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Scuba diving buddy check

Learn how to do a proper pre-dive buddy check in scuba diving.

By 7 Min Read
Two divers doing buddy check at Social Diving.

In this article, I would like to answer a common question I get at Social Diving which is how to do a proper buddy check before a scuba dive.

It is not difficult to do but super important so let’s jump right in!

What is a pre-dive buddy check?

The pre-dive buddy check is a safety measure that ensures all divers are ready to begin a scuba dive. During a buddy check, you and your diving buddy control each other’s diving setup, equipment, and overall readiness for the upcoming scuba dive.

Why is a buddy check important?

A buddy check before every dive is super important for several reasons:

  • prevents accidents and dangerous situations underwater
  • increases trust in your diving buddies
  • reduces anxiety or nervousness in beginning and experienced divers alike.

Far too often we see experienced divers that have reduced their pre-dive check to patting each other on the shoulder and asking “all good?“.

Scuba diving instructor in the water with student.
A good buddy check before diving can prevent accidents and bad situations.

This is a dangerous and plain stupid trend and if you ever come across someone bothered by doing a pre-dive buddy check, don’t let them deter you.

After all, a proper buddy check only takes one minute each and can be a real-life-saver.

Let’s see how to do it the right way.

How to do a scuba diving buddy check?

For a good buddy check, you need to check all parts of your buddy’s dive gear, make sure they carry everything needed for the dive, and are feeling well. This includes the BCD, regulators, tanks, valves, hoses, dive computers, buckles and straps, weights, and anything else you carry.

You can choose the order and extent to which you do the check, or use the so-called BWRAF scheme, and adjust it to your specific diving setup and environment.

Note that this is one appropriate procedure for recreational divers in most areas, however, technical divers of all sorts may need to revert to the standards taught in their training.

What does BWRAF stand for?

BWRAF stands for Buoyancy – Weights – Releases – Air – Final Okay and helps us remember the right order of checking during the scuba diving buddy check. It was first coined by PADI and has since been adopted by many others around the world.

Now let’s go through each of the steps one by one and check out what happens.

By the way, that’s me in the photos with my favorite Divemaster in the world, Thibault.

B – BCD/ Buoyancy

First, check the BCD or buoyancy control device of your dive buddy. Inflate it completely to see if the emergency valve works before deflating it again.

Checking buoyancy during buddy check
Begin with checking the BCD.

Use ALL available deflating valves (usually between 2 and 5) and ensure you remember where they are located and how they work.

In the photo, you see how I inflate Thibault’s BCD all the way before using the three air releases of his Apeks Black Ice Wing.

Important: Put in some air again after testing to ensure nobody walks into the water with an empty BCD.

W – Weights

Ensure your buddy carries enough weight for their dive. Ask how many weight pieces they put on their belt or weight pockets, and check if they are properly aligned.

Checking weights during buddy check
Ensure that your buddy has enough weights and they are safely stored away.

It’s best to have a symmetric distribution of weight pieces and carry them as close to the center of gravity as possible.

Use my scuba diving weight calculator to find the right amount of weights for your next dive and do a weight check to test the result.

Important: Ensure you know how to add or remove more weights in case of an emergency underwater.

R – Releases

Secure all releases on your buddy’s diving gear and check if they function properly.

Checking releases during buddy check
One of the most important releases is the one on the tank.

Don’t forget the tank strap(s) on the back and test to see, if the tank comes loose when you try to move it. Don’t be gentle, and really test if it is secure.

A – Air

Begin with checking if the tank valves are opened all the way before breathing through each 2nd stage of the regulator.

Check if the needle on your pressure gauge moves significantly when you inhale, as this can indicate an issue with the valve.

Two divers doing buddy check at Social Diving.
Both buddies should breathe from each other’s regulators.

Verify there is enough pressure in the tank to conduct the dive (on 200 bar tanks it should never be below 180bar above water!) and that the air tastes fresh.

If you feel nausea after breathing in, the air might contain too much CO or CO2 and should not be used.

FYI: Yes, these are Apeks XTX50s we are both using for our coldwater dives. Read this guide on coldwater dive equipment to get more suggestions.

Important: It is NOT enough to take one or two quick breaths during this step.

Breath in and out a few times through the primary regulator and the octopus while monitoring the pressure indicator. If you like, you can go through the motions as we do in the photo.

F – Final OK

During the final step, check if your buddy has all the extra equipment pieces needed for the dive. This may include a dive computer, compass, ABC set, and reel.

Final okay during buddy check
Don’t worry, Thibault loved it…he just doesn’t like to show emotions. A true professional.

If you carry an underwater camera or action camera like the GoPro Hero 10, ensure it can be stored away safely and does not interfere with the basic dive equipment like inflator button or regulator hoses.

How to remember the BWRAF buddy check procedure

BWRAF (“what did he just say to me?!”) does not sound super intuitive when you first come across it and is hard to remember.

Luckily, smart and/or funny people have come up with a number of mnemonics or sayings to make remembering the buddy check scheme easier.

Here are a few of my favorite ones that I use during courses, as well:

Bruce Willis Ruins/Rules All Films

Because We Really Aren’t Fish

Big White Rabbits Are Fluffy

Begin With Review And Friend

etc…

I like the first one best and teach it to my students. 😁

It does its job and during a course, we simply refer to it as “Bruce”.

BWRAF in other languages

Here are some popular sayings from other languages that you might come across.

German

Taucher Brauchen Sehr Leichte Ausrüstung

Taucher Brauchen Saubere Luft Alles klar?

Alternatives to BWRAF

Of course, the BWRAF acronym isn’t the only one out there. Other agencies have proposed different approaches and you are free to choose which one you like.

Here are some memorable ones:

ABCDE (SDI/TDI)

ABCDE was proposed by SDI/TDI and aims at making the acronym easier to remember. It stands for:

Air – BCD – Computer – Dive Gear – Enter the water

My opinion: I am not entirely convinced by this approach as it seems too broad.

BAR (BSAC)

BAR is used at the British BSAC agency and is an acronym for:

Buoyancy – Air – Releases

My opinion: Not bad, but again, the issues arise in the details that the BAR scheme does not go into.

SEABAG (NAUI)

NAUI has come up with SEABAG besides its own ABCD scheme that also includes other aspects besides the dive gear:

Site – Emergencies – Activities – Buoyancy – Air – Gear

My opinion: I believe the SEABAG scheme works well in combination with BWRAF.

Use Site-Emergency-Activities before moving on to the personal buddy check with the steps from above.

What I use personally

I like to combine the BWRAF buddy check with SEA during my personal buddy checks and pre-dive briefings for guests and clients.

This way, everyone is on the same page and we can dive safely together.

If you like to dive with me, check out when we go diving next.

Conclusion

I hope you learned something from this short little article and now know more about how to do a proper buddy check before each scuba dive.

In addition, I explained to you what the BWRAF (Bruce) acronym means and how to use it to structure your buddy checks accordingly.

Combine it with other, more general procedures and you will never forget an important safety step before a dive.

Do you know any other mnemonics or approaches to remembering the right order for the buddy check? Let us know in the comments below!

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Always dive with friends and happy bubbles. 😃

Cheers

Julius

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