The Scuba Diving Buddy System Explained

Our Editors independently research, test, and rate what we feel are the best products. We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.

Scuba diving is one of the most fun sports in the world, but it shouldn’t be done alone. Sure, you could, but if you want to ensure your safety while also maximizing your fun then you will follow the buddy system.

You have probably heard of it before, but if you’re unsure of what it is or this is the first time you’re hearing the term, then don’t go anywhere. We’re here to break it down for you so you can see exactly why it’s so important!

What is the buddy system?

It’s always recommended that you dive with a buddy. It makes it safer for the both of you and you can share your fun with someone else. Not only that, but depending on the country you’re diving in it may even be legally required! The basis behind it is that with 2 divers it’s much simpler to deal with potentially stressful or dangerous situations.

If you’re trained, you may feel like you don’t have to follow these rules but the truth is that once you get in the water, the ocean is in control. We can’t 100% control our environment and getting separated from one another is not unheard of.

What makes a good buddy team?

So, you should find someone who you already trust, like a friend or family member. You need to know that in a time of need/emergency, this person will be willing to help you and vice-versa. Not only that, but you’ll want a buddy who is at the same level of experience and skills as you to make sure you know what you’re doing.

Each member of the duo should agree on how to plan their dives, what they should do in case of emergency and their roles specifically, and the overall objective. If you happen to be diving in a group then the leader of said group must ensure each member is aware of their buddy so that the group plan matches each duo’s dive plan.

What makes a great dive buddy?

Most of these are going to be common sense, but here’s a little refresher to make sure you are well-aware.

  1. Look After Yourself – If you are in danger or aren’t in the best state of health, you aren’t going to be able to help your buddy out. Make sure you’re regularly checking your air and no decompression time to adequately plan what you’re going to do next. Use a dive computer to make sure your ascent is not too fast.
  2. Never Abandon Your Buddy – This is probably something you already know, but always make sure you’re both close enough that you can easily get their attention.
  3. No Pressuring Your Buddy – You may be at a higher experience level than your buddy or may want to simply try something risky out for the first time. However, it’s not cool to pressure your buddy who has less experience than you, into doing something they don’t feel comfortable with. Panicking in the water is never a good thing.
  4. Check on Your Buddy – You need to check in with your buddy about every 10 kicks, more or less. The easiest way to do this is by looking at them, making the OK sign with your hand if you can see clearly. At night dives or in caves/wrecks, this may not be possible. Instead, circle your dive light.
  5. Keep Strong to Your Plan – What’s the point of having a plan if you don’t even follow it? When we’re in uncertain conditions like underwater, we have to have a thorough plan of attack. For example, if you had a plan just to dive to that wreck and come back, don’t keep going further away without your buddy just because you see something that looks cool in the distance.

What to Do if You Become Separated from Your Buddy

No, we ideally would like to make sure we always stay with our buddy but this isn’t always possible. If you do end up getting separated you need to know what to do.

  1. Stop, Think, Act – If you become separated, don’t keep swimming around. Stop and stay right where you are. Try not to panic, because this can lead even the most rational human being to start being irrational. So stop, then look around for 1-2 minutes, rotating all the way around slowly to see if you can spot your buddy.If you don’t actually see their head, try looking for bubbles, unnatural colors under the water like brightly colored fins, dive lights, etc. As you’re searching, also make sure your buddy can see you! Do this by grabbing your dive torch and slowly moving it up and down. You can also try making a sound. The easiest way to do this is by grabbing your dive knife and bang it on your tank.
  2. Ascend, Safety Stop, Surface – After you’ve spent the couple of minutes looking around for your buddy, you next need to ascend slowly to about 5m. Once you reach this depth, deploy your SMB to aid your buddy if that person is already at the surface, letting them know where you are. While doing your safety stop, continue your 360-degree look-arounds.
  3. Return to The Dive Boat or Shore – Make sure to follow your dive plan and how long you should be expected to wait at the surface. If you’ve already passed that couple of minutes, head back to the dive boat or surface and report your buddy as missing.

How to Prevent Separation

  1. Remember that you go down in the water together. The dive starts as soon as you get in the water!
  2. When in a group, it’s important to monitor your diving buddy and not expect everyone in the group to look out for one another.
  3. Make sure your dive plans are designed to keep the two of you together.
  4. Being distracted is the easiest way to become separated. Unless you’re partaking in activities like photography where you’ll probably be a bit distracted, you should always be in close quarters with each other.
  5. If you’re the lead diver in your buddy system, never just assume they’re following along. You need to keep visual or physical contact throughout the dive.

Before Each Dive

Before each dive, you must check your partner’s gear to ensure everything is operating and secured properly.

BCD – Your buddy should be inflating and deflating this through the button and the mouthpiece.

Weights – Ensure the belt is fastened well and able to release quickly.

Mask – Verify your scuba mask is sealing good good around your face.

Restraints – Revise, clip, and pull on any restraints, and closures on your partner’s dive equipment.

Air – Smell and inhale a breath through your partner’s octopus, while monitoring the air gauge. The air should never taste or smell like anything, and the needle of the gauge should be stable while inhaling and exhaling. Also pay special attention to any sounds like hissing which could be a sign that there’s a hole or crack somewhere.


Now that you know all about the buddy system, do you feel more confident about your next diving trip? We sure hope that our guide helped you out and that you now know the ins and outs of it. Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you again shortly! Have fun and remember to stay safe!

Notice: is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. earns fees from products sold through qualifying purchases by linking to Amazon offers a commission on products sold through their affiliate links.

Richard Remick

Richard is the founder and the chief editor of Outside Pursuits. Passionate about the great outdoors, Richard spends much of his time in Colorado enjoying skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, cycling, hiking, and camping. When at home in Florida, he is most often found in the water. He loves water sports such as paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving. He is a certified scuba diver. Because of his wealth of knowledge and experience, Richard has been invited to contribute articles to many outdoor-focused websites, such as Florida Rambler, and has been profiled on travel websites such as JohnnyJet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button