It’s been over a year since I took my PADI Rescue course. In that short period of time, I’ve witnessed a number of scuba accidents play out in real life. Each time, I thought back to what I had learned, and to what I had forgotten. Each time I questioned myself. If I were the only one here to rescue this person, would I be able to? Would I recall all of my training? Would I know what to say; what to do?

While one hopes that one will remember what one learned in class, or practiced for a few days ad nauseum, the reality is, unless you’re reviewing the skills day in and day out, you’re going to forget some of them, or they’re simply not going to be second nature when you need to call upon them again.

For this reason I think it is incredibly important to refresh yourself from time to time. Review the skills you may need to count on in the future. Relearn what you learned originally. Hammer it in. No one I know can do something perfectly unless they’ve been doing it all the time.

Thus, when I had the opportunity to Divemaster for another Rescue course, I jumped on it. While many of the skills were indeed familiar (they had to be as we had to demonstrate them for students), it was good to have an opportunity to practice them again and advise others on how best to perform them.

Some of the really good reminders for me included:

  • The importance of having a diver immediately establish positive buoyancy in an emergency situation at the surface, or doing so for them.
  • The various methods for approaching a panicking diver.
  • Different carry methods for taking a diver out of the water.
  • And, the handling a rescue of a missing diver scenario.

As with every class I am “DMing” for, I also got to practice a number of others skills. Setting floats, tying knots, measuring out a perimeter for the dive area for the day, using lift bags on concrete buckets, and so on.

The reminders and the opportunity to practice skills until they are second nature is to me, incredibly important. It’s part of the reason I became a Divemaster. I wanted to learn more, to be able to do what I could already do, but better. To be able to do it so well, I could teach it.

When I dive, I want to be competent. I want to be more than competent. I want to be able to handle any situation that may arise. And, given us divers are often putting ourselves in what others may consider to be riskier situations, I also think it’s important to know how to lend a hand when you can.

Were I the one in charge of safety protocols for scuba divers, I’d have everyone renew or review their rescue skills annually, including CPR and first aid. This is probably unrealistic for most people, but for those of us who dive every week, it’s important. Yet again, a reminder to keep practicing.

This is also the reason I am always pursuing additional dive training, and indeed why I like to make sure I’m practicing skills I’ve learned, be it lift bag deployment, or diving in current. If you practice the things that you may need to use in an emergency, or that you will need to use from time to time, when you do have to use them, they will be second nature and you will perform them ideally to a tee.

For example, the value of my Scientific Diving course is less in the new, science-based understanding of diving that I am developing, and more in the honing of my diving technique. Because good buoyancy is essential, this is something we practice in every lab session. We don’t perform our skills kneeling on the bottom of the pool, but rather, as we swim, or at a hover. Perhaps, Scientific Diving and Technical Diving appeal to the perfectionist in me. Know how to do everything and use all of your equipment in the best way possible. Thanks to Scientific Diving courses like the one I’m taking at OSU, at this point in time, I could write an entire article on my BCD’s dump valves.

Truly there is no substitute for practice. If you want to get good at something, you have to do it a million times over. No exception.

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Written by Candice Landau
I'm an active Divemaster, a lover of marine life and all efforts related to marine conservation, a newly certified tech diver and a member of various scuba organizations in the Pacific Northwest. I write articles related to diving and spend my non-diving time writing and providing digital marketing services to nonprofits and businesses.