I’ll be blunt: being a divemaster is hard work. The hours are long and the work can be physically exhausting, but the satisfaction that comes at the end of each day cannot be rivalled with any other job I’ve had. One day I’m guiding dives around some of the best spots in the Gulf of Thailand, the next, I’m sweeping out the kit room and stock taking. It’s definitely a varied role!
So How Did It All Begin?
Let’s quickly go back to 2008. I was holidaying in Egypt and had the idea of a Discover Scuba Dive. My love for swimming, trying out new things and being right next to the Red Sea – which, by the way is a world-class dive location renowned for its crystal clear waters and stunning array of marine life – meant it would have been a wasted opportunity if I hadn’t been. From those very first breaths under the water I knew at some point I would become a certified diver, it was just a matter of when.
Fast-Forward to October 2014
After months of planning, my girlfriend and I left our jobs back in the UK and began to travel the world. The standard backpacker trail brought us through Thailand of course, and eventually Koh Tao in January 2015. We had only planned 3 days here, and not realising the abundance of dive schools on the island we didn’t take our Open Water course in the limited time we planned to stay. Instead, we came back a couple of months later and became certified scuba divers in April.
For me, the PADI Open Water your gateway into the diving world. With confined water training and 4 open water dives, you learn all the skills essential for safe diving and are certified to go diving with a buddy – unsupervised by a dive professional in most places – to a maximum depth of 18m.
OK, that’s awesome, you say. So why carry on? Well, once I realised that the advanced course would be my ticket to Koh Tao’s deeper, more favourable dive sites such as Chumphon, Sail Rock, and Southwest, then why not. These dive sites are the jewels around the island; home to giant groupers and barracudas as big as me, huge schools of batfish to admire, and massive queenfish. I was sold. I went straight into the advanced open water course so I wouldn’t miss out.
Why not? It was only an extra 2 days….
The course consists of 5 Adventure Dives to complete. A deep dive to 30m and a navigation dive are the required two, after which I chose a night dive, wreck dive and a Peak Performace Buoyancy dive to really hone my hovering skills; a perfect choice when diving in such close proximity to delicate coral reefs.
All in all, I finished the advanced course with 9 dives in my log book, so did a couple of fun dives to flesh it out a bit and get some more experience in the water. During this week I had fallen in love with the island, the people, the food and of course, the aquatic life. I didn’t really want to leave.
Making The Leap
After another year of travelling and a few more fun dives in the Gili islands I found myself back on Koh Tao ready to get back in the water! By this point, I was an Advanced Open Water diver with around 17 dives. I made the bold decision to come back to Crystal, lay down a deposit on the Divemaster Internship programand signed a few bits of paperwork. Probably the best decision made while travelling!
First up, I had to complete the EFR First Aid course, followed by the Rescue Diver course. A course which builds in intensity over a few days; learning how to kit up in under a minute, in-water and out-of-water CPR, dealing with panicked divers, dealing with unresponsive divers and generally learning how to cope with stressful diving-related emergency scenarios.
After this course, I really began to look out for fellow divers like I hadn’t before. I began to forget about myself while diving and focus on my dive buddies, not to mention building confidence with equipment removal and replacement in the water.
The best part about signing up for the Divemaster package is that I could now fun dive, for free, for life! So after I was done with the rescue course I spent a while making friends with the DMTs here at Crystal and filling up my logbook! You can begin the DMT course with 40 dives, and with unlimited diving, I had that in under a week!
Then came the orientation….
It was as though a veil had been lifted. It’s basically a chat where they explain the scheduling of the whole divemaster program, what’s expected of you etc. But most importantly for me and the other fresh DMTs were the packs we received: a compass, maps and SMB (surface marker buoy) were included and we were set free to dive in our own buddy teams. No longer were we under the reign of a divemaster or instructor, we had everything we needed to go off and explore!
The Practical Stuff
As well as non-stop fun diving with your mates, some of the first things you do as a new DMT (Divemaster in Training) here at Crystal are your ‘shadows’, following the pros around for a few days learning the ropes and getting to understand the logistics of how a dive operation works. This includes packing equipment crates at 6:40am each day ready for the boats, learning how to take roll calls on the boat and accounting for people’s kit, and watching a divemaster lead a fun dive with clients.
With the shadows out of the way you begin the skills circuits. Three half-day sessions in the pool to master your 20 basic open water skills. By master, I mean really get to demonstration-quality like a pro. You’ll need these for when you start conducting scuba reviews in the pool, or when trying to show a new diver how toreplace their mask underwater!
After the skills and shadowing and in between fun diving, the DMT coordinators will begin to assign you to courses on which you’ll assist. Throughout the program, you must assist 3 open water courses, 2 advanced courses and 1 rescue course. The open water courses are awesome; the students have usually never been diving before and look up to you for guidance. While they were learning their skills, I often got a chance to demonstrate something for them that they might have been struggling with.
There are also numerous swimming tests to complete; after all I would be a pretty useless Divemaster if I couldn’t swim very well! Other practical tasks include learning how to use lift bags, setting up drop tanks, placing sand screws, mapping a dive site and tying knots underwater.
The Academic Stuff
As a Divemaster, you’re expected to have a pretty high knowledge when it comes to diving theory. This includes things such as the physiology and physics of diving, understanding how different types of scuba equipment work, and knowing about the environmental effects on diving such as tides, currents, and waves.
Fortunately, I quite enjoyed the theory. Although there really isn’t that much to learn when compared to the practical side of the course. I was given a book at the start, as are all DMTs, with in-depth knowledge reviews to complete at the end of each chapter. There are also two exams you need to take – again, not too difficult if you’ve read the book!
Finishing Up The Course
All the training culminates with a fun dive lead. You pack your client’s kit bags, brief them on the dive, and guide them around while pointing out the cool stuff and making sure they’re having a good time. One of the full time staff follows on the dive to make sure all is up to scratch. This is what all the training has built up to and it feels awesome!
Afterwards you can sit down, relax with a beer and get all the paperwork and bits signed off for PADI. All the training is done now, so give it a week or so and when your email comes through congratulating you, you can finally call yourself a Divemaster!
Author: Lee Pizzala (PADI DM #380258)