There’s a role in dive training that often goes under-appreciated. Despite being a fairly quiet, relatively unskilled and often very passive role, the impact it can have on training is enormous. I’m referring to playing the role of a dive victim. Something I did while as part of my Thailand divemaster training on a Similan liveaboard.
Over the last few months I’ve undergone some intensive training through the Rescue Diver and Dive Master Training courses with Wicked Diving in Khao Lak. The learning curve in both theoretical and practical skills has been both enjoyable and intense – never so much so as in the rescue sections of these courses. I’ve had the benefit over my training period of playing both the roles of victim and rescuer several times and have experienced a huge variation in the challenges and learnings provided by both of these roles.
A well performed victim role can greatly enhance the challenge for a rescuer and, at the same time, greatly enhance the opportunity for skills enhancement and confidence development. While not wanting to make the skills unachievable by providing a rescuer with excessive difficulty, it is also important that a victim does not consciously or unconsciously assist a rescuer in performing skills that may one day be needed in saving a life.
In reality, if there is an unfortunate event in which a diver is injured, it is very hard to predict or plan specifically for many factors. Environmental factors like the weather, sea conditions, relative size/strength of the rescuer and victim and the availability of assistance will obviously have a great impact on the ease and efficiency of a rescue and we often find that the ideal is usually not a reality. For this reason it is vital that a rescuer learn skills, and deal with a victim/s, that provide realistic, relevant behaviour that prepares the student for possible challenges in a true rescue situation.
In my first week here in Khao Lak I played the victim for another student’s Rescue Diver assessment and, knowing what I now know, I think he got off pretty easy. The sea conditions were favourable, the weather perfect and, at that, point I was unaware of the volume and breadth of challenges that could be thrown at a Rescue student. I was soon to learn the hard way…
When I completed my Rescue Diver assessment I had the dubious benefit of having not only a very enthusiastically self-victimising Instructor, but also two nearly graduated Dive Master Trainees who were under strict orders to provide as challenging a day as possible.
From the start of the day on our long-tail trip out to Boonsung Wreck my trainers (tormentors?) were indefatigable in their efforts to ensure I was consistently on-edge with an endless array of equipment problems, random disembarkations over the side of the boat into various states of panic and drowning and an inexhaustible supply of underwater issues and misbehaviour. To add to the challenge, the sea was relatively rough with a decent current running and there was a considerable amount of boat traffic to provide obstacles and gawking onlookers to add to my stress levels.
By the end of the trip, having successfully averted many gear issues, conducted multiple surface rescues, underwater search and rescues and dealt with any other misadventures that could be thought up I was somewhat of an exhausted nervous wreck. Anytime one of them looked like going near the side of the boat I was on standby ready to respond to anything!
After I’d had a chance to recover (and down a celebratory beer after rehydrating back on land), I was reflecting on the training with my Instructor. I considered the difference in the difficulty of my training versus the previous one I’d been a victim for and noted that, while I could have got out of it much lighter, the excessive level and volume of challenges I’d had to deal with was truly brilliant preparation for both my ongoing training as a dive professional and the possibility of having to deal with a real life rescue situation. If I can handle the challenges thought up by those three very creative victims, I feel far more confident to deal with any other situation that may arise.
So remember, if you have the opportunity to play a victim for a student, make sure you challenge them, make their life a bit more difficult than it needs to be, stress them out a bit (not too much) because, if it comes down to it, in a real emergency situation, I’d take the rescuer who can face more that they ever expect to have to any day.