I balk at clichés in writing, but I can’t explain starting the Divemaster course any better than saying they throw you in at the deep end.
They’re not trying to trick you, but they let you take control of the course, because it’s up to you how much you get out of it, after all. So, they let you ask all the questions about the dive centre: where you can find what kit and what the procedures are, what you can do to help. It’s like starting a new job and the admin of a new place is always the hardest part, I find.
You might be wondering why the hell I’m talking about paperwork and not the diving, but that’s how a Divemaster course is. You become part of a dive team and dipping your fins in the ocean is just one part of the experience. You quickly learn that progressing from a fun diver to ‘going pro’ means being good at customer service and looking after others. So, I’ve had to control my itchiness to get in the blue every day and slow down to learn theory and observe classes in the pool.
My first day consisted of assembling my kit blindfolded with two other DMTs (Divemaster Trainees). So clearly, all our kit was tangled together and we had to feel our way around twisted regs and mixed-up integrated weight pockets. I think I need to give it a few more gos, to be at one with my kit. Scuba zen! We also did this at the bottom of the pool – all the kit was in the deep end and we had to jump on in and get togged up down there. Note – find anything you can to allow you to breathe first!
We had a giggle riding the tanks around the pool and sipping air directly from the tank. Good to know if I have a bust o-ring underwater and my regs aren’t working.
In the first couple of weeks, I’ve been observing how instructors run courses, from Discover Scuba Diving (a course for those who haven’t dived and want to have a go at jumping in that big blue), to Open Water courses. I’ll be able to assist on these in time, along with other courses, like Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver and tune-ups for those who haven’t been in the water for a while. We’ve also been developing our navigational skills, learning first aid and practised search and recovery with lift bags. I had so much fun learning how to tie three knots – bowline, two half-hitch and sheet bend. Convinced I could be a sailor.
Now that the first couple of weeks are completed and I’ve studied the first few chapters of the Divemaster manual, I’m able to get out into that beautiful ocean and start to pass on my love of the marine world (as second fiddle)… This is how people get sucked into the next level and want to become an instructor, because you want to be the one to share your love of diving with others.
So far, I’m loving the challenge of learning a different side of diving. Knowing how to teach is opening up a whole new side of it for me. Instead of just doing the skills without thinking, we have to slow down and learn to show how you perform a skill. So if I have a bit of water in my mask while I’m diving, I clear it without thinking. Now, we have to be almost like dancers or presenters in our movements, showing the steps and making it look easy. We practise the PADI skills circuit, which currently includes 20 skills, plus 4 skin diving skills. I’m copying our instructor, who is the Course Director and owner of the centre, until I develop my own style. But for now, it means I’m getting marked highly, because she can’t fault her own style that I’m mimicking, boom.
My first taste of interacting with people new to diving reminds me so much of my first time getting wet; it’s so great to see them get over any initial niggles and worries and then watch them have a rocking time underwater. I can totally see how teaching people to dive can be addictive – it’s like grabbing someone’s hand and saying, “Hey, I can take you to the moon”. They’ll remember you and the experience forever.