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Why Rescue Diver is PADI’s best course



I have been teaching PADI courses for over 10 years now and as good practice I tend to ask people what course they have enjoyed the most as well as what can be improved on our courses.

It’s almost becoming a bit of a cliché now as most instructors will tell you that time and again divers from all over the world say that their favourite PADI course is Rescue Diver. They also say that it is the hardest, most strenuous yet most rewarding.

Why? It’s pretty simple, it’s physically demanding, it can be intensive and because you are learning the skills to save another life it’s pretty intense. Most instructors will put you through your paces so that when you are certified you are ready to use your skills. By the end of the course you are generally close to exhaustion, have had lots of fun with your instructor and fellow students and you’ll rarely sleep so well.

I remember when I had just learnt to dive, I was young(ish) and money was tight. I just wanted to dive and didn’t really have any other cares in the world and I certainly didn’t perceive diving as a dangerous sport as I’d never had any complications. I did my advance next, more because I wanted to go deeper and explore some wrecks. I didn’t really see the point or need of spending even money on additional training. After having the diving holiday of a lifetime I deciding that I wanted to make scuba diving my new career which meant I had to complete the Emergency First Response and Rescue Diver course.

Now that I am “mature” (my mates won’t necessarily agree here) and now a proud Father with thousands of dives under my weight belt, I have seen the light and almost think that the Rescue Diver course should be  mandatory for anyone who buddies up with someone under the age of 18, unless a Pro sticks with you. Looking back, if you were a new diver again, would you rather be buddied with a Rescue Diver or just an Open Water Diver who couldn’t even use a dive computer?

Thankfully I have never had an emergency to deal with, but I have had to use the skills I learnt when I did my Rescue course. Mostly it has all been about ‘accident prevention’. I’ve been sat on a boat on holiday with my non-work head on and looking forward to the dive. Out of the corner of my eye I’ve spotted a diver from another group who was clearly looking stressed. He was a bit fidgety, had a nervous laughter, dilated pupils and his mates who were fuelled on adrenalin were talking up about how great this deep (30m) wreck dive was going to be which I could see put extra pressure on him to do the dive so as not to lose face.

I calmly nodded my head to motion him to come over for a quiet chat at the front of the boat. Once we got chatting I said that it could be a daunting dive if a diver was relatively inexperienced or had never done a wreck dive before. Having no previous knowledge of his experience I was trying to work out what was making him anxious. In turned out that he’d only ever done 9 dives and none of these were on a wreck and only one was below 18m. I then told him I was an instructor and would be happy to buddy up with him. I could see him hesitate because he didn’t want his mates to feel like someone was holding his hand. When I said “that you’d be doing me a favour as I don’t really have a buddy” he felt more at ease. I then quietly informed my buddy that he’d have to dive with someone else; it was well worth a beer fine though!

Once we started our descent I could see he was still nervous but was reassured by the fact I stuck to his side, maintained eye-contact and frequently asked him if he was okay. Once the wreck came in to view and we reached deck level I could see he was now totally at ease.

I’m not saying that I saved his life or anything like that but I definitely reduced the odds of an incident. It also made me feel good about myself knowing that a fellow diver had their ‘best ever dive’.

On four occasions I’ve been sat in a bar or a boat after a dive and I’ve seen people with a beer in one hand, cigarette in another complaining about symptoms such as pins and needles in their hands. I’ve then marched them to the nearest chamber to get sorted out. The thing that all of these people had in common was; they were in their 20’s, they were experienced divers (2 were trainee Divemasters and 1 was a new instructor), they had all stayed within the limits of their computers but pushed the NDL’s and depth limits, they all smoked, had a late night, had drank caffeine before or after the dive, hadn’t drank any water and thought that they weren’t the sort of person who couldn’t get bent.

I probably have 7 or 8 other instances relating to accident prevention that I think without my training and knowledge, I’m pretty sure that I would have witnessed a serious accident by now.

So the PADI Rescue Diver course isn’t just about how to save someone’s life, it’s also about how to prevent accidents from happening. Part of the course covers self-rescue, something that most divers could benefit from at some time or another! Did you know that most divers who die from drowning still have their weight belt on?

During the course you’ll be in and out of the water, throwing life rings as far as you can, become really familiar with yours and other divers’ equipment, be much better at problem solving under pressure, bringing unconscious ‘divers’ from the bottom to the surface, learning how to give mouth to mouth while towing an unconscious diver along the surface, how to get them out of the water and how to give them emergency Oxygen.

Once you’ve developed these skills it makes you much more aware of some of the potential dangers in diving which makes you a safer diver. And equally important it makes you a great buddy and makes you a more confident diver!

Oyster Diving would be happy to offer any reader of this article 10% off the EFR and PADI Rescue Diver course. Just email Mark at or call him in the office on +44 (0)1273 384971.

Having worked as a Dive Instructor in the Virgin Islands, Thailand and Egypt, Mark returned to the UK in 2006 when he founded Oyster Diving. His principle aims for the new diving centre would be to appeal to the more discerning customer by offering the best facilities, having an integrated travel agency so customers can complete their dives abroad as well as in the UK. In 2010 Mark won Sport Diver magazines' 'Best Diving Instructor'. For more information on Oyster Diving, visit

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 4



Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 4 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

We are all back to the house reef today; the weather is lovely, the sea calm, the tide will soon be slack, so a great day’s diving in store.

A few yards away from the beach dive centre, on the Roots’ beach is their day time restaurant. It is where we take lunch when diving, and there is a continual supply of tea, coffee and soft drinks, and some marvellous lunches.  There are also male and female toilets and a fully accessible toilet for those using wheelchairs.

A few thoughts around working with amputees and those who have paraplegia. Firstly amputees – the part of the limb remaining is known as the ‘stump’, and we have worked with a substantial number of bilateral leg amputees (both legs), single leg amputees and single arm amputees.  The level of amputation can be above or below the knee or elbow, or through the knee. In one case the amputation was transpelvic and in another through the shoulder.  Some like Chris Middleton have one leg amputated above the knee and one below the knee.  This is rare, but each type of amputation offers a different challenge.

Many people think the amputation is clean and the skin neatly tidied up after surgery. Although that occurs in a few cases, in most the stump is rather rugged.  Elasticity of the skin around the stump is often exceptionally poor and can easily be damaged.  Some of our beneficiaries, as they were injured as young men, suffered from heterotopic ossification – this is where the bone tries to grow after amputation and often penetrates the skin, resulting in further surgery being required to cut back the bone and of course the stump needs to be restitched.  Very often stumps are sealed with skin from elsewhere on the body.

Swars kitting up

Few divers have never experienced a graze or cut underwater but such an experience for those with amputations can have serious consequences.  Stumps are more likely to get cut or grazed as the skin is so tight. We all know that there are lots of infections in seawater and if infected the cut or graze can cause very serious problems for the amputee.  Tailored wetsuits are one preventative measure, as are daily stump checks, making sure there is no damage and if there is, applying medication and or protecting the stump.

Those with paraplegia provide an additional challenge, not being able to feel their lower limbs they can easily damage them, so cuts, abrasions, and even sunburn can go unnoticed.  Donning a full-length wetsuit can be a challenge as toes can easily be broken and hairs pulled out of legs.  On the Deptherapy Education Professionals’ Course we show how to fit a wetsuit properly.

In recent discussions between our dive medicine advisor Mark Downs and our VP Richard Castle, who is a consultant psychologist, we have been looking at areas for further medical research in terms of diving for those with disabilities.  One area of suggested study is thermoregulation. The theory is that those with amputations and those with paraplegia suffer more with the cold as their body is unable to regulate heat. Certainly, in Corey’s case, he feels the cold more quickly than those diving with him. Chris Middleton can feel the cold more quickly than others with amputations but that may well be that Chris is muscle and bone where, to put it nicely, others have a more substantial covering.

Some AMEDs and Dive Referees will not sign off amputees as being fit to dive. That is their professional opinion and although we can show that even triple amputees are more than capable divers, capable of progressing to Rescue Diver standard even, they still refuse to sign them off. Last year Oli and Mark invited us to speak at the UK Annual Hyperbaric Medicine Conference in London where Josh Boggi, the world’s first triple amputee Rescue Diver and a Deptherapy beneficiary spoke about how amputees can become safe and successful divers.

Corey, Swars and Michael

For Corey, he wears full leg coverings and diving boots in the water; as he cannot use his legs there is no purpose in wearing fins.

Another point around amputations is that most of the general population make an assumption that a leg amputation is the result of a traumatic incident.  That is incorrect; by far the majority of leg amputations in the UK are the result of diabetes. Those whose legs are amputated as a result as diabetes are more likely to have poor healing of the stumps.  This also presents an issue of comorbidity that may well result in an AMED or Dive Referee declining to sign them off as ‘fit to dive’.  If signed off you would need to be very aware of the health of a stump; I certainly would not take someone with an open wound diving and the fact that they will be on medication for the diabetes.  You also have to be aware that they may well be on other medication to manage pain etc.

You need to be very clear with those who have paraplegia and other conditions that they must let you know if they start to feel cold.

Managing air – diving just using your arms for propulsion can, for many, be very tiring and a considerable amount of effort is required.  This, plus other factors, may result in enhanced air consumption by the diver.  This may increase if a current is encountered, even one which most divers who have use of their legs and dive with fins would not cause the least concern.

Within Deptherapy we very much work on the ‘rule of thirds’ – a third of your air to get you down and to see what you want to see, a third to get you back to the surface and a third in reserve.  This in most circumstances will ensure no ‘low on air’ or ‘out of air’ situations.

Say if we have 210 bar in a cylinder that means 70 bar out, so turn on 140 bar, 70 bar to return and to the surface so we should have 70 bar reserve at the surface.

We also work our students through SAC rates and looking at the air consumption of others in their team.

Checking the team’s air frequently during a dive is stressed to all our Pro team.

Keiron became very engaged with this concept as the result of the online RAID study for his Master Rescue Diver.

On expeditions we normally dive in small teams, a DM/TDM with three programme members.  They work as a team and understand each other’s air consumption. Of course, they also dive as buddy pairs.

Today offered perfect conditions for diving, and Keiron, Moudi, and this time TDM Oatsie were kitted up and in the water within minutes.

Pause for thought… those with paraplegia will have different toileting arrangements to those who do not have the condition. This also applies to some who have suffered traumatic limb loss.  They may use catheters for urination, some may have Stoma bags etc.  This all has to be planned into your dive schedule to ensure the safety and comfort of your student.  For young people talking about these very personal arrangements may be very difficult.  Those with Stoma bags may be embarrassed by people seeing them.  This is another part of seeing beyond the injury or condition – it is the person inside that you are dealing with.

Corey on the Roots House Reef

So, Corey, Michael and myself were joined by Swars.  Swars, although he joined the DM programme at the same time as the other guys, because of work commitments was unable to join us in September 2019 at Roots where we ran a DM introductory programme alongside the crossover of our Pro Team to RAID.  Swars has become a really good mate; he is a great diver, with an engaging personality.

Michael and Oatsie were a known quantity to me as they had been on the September 2019 programme and both have travelled to my home dive centre Divecrew in Crowthorne, Berkshire, to work on courses, pre-COVID.  During COVID Michael and I, plus a few of the guys from Divecrew, have dived at Wraysbury together.

Just as Roots is our base in Egypt, Divecrew is our base in the UK, and through this relationship, Martin (who owns Divecrew with his wife Sue) is one of our trustees. Together they have established a centre where pretty much 100% of the Pros are Deptherapy Education trained.

I asked Swars straight away to brief a dive for Corey. I gave him the briefing slate, a few tips and then ten minutes later he came back with a perfect briefing… and I mean perfect.  So, a great briefing under his belt; now to watch him work with Corey in open water. He looked the Pro, he knew what he should be doing, he understood his role. We assigned Michael as Corey’s buddy and said he would lead the dive. I was there to assess the TDMs and supervise very closely Corey’s skill demonstrations.

Again, it comes as no surprise that many beneficiaries in Deptherapy can move straight into dive management, as several were NCOs, as was Swars, and they are used to briefing individuals and teams.

We had decided that we would mix up the dives required to complete Corey’s OW 20 RAID dives with some general diving as trim and swimming arm action are all important. We also needed to concentrate on spatial awareness.

We agreed a signal for horizontal trim and Swars reinforced the swim stroke that Corey needed to do to get propulsion.  Every time Corey moved out of horizontal trim Swars was there reminding him about trim and reminding him of his swim stroke.

The Roots’ House Reef is amazing – at a metre you encounter a shoal of black Damselfish, at 3 metres a shoal of Unicornfish, there are Butterflyfish and all manner of other fishes in great profusion.  The coral is in great condition. It really is a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Oatsie and Swars relaxing by the Roots pool after a long day

Although we had problems getting Corey underwater again, once we got him in skill demonstration mode his anxieties disappeared.  We then took him diving. Steve Rattle, the owner of Roots joined us and was taking photos that provide a great record of the week’s diving.  Steve commented on the quality of Swars and Michael’s supervision and control underwater of Corey and gave them feedback on how impressed he was.

Meanwhile on the RAID Master Rescue Course, Oatsie who was in the same Regiment, same Platoon and Section as Keiron in Afghanistan was more than willing to be a very uncooperative victim for his brother-in-arms.  I think Keiron gave Oatsie some feedback about this!

For me this was a hard week, combining running the RAID OW 20 for Corey but also the assessment of our three TDMs.  A week underwater but no opportunity to dive for myself.  People often think Deptherapy Expeditions are holidays for the Dive Team; they are not, it is hard work and I mean hard work.

Tomorrow is Day 4 in the water Day 5 of our trip. We are on the House Reef again, and things are starting to come together. Join us back here on Monday 26th October…

Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at

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Dive Training Blogs

Scuba Diving Instructor Ranks Scuba Specialty Classes… the good, the bad and the rubbish!! (Watch Video)



Scuba Diving Specialty Certifications! Which ones are worth your money? And which ones are just rubbish?!

This professional Scuba Instructor has strong opinions about Scuba Specialty Courses, and he’s sharing them with you!

Wreck Diver, Deep Diver, Nitrox, Buoyancy, Boat, Ice, Dry Suit, UW Photography… the list goes on and on. With so many choices for Specialty certs to get you to Master Scuba Diver level, how do you know which dive courses are of value, and which are a waste of time?

We ask 3 simple questions of each Scuba Course and rank each course’s value for you. So before you sign up for your next PADI e-learning course, WATCH THIS VIDEO!

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