PADI Instructor tips – How to handle a panicked Open Water Diver
One of the most important things I learned as a PADI Instructor was how to recognize, prevent and assist a panicked Open Water Diver. This is not to say that every student you teach is going to panic, but you will have a fair few who don’t enjoy the feeling of water against their noses during the mask skills on the PADI Open Water Diver course.
Here are some tips to help you on your road to becoming a PADI Instructor legend.
- Start simple
During your pool sessions, start introducing mask skills early and on the surface, have your new divers breathe from the regulator at the surface without a mask on. This will allow them to get used to the feeling of water against their noses while they still have their balance and two feet firmly on the ground. It’s easy for students to just lift their heads out of the water if they feel uncomfortable.
Teach your students to breathe slowly and deeply during their mask skills. This will keep them calm when they remove the mask. I have also found that asking them to tip their heads to the side so that they are not blowing bubbles right up their nose, also helps to keep them calm. I ask my students to count five breathes before they start the skill and to count their breathes during – this distracts them from the feeling of breathing with water against their noses.
- Go slow
As a PADI Instructor, it’s your job to make sure that your students are comfortable with this skill in confined water before you head to open water. I always tell my students to fill their mask with water before they remove it, this prevents a “shock” as the water is already up against their nose before they remove the mask.
- Stay close and react quickly
If you know that a student diver is uncomfortable with the mask skills, make sure that you have close contact during this skill. One hand inside the cumber band can provide support to your student so that they stay balanced during the skill – it also allows you to feel if there is an increased breathing rate or if your student is suddenly holding their breathe. If they remove the mask and start to panic and dash for the surface, this will also allow you to move up with your student at a slow, controlled ascent rate.
- Shallow, shallow, shallow
Do your mask skills in shallow water so that if your student is uncomfortable you are not too far from the surface, this is especially important as if you need to surface, you’ll have to bring your whole group of students to the surface, which is easier and safer at a shallower depth.
- Stay calm
It’s easy to be swept up when a student is panicking, and that can become a stressful situation for any new PADI Instructor. Make sure that you are taking deep breathes and remaining calm. Make good eye contact with your student before and after the skill to assess their comfort. Give them time to relax before moving on to any additional skills.
Every PADI Instructor has their own tips and tricks for assisting new divers with the mask remove skill – you can learn a lot during an MSDT Internship where you work alongside other Instructors and team teach while gaining experience.
Have we missed any brilliant tips? How have you handled a panicked diver in the past? Let us know in the comments below!