The Rescue Mermaid: Training to be a Rescue Diver.

I have always loved the water. Something about the feeling of swimming freely, being with the complete calm of ocean life. When underwater I always liked to imagine myself as a mermaid, and even as I slide into adulthood, the novelty of the adventure hasn’t worn off.

So my love for the water teemed with my passion for scuba diving prompted me to train to become a rescue diver, or as I like to call it, a Rescue Mermaid.

In order to so, I returned to Koh Tao, one of the most renowned places in the world for diving and travel, and rightly so; Koh Tao’s underwater life is breathtaking. I decided to take my course at Big Blue Dive School, one of the most reputable, professional and fun dive schools on the island. It was undoubtedly the most intense training course I’ve partaken in, and, as a result, one of the most thrilling and challenging adventures I’ve encountered. With a lack of any first aid training, I began at the most basic level, learning everything from scratch. Having already completed my advanced course in diving, which allows you to dive to 30m, the rescue course was nothing like a walk in the park.

“Fitness was paramount, and often tested…”

The open water course I’d completed previously had been fairly laid back and had not prepared me for the intensity of the rescue diver training. Filled with practical exams as well as intense bouts of reading and studying for the first aid, stress and rescue underwater training.

My first stress and rescue training session in the swimming pool was a bit of a shock. I realised my instructor hadn’t been joking when she’d outlined how intense this would be. One of the first tasks was to help a panicked diver underwater and to illustrate this, my instructor hastily and unexpectedly snatched my regulator from my mouth, and then fully inflated her BC. I had to think fast and realised again that this course was not going to be easy.

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For the most of the training, I felt subject to a full body workout. Fitness was paramount, and often tested in exercises such as rescuing an unconscious diver by removing both their and my own equipment, all the time ensuring that the unconscious body’s head remained above the water with access to oxygen. On top of that: a first aid assessment, rescue breaths, and the ability to swiftly carry the person onto the boat and into safety. As a relatively small human who doesn’t lift weights, this proved one of the most challenging aspects. Despite the challenge, I managed to do several rescue scenarios in the pool, whilst remaining calm and collected. But the biggest challenge was doing the rescue in the ocean.

The weather was pretty awful, meaning that the waves were rough and a true test of my skills in the water. Starting with the panic diver, as usual, my regulator was taken out of my mouth, however, I calmly acted out my training. Always keep a hold of the panic diver, remain calm and collected and take control of the situation in order to keep the panic diver calm too. Saving the unconscious diver whilst battling horrendous waves was difficult, but adrenaline in these situations (real or tested) dutifully kicks in, and somehow I managed to get the both of us back on the boat, carrying the body up the ladder. I felt exhausted already, but it still wasn’t over. Now to save a panicked swimmer on the surface. My instructor played this role, which was almost comical, as out code word for ‘help’ was ‘pizza’. Now, this might sound hilarious but practically speaking it served its purpose as a code word, needed because if she were to shout ‘help’ in the open ocean, every diver around would most likely jump to the rescue, defeating the point of my training. Upon hearing the words “pizza, pizza, can I please have a margarita pizza, Jess” I knew immediately that I had to act fast. Pulling on my fins and mask, fetching my floatation device and then speedily jumping into the water, wetsuit only half on. Then the struggle of saving a thrashing and panicking drowning person, albeit one who had the face of my instructor and was only playing a part.

After a long day, I had finally completed my course and was now a certified Rescue Diver. Although challenging, it was also incredibly rewarding, not only in and of itself but also to use in the real world. It’s inspired me to train to become a dive master next year, forever drawn back to all that the ocean has to offer and committing myself to spend as much time as I possibly can there. Forever and always pursuing my dream of becoming a mermaid.

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