Lately I got a few comments about the PADI Rescue Diver course, saying the course was not realistic.

My reply: “You are the instructor. You can make it as realistic as you like”.


PADI Rescue Diver course

I think the Rescue Diver course is a very complete course, covering all sorts of scenarios from simple to complex. The course is designed to be taught all over the world. It is your job as an instructor to adapt the excercises to the local environment in a realistic way. Diving from a boat or from the beach, in tropical conditions or cold water.

It’s clear that there is no ‘single right way’ to perform a rescue excercise. You can talk with your students about the choices they would make. How would they handle a problem in a different situation and why?


Panicked diver

One of the skills that many instructors find ‘unrealistic’ is the ‘panicked diver at the surface’. Often the ‘victim’ in this excercise is splashing his arms, high out of the water, mask on his forehead. “Not realistic!”, some people say. Well …. that’s up to the instructor! I normally start by teaching the skill with the victim splashing around. It’s a good way to teach students to stay out of the victims’ grasp and practice some quick reverses.

But then I ask my students “is this victim really drowning?” If he still has enough energy to splash his arms and rip your mask off? Probably not. Yet…
A victim that is close to drowning has lost all his energy and desparately tries to keep his face above the water. I normally discuss this with my students and continue with practicing the ‘underwater approach’.

By the way here is a good YouTube video about recognizing drowning victims.


Unresponsive diver at the surface

The famous exercise number 7 of the Rescue Diver course. I heard many different comments about this skill. “I would try CPR if the victim was my girlfriend!” or “giving rescue breaths is useless and is a waste of time!”. The Rescue Diver manual and video actually triggers the students to think about what happened and what action to take. I like to discuss this with my students before I start teaching this skill. “Do you suspect heart failure or is this a drowning victim? Or are you unsure what happened?”

Performing CPR in the water is almost impossible, so if the victim suffered a heart attack, you want to bring him to the boat or shore as quickly as possible to start CPR. A drowning victim who has been under the water for a very short period may respond to rescue breaths.

If you are unsure what happened it makes sense to try giving rescue breaths first. When you are close to the boat or shore it makes sense to continue rescue breathing while taking off the victims dive gear. When the shore is far away, you may decide to stop rescue breaths in favour of speed.

You can brief your assistant to play out different scenarios and maybe build in some surprises. One time he is reacting to rescue breaths, the other time not. The third time he is not unresponsive at all but he was playing with his camera!
Again; you are the instructor. You can make it as realistic as you like!

Have fun teaching the PADI Rescue Diver course!!


In my IDC’s I like to do more than getting you through the Instructor Exam. I like giving you tips and tricks on how to teach people scuba diving. I don’t claim to be a perfect dive instructor. I still teach courses every day and I learn with every course. An open mind makes you a good instructor.

If you want to know more about my IDC’s check out


Asia Scuba Instructors Blog is written by Course Director Marcel Jansen. Asia Scuba Instructors runs PADI Instructor Courses in multiple locations around Asia.