Editorial and illustrations by Curt & Jennifer Bowen
Photography by Joram Mennes and Adam Beard.

At the 2015 DEMA show in Orlando, Florida, Mike Young, the proprietor of Kiss Rebreathers, was stationed at his product booth when Joshua Hotaling approached him with a request for aid in developing a special sidemount rebreather. Joshua, a veteran of the Marine Corps, tragically lost both of his legs on May 13, 2011, during the Afghanistan war, when he accidentally stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). After a prolonged period of recovery, Joshua found solace in SCUBA diving as a form of therapy. Against all odds, he later achieved proficiency in technical diving despite his overwhelming disabilities.

During the subsequent hours, the two engaged in a discussion about potential ideas and concepts to assist Joshua in his quest to further develop his technical diving abilities. Mike assured Joshua that upon his arrival at the manufacturing facility in Arkansas, he would begin the development of inventive concepts for an optimized, sidemount rebreather with improved design, streamlined features, and enhanced efficiency, tailored to Joshua’s specific needs.

With Mike's extensive engineering background, he could foresee the challenges that would need to be addressed because of Joshua's physical limitations. The primary issue to address was Joshua's weight and balance, which are altered by the loss of his legs. Because of the volume change in the counterlung, his buoyancy would experience a dramatic shift with every breath. The new counterlung system needed to be designed so it would keep a perfect balance not only left and right but also head to toe. After several trials and errors, the along-the-side and across-the shoulder-blade counterlung was developed. To maintain proper balance with the specially designed counterlung, smaller twin scrubber canisters would be required. The entire system looped together with rebreather hoses, mouthpiece, oxygen / diluent addition, OPV, and a PPO2 display system. Five months of design, testing, and a naming contest resulted in the birth of the Sidewinder Rebreather.

Ultimately, Joshua found great satisfaction in his new sidemount rebreather, and it garnered widespread admiration from those who witnessed and tried it. Mike's dedication to enhancing the design resulted in the KISS Sidewinder rebreather being adopted worldwide by serious divers and extreme cave explorers.

  1. The exhalation of high CO2 gas from the diver's lungs is directed into the mouthpiece through the mushroom valve and into the right loop hose as part of the gas flow.

  2. The gas moves into the top of the right scrubber canister, and oxygen or diluent is added by demand.

  3. The gas then enters the right scrubber where excess CO2 is absorbed. The scrubber material is packed tightly between a top and bottom screen.

  4. Gas enters the bottom of the single counter lung, crosses the diver’s upper back, and into the bottom of the left scrubber canister.

  5. Then, the gas moves upwards through the left canister, where it scrubs the gas a second time to remove any excess CO2.

  6. The newly mixed gas passes over 3 oxygen sensors where the new percentages of the oxygen is calculated and converted to PPO2 on the divers digital display.

  7. The fresh gas then returns via the left loop hose,through the left mushroom valve, and inhaled by the diver.


Above: Sidewinder rebreather diver Ashley Sutherland explores the underbelly of the 708 foot, 32,720 ton Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Nagato sank on July 25th, 1946 during the Bikini Atoll Operation, Crossroads underwater nuclear detonations Baker Test. The Nagato had four Gihon geared steam turbines, with each turbine driving one propeller shaft. The turbines produced a total 80,000 horsepower. Photo by Adam Beard

Below: CCR Sidewinder Diver Ashley Sutherland poses between the stern 45-caliber / 41 centimeter (16 inch) guns of the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship, the Nagato, sank in Bikini Atoll during the 1946 Baker Nuclear Test. The hydraulically powered turrets gave the guns an elevation range of −2 to +35 degrees. The rate of fire for the guns was around two rounds per minute. Providing a maximum range from 30,200 to 37,900 meters (33,000 to 41,400 yd) (7.8 miles). Photo by Adam Beard

Video and Photography by