It’s no secret that divemaster training is intense. There’s a lot of information to take on board and your instructors know how to keep you busy! The advantage of this is that you spend your time literally immersed in all things diving. You practically live on a boat or at the dive centre and a lot of the information goes in subliminally.
Obviously, though, you also have to make a conscious effort to study, to ask questions and to absorb everything you’re told. As you read through your learning materials, you’ll see that PADI puts a lot of emphasis on learning through experience and practice, and that’s why routine is important.
By week 2 of your divemaster training, you’ll be quite familiar with some of the more popular dive sites, as well as the logistics involved in the day-to-day operation of the dive centre. It’s also usually during this week that you complete your theory and second exam…
THEORY AND EXAM PART 2
In my previous post about week 1 of PADI Divemaster training, I explained that the Divemaster Manual is separated into nine chapters. The first exam covers more basic information from chapters 1 to 7, and your reasoning is largely based on common sense.
The second exam is a lot more difficult. It’s very unlikely you’ll be able to pass it without reading and fully processing the information from chapters 8 and 9. Topics covered include the effect of depth on temperature, visibility, sound, density and pressure. You learn about partial pressures of the gases that make up the air in your tank, and the way that these gases can affect you at various depths. You gain a much more detailed understanding of decompression theory, including how different tissues have different halftimes and M-values, and you consider the way in which your equipment functions and how to maintain it.
As with exam 1, you’re required to answer 60 multiple choice questions. For part of it, you’ll need to know how to use your RDP table, as well as the eRDPML. If you’re not sure, ask your instructor to talk you through it and practice planning dives with it before you sit the exam.
COURSE ASSIST (OPEN WATER)
The Open Water Course is an interesting one to assist with because it takes you back to the basics of scuba diving. You may feel like you won’t gain much from it, but it’s very possible you’ll pick up extra information you either never knew or had forgotten. At the very least it’s the perfect opportunity to practise your demonstration-quality skills and to see how easily students learn from them.
In confined water, you might not be quite as useful as you are on a course like Rescue, but there are opportunities for your instructor to mix it up a bit and keep the course fun and interesting. When we’d completed the required skills, we had an underwater egg and spoon race to help our student develop good positioning and control.
The open water part of the Open Water course is incredibly rewarding. Students really appreciate you watching over them as they assemble gear and go over their buddy checks, and often you’ll find that they consider you to be more approachable than their instructor because you’re closer to their level and you’re not directly responsible for assessing their skills. During the dive, you may be required to guide, or you may buddy with a student and help by providing reassurance or reminders.
Since Open Water is at least three days’ long, you’ll get to know your student(s) very well and you’ll feel a sense of pride when they get their first diving qualification.
SKIN DIVER COURSE WORKSHOP
While, as a qualified divemaster, you will still only be able to assist on most of the PADI courses, there’s one course that you will be able to teach without an instructor qualification or further training. The Skin Diver course is available to anyone over the age of eight who’s interested in learning to be an adventure snorkeller.
To give you an opportunity to learn how to deliver the course, your instructor will probably spend a session in the pool or confined water pretending to be a customer (- an 8-year-old customer if you’re lucky -). The course itself involves running through 16 specified skills and having your student perform each of them until they’re comfortable. As part of this, there are four skills that you will need to show your instructor you’re capable of demonstrating (as you did with the 20 Open Water skills). These are:
- Vertical head-first skin dive
- Swim at least 15 m underwater on a single breath while skin diving
- Snorkel clear using the blast method after ascending from a skin dive
- Snorkel clear using the displacement method after ascending from a skin dive
As well as the skills, you should discuss skin diving equipment, the pressure-volume relationships that affect skin divers, the dive environment, proper interactions with aquatic life, the buddy system, problem management and local safe skin diving practices.
If you’re doing your divemaster training in a dive centre that has a boat, chances are you’ll often have non-diver guests who’d like to accompany their diver friends and family, but who aren’t interested in learning to become divers themselves. If you’re located on a beach with a nearby reef, you might well have a lot of enquiries from people who are keen to snorkel but want the reassurance of a guide. Guiding snorkelers might be as simple as showing them the best parts of a reef and helping to identify marine life, but if you feel like making the experience more entertaining or worthwhile for your customers, there’s no reason not to throw in some of the skills from the Skin Diver course.
400 M SWIM
The 400 m swim is one of the five stamina tests that prove you’re comfortable in the water. Often, you’ll have started with treading water in week 1 and this will be your second. You’re not allowed to use any swimming aids, but you can choose any stroke or a combination of strokes if it helps. You’re scored based on how fast you complete the task, but you can only fail it if you stop. To get a score of 5, you need a time of 6 minutes 30 seconds or less, which all but the best swimmers will struggle with. 6 minutes 30 seconds to 8 minutes 40 seconds scores 4; 8 minutes 40 seconds to 11 minutes scores 3; 11 to 13 minutes scores 2; and anything over 13 minutes scores 1. Overall, you need to score 15 out of 25 possible points to pass this section of your training. If you want to try to improve your score for a particular skill you can repeat it.
There are two types of briefings you’ll need to learn to deliver. The easiest is the general briefing. That’s because it’s almost always exactly the same every day. At Blue Marlin Komodo, the general briefing is delivered as soon as guests arrive on the boat. It includes information on how the equipment is set up, where to find facilities on board and what rules and safety regulations apply. There’s also a short ‘debrief’ or ‘welcome back’ speech. With time, your instructor will ask you to start delivering dive site briefings too, but your familiarity with dive site-specific information will depend on how frequently you have visited each one. For this reason, you probably won’t be asked to start giving dive site briefings until a little later in your training.
FAMILIARITY WITH DIVE SITES
In your first week of diving you’ll likely be acting as a fun diver, taking note of the general layout of each of the most popular dive sites. By week 2, you might visit some additional dive sites and start to help your guide by watching the group from the back, indicating to buddy teams to stay together, and taking those with less air to the surface after completing a safety stop and inflating your SMB.
My divemaster training is being conducted by Blue Marlin Komodo, which is located in the small town of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. While PADI lays out a list of requirements for passing the course, each dive centre conducts it slightly differently. The order in which you complete each requirement varies, as does the timescale. Blue Marlin Komodo recommend that you take 8 to 10 weeks to fully experience and familiarise yourself with each dive site. They include time on a liveaboard and provide quality training with a focus on enjoyment and safety. For further information about the course, see their divemaster training brochure.