The History of Buddy Breathing

The History of Buddy Breathing

April 26, 2012627Views3Comments

In the early days of SCUBA diving, we didn’t have the safety measures divers enjoy today. Before pressure gauges we used J-valves, before power inflators we used single-use CO2 inflation systems and before everyone carried an alternate air source we used buddy breathing.

The Buddy Breathing Skill

In an out of air situation, one buddy supplies the air for themselves and their buddy using a single regulator. The regulator is passed back and forth between the two buddies. While the exact method was training-dependent, typically the out of air diver would hold the wrist of the diver with air and each diver would take 2-3 breathes while counting using their fingers before passing the regulator.

The Death of Buddy Breathing

Over time, alternate air sources, also known as an octopus, made the buddy breathing skill less relevant. Instead, divers were taught alternate air source skills where both divers had their own regulator instead of passing a single unit.

Buddy breathing was determined to be more dangerous because there is a point when both divers are without a breathing source. Should one diver have different buoyancy than the other, the air source could be dragged away more easily. As seen in the Sanctum movie in one of the opening scenes, a panicked diver in a buddy breathing situation can make for a potentially life threatening situation for their buddy.

As the octopus became standard diving equipment, buddy breathing became a thing of the past.

Is Buddy Breathing Important?

Some certification agencies still teach buddy breathing, some reserve it for higher certification levels such as Rescue diver or Divemaster training. As a skill that teaches divers how to deal with complex situations underwater, it still has value. But many have determined it to be unnecessary for dealing with basic recreational diving out of air situations.

What do you think about buddy breathing?

Photo via Brianz


  1. Learn buddy breathing, it is simple and should be part of standard training. The j valve also should be used as opposed to the k valve. Pressure gauges are fine, but they do fail (mine did!). Back in the 70’s buddy breathing and j valves were pretty much standard. We seem to see more out of air problems when we started using k valves and gauges. The low air signal that the j valves give is an extraordinary attention getter. The pressure gauge only works if you check it often enough,,,

  2. Got certified in 1983 from a NAUI instructor and buddy breathing was part of the course and required to demonstrate on our check out dive. We were taught that the diver with air never lets go of their regulator and places it in the mouth of the other diver and goes back and forth. Simple technique, why not teach it? You never know it could come in handy.

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