New Classified Dive Instructors

By OceanFirst on 3/7/18

A report by Mike Pivacek:

I was privileged this past weekend to be able to attend SSI's Classified Diver Training program, along with Ocean First's Bryn and Alex, taught by SSI Instructor Trainer Charley Oxley and her team. The certification provided by this training allows an SSI certified Open Water instructor to train and certify classified divers and classified dive buddies on the skills, knowledge and equipment required in order to become scuba divers or to assist classified divers.

The academic segment of the training focused on the medical and physiological aspects of the various injuries we might encounter when working with classified divers in the context of understanding their constraints, the impacts of the injuries and the requirements to manage them in a scuba diving context.

The practical pool sessions were truly eye-opening –  we practiced both as the dive buddy as well as the classified diver, which provided a huge insight into the challenges they face. We started off with how to get a simulated quadraplegic diver out of a wheel chair, geared up in full scuba system and into the water into the care of a waiting dive buddy. We then reversed the process of getting them out of their gear and back to the proximity of the pool deck/boat/dock and into a sling to be hoisted out and moved back to their wheelchair.

The second series of exercises revolved around getting the diver off the surface, neutrally buoyant and swimming them around under water. I would liken the difficulty of this exercise to when we all first started to learn to be neutrally buoyant as beginner divers, but now with the additional challenge of becoming so with another person and set of gear. We then practiced taking the diver to the surface in a controlled manner and back out of the water again.

One of the most challenging and interesting sessions was practicing with a blind diver. As with the previous exercises we acted as both the diver and the buddy. We started off on the deck talking the diver through scuba assembly with no sight. We all quickly recognized that saying things like "the yellow hose" or "on your right" either would not work or required clear context. After having assembled the gear, we went to the pool again and took turns being the blind diver and the buddy. There is certainly some similarity to a no-mask swim in terms of how you guide and direct the diver, but the increased difficulty comes from the diver having no visual reference for depth and buoyancy. We also all got in the pool with the blacked-out mask on and practiced our unsighted buoyancy ourselves...the way it almost immediately heightens your other senses is amazing.

This was an outstanding class put on by a great team with an admirable mission in mind. I highly recommend this for all instructors, and whether you choose to work with classified divers or not, it will make you a much better instructor. I look forward to training people how to dive and helping them achieve a level of freedom they may not have today!

Thanks to Charley, Emily, Kurt and Jeff as well as the OF team for sponsoring this!

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