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Family Diving Adventures: Elevating Safety with Rescue Diver Skills

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Amélie Krestovnikoff and Oliver
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Photographs by Katie Thorpe/PADI and Clare Dutton

SASY programme
SASY programme

My diving journey started when I was really young. I remember doing the SASY programme where I had a tiny air cylinder on my back and swam around the top of the swimming pool for ages until I drained it! I was so excited to do my Bubblemaker for my eighth birthday and then quickly went onto doing my Junior Open Water Diver course when I was ten.

I loved diving, but when it came to my younger brother Oliver doing his Junior Open Water Diver course, I was a bit put off about diving in a cold quarry in the UK, so I decided not to do my Advanced Open Water Diver course alongside his.

Unfortunately, things like COVID and my GCSEs got in the way of diving and advancing my knowledge of it, and I forgot how much I adored it. Then, in the winter holidays, my family and I went out to Egypt, where I rediscovered my love for the underwater world.

Amelie and Oliver enter the water
Amelie and Oliver enter the water

I ended up doing my Advanced Open Water Diver course that holiday because I wanted to learn and discover even more (and I wanted to be able to dive in a deep canyon!). It was lovely to be diving with my family and I knew that I wanted to dive more.

When I was looking for more opportunities to dive, I heard about the Rescue Diver course, which sounded really interesting.

I have heard a lot of stories about what can go wrong underwater – and I’ve seen a lot of James Bond movies! So, I thought it would be great to go on this course to learn more about what to do in these difficult situations.

I think that we all hope that we would react well if something major did go wrong, but if I didn’t know what to do when there’s an emergency, I’m not sure that I would. I definitely wanted to have this qualification so that I can dive, knowing that I can do something if the situation arises.

Since we are diving more as a family, I especially think that these skills are essential to have.

Clare briefing Krestovnikoffs
Clare briefing Krestovnikoffs

The course itself was, of course, massively interesting and helped us to build useful skills for emergency situations.

Surprisingly, it was also hugely fun, and we all had a good laugh – even though it covers some very serious topics, the rescue scenarios were very entertaining, with the beanbag dummy nicknamed ‘Dead Fred’ and some Oscar-winning acting of some overconfident divers setting up scuba gear wrong and telling us that ‘they’ve done it a million times before’ and ‘they’ll be okay’ before needing to be rescued!

Of course, there are certain aspects of the course that are incredibly important to be treated seriously, however – especially with my younger brother – it was good to have a laugh in between the dark bits about people genuinely dying and the sad outcomes of most rescues.

For the qualification, we did two online theory courses – the Rescue Diver and the Emergency First Responder. These were like any other online courses, with sections to read, questions to complete and then a test at the very end. This was really informative and laid the groundwork for the rest of the course.

By completing it before we did the course, it meant that we spent less time learning out of the water, and more time putting the skills into practice.

On our first day, we learnt all the skills needed to be a Rescue Diver – underwater, at the surface and on land.

We learnt a lot, such as how to bring a diver to the surface, how to deal with a panicked diver, and how to use the medical side of things, such as emergency oxygen and a defibrillator, but the hardest part was definitely lifting deadweight (aka my brother) out of the water and up a set of stairs!


Amelie doing a tired diver push
Amelie doing a tired diver push

On the second day we put all of these skills into practice in a number of scenarios, such as seeing unequipped divers insisting on going out for a dive, a panicked diver at the surface, an unresponsive diver trapped under debris, and ‘Dead Fred’ tangled in fishing line, bringing them all to shore and then performing CPR of ‘Dead Fred’, as well as giving him emergency oxygen and defibrillation.

This made us utilise all our skills by putting them into practice, and helped us to feel prepared for an emergency, but also to look out for the warning signs to prevent one from happening in the first place.

Unlike a lot of other courses, the Rescue Diver can be really collaborative – as well as developing your individual skills, it is about working together as a team.

This meant that for us, it was a great part of our half-term holiday alongside recreational diving. Also, having done it together with my mum and brother, I think we all feel safer since we all know that we have the skills and the knowledge of what to do if a situation such as this arises.

This was also another first for me, as I had never been scuba diving in the UK before, which is surprising since this is probably where my mum has dived the most! We completed the Rescue Diver training with Clare Dutton and her team from Duttons Divers in the gorgeous Vivian Quarry, which although we were in drysuits, was much warmer than what I was expecting.

Having done the Rescue Diver course in more difficult conditions than it would be somewhere hotter, since we had more equipment and people get colder more easily, I feel more prepared for an emergency than if I had learned aboard and then had to deal with a situation here.

For someone who is looking to do more UK diving, I think that it is hugely important that I have the skills to deal with typical British weather!

After the course, we spent two more days diving in North Wales with Duttons Divers, which was incredible – Ihad preconceptions about what the visibility and the wildlife may be like, however there was plenty to see.

We dived with some shy seals who liked to come up to us to check what we were up to before darting away, and then later that day we dived over a reef full of huge spider and edible crabs, some catsharks, nudibranch, gigantic lobster and planktonic jellyfish, to name a few. For me, this was totally unexpected to have such diverse life in non-tropical waters.

On the second day we got hit with an unfortunate murky tide – at a site where there was over ten metres of visibility the day before, there was less than half a metre at times for us, however this was my first really low-visibility dive and I enjoyed it.

The wildlife was still down there, with hundreds of spider, edible and velvet crabs, spiny starfish, cushion starfish, shrimp, nudibranch, and the local giant – Tyson the lobster! Overall, diving in the UK has been an incredible experience so far and a really valuable part of my diving journey.

Since the Rescue Diver course, I feel safer diving as I feel more equipped with my skills and I feel less reliant on the Divemaster. Now qualified, I genuinely think that anyone who dives, however frequently or not, should look into doing this and gaining these vital skills as you never know what situations you may be put into.

Oliver and Miranda performing CPR
Oliver and Miranda performing CPR

Ollie’s take on Rescue Diver

Recently I completed my PADI Rescue Diver course. I did the course with my sibling, Amélie, and my mum, who both enjoy diving, and we often dive together.

Before doing the PADI Rescue Diver course, I thought that it would be a lot of sitting down and classroom work, but in reality, there was a lot to get involved in.

Before and after we had done an activity, we talked through everything that happened or would happen, and go through all the ways of achieving the best outcome. This helped us get into the mindset of a diver before entering a rescue situation.

The course is quite physical and completely different and unique to other PADI courses, but I really enjoyed getting stuck in, and it has completely changed my mindset when diving. I liked the problem-solving and thinking because there is never one way to complete an activity, and everyone’s input is useful.

Some of the rescue situations included rescuing a distressed diver, rescuing an unresponsive diver, carrying a diver, CPR and more. Most of these were on land or at the surface, although some of the more-important ones were underwater.

As well as being serious, this course was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed doing it with my family. It is very important to have the balance of excitement, but to also understand how serious it is. I really loved all of the learning on the land, but especially the ones in the water.

Personally, it feels safer to dive with people who have completed their Rescue Diver. Most of the time, I dive with my family, and if there is an emergency situation, I know that even without a qualified instructor, we could handle it.

I really enjoyed doing this course with my family because not only is it more fun with people you know, but when diving recreationally, it is more reassuring in case something goes wrong.


This article was originally published in Scuba Diver UK #78

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