The buddy check should always be a part of your pre-dive ritual, but many of us skip it entirely or miss key safety aspects. Here’s what to watch for on your next — and every — buddy check
The pre-dive safety check, or buddy check, is a vital part of diving. During a buddy check you’ll complete a final inspection of both your equipment and your buddy’s to make sure you’re both ready to enter the water. The standard PADI pre-dive safety check uses the acronym BWRAF. This stands for BCD/buoyancy, weights, releases, air, and final ok. Following are some of the issues we most commonly see when it comes to buddy checks, and how to address them before getting into the water.
Issue: It’s easy to overlook that the toggle for the quick-release dump valve on your right shoulder is trapped under a shoulder strap or chest release. This can mean that the BCD won’t inflate fully. You might also struggle to stay positively buoyant at the surface when you enter the water.
Solution: Your buddy will double-check that your quick releases and toggles are free from entanglement. Equally important, you’ll locate your buddy’s low-pressure inflator (LPI) hose and see how it works. Each manufacturer has a slightly different configuration, and you need to know how to help them in a hurry.
Issue: Many people simply double-check that their own weights are in place and secure. In an emergency, or simply when helping your buddy back onto a boat after a dive, this can leave either of you unfamiliar with how to help the other diver release their weights.
Solution: Modern BCD and weight systems come in all shapes and sizes. There are belts, integrated pockets, harnesses, trim weights and ankle weights, to name just a few. During the pre-dive check, be sure you both know how to release each other’s weights. Show your buddy where your weights are and how to release them, and find out the same for your buddy’s set-up.
Issue: A loose cylinder or tank band can be potentially hazardous, as well as embarrassing. On check dives it’s common to see divers with loose cylinders as they return to the boat or shore.
Solution: When you first arrive at the resort or on the boat, and while your BCD is bone-dry, soak or moisten the band/release in some water. This relaxes and expands the webbing to its maximum size before you strap in a tank. During your buddy check, stand up and ask your buddy to give your cylinder a firm tug to make sure it’s snug.
Issue: Checking your SPG, but not the cylinder and the regulator(s) can be an issue. Many divers take a quick glance at their SPG, determine that they’ve got appropriate tank pressure, and call it a day. Don’t forget to make sure the cylinder valve is fully open. Take a few normal breaths from both the primary regulator and alternate air-source. It’s important to make sure the gas smells and tastes okay. A cylinder that has been closed may still read full if the system hasn’t been purged of pressure. This can mean a partially opened tank still shows full, and you don’t want to discover that underwater.
Solution: Before you put on your scuba unit, reach to the rear of the tank and make sure the valve is fully open (with potentially a mini-turn back), rather than fully closed with a half-turn open. Breathe from your primary regulator while looking at your SPG. Let your buddy try your alternative air source (or try it yourself). Show them how and where it’s clipped onto your BCD. Be sure the needle stays steady, and don’t assume the boat crew has opened your tank.
Issue: The final okay is your confirmation to the dive group and leader that you’re ready to dive. Missing accessories and gadgets are a problem in the modern diving world. Don’t be the person who arrives on the dive deck and then — as the skipper brings the boat into position and with seconds to spare — discovers that you’ve left your dive computer in the cabin. Or that you’re not set for the correct nitrox mix. Or you’ve not clipped on your camera correctly. Maybe you’re missing your reel and SMB. You get the idea.
Solution: When you first arrive on the dive deck, double-check that you have everything you need before gearing up. Make sure your computer is working, and set for the right gas. Make sure your camera is ready, and that your mask is de-fogged, prepared and in place. Ensure that you’ve got all your accessories and that nothing is twisted or tangled.
Next time you dive, don’t skip that buddy check. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say. By following these simple steps upfront, you and your entire dive group will have a safer, more relaxed dive.