Recently I explained what the Divemaster course is, why I decided to sign up, and how I chose where and when to do so. Now I’m breaking down the course into four sections — I started with theory and skills, and now I’m on to practical experience. I hope this will be helpful to those looking into doing their DMT and searching for a first hand account of someone who has been there, as well as interesting to those simply looking for a peek into a different industry!
I found the PADI Divemaster program very unique because as a Divemaster Trainee I sat in a gray area between being a customer of the dive shop I studied at and being an employee of it. Technically, I was a customer simply for the fact that I was paying them a big fat tuition. But at the same time, I was being trained to be an employable licensed Divemaster, and I had to work to prove that I deserved that ranking — and my instructor’s seal of approval — before being thrust out into the industry.
Once I had proved that I understood the basic theory behind diving, and demonstrated that I had the skills and aptitude to work in the industry, it was time to move onto the heart of the divemaster course — learning how to assist and teach. This is where the true internship begins, and where I felt more like an apprentice to the instructors in the shop than simply a student.
The official requirements for the course are that you must perform four major Divemaster Conducted Programs Workshops. In plain English, it means that I had had to run four basic diving programs under the supervision of an instructor, and be graded by said instructor on my performance. These programs include Discover Scuba Diving (a non-certification test dive for first time divers), a Scuba Review (a refresher for divers who have been out of the water for some time), a Skin Diver Course (basically teaching people how to snorkel — kind of a joke), and a Discover Local Diving course (also a joke).
Additionally, DMTs must complete three major Practical Assessments. These involve assisting an instructor in an Open Water course, assisting an instructor in a Continuing Education course, and guiding Certified Divers. At Big Bubble, they take things a bit further, and you teach the course yourself — under the close supervision of an instructor, of course! While as a certified PADI Divemaster I will only be allowed to guide certified divers and not teach Open Water or Continuing Education or any other courses, I like Big Bubble’s way of doing things. It put the pressure on, of course, but it also ensured that I knew exactly what was going on in every step of diver education. And while this doesn’t apply to me as I plan to stop at the Divemaster level, it is great practice for those going on to do their Instructor Development Courses.
This was where everything I had learned really came together — things such as demonstrating skills like buoyancy and regulator clearing, giving thorough dive site briefings, being able to talk through student’s questions about complicated decompression sickness theories, and generally keeping all the moving parts of, say, a three to four day Open Water course on schedule. This is also where the Divemaster course truly becomes an internship. I was expected to be an active member of the team — greeting customers, filling out the master planning matrix of the day’s divers, carrying tanks to and from the boat, participating in the night shift rotation, and serve as both a mentor to students and customers and an assistant to staff and management. Thanks to my years working closely with friends and loved ones in the scuba industry and my own experience working with an underwater videography company, I’ve been lucky to observe the day to day workings of several dive shops. But for many DMTs I can imagine this would be a wake up call into how much work goes into keeping a dive business up and working!
I found the practical experience part of the Divemaster Training to be a rewarding challenging. I was forced to confront several of my scuba weaknesses — poor navigation skills, confusion with decompression theory, and sloppy safety procedures and practices — and really clean them up before working one on one with customers. This was challenging and sometimes frustrating, especially when it came to breaking bad habits I’ve built up over hundreds of dives. But I also was able to acknowledge my strengths, like good buoyancy, knowledge of the environment and basic photography skills, by sharing them with students — and that was incredibly rewarding. But best of all, I was able to confirm that I know exactly where I belong when it comes to the dive industry. I was able to find exactly what I enjoyed, and what I didn’t. I confirmed what I suspected; that teaching just isn’t for me. That I really enjoy the business side of the industry. That underwater photography and videography are two of my greatest joys. And that guiding certified divers is actually not so bad, and something I might like to do more of in the future. Most of all, completing my Divemaster Training gave me a sense of pride. I was nervous going into it — scared of all the many, many areas there were in which I could fail. But I didn’t. And I came out a stronger and smarter diver because of it.
Next up is the really juicy stuff — the hazing portion of the divemaster, and my experience facing what I referred to as my “Divemaster Kryptonite.” Readers, please me if you are looking for a recommendation on where to do your DMT in Gili Trawangan.