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What is a Buddy when Scuba Diving or Freediving?

The term “buddy” refers to a diving partner who accompanies another diver during underwater exploration. It is an essential aspect of the scuba diving experience, as it promotes safety and fosters camaraderie among divers. The buddy system was devised to increase divers’ safety by encouraging them to remain together and keep an eye on each other, providing assistance or rescue when necessary.

History of the Buddy System

The buddy system has its roots in early military diving operations, where divers were often paired to maintain communication and assist each other in the event of an emergency. This practice was later adopted by recreational scuba divers, as the benefits of diving with a partner became widely recognized. Today, the buddy system is considered a fundamental principle of safe scuba diving and is taught in diving certification courses worldwide.

Importance of the Buddy System

Diving with a buddy increases the chances of a safe and enjoyable experience. There are several reasons why the buddy system is considered indispensable for scuba divers:


In case of equipment malfunction or physical issues, having a buddy nearby can be life-saving. A buddy can help with tasks such as sharing air, providing assistance with gear, or even towing a tired diver back to the surface.


Diving with a partner allows for constant communication, ensuring that both divers are aware of each other’s status and any potential hazards. This is especially important in low visibility conditions or when navigating complex underwater environments.

Skills Development

A buddy can provide valuable feedback on diving techniques and help improve skills through observation and constructive criticism.

Shared Experiences

Diving with a buddy allows for shared memories and experiences, fostering a sense of camaraderie and connection among divers.

Increased Confidence

Knowing that someone else is watching out for them can give divers a sense of security and confidence, allowing them to relax and enjoy the underwater environment.

Choosing the Right Buddy

Selecting the right diving partner is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience. When choosing a buddy, consider the following factors:

Experience Level

Ideally, buddies should have a similar level of diving experience and certification. This ensures that both divers are familiar with the same procedures and can communicate effectively.


Buddies should have compatible diving styles and objectives. For instance, if one diver is interested in underwater photography while the other prefers to focus on marine life, they may not be the best match.


Effective communication is key to a successful buddy relationship. Buddies should be able to understand and use common hand signals and feel comfortable discussing dive plans and potential issues before entering the water.


Trust is paramount in a buddy relationship. Buddies should be confident in each other’s skills, judgment, and reliability.

Buddy System Best Practices

To maximize safety and enjoyment while diving with a buddy, follow these best practices:

Pre-dive Check

Before entering the water, buddies should review their dive plan, equipment, and communication signals. This includes discussing any potential issues, such as air supply management and emergency procedures.

Buddy Check

Conduct a thorough buddy check, ensuring that both divers’ equipment is functioning correctly and securely attached. This includes checking air supply, buoyancy control devices, regulators, and other essential gear.

Maintain Proximity

Buddies should remain close to each other throughout the dive, ideally within arm’s reach. This enables them to monitor each other’s status and provide assistance if needed.

Regular Communication

Buddies should communicate regularly during the dive, using hand signals or other agreed-upon methods. This helps maintain awareness and ensure that both divers are comfortable and safe.

Post-dive Debrief

After surfacing, buddies should discuss the dive, reviewing any challenges, successes, or notable observations. This provides an opportunity for learning and improvement, as well as fostering a stronger bond between diving partners.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Buddy

When diving with a partner, each buddy has specific roles and responsibilities to ensure the safety and well-being of the team. These include:


Buddies should continuously observe each other’s air supply, depth, and equipment throughout the dive. By keeping an eye on these factors, they can identify and address potential issues before they become serious.


Buddies should be prepared to provide assistance in various situations, including sharing air in case of equipment failure or low supply, assisting with buoyancy control, or helping with gear adjustments.

Emergency Response

In case of an emergency, such as entanglement or diver distress, buddies should be familiar with the appropriate rescue techniques and be prepared to act promptly and effectively.


Buddies can share the responsibility of navigating underwater, helping each other stay oriented and ensuring they stay on course during the dive.

Environmental Awareness

Diving partners should maintain awareness of their surroundings, pointing out potential hazards or points of interest to each other. This can help prevent accidents and enhance the overall experience.

Buddy System in Group Diving

In group diving scenarios, the buddy system becomes even more critical. In addition to adhering to the best practices mentioned earlier, divers in a group should also follow these guidelines:

Designated Buddies

Each diver should be paired with a designated buddy within the group. This ensures that everyone has someone to watch out for them and prevents divers from becoming separated from the group.

Group Communication

When diving in a group, it is essential to establish clear communication among all members. This may involve using underwater signaling devices or assigning a dive leader responsible for coordinating the group’s activities.

Buddy Team Coordination

Buddy teams within a group should coordinate their actions, such as descent and ascent rates, to maintain cohesion and ensure the safety of all divers.

The buddy system is an indispensable element of safe and enjoyable scuba diving. By selecting the right partner, maintaining open communication, and adhering to best practices, divers can ensure a secure and rewarding experience. By understanding and embracing the roles and responsibilities of a buddy, divers can not only enhance their own safety but also contribute to the overall well-being of the diving community.