How to teach the PADI Rescue Diver Course

Make it Student Centred

How to teach the PADI Rescue Diver Course

Treat PADI Rescue diver course participants like “grown ups” and involve them 

in their own learning. 

Let them learn in a sensible mature manner.

The decision to become a PADI Rescue Diver is a serious one. 

Allow them to conquer each skill fully, before moving onto the next.

A serious course

Oh, of course you can have fun! 
The PADI Rescue Course is one of the most fun courses that there is. 


In the whole PADI sequence of courses, the PADI Rescue Course is pivotal.

Up until this stage, divers have been learning the basics of scuba, expecting others to come to their aid if needed. 
Their safety and comfort has been in the hands of others. 

Now it’s time to reciprocate that duty. 
It’s time to learn how to look after others.

Moving on

Learning how to look after others is the first step to other possible leadership levels. 
PADI Divemaster and PADI Assistant Instructor both follow the same ethos. 

Make it serious

The decision to become a PADI Rescue Diver is a serious one. 
It’s one of responsibility and of caring. 

Therefore, the participants must be treated like “grown ups” 
Involve them in their training. 
Let them learn in a sensible mature manner, and keep to the PADI guidelines. 

PADI Rescue Diver Course Standards

The PADI course outline has been developed by world leading educationalists. 

When taught correctly, it works.

Be sensible

There is no need to “add” any extra “surprises” that you think might help.

Adding little tricks can interrupt the seriousness of progression at best.
At worse it can get instructors into legal trouble if things go wrong. 

Treat your Rescue Candidates more along the lines of an equal rather than a student / instructor relationship.

Knowledge Development

If you’ve got a group of Rescue Candidates, I find it really helpful for the team to work together with Knowledge Reviews.

They can bounce ideas off each other and generally start to work together right from the start. 

If any (or all) of them are digital learners, you can still involve the whole team with the Rescue Diver Online Quick Review. 

Emergency Assistance Plan

They need to complete an Emergency Assistance Plan.

Again, working together helps them to really focus on the need to be precise, meaningful and efficient. 

You can still be part of the team, but in a capacity to offer any advice that they might have missed. 

Self Rescue Skills

As a warm up to the course, the team need to re-visit self rescue skills from the PADI Open Water Diver Course:

  • Cramp release
  • Establishing buoyancy at the surface
  • Airway control
  • Use of an alternate air source
  • Overcoming vertigo and re-establishing sense of direction

They can work as a team, deciding how best to deal with these situations in different circumstances. 


Now they have a little more  experience of diving they will have a little more understanding. 

As Rescue Divers, they will see these skills in a new light.


You’re there to keep the focus in the right direction and offer any suggestions along the way.

Rescue Exercises 1 to 10

These exercises are where the Rescue Course is really learned. 

All of the components contained in these 10 exercises make up the whole Rescue Course.

By the end of the course, every student must perform each of these 10 exercises in open water. 

However, it makes a lot of sense for them to learn the complexities of each skill in confined water. 


Make each exercise student centred. 

Give them ownership, and allow them to add to skill briefings.

They can tell you how they will perform the skill, and how they would like the lesson to flow. 

It all adds up to a more positive outcome. 

PADI Rescue Diver course exercises 1 - 10

Follow the guidance from your slates, instructor manual and from the guide to teaching. 

However, below are a few more tips that will help with how your students learn. 

1. Tired Diver

This is the first of the role-play exercises. 

Get your students relaxed in taking different roles.

This exercise is easy, but don’t underestimate the need to establish a base for the following exercises to build upon.

2. Panicked Diver

A fun exercise, where the students can experiment with tows, and different ways of making contact.


When someone is really panicking, they need reassurance. 

Try to spin the diver around so that they can see safety, either land or boat. 

It’s unsettling to simply see the horizon way out in the distance. 

Don’t start this exercise with full on panic! 

Take it easy. Allow the rescuers to learn each step in a calm situation before ramping up the thrashing around!

Panicking is very exhausting! 

Once the rescuer is in contact with the diver and behind them, inflate their BCD. 

Encourage the diver to lay back, and you take control.  Ask them to relax.

It’s surprising how reassuring this exercise is.

3. Response from Shore/Boat or Dock

This is fun!
Throwing ropes or anything that floats at your friends!


Make sure that your rescuers are calm. 

If you look at any of our Emergency Services, they don’t start running around like headless chickens whenever there is an emergency. 

They calmly deal with every situation in a professional manner while staying in complete control.

4. Distressed Diver Underwater

This is an extension of the Alternate Air source Use exercise in the Open Water course.

The big difference is that the Rescuer is in control of all aspects. 

So instead of the distressed diver taking someone’s AAS, the Rescuer takes control and donates it. 


Aim to complete the whole exercise while neutrally buoyant. 
It might take a bit of practice, but by taking small steps the whole class will soon be in full control. 

5. Missing Diver

This is a huge exercise!
But there isn’t much you can do in confined water to prepare your students. 

Once you get to Open Water, you can spend the time to fulfil the needs of this exercise. 

6. Surfacing the Unresponsive Diver

This exercise scares me sometimes! 

Rescuers often rush in, inflate the BCD which results in a fast uncontrolled ascent.

I’d hate to be playing the part of the “victim”. 


Break this exercise down to small steps.

It doesn’t take long and the results are amazing! 


Rescue Diver Workshop

Start by hovering

Simply start by asking your students to hover. 

Yes! Just hover as usual. 

Now split the students into pairs.

Now get each pair to hover, but this time with one diver operating the other’s BCD from behind. 

Simply try to get the pairs to hover.  Taking it in turns.

Now ask each pair to slowly rise up a small amount and hover again at the new depth. 

Take it in turns. 

Keep rising in small steps until eventually reaching the surface.


7. Unresponsive Diver at the Surface

This is the one that causes a bit of controversy. 

Many people state that rescue breaths don’t work. 

However, the rescue diver manual recommends giving rescue breaths to an unresponsive diver for at least one minute. 
After that, it depends on how far you need to take the victim to safety, and whether the victim is responding to rescue breaths. 

8. Exiting the Unresponsive Diver

Please be careful! 
It’s OK to ask big strong guys to lift small people, but it’s not a PADI Standard that everyone has to do a fireman’s carry.

9. First Aid for Pressure-related Injuries and Oxygen Administration

A good reminder of First Aid skills plus Oxygen Administration.

10. Response from Shore/Boat to Unresponsive (nonbreathing) Diver at the Surface

This exercise includes most of the skills that the class has been learning. 

It’s excellent preparation for the scenarios. 

Open Water

As mentioned above. 
It’s a PADI Standard that every member of your Rescue Diver class demonstrates all 10 of the exercices in Open Water. 

Empower your PADI Rescue diver class

Explain to your candidates that they’ll have to demonstrate all 10 exercises in open water. 

I prefer to give the team to work out how they’ll perform these skills for you. 

Empower them. You’ll find that when you’re in the water, you won’t need to tell them if they’ve made any mistakes, they’ll be telling you!

In a class session, or even an evening at the pub, the class can decide who they’ll perform the skills with and in which order.

Of course they need to check with you, but it’s certainly possible for two or three students to be conducting different skills at the same time. 

As long as you can see everthing, and be there to check that everything has been done correctly and completely, all is fine. 

If you think that your students aren’t able to arrange such a session, then you might be asking yourself if they are ready yet to become PADI Rescue Divers.

Scenarios 1 and 2

Once again I recommend that you involve your students with the planning of these scenarios. 

There is absolutely no need to invent “surprises” to try to catch people out. 

The whole purpose of the Rescue Course is for people to plan and carry out effective processes. 

Stick to PADI Standards, follow the course guidance and make it fun, relevant and realistic. 

The Rescue Diver course is one of the best courses in the whole PADI program and prepares people for professional level courses.

Last modified: 10th January 2023
Author: Steve Prior