Tuesday January 28 2020
May 6, 2013

Rescue Diving Course

Last weekend, I had the Rescue Diving Course (SSI Diver Stress and Rescue). Recue Diving Course in every dive agent (system) requires a little bit endurance. It was a hard and tiring weekend for my new rescue team.

For two days, starting from the saturday morning, all we have done was to work on diver stress on the surface and underwater, underwater search techniques, finding an unconscious diver undertwater, getting the victim on the surface, air breathing on the surface while towing the victim and carrying the victim out of the water to the shore/boat.

In these two days, we have swallowed some sea water and got tired a little bit, but the result was awasome. Here is our rescue diving course…

A rescue diving course is mondatory for every diver. It is known that the outdoor sports have some potential risks. Even experienced divers may have some problems underwater. To be able to help a diver having problems on the surface and undertwater, a diver should have the rescue skills. By this way, the rescue divers and the group they are in feels safe. A small problem like getting stressed on the surface can be solved quickly if you know these skills, but also may result in a bad way if you don’t.

For this reason, four of my dive students have started the rescue diving course last weekend; Ayberk Manci, Onur Keskin, Deniz Ozcelik and Kerem Yilmaz.

First day goes on with the approach to a stressed diver on the surface and underwater. But first, the recue diver candidate must be keeping calm under stressful environment. To provide this, i have asked my students to do some open water diver skills like finding regulator while my assistant made surface dives towards them, trying to make some stress overthem.

Then, my assistant Pelin Kulaksiz (SSI Dive Control Specialist) played the stressed diver on the surface. The first rule is to approach the diver from a safe distance (an arm-distance). Then the candidate tries to convince the victim to inflate the BCD and keep calm. We had worked both situations; The victim listens to the directives that the recuer gives and the victim doesn’t.

If the victim is getting calm by the rescuer’s directives, everything goes on by its nature. The rescues appraoches the victim after he/she is relaxed, inflate both BCDs fully and tows the victim to the shore/boat. For the second case, when the victim’s stress level goes on increasing, the rescuer descents a little bit and ascents from the back of the victim, gets the victim’s BCD, inflates it and hold from the tank valve to take the victim’s head out of water.

After these, Pelin has perfectly played the stressed diver underwater. In this case, the recuer tries to convince the stressed diver to keep calm by using the proper hand signals first. The clue here is to stay calm infront of the stressed diver and give the massage: “I am here to help you, trust me and go on breathing“. The rescuer here is also reponsible from the stressed diver’s health. The stressed diver may remove the mask/regulator and want to surface fast, which can result the decompression sickness. These should be taken control by the rescue diver.

Ayberk, Onur, Deniz and Kerem all done well.

On the second dive, we have worked on the search patterns underwater for a missing diver. The most used and effective search pattern for a missing diver is the expanding square. The rescue team starts from the missing diver’s last seen point. Rescuer uses a compass the be able to go straight and make the 90° turns. After each turn, the distance is increased (for example, if you have started with 10 finkicks*, after the next turn, it should be something like 15-20 finkicks). By this way, the rescuer avoids making a square, but an expanding square. The dive point is cross-hatched effectively this way.

In my recsue team:

  • Kerem has counted the finkicks
  • Ayberk was the navigator with his compass
  • Onur and Deniz were the searchers


After finding the missing diver (called a victim after finding), the rescuer should be able to surface with the victim. This is a hard job and requires proper technique. The important point here is to keep the victim’s air-way open and the regulator on the mouth. In addition to this, the rescuer should ascent as slow as possible to avoid the decompression sickness. The rescuers positions themselves behind the victim. They hold the victim’s tank by using their knees. With their right hands, they hold the victim’s regulator on the victim’s mouth and also try to keep the victim’s air-way open by holding the victim’s neck with the same hand.

With their left hand, they hold the victim’s BCD hose to maintain the proper buoyancy during the ascend.


After they get the victim on the surface, marathon starts. It is a competition with time. The victim needs oxygen and getting out-of-water as fast as possible. The seconds are are significantly important, they are the line between life and loss.

The skill is to tow the vicim to the boat/shore by both removing the scuba gear from the victim and yourself and to give rescue breaths at the same time. The rescuer checks for the vital signals** after removing the regulator and mask of the victim, if the victim is not breathing the rescuer gives two rescue breaths and checks for the vital signals again. If there is no breathing again, the recuer starts to remove the scuba gear, tow the victim by giving one recsue breaths on each 5 seconds. We use pocket mask if we have one with us. If we don’t, we give rescue breaths mouth-to-mouth. This is a challanging aid. The endurance is highly tested.

It is known in real emergency cases, the adrenalin increases the endurance of the rescuer.

The last skill of the first day was to carry the victim to the shore. There are several techniques for this. We have worked on the “hump” technique in our rescue diving course. The rescuers hold both hands of the victim and take the victim to their back. The victim’s fins brushes the sand in this position. When the shore starts and the waves suck the sand, the rescuers lay down the victim back onto.  Then the rescuers hold the victim from the underarm of the victim and pulls out of water as much as they can.

This is the last point a rescue diver is responsible. After these, the first aiders should take place while waiting for the professional medicals. Knowing the phone number for the medical services is crucial.

In addition, a rescue diver should also learn the basic life support and oxygen provider courses as well.

This was the end of the first day. We were tired, but still desiring to dive. After a couple of hours, we got prepared for a deep night dive. Dive profile was 28.9 meters, 31 minutes. We have seen octopus (Octopus vulgaris), sea slug (Hypselodoris picta), colorful tube wormss (Pirographis spallanzani) and more.

On the second day, we were ready for the scenerio of the rescue diving course. All the skills done on the first day of rescue diving course is combined. Finding and surfacing the missing diver, towing the victim by giving rescue breaths and removing the scuba gear at the same time. Every one of the rescue diver candidates have performed well.

From now on, my rescue team has expanded. I got rescue divers who have completed their rescue diving courses with success and ready for the real dive cases (i hope they would never use these skills in their dive carrer).

Ayberk, Onur, Deniz and Kerem are now responsible divers. Whereever they dive, their responsibility will also be with them. Being a rescue diver requires to be ready every time, making obervations undertwater, on the surface and on land. Best way to rescue is to determine the stress before it becomes a problem. A successful rescue diver should interfere before the situation requires a rescue.

That was a great weekend with my new SSI Diver Stress & Rescue Divers. There is no prerequisite for becoming an SSI Diver Stress & Rescue Diver except being an SSI Open Water Diver or equivalent in SSI diving system. If you’d like to take the rescue diving course, consult to your dive center/resort and your certified scuba diving instructor.

Ayberk, Kerem, Deniz and Onur… Congratulations for your new credits guys, that was a great performance!

Pelin, thanks for playing the stressed and unconscious diver, great acting. We’ll all need you more.


Important note: Please don’t try these skills withour dive porfessionals. This article is only informatory. For a rescue diving course, contact your local dive center/resort or instructor.

* A fin-kick is the time passed while kicking the fins, one fin coming to the same position.

** Vital signals for a victim on the surface are looking for the victim’s chest for heave, listening the victim for breathing (getting close to the victim’s nose) and trying to feel the breath of the victim.

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About Seaman


Hi, my name is Murat Demirağ. I have been diving since 1996 and teaching scuba since 2005. I wanted to share my knowledge through divewithseaman.com

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  • fsh7322
    2016-08-14 09:34

    Such a physically demanding course in only two days, with a night dive added, and all of your candidates performed perfectly without having to try those rather difficult exercises more than one time and without getting exhausted?
    You should be a very capable instructor, and/or your students kind of supermans.

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