If you’re wondering what a Divemaster is, or what it takes to make the most out of your training… wonder no more.
I had unquestionably the most challenging, rewarding, invigorating and life expanding experience possible when doing my Divemaster course. Truthfully I would challenge anyone who wished to prove they made more out of their experience than I… And here’s why.
Invariably the requirements to become a Divemaster are the same under any course structure, be it PADI, SSI, SDI, RAID or any of the professional bodies you chose to progress with; I’ll be referring solely to the PADI Divemaster Training course in this article. However, what you can take from it, in what ways you can best use the opportunity and time you have and how you select the best place to suit your ambitions for the course is a variable and broad spectrum.
This is where you should take into account a whole bunch of different considerations. We did a lot of research and from it came one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
So, I’m going to offer you an insight into my experience and a couple of tips when considering your Divemaster Training course, from why to do it, when and where to do it to who to do it with, whether you should pay for it and how to get more out of it than your co-Divemaster Trainees. Then you too might be best able to plan your Divemaster training; to understand what is required to simply qualify and most importantly what changes it into a life changing an utterly incredible experience, and let’s see if you agree with me by the end.
Firstly, why does anyone do their Divemaster training?
Officially speaking, becoming a Divemaster is the first professional qualification you can gain in the industry, many people do it to open up opportunities for employment in foreign countries and as a means of work and travel. However, the training aspects of becoming a Divemaster begin with yourself and end with the customers. You have to know how to look after yourself before others; by which you should know your gear back to front, inside out and be able to make routine manoeuvres (like deploying your SMB) with your eyes shut.
Individually speaking ,people become Divemasters for a variety of personal reasons and this is why my own perspective will differ from everyone else’s in one way or another. However, I think on a general scope most do it to gain more confidence and simply because they love diving. So, much like with any hobby, you always look to advance your skills and get to the next level, or to shift into a niche platform; like tech diving or underwater photography for example. It is simply the next step on the ladder.
What does a Divemaster status allow you to do?
Well, it allows you to guide up to four qualified divers around dive sites, up to two Discover Scuba Divers on their second dive, you can go through the ReActive programme with guests and it signifies that you have been trained and tested in the importance of safety, processes, fitness and knowledge to be competent enough to do so. All of these make you far more employable to dive companies looking to hire extra hands!
How do you make the most out of the course?
How long do you have?
That’s an important question, it doesn’t impact how much you can get from it but it does impact how hard you might have to work to get it. If you have little diving experience before starting your divemaster’s, say perhaps just the 40 logged dives required to begin it, you may want to consider giving yourself longer than four weeks. If you’ve been diving recently and you have a lot of experience, perhaps the leap will not feel quite so monumental and within the four weeks you can progress swiftly enough to still get your maximum potential out of it.
Some people quit their jobs and travel halfway across the world to start their professional career. Others take an extended vacation and simply want to increase their dive skills whilst having an extended diving holiday! Yes, that is one key thing to consider when booking your Divemaster Training Course – how much value can you get out of your investment, what is it you really want to learn and where would you really like to go diving?
Do you want to know how an expensive resort runs and the standards they hold for customer service or, do you want to know what it feels like to hook on in the strong current as mantas fly over your head and sharks cruise by? But then again, perhaps you want something local to avoid travel costs and allow you to participate at weekends.
It’s a good tip to remember that you will be paying for a course that is to enhance your dive skills, so a place where they offer an unlimited amount of diving with the course is preferable (usually this is conditional depending on space on the trip; but with really good programs you’ll find they will make space for you on trips a few times a week at least). Considering the amount of diving you’re doing, you should chose somewhere that would inspire and challenge you, perhaps somewhere you’d like to work if that’s your goal. This is the perfect time for networking with prospective new employers.
Do you even want to pay for your Divemaster Training Course?
There are plenty of internships out there, this means the dive shop will offer you free training in exchange for your employment afterwards, essentially then working for free to pay it off. My advice would be, that if you can afford to pay for it or, if you can wait to save up and pay for it a bit later on – do that.
As with most things in life, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is and there’s no such thing as a “free” internship. Not only will you end up paying it off for longer than it would take to earn the money to pay it upfront, I would also be presumptuous enough to say that, if you’re not paying to be taught you stand less of a chance getting proper training and guidance from someone specific. This renders you as a source of free labour rather than a customer, where they will simply let you ‘learn on the job’ rather than having a mentor guide you. If you pay, you have the ability to question the standards you’ve paid for or ask why you haven’t had sufficient attention or time in the water. Makes sense!
So, if you’re going to pay for it and it should include a substantial amount of diving, it also makes sense to be selective of where you want to go and which company you choose to apply to. Here is where I think my experience may have easily trumped many others and how you can make the right decisions to make the most out of your Divemaster’s and your money and more importantly, your time that you’re intending to spend doing it.
Firstly, take up the challenge.
If you want to learn, find a location where you can learn the most. I chose Komodo. Why? Komodo means currents, currents mean fantastic marine life and challenging conditions. It means you’re kept on your toes and in my case – plunged into environments (crazy currents) I’d never felt in my life, never mind managed other divers in. You might be more interested in macro, so you might look for the most diverse macro specific dive site locations. There’s any number of ways you can intensify your course by making your initial choice the right one and deciding from on the outset that you’re going to learn more than just how to draw a dive map and brief a dive site.
Who do you want to learn from?
I was assigned to a mentor and I was his solo Divemaster trainee for the duration of my five months training. That meant, much like he was Yoda, I asked him everything and anything I could think of; stupid questions, questions I’d asked twenty times already and I made plenty of mistakes in the comfort of knowing they’d be recognised and resolved, with a confidence in my potential. I was pushed, notably a lot harder than some and, in the moments where I wasn’t sure, I learnt the most. I was always given a debrief on situations, circumstances, my actions and advice on any improvements and praise for just about anything.
Can you get this sort of personalised training, support and genuine investment when you are in a group of twenty, or maybe just eight Divemaster trainees? I think it’s worth considering how many other trainees they intend on taking on and how they allocate you a mentor. It’s worth nothing that there were four mentors in Blue Marlin at the time I was there, each had a ‘Luke Skywalker’ to pass down their Yoda skills to, yet each counselled and offered advice to me too, not to mention they all challenged my skills with equal fervour and supported my development.
The rest is up to you!
Like most things in life, the energy you put into something determines the outcome of it.
I spent a year saving up to get myself out to Komodo, I invested in my own equipment and when I arrived I threw myself into it; full effort, full energy, with a sheer determination to get as much as I could out of the experience. I did that by not only pushing myself out of my comfort zone to learn more but by being surrounded by professionals who wanted to offer me their time, passion and knowledge and to challenge me to my limits.
I’m lucky to say that by the end they were friends who had believed in me when I was unsure and cheered me on when I was just about exhausted, guided me after steep learning curves in challenging situations, shared some of my most treasured diving moments, ambitious personal challenges and some of the proudest moments I have had in my twenties! From coffee in the mornings to sunset beers and late shifts, diving with them three times a day for up to fourteen days in a row, l couldn’t have chosen a better company or a better team of mentors. Part of it is luck, but most of it is planning and making sure that you personally make the most of it.
So best of luck to you if you’re considering doing the Divemaster Training Course. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, full of comradery, challenge and if we’re honest.. Beer. Push yourself if your mentor wont and don’t forget to take a rest when it’s absolutely necessary, nobody wants a wiped out Divemaster on the boat. But mostly, have fun! It should be a blast and like me, you should make memories and friends for life.
Thanks so much to the Blue Marlin for the amazing facilities and incredible Divemaster program, to the Blue Marlin Divemaster Mentor team of 2018 for everything they did for me. And of course to my instructor and personal Yoda who saw me through from walking in as an Open Water Diver with just 17 logged dives to qualifying as Jedi status with 200 dives and more knowledge than I knew what to do with… Until I started my IDC that is.
(Disclaimer, don’t expect all mentors to sneakily train you to Instructor standard on the sly.)