Jun 2014

How to Perform a Scuba Diving Buddy Check

By Mike Waddington

“Right guys, let us get into our gear now, remember to do your buddy checks!” Is usually the last sentence of most dive briefings. Many people perform a brief check over each other’s gear without really knowing what they are supposed to be actually checking. We are all taught it in our entry-level course, but most of the time we are so focused on the diving bit the stuff on the surface may get pushed into the back of our minds.

There are many reasons we need to perform a Pre Dive safety check, also known as the buddy check. We need to confirm with our dive buddy that both of our equipment sets are working properly. And air turned on for that matter! These days we are seeing more and more differences with equipment configurations. Although we wear standardised equipment most of the time there are some slight differences between different makes and models, especially with BCDs. We need to always assume that the worst may happen, and you don’t want to be in a rescue scenario and unsure how to remove your buddies gear.

The most common recall phrase for the pre-dive safety check is BWRAF as in the PADI Open Water Course. So what do we need to look at when doing our buddy checks?

B – BCD. We must ensure that both your own and your buddies BCD inflates properly, test both at the same time, fully inflating and deflating, test the dump valves are working and check their locations. Also, test the oral inflation, if even a grain of sand gets caught in the wrong place it can stop you from orally inflating, which could be a dangerous situation if things do go wrong

W- Weights. Check yourself and your buddy have weights on, and properly secured. If using the weight belt ensure it is right-hand release, and nothing is blocking the webbing from being released. If using weight integration make sure they are properly locked in and make sure you both know how they work. Although most are pretty similar there are sometimes differences between them, better to be safe than sorry!

R- Releases. This step is for checking all the clips, buckles and releases on your equipment. I usually start from the top, working down from the chest clip. The check the shoulder straps. Usually BCDs have pinch clips but some have circular clips that need to have the front pushed to be opened. Make sure you familiarise yourself with your buddies in case you need to get them out of their gear. Check the Velcro stomach strap and the buckle pulling the BCD together. Then get your buddy to turn around and check their cylinder band and safety strap, making sure the cylinder is not going to slip during the dive.

A – Air. While your buddy is turned around you can check that their air is on fully by turning the tank handle towards you, if it turns and turns then changes are their air is not turned on yet, if it goes by quarter or half then they have turned it on and closed the valve a little. Many divers are taught to do this. Once you have confirmed each other’s air is turned on you need to test breath your primary second stage while your buddy is breathing off your alternate. At the same time check your S.P.G to make sure the needle is holding steady. If it drops as you are breathing from it then you need to switch to a different regulator. This will only get worse at depth. Then swap over so both of your air has been properly checked. Check this link out for a deeper understanding of how long your air will last.

F- Final Check. This is the time you make sure you are both happy to get in the water, make sure you have your mask, fins, surface marker and any other equipment you may need for the dive.

Although this is the classic pre-dive safety check today we have so much more equipment available to us. It is becoming commonplace to see divers inside mount, twinsets and even the odd recreational re-breathers. If your buddy is in a different configuration to what you are used to it is up to you to learn how it works, and even more important, learn how to remove it in a rescue situation. If you are the one wearing an unusual set up try to educate other divers so they know how it works.

Remember you or your buddy’s life could depend on it, so no matter what dive destination you are located in looking after your buddy is so important when you dive together,

‘Performing a Buddy Check’ was written by Mike

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Mike Waddington

I first discovered diving in 2008 after going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. After trying diving at a flooded quarry in England I decided to head out to warmer more interesting waters in Thailand where I ended on the Island of Koh Tao completing my Open Water course. Instantly addicted with money to spend and plenty of time on my hands I decided to continue until I became a Divemaster so I could live what seemed as the perfect life.

After that I headed to the Caribbean to an island called Utila to complete my instructor course, I spent several months out there completing the MSDT internship, teaching students and leading dives. This is also where I discovered my interest in the technical side of diving, taking part in equipment repair courses and learning about blending gasses and running compressors.

With all my new qualifications it was time to head back to where it had all started, Back to Koh Tao where I intended on living the dream. Once I arrived I quickly found a job and started teaching straight away. During my time on Koh Tao I took part in all many technical diving courses, learning how to dive with re-breathers, in caves and even going down to 90m/300ft!


PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
PADI/DSAT Tech Deep Instructor
PADI/DSAT Gas Trimix Gas Blender
PADI/DSAT Trimix Diver
TDI Intro to Cave Diver
TDI Advanced Wreck Diver
TDI Inspiration rebreather Decompression Procedures
PADI Professional Videographer
BSAC Compressor Operator
TDI Equipment Service Technician

Dream Dive Locations:

Silfra, Iceland
Cenotes, Mexico
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Ice Diving in Russia