Being a Divemaster is one thing, but to be a good one is a completely different professional.
Divemaster is typically the first professional level within the recreational diving industry. It’s a multifaceted role that non-professional observers often misunderstand, and it’s not uncommon during an open-water class for a student to proudly proclaim that they intend to be a divemaster. There are slight variations on the divemaster theme within each training agency and the role varies widely. Being both a great diver and a great divemaster does have some overlap but being a great divemaster is much more than being a great diver.
There are thousands of divemasters and many only remain active for a short time. Some only complete the divemaster training to expand their knowledge and skill level or for the kudos of being a divemaster or typically on a quick route towards getting their Instructor badge. Too many do not get or want to give the right amount of time to get the right depth of experience to become a true professional. Just qualifying in a relatively short space of time or enrolling on a crash course does not make a professional Divemaster. Dive centers and instructors seek out only the best divemasters after they complete their training.
What are the characteristics of a great divemaster ? If you’re considering undertaking training, or are a new divemaster, how can you improve in all the key areas ?
A divemaster must be not only competent in the water but also capable of diving to demonstration quality. This means having a clear understanding of — and the ability to perform — all core skills from each training course up to and including divemaster level. In addition, some of the skills are general ones that instructors would expect of any professional working alongside them, such as knot tying, deploying DSMBs or navigating on dives to allow the instructor to observe students. In addition, a divemaster should know the training standards and work within them, with a solid understanding of what is required and the integrity to abide by the rules.
Crossing that invisible line and becoming a divemaster means the diving is no longer about you. Rather, it’s about the divers that you’re leading — whether that’s pool-refresher session, try dive, guided dive, or indirectly supervised training dive. Learn how to read people and situations as you gather experience. Your assessment of the divers begins the moment you meet them at the dive center, boat or resort. Each word and gesture can tell you something about the diver’s likely behavior in the water and, therefore, help you make a better decision about how to tailor that pool session or guided dive to them. Always plan your dive to the least confident, skillful or experienced diver in the group. Learning how to assess divers and judge situations isn’t something that happens automatically as you qualify as a divemaster — it takes time and experience. Pay close attention to your divers and listen to other, more-experienced professional divers. Ask them why they’re making certain decisions and, if in doubt, choose conservatively.
Continue to learn and hone your craft. Follow your interests and take continuing-education courses and specialty training that piques your interest. Learn about different areas of diving and gather experience in different environments. Some divemasters complete their training solely on a warm Caribbean reef but would be unsuitable to work in a more challenging, cold water, low-visibility environment of a European lake. Conversely, the divemaster who has worked only in the European lake would be unsuited to guide a dive in strong, swirling currents in southeast Asia. And simply diving in those different environments on holiday or vacation isn’t enough. Watch closely how and why your experienced professionals set up, brief and run dives in a certain way.
A good attitude is arguably the most important trait of a great divemaster. As a result, you can be the most skillful diver on the boat but if you’ve got a bad attitude you’ll never succeed. Going the extra mile really separates the great divemasters from the average ones. With that in mind, great divemasters:
- Never have a bad day or a bad dive. Good divemasters are always on time, prepared, well-rested and ready to go.
- Collaborate with instructors on training courses. They’ve also researched the course curriculum and have considered where they should be in the water, and what their logistical role may be on land.
- Appreciate that dive preparation happens well before getting in the water. They fill tanks, load equipment on the boat and complete paperwork. This is all part of a team effort to offer customers a good service and get the job done.
- Understand that they’re part of a larger team working with the dive center to offer a professional service. A great divemaster also has skills such as website/marketing prowess, equipment maintenance and sales skills.
- Can communicate with honesty and integrity to customers and other staff members, promoting the business they work for.
- Have excellent interpersonal skills and can nurture trust and respect in customers and fellow staff members.
It's all about spending time and effort perfecting your knowledge and experience simply doing the job working with experienced Instructors, and on a range of different diving situations with many different types of divers and students.
What type of divemaster do you want to be - just one that wants the badge and a quick route to being a poor Divemaster and Instructor ? Or a true professional Divemaster and hence an excellent all round Instructor. As a great Instructor you never stop being a Divemaster too !