Before you jump in the water to start scuba diving, you should check your buddy’s gear (and they should check yours), in an aptly named buddy check.
The best buddy check method is one that checks everything. It doesn’t really matter which method you use.
Outside of the agencies, people will say things like “start a the bottom, work up”, “start at the left foot, work up your left side to your head and down your right side to your right foot”, or any variation of these.
The most important part is that you check everything before you get in the water.
It helps a new diver to have a method to make sure every box is ticked, and each agency has their own method to try and be thorough.
I want to look at the differences between the agencies’ buddy check methods, and why I prefer the SDI method.
PADI instructors get to have fun with the BWRAF abbreviation, (plenty of PG and R-rated mnemonics I can share later), but I now have a few issues with it, and and now prefer the SDI method.
PADI: BCD, Weights, Releases, Air, Final check.
Why I don’t like these methods
My reasoning is that there is unnecessary back and forth with poor flow (economy) of actions, combined with distracting phrases. That is: they are clumsy.
The main part which concerns me, is that the PADI/BSAC/etc. methods put the BCD first. As part of that check, you check inflation (power inflator, manual inflation) and deflation (deflator and dump valves).
…but if you forget to turn your air on, you can’t know for sure if there is a problem with the inflation system, or with the air.
You have to skip forward to the “air” portion, check your tank valve, air pressure, maybe blast a reg, then back a step and resume the procedure. And then, when you get back to “A for air”, they get confused again. Didn’t we just do this part?
New divers are the most vulnerable to errors at this point. I do not expect experienced divers to make such mistakes, or even need a specific method any more – but a newly certified diver is at a greater risk.
If you start by checking your air, then you know that if your BCD doesn’t inflate, it’s not because your tank isn’t on or empty!
It’s also about priority. I can dive with a broken BCD (to an extent), but I can’t dive without air.
Even if nothing goes wrong, you check the function of your BCD, then your air/reg, then go back to your BCD for releases/straps/buckles. Why not check all of the BCD at the same time? I find this confuses and muddles students as well.
The brings me to the second problem of R for releases. Everyone gets it confused with regulator, and wastes time. Especially since, as part of the ‘releases’, you can forget things that don’t have a “release” – like the safety strap around your tank (some are just a loop).
“What does R stand for? R is for regulator, right? Why check releases, when I checked my BCD already?”
We don’t need that confusion.
Air, BCD, Computer, Dive gear, Enter the water.
Air: check your tank, air pressure, air quality.
BCD: check inflation, valves and releases.
Computer: is your dive computer either wet-active on, or already on, and have enough battery? Especially important now we have rechargeable computers with comparably short battery life like the Deep Blue Cosmiq+, Suunto D5, Mares Icon HD, Suunto Eon, and Shearwater Teric or Garmin Descent MK1.
Dive gear: mask, fins, weights, and any other specific equipment you need for the dive (slates, reels, SMB, lift bags, compass and so forth).
Much easier, and a little faster.
What matters is that you check everything before you get in the water. Dive safe, everyone!