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BWRAF – How & Why you should always do a buddy check when diving.

Tanks on a beach in Koh Lipe
Tanks on a beach in Koh Lipe

Safety is important when diving and one of the best things to keep you safe during a dive is doing a BWRAF or buddy check before diving. What does the acronym stand for and why you should always do a scuba buddy check before jumping in? Read on!

All about the BWRAF

Scuba diver doing buddy check

Why do a buddy check before each dive?

During your Open Water course, you will learn to never dive without a buddy, and in subsequent courses, you will also learn how to deal with problems while diving. Mind you, the most important lesson is to avoid problems altogether. Many think this is easier said than done however, doing a proper buddy check before diving can help you to avoid most issues that could arise underwater.

This is the reason why learning how to do a proper buddy check is such an important part of your OW and every dive you do after.

Yes, that is right – you should do a buddy check before each and every dive and it doesn’t matter how experienced you are! Most new divers will do their PADI buddy check during their course but after too many divers seem to think that a buddy check is optional – it isn’t or at least it shouldn’t be. Your experience level doesn’t matter, time constraints don’t matter – a buddy check before a dive could literally save your life so you should make it a priority.

What does BWRAF stand for & how to do a proper buddy check?

Various scuba fins on a railing

A buddy check is called a buddy check because not only do you each check your own equipment but also each others’. This way you familiarize yourself with your buddy’s equipment and vice versa and you can double-check that everything is working as it should.

To make sure you don’t forget to check anything you should go through the same motions every single time and do a so-called BWRAF.

B stands for BCD

Checking the BCD means checking each other’s inflator. Inflate and deflate all the way by hand and familiarize yourself with where all deflate valves are and make sure they are working. In pre-Covid times you would also orally inflate each other’s BCD, but currently, I like to inflate my own jacket orally while my buddy is watching.

W stands for Weight

How much weight is your buddy using and where are they wearing it? Belt, weight pockets, back pockets? Make sure you know how to release their weights in an emergency – for a belt that means to double-check it is worn with a right-hand release (a universally agreed-upon system) and for weight pockets it means they can be easily clipped and tugged out but are secured while diving.

R stands for Releases

First I like to check that my BCD with securely attached to my tank so I will ask my buddy to give it a good wiggly and make sure it doesn’t slide up and down.
Then you should check front straps and shoulder straps to make sure all are secure and can be opened easily in an emergency.

A is for Air

Start by checking that the tank valve of your buddy is completely open and have a look at how much air each of you has.

With Covid safety in place I am currently doing the following air checks with my buddy watching:

  • I smell the air coming out of my regulator and alternate.
  • I take a few deep breaths with both regulators while watching the SPG making sure the needle doesn’t move.
  • I take another few breaths while purging my octopus to simulate an air share. In pre-Covid time this would be done with your buddy breathing from your alternate, however, currently, most dive centers I have dived with will only share equipment in a real emergency.

Know where your buddy’s alternate air source is and how to get it out in an out-of-air scenario.

F stands for Final Check

Got your mask, your fins, your camera, your torch, and anything else you may need? You wouldn’t be the first person to jump in without a mask but that is what the final check is for.
This is a also good time to check that hoses, SPG, and any other bits and bobs are tucked away neatly so nothing is dangling before you both jump in.

BWRAF acronyms

To make sure you don’t forget any parts of your buddy check it is useful to find an order and a routine that works for you. This way you go through the same motions before each dive and nothing is left to chance. Obviously, it is easier – just like with hand signals – that your buddy and you use the same order and checks which is why the scuba community is using the BWRAF acronyms.

Need a reminder of what comes first and what comes last until it becomes an automatic process? Use one of the following BWRAF acronyms to remind you:

Beans With Rice And Fish – Popular in Asian countries I have learned.

Bruce Willis Ruins/Rules All Films – I am not a Bruce Willis fan so I have learned the first version of this but I guess it could really go either way.

Because We Really Aren’t Fish – I like this as a diver!

There are a few naughty ones as well. I say go with whatever works for you as a reminder but also read the room and know what your dive buddy is or isn’t comfortable with reciting.

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