The halfway point is probably the most challenging part of the PADI Divemaster course. You feel like you’ve achieved a lot, but when you check your paperwork it seems there’s still so much to do.
Part of the reason for this is that things start to slow down in the middle. You’re gaining a lot more experience but not necessarily meeting any additional specified requirements. You might have started to gather information for your mapping project, but you won’t have finished it yet, and you’ll be guiding lots of dives and giving lots of briefings, but not reaching any particular milestones.
The important thing to remember is that all experience is progress. Try not to run yourself down with too much sun and too little sleep and water, and focus on the reasons you decided to do the course in the first place. If you feel like things are moving at an uncomfortable pace, voice your concerns to your mentor.
In my fourth week, we covered some of the easier skills, including a deep dive scenario, scuba review, and assisting on a Discover Scuba Diving experience.
COURSE ASSIST (DISCOVER SCUBA DIVING)
Before you assist on a Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) experience, you’ll spend a session in the pool where you simulate teaching the basics and running through the skills a participant has to be able to perform. As a qualified divemaster you’re not actually permitted to teach a DSD unless you complete the DSD Leader internship as an add on. However, this experience gives you more insight into what the student needs to know and makes you better prepared to provide assistance to your instructor. You’ll be especially valuable if your instructor is taking more than one student on their first diving experience at the same time. Your role is mainly to stay close to the group, assist with buoyancy problems and provide reassurance. Even if you don’t feel particularly useful, your instructor will appreciate the extra pair of eyes, and it’s great experience to see how they approach different challenges.
When you did your Open Water training, you’ll have been asked to perform 20 skills to show you’re competent in the water. As part of your divemaster training, one of the first confined water sessions you complete is a run through of those skills, which you need to be able to demonstrate in a way that will enable students to learn them. The Scuba Review is basically a re-run of those skills, and you will probably practise it with your instructor, who will pretend to be a qualified diver who’s been out of the water for a few years. As you go through each of the skills, you’ll need to think about a logical order so that you’re not coming back up to the surface after each one. You’ll also have to look out for common problems that divers experience when they haven’t had recent opportunities to familiarise themselves with diving equipment or techniques.
DEEP DIVE SCENARIO
By the time you start your divemaster training, you will probably have had quite a few opportunities to deep dive. The definition of a deep dive is anything further than 18 m and, in order to reach the most fascinating part of a dive site, you often need to exceed this. The main focus of your deep dive scenario is to get you thinking about the implications of going deeper, and how this might affect your role as a divemaster. To begin with, you have to consider the certification level and experience of the other divers in your group. You’ll need to think about what additional information to include in your briefing, and you’ll need to check people’s air and no decompression limits more frequently. During your deep dive scenario, you’re asked to lead a dive, and you’re assessed on your ability to make sensible decisions on when to shallow up, as well as when to perform a safety stop and ascend.
FAMILIARITY WITH DIVE SITES
Once you’re a few weeks into your divemaster training you should have a good understanding of the local dive sites and conditions. It’s a good idea at this stage to choose a dive site that you will eventually map. It can take a few return visits to gather enough information to put together a useful dive map, so you’ll want to make this decision at least a few weeks before you finish your course and choose a location you’re likely to visit quite regularly. If you need time to take compass bearings or count fin kicks you may also want to request in advance that you’re assigned another DMT as a buddy, so that you can focus on these tasks without other distractions.
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.