DIVE MYTHS #6: I’m out of air! Er, could I have some please?

The various equipment configurations, hand signals and techniques that revolve around an out of gas emergency are ripe for a good old fashioned internet bun fight. From the contentious to the just plain wrong there are plenty of arguments for the best way to donate gas.

There is a general consensus amongst some divers that in an emergency an out of gas diver will simply rip the reg out of their buddies mouth. This has led to some people poo pooing octo donation as a waste of time or teaching people to cover their reg with one hand whilst handing off the octo with another which gives the overall impression of someone handing medicine at arms length to a plague victim.

In actual fact, most of the time, people follow their training in an emergency. Therefore if they learn to breathe from an octo that is predominantly what they will attempt to do.

At the other end of the scale there used to be a 2 step signal for an out of gas diver whilst practising an out of air drill. This involved giving the standard swipe across the neck to indicate out of air followed by a more plaintive hand to mouth gesture that was supposed to be a request for sharing gas. I used to love the idea that someone might swim up to someone under the water giving a frantic out of air signal only to have their potential rescuer simply look at them blankly in a ‘what do you want me to do about it?’ kind of way until clarification is provided in the form of the air sharing signal: ‘Oh, you want me to give you some gas- why didn’t you say so in the first place?’

Creed With arms wide open

The lead singer (who’s name I couldn’t be bothered to google) from rubbish christian rock band Creed throws his ‘arms wide open’ to reveal his octo.

The current status quo in teaching is to teach the out of gas diver to locate and secure the octopus after giving the signal whilst the donating diver throws their arms wide in a crucifixion pose of beneficence. ‘Here’ it seems to imply ‘Pluck my alternate from my lean and muscular torso and I shall grant you the precious gift of air’. The logic of this methodology seems sound: We are teaching divers to self rescue so we are essentially making the donor an irrelevance during the exercise. However when we look at this set up, do we really want to be teaching the donor to fling their arms wide whilst the out of gas diver attempts to free the octo from one of the myriad of attachments on the marketplace? Surely a bit like telling people not to yell for ‘pizza’ in a rescue course it would make more sense to inject a little more realism?

We don’t really want to teach people right off the bat to do nothing in an out of gas emergency so therefore let’s teach the donor to pass off the octopus.

First off before a collective gasp of horror emerges from the angry instructors of milton keynes this is a directive filtering through from the top bods at PADI. Secondly, let’s have a look at the performance requirement: ‘Secure and breathe from an alternate air source’. It doesn’t say to remove it from the donor’s BCD. In fact, it doesn’t say what side the octo should orient, how long the hose should be nor does it say octo at all. This means that if you want to teach primary long hose donation then knock yourself out. This also means that, just like turning valves a half turn back, the arms wide open gesture is a teaching technique that has caught on without actually being a requirement of the skill. I find this is often the case with many skills, a few other training agencies often like to make out that they teach skills differently to the PADI system but a quick look at the performance requirements of the skill show that there is a lot left to individual interpretation.

I teach this skill by getting the donor to pass off the octopus to the out of air diver but I leave the responsibility of ensuring that the reg is the right way up and the hose free and clear to the receiver. This ensures that the performance requirement of securing the reg is met whilst still differentiating this from a rescue course skill where the emphasis is on the rescuer ensuring that the reg is supplied correctly to an out of gas diver.

The other bonus of doing this is that the donating diver releases the octo clip. Whilst the release of the octo should be covered in the buddy check quite a few divers often have their octos secured in hose clips that often don’t release the reg but simply slide down the hose and restrict it’s length. It’s therefore also crucial that the release of the octo and how it’s secured is something that divers are taught to think about and discuss as part of their checks

I was once given some advice by an instructor who told me that in an emergency the best thing that you can do is consciously slow down your actions and ensure that you get things right the first time instead of speeding up and then forgetting something which causes you to have to repeat it under ever increasing stress. Hopefully by priming students early on to help in a real emergency we might increase the likelihood of gas sharing being completed successfully so that a panicked situation is avoided.

Some FAQs about the Instructor Course

Q. Is it a good idea to become a Scuba Instructor?

A. Yes of course and it will make you more attractive too.

Q. I’ve just learnt to dive and now all I want to do is become an instructor and disappear somewhere hot. Am I being crazy?

A. No that’s exactly how I felt, so that’s pretty much what I did. I started my IDC a week after my 100th dive so I certainly don’t think people need to go and do masses of diving to ‘get good’. You’ll need to do a bit of work and build those dives up but it needn’t take ages and is completely achievable.

Q. What do I need to have done to become a Diving Instructor?

A. You’ll need to have completed Open Water, Advanced, Rescue and Divemaster through the PADI system (or another training agency-crossovers are usually fairly simple). You’ll need 100 dives. If you’re struggling to get the dives up then can I heartily recommend a Red Sea Liveaboard? They’re a fantastic way to get about 20 dives in a week. You’ll also need experience in deep, night and search and recovery diving (best bet is to get the specialities). You’ll need to be declared medically fit and then you’re pretty much good to go.

Q. Will I be able to get a job in the dive industry?

A. Let’s assume that you are a friendly, reasonable person and a competent diver then the short answer is ‘yes, no problem. The longer answer is that full time jobs in the industry are usually abroad but if you’re prepared to go overseas then work can be found easily through the PADI jobs board and once you’re ‘in’ you’ll find out about more opportunities. In the UK most dive centres are crying out for weekend instructors, especially through the summer. It’s a part time occupation which most people do on top of a normal job but it’s immensely fulfilling. However there are fulltime opportunities in the UK if you’re prepared to seek them out and put yourself forward.

Q. Will I be showered with riches?

A. Er no. This isn’t a job you do if you want to get rich. You should receive payment for your work but If you’re primary motivation is money then you might want to re-think….

Q. Do I need to have excellent skills to start the IDC?

A. You don’t need to have them nailed to perfection but you should be comfortable and familiar with them. That’s part of the Divemaster Course. If you’re rusty or want a little more practice it’s a good idea to get a pool session in before the IDC starts.

Q. I’ve read through the website blurb about the IDC but what exactly does it all mean?

A. The IDC is about teaching you to use an educational system which becomes the foundation of how you teach. What that means is that you’ll learn how to put together classroom presentations where you use a template to make sure you hit all the required points. The idea is that you can use the template to put together any teaching presentation. The same applies to the confined and open water stuff. You’ll use a structure where you show control of the group, problem solving and use of your Divemaster. It all follows a logical process and most people eventually click into it fairly easily. You’ll just keep on practicing until you’re happy and then it’s off to the IE