when the weather is good. Some weeks we get perfect weather on the Capricorn Coast and there will be variations of our buddy teams diving daily. My sister and my son are my buddies, my other buddies I met through diving. We have become great friends often traveling to dive destinations together.
A good buddy has your back, and you have theirs. It is surprising how well buddies can communicate underwater. My sister and I are on the same wavelength and we can have whole conversations. My son and I have a few communication problems, but I suspect it’s intentional on his behalf. Agreeing before the dive he’ll be on my top left; he spends the whole-time bottom right.
It is a big beautiful ocean, give yourself some space whilst still being aware of your buddy. Scuba divers need to stay close enough to their buddies to deal with an emergency, but you don’t want to be on top of each other. Be a good buddy, don’t go swimming off doing your own thing. I have spent whole dives chasing after buddies which is frustrating.
If you can’t get their attention underwater have a conversation after the dive. You owe it to each other. Remember you are responsible for yourself, always check your dive computer and dive within your limits
Diving is a buddy sport, and a good buddy keeps you safe and shares your adventures underwater. Keep those relationships strong, non-diving friends are not interested in your GoPro footage, or the cute little Mantis shrimp you saw. Your dive buddy will share your delight with all things scuba. A good diving buddy enhances your dive as you feel safe, knowing they will be there if anything goes wrong. The best dive buddies find really cool things underwater and help you improve and enjoy your dive.
It’s Never Too Late – TAKE THE DIVE WITH TANYA
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