In my never ending quest of learning and becoming a better SCUBA diver, I took the PADI Rescue Diver course several weekends ago. I learned and practiced skills that I hoped I never would have to use.
During the course, we learned self-rescue (don’t become another victim), recognizing and managing stress in other divers, emergency management and equipment, assisting tired divers, assisting panicked divers, and finding/rescuing unresponsive divers underwater.
Two of the things we learned (and practiced) were bringing a diver up from underwater and “towing” a diver in on the surface. I used both of these skills this past weekend. I’m sure I could have handled the situation without the training, but I was more prepared and confident in my ability to provide assistance and I reacted calmly and effectively because I knew what to do and how to handle the situation.
The first real scenario was diving with another diver for the first time. She had stated previously she was working on her buoyancy, but had done well during the dive maintaining the same depth and had stayed close to me the whole time. We arrived at the surface toward the end of our dive a short distance away from the exit point. We had been monitoring our air during the dive and I knew we both had around 800 psi remaining. Since I dislike surface swimming in SCUBA gear, I suggested we descend to around 10-15 feet and swim toward the dock and she agreed. As I descended, she passed me and descended to the bottom of the quarry – a depth of over 50 ft. I waited for her to establish her buoyancy and ascend back up to 15 ft.
I observed her at the bottom of the quarry. She was kicking quickly while remaining on the bottom. I knew with the amount of air she had remaining, her current depth, and with her physical exertion she would run out of air rather quickly if she didn’t ascend. I waited for a minute and she had not made any progress.
Was this situation life threatening? Probably not, but it could have been rather quickly considering the amount of air we both had remaining. As her buddy, I should have been within an arm’s reach in case she needed assistance. With these factors in mind, I made the decision to provide assistance. I used the training I obtained during the Rescue Diver course to act quickly, descend, assist, and we safely ascended to the surface where we swam back to the exit point.
Scenario number two was assisting a diver at the surface. She (another diver) had experienced a regulator malfunction while at depth and it (rightly) spooked her since this was not her normal regulator. She was shaken by the experience more than usual because during her last dive several weeks prior she had experienced a regulator malfunction with a different regulator set.
She ascended with another diver and was ready to come out of the water while he needed to remain with the other divers. She wasn’t panicked, but could use some assistance swimming in and could use some verbal reassurance. I was still wearing my wetsuit from the previous dive. Once I confirmed my intention to provide assistance, the other diver descended and I communicated with the diver on the surface while I put on my fins. I swam toward her on the surface communicating the whole way. Once I arrived at her location, I fully inflated her BC and used one of the towing techniques I had learned to bring her to the exit point.
Life threatening? Definitely not. But I knew how to handle the situation and had practiced the procedures for providing assistance at the surface and towing another diver and didn’t have to improvise or wonder what to do. Once again, because I knew WHAT to do, it made the process much easier.
So, do I consider myself some type of hero for these actions? Not in any way, shape, form, or fashion. I give all the credit to my instructor and the PADI Rescue Diver course for teaching me what the appropriate actions are and practicing them until they became second nature. Because I had the knowledge and skills, I knew how and what to do and it made these two situations second nature.
I am always striving to be better and SCUBA diving is not any different. I can always learn, improve, and be a better diver in the future than I am now. I highly encourage all divers to take the Rescue Diver Class as you will be more prepared and confident in your ability to provide assistance calmly and effectively should there be a situation when these skills are needed.