PADI Divemaster Internship
I completed a 6 week Divemaster Internship on Malapascua Island with Evolution Dive Resort over the summer of 2014. I decided to do an internship so we could actually learn how to run a dive shop and experience the lifestyle, plus I wanted to do a lot of diving (80+ Dives in 6 weeks). Here is a low down on the course.
First of all, before you start, you should buy your own gear. You are training to become a pro diver, you should own your own gear. Get with your instructor for gear recommendations…..or take Evolutions gear recommendations and DONT buy split fins, jacket BCD’s, purge masks, big reels, or integrated weights. DO buy donut style wing BCD, OMS or Jet fins, black frame mask, and steel clips.
Anyway, the course was very thorough and exceeded my expectations. From day 1 we were treated as staff and expected to start being proactive around the dive resort. We were immediately introduced to the dive crew, boat crew, restaurant staff, and owners, and given a review on how everything operated. Next we had a class on how to fix common problems with leaky hoses, tanks, and regulators. We were given Divemaster Trainee (DMT) T-shirts and told that we now represented the dive shop (so no getting belligerent drunk and fighting people). This came with responsibility and we were expected to:
Greet incoming customers (give incoming brief and issue gear)
Handle paperwork (legal shit, medical shit, and dive profile)
Load and unload dive boats (Farmer’s walks with tanks)
Handle logistics dive trips (first-aid, spare equipment, water, etc.)
Clean customers gear (rinse and hang)
Note: we did $3,700 worth of diving and the course cost $1,000.
During our 6 week stay we were able to “assist” on any dive going out that day. Our primary role as an assistant was to gain experience and to buddy up with anyone who was an air sucker for an early ascent. The resort ran 4 single dive trips a day, starting at 0500 (Thresher shark dive), 0930, 1330, and 1730 for a night dive. This was a lot of diving and a lot of work considering you had to load and unload the boat for every trip. You didn’t have to do all these dives everyday, unless there was a big group and they needed assistance.
To earn your certification you must complete a series of requirements involving diving theory, physical tests, navigation, instruction, and dive skill demonstration. Here is a list of some of the things we were tested on:
There are 9 chapters in the book and 2 tests. First test is on chapters 1-8 and the second test is over chapter 9 (the longest chapter). Both are simple and material is stuff you should already know if you’ve done any extra reading on scuba diving.
800-meter swim with mask, snorkel, and fins.
400-meter swim slick
15 minute tread water, last 2 minutes with hands out of water
100 meter tired diver tow
Each test is scored 1-5 and you need 15 points to pass. Get a 5 on the stress test and a 5 on the tread water and you will pass for sure. You will most likely score a 3-5 on the diver tow and a 1-2 on the 400 and 800 meter swims.
The 800-meter snorkel takes longer than you think so don’t pace yourself. Go full throttle from the beginning and pray that there is no current and the ocean is flat. The 400-meter is Olympic athlete timing so don’t count on getting a 5 here. I scored a 1 finishing in 15 minutes. The tread water is easy, just tread for 13 minutes then for the last 2 you need to fill your lungs with air and helicopter your legs to stay head up with your hands out of the water. For the tired diver tow, make sure you put the tired divers fins on your shoulders and your head between their legs. This method is by far the fastest.
For the stress test you and a partner have to exchange gear underwater sharing a single regulator. Make a plan on the surface, stay calm, and execute. We exchanged masks and fins first, then moved on to Scuba equipment. It took us nearly 10 minutes but we completed it fine. Don’t be a buddy fucker and rush the other person, because if it looks like one person is helping the other person too much then the other person will lose points. Stay calm and ensure that each of you does their fair share.
On this exercise you and a partner will have to map a dive site. Make a plan before you get in the water and delegate tasks. Here is what we did.
Person 1 will navigate, kick count, and film (we used a GoPro)
Person 2 will kick count and take notes of terrain features and depths
Both people should kick count so person 1 can properly navigate 50 kicks up, 5 right 50 down 5 left, and person 2 can take accurate notes.
We split the dive site into 4 50×50 meter squares. One Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast. We used the U-shaped pattern to map each square one at a time. Don’t rush it because you will get 2 dives to complete this map.
On the surface you will get together and each of you will draw, label, and color a map using your notes.
Demonstrate 20 PADI Skills:
The 20 PADI skills are the same ones that you covered during your Open Water course. Only this time you must perform them at “demonstration quality”. This means over exaggerating the steps and using your hands a lot. Just think of it as a choreographed dance and you will do fine. You must make the skills look easy. The most difficult skill for me was the buoyancy check. You must deflate your BCD to the point where to float eye level. This is easy if you are perfectly weighted, but as a Divemaster you are always over weighted. So you must empty your BCD the perfect amount to float at eye level and sink when you exhale. The trick, take a HUGE breath.
Anyway, after you have practiced these skills 2-3 times in the water you will have to demonstrate them to your instructor and receive a grade of 1-5. You need 89 out of 120 to pass (I believe).
Conduct Scuba Review Program:
This is when you will actually put the 20 PADI skills to use. For this exercise your Instructor will most likely be your student and you will give them a Scuba Review. This consists of a pre-dive brief and in-water instruction. During the pre-dive brief you should ask the instructor their diving level, number of dives, and how long it’s been since their last dive to give you an idea of how “barney style” you should go. The instructor will probably make it hard on you and say they haven’t dived in 10 years and they don’t speak English very well. Ensure that you talk over the plan for the day and use EASY English, no big words. Explain to them the timeline of the Review program and how everything is going to work. When you’ll give the brief, when they’ll eat, get on the boat, what to bring on the boat, and what time you’ll be back.
Once that is done you should start the actual brief. Have a set of equipment on hand and go over everything, what it’s called and what it does. Then you need to demonstrate putting on the gear, getting into the water, above water skills, how to descend, and all underwater skills. Once the brief is done you head out for the actual dive. This part is easy, just do everything that you briefed and be ready for some curve balls.
Conduct Discover Scuba Diving:
This is the best and worst. Just like the scuba review program the instructor will be your student and you will be their guide on the exploration of the underwater world. The only problem is, the student (instructor) is not a certified diver and will act completely brainless. Just imagine dragging a dead body around underwater, that is the DSD assessment. The only difference between this and scuba review is that you will not demonstrate the 20 PADI skills. You will only demonstrate 3 skills, mask clearing, regulator recovery, and regulator clearing.
So you’ll get your student, ask them the obvious questions, have them sign a bunch of paperwork, explain the plan of the day, and then you’ll proceed to explain scuba diving to a 3 year old. It’s actually quite fun because it’s challenging. Just try to explain scuba diving in the simplest terms, use the balloon to explain air spaces and soda bottle to explain decompression/ascent rate. Easy day you won’t forget.
Assist with Open Water Course:
I actually did this a lot over my 6 week period and really enjoyed it. You get to be there for the students first time underwater and you’ll most likely form plenty of friendships. It’s the most rewarding part of the course.
During an OW course your main job is logistics and supervision. You will attend all classroom sessions and dive briefings. You will issue equipment, load equipment, and prepare everything for the dive. During the dive you will follow behind the students and serve as a buffer between them and the surface. Serving as a buffer is the most important job you will have. Every class I had I was chasing runaway students. People love their inflator button I swear. Just stay vigilant.
Search and Recovery Scenario:
This is more of a learning experience rather than an actual assessment. During this you will practice locating a submerged object (just like rescue diver) using several different search patterns. You will also practice tying knots and recovering an object underwater using a lift bag. All is covered during a 60 minute dive.
Rescue an unresponsive diver underwater:
This is the same scenario you practiced several times during your rescue diver course, except this time you have to do it at “demonstration quality”. Remember to locate the diver, check for responsiveness, and ascend with the regulator in. On the surface remove weights, regulator, and mask. Check for breathing for 10 seconds, call for help, then give 2 initial rescue breaths and 1 breath every 5 seconds following that while you tow the dive to safety removing both sets of equipment.
Give a pre-dive briefing and lead a dive:
This is what Divemasters do everyday so you should be more than ready for this. The main thing is that give a good dive brief, go slow and cover everything. During the dive, remember to turn around and check on customers, carry extra weight, check air every 10 minutes, and GO SLOW!
On your assessment day you will literally run the dive resort and apply everything you have learned. You will make the schedule for the day, delegate tasks, handle customers, and deal with a variety of problems and scenarios.
During my girlfriends assessment day she spoke with guests and organized a full day trip to Kalanggaman Island. Planning the trip she handled all the logistics and assigned Divemasters to dive groups. During the trip she gave the boat brief, entertained customers, and handled a few scenarios. The first scenario involved someone falling overboard while the boat was moving. Of course she turned the boat around, assigned a spotter, readied first-aid equipment, and jumped in the water to rescue the victim. The second scenario she had to deal with a DCS (decompression sickness) case.
On my assessment day I stayed at the dive resort and relaxed because I was hungover. The owner decided he would give me a tough one and came running up to me saying that a customer had gone for a swim and was missing. So Carolyn and I grabbed two sets of equipment and ran out in to the ocean to begin our search. Luckily, the customer/instructor was wearing Scuba and I could spot his bubbles so we found him pretty quick and rescued the unconscious diver underwater as we learned and practiced earlier in the course. Once we reached the shore I had to carry the diver to a safe spot and the scenario was over.
After the assessment day you are officially a PADI Divemaster. Next comes the snorkel test and the party. You can figure all that out for yourself.
The purpose of this course is to become a dive professional. By the end, your buoyancy and trim should be perfect, air consumption minimal, and your knowledge of diving theory vast. When customers jump in the water with you as their “guide”, their lives are in your hands. If you descend to deep and exceed no-stop limits or get pulled out to sea by a current. The customers are going to look to you as a leader who is going to get them out alive. This course isn’t a stepping stone to becoming a dive instructor so you can live in the tropics and party (it’s part of it), but the most important part is that you KNOW the material and how to react calmly in a stressful situation. There will be problems when are leading dives. I have only done 120 dives and have already seen someone run out of air, someone ripped away by current in bad visibility, someone take off swimming into the abyss for no apparent reason, and multiple people inflate and shoot for the surface. Shit happens and if you react badly, you are liable. So take the course seriously, become a good diver, and learn a little about Marine Biology because that is the most common question from a customers mouth is…”What kind of fish was that?”
The best part of the Divemaster Internship was assisting on my Wyatt (my little bro) and Matt’s Open Water Course and taking an amazing trip out to the “real” Philippines on Kalanggaman Island. Here’s a link to the day!