By week 3 of the PADI Divemaster course, you’re well on your way to understanding your role. You’ve begun to tick off various in-water skills and you should have a decent amount of experience with a lot of the local dive sites.
As you progress, the idea is that you become more involved with those tasks you would be performing on a regular basis once qualified and employed. One side of this relates to welcoming, briefing, guiding and debriefing fun divers, and the other focuses on training you to be a valuable assistant to your instructor when they’re leading courses.
One of the most time consuming aspects of the PADI Divemaster course is the need to assist on each of the different courses, including Discover Scuba Diving (DSD), Open Water, Advanced and Rescue. For this reason, many dive schools like to get you started on this as soon as possible. Naturally, the order in which you do them depends on bookings and availability. I started with the Rescue course in week 1 and the Open Water course in week 2. In week 3 I assisted on an Advanced course and began to learn skills in preparation for DSD. I also completed those skills demonstrations I had not perfected in my first pool session…
OPEN WATER SKILLS QUALITY DEMONSTRATIONS (PART 2)
Early on in your divemaster training, you’re asked to demonstrate the 20 Open Water skills as though you were teaching a student how to do them. Usually, your instructor shows you each sequence once before you demonstrate it back to them. If you miss a vital step, do anything out of order, or don’t demonstrate everything clearly enough, you score a 1 on that particular skill. At the end of this first session, it’s normal to have only passed roughly half of the skills, and that’s where the second pool session comes in. After you’ve had some time to settle into the course and to practise, you re-enter the pool and go through all of the skills you didn’t pass the first time until you score a 4 or a 5. Of all the skills, people usually struggle most with the CESA and equipment assembly. The latter is something you do every day, but there are a lot of steps to it and it’s a lot more challenging to do it in demonstration style under the watchful gaze of your assessor! Some courses will include the four skin diver skills in the same session, while others will ask you to perform a demonstration of those skills during your skin diver workshop.
DISCOVER SCUBA DIVING WORKSHOP
Before you actually assist on the DSD course, you get to do a DSD workshop with your instructor. This gives you the chance to learn what’s involved while simulating the training. Your instructor will likely pretend to be a customer, and you’ll have to take them through the paperwork, basic theory and required skills. Some DSD students head straight to the open ocean for their first dive, while others prefer to see how comfortable they feel in the pool first. The general skills they’ll need to practise include inflating and deflating their BCD, breathing under water, equalising, partial mask clearing and regulator recovery. You’ll also need to run through a flip chart of basic information. It’s important (and sometimes challenging) not to get too bogged down with theory they don’t need to know. As a qualified divemaster, you’re only allowed to assist on this course, unless you take the DSD Leader internship. The main requirement of this is to teach four separate DSD courses under supervision.
COURSE ASSIST (ADVANCED)
The Advanced course is a fun one to get involved with because it usually means you’ll go on five very different dives over the course of two days. At Blue Marlin Komodo, these will usually be navigation, peak performance buoyancy, deep, drift and fish ID, but if students take the course while they’re on the liveaboard, one of these can be replaced by a night dive. Your involvement as a divemaster is minimal, but you may be asked to help demonstrate buoyancy skills, to act as a buddy during navigation (e.g., counting fin kicks), or to help with logistics (e.g., bringing items on the deep dive that demonstrate the effect of pressure at 30 m). It’s common for people to go straight into their Advanced training following Open Water, so often these divers have limited experience. This means you should also look out for and prevent potential problems. These might include missing or incorrectly assembled gear, equalisation or buoyancy problems, or discomfort/mild panic as they experience drift for the first time.
FAMILIARITY WITH DIVE SITES
In week 1, dive site familiarity largely consists of fun diving and taking note of the most basic information, such as where each site is located, its topography, marine life of interest, and useful information relating to currents. By week 2, you start to take on extra responsibilities, like ensuring that the group stays together, performing safety stops with those who’ve used their air more quickly, and inflating an SMB to signal to the boat that you’re surfacing. By week 3, your instructor may ask you to act as though you were a qualified divemaster. This starts at the dive centre in the morning, as you greet customers, take note of their experience levels, and use online sources to check what the currents should be doing that day at each of your planned dive sites. You’ll check all of the gear is packed, lead the customers to the boat and give a general briefing. Before each dive, you’ll draw a map on the whiteboard, deliver a dive site briefing and make sure your guests perform buddy checks. Then you’ll guide the dives, welcome guests back to shore, and help them fill out their log books and complete any payments. It’s a lot to remember, but with experience, it becomes second nature and you’ll find your confidence improving rapidly.
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.