There's a reason we learn to dive alongside a buddy. The buddy system guarantees someone has your back on every dive, whether it's conducting the essential pre-dive check, helping stretch out muscle cramps during the dive, providing a second pair of eyes on the reef and in the blue, or having a buddy to blow bubble rings with during your safety stop. A good dive buddy is also indispensable for safety - if you run out of air, they'll be right there with a second regulator. No matter how experienced we are as divers, a good dive buddy system should always be in place. So, without further ado, read on to discover how to be a good dive buddy.

diver on the surface giving the ok signal


Communication is the bread and butter of all relationships, and diving is no different. Clear and effective communication with your dive buddy is vital, so make sure you're on the same page about dive signals before taking the plunge. This doesn't just mean checking in with an 'okay?' hand signal, but also checking their air, depth and no-decompression limits. After covering the safety essentials, it's on to the fun stuff. Diving in duos gives you an extra pair of eyes, so make sure you both share the same hand signs for identifying marine life.

two divers on a boat planning the dive using a slate

Dive Planning and Equipment Checks

Effective communication extends to dive planning. Dive planning is not just a matter of figuring out where to go, but also determining how to stay safe during your underwater adventure. Before you dive, it's essential to consider and communicate your dive plan with your buddy. This should include factors like the depth you plan to reach, how long you intend to stay at that depth and the specific route you'll follow.

Equally crucial is equipment readiness. Before you hit the water, a good dive buddy will always perform thorough equipment checks to ensure that everything is in good working condition. Verify that all gear is secure and both tanks are filled to the appropriate pressure. Check that you and your buddy have essential safety equipment and that weight distribution is comfortable and balanced.

Because We Really Aren't Fish

BWARF has many meanings, ranging from 'Begin with Review and Friend,' to more creative variations like 'Because We Really Aren't Fish' or 'Bruce Willis Ruins All Films.' Regardless of the mnemonic you prefer, they all converge on the pre-dive check, emphasising the importance of inspecting your BCD, weights, releases, air supply and conducting a final check. These checks are crucial to ensuring that your equipment is in good condition and properly fitted. Confirm that each other's gear is secure and functioning properly, double-check the air supply and make sure dive computer settings are correctly configured. Properly fitting equipment can prevent problems during the dive.

lionfish on a coral shelf with two divers in the background

Stay Close and Be Prepared

While underwater, maintaining close proximity is fundamental to being a good dive buddy. Staying close, generally between one and two metres, allows you to react quickly to any situation that may arise. It also makes it easier to keep a watchful eye on each other's air supply and gauge your own air consumption. Avoid swimming ahead or straying too far, especially in challenging conditions.

Furthermore, be prepared for emergencies. Underwater, things can change rapidly and being ready to respond is crucial. Familiarise yourself with emergency procedures like sharing air, assisting with equipment malfunctions and managing buoyancy issues. Your buddy should know how to access and use safety equipment like a surface marker buoy (SMB), whistle and flashlight in case of an emergency.

Awareness is Key

Diving is not just about exploring; it's about being aware of your surroundings. This means keeping a beady eye out for signs of stress or discomfort in your dive partner, such as changes in their swimming style or breathing. Effective communication will allow you to address issues as they arise. Additionally, keeping a close watch on your depth, adhering to no-decompression limits and managing bottom time are crucial to preventing potentially life-threatening scenarios, like decompression sickness. Maintaining awareness of these critical factors guarantees a safer and more enjoyable dive for both you and your buddy.

two divers looking at clown fish swimming in sea anemones

Respect the Environment

Being a responsible dive buddy involves not only looking out for your partner, but also showing respect for the underwater ecosystem. While safety is paramount, it's equally important to be considerate of the environment. Steer clear of touching, harming or disrupting marine life and coral. Maintaining precise buoyancy control is vital to prevent unintentional contact with the seafloor or fragile coral reefs. Furthermore, seize the chance to collect any litter or debris you come across underwater. By leaving the environment in a more pristine condition than when you encountered it, you play a role in ocean conservation efforts.

Post-Dive Debrief

After surfacing, take the time to discuss the dive experience with your buddy. This is a valuable opportunity to share insights and feedback on any issues that arose during the dive and how they were managed. It's a moment for constructive feedback and learning from each other's experiences, all of which will prepare you for future dives.

a male and female diver in dive equipment on land looking at a dive computer

Continuous Learning

To be a top-notch dive buddy, continuous learning is a must. Staying current with your diving knowledge and skills through regular training and practice is essential - this includes staying up-to-date with changes in diving technology and safety practices.

By following these principles of being a responsible dive buddy, you not only ensure your safety but also enhance the enjoyment of every underwater adventure. The buddy system is the cornerstone of safe diving, so always prioritise safety and adhere to these guidelines for a more secure and memorable dive.