PADI Platinum Course Director Marcel van den Berg has handed over his column to Gaz Jameson, the DM Mentor at Sairee Cottage.
Training someone to become the best Divemaster means, we need to teach the best Divemaster course. The PADI DM course is a fantastic course and is the most widely taught first level of dive professional in the world.
Depending on the conditions it can be taught in around two weeks, but I strongly believe that to be able to create one of the best Divemaster courses in the world, we need a minimum of six weeks and often eight weeks to not only meet the minimum performance requirements, but to go far beyond.
Divemasters will often be taking divers out who dive very infrequently and don’t have much experience. Maybe they have only done the four dives in their Open Water course and this is their first venture out into the open ocean without the instructor who looked after them so well during their course.
Maybe they are assisting a Diving Instructor on a PADI Open Water course with eight students, where it is very possible that they are the closest person to a student when they have a panic attack and they have to deal with it until the dive instructor can get close enough to help.
Divemasters can very often be looking after people’s lives just as much as dive instructors do, therefore, I believe they should have as much knowledge, training and experience in real-life situations as we can give them here at Sairee Cottage Diving.
The best Divemasters should be supremely comfortable with their own diving skills, and should have confidence that they can look after any diver who is having problems underwater. Any diving instructor they work with should feel that they are a real asset in a problem situation, a Divemaster they really trust to help keep their students safe and not just a Divemaster who helps with logistics, like carrying tanks and packing bags.
The best Divemasters should be able to navigate dive sites easily, so that they can show divers the best marine life and give them the most pleasurable underwater diving experience possible.
And of course, as with any job in the world, the best Divemasters should have as much knowledge about scuba diving as possible.
So what do we do differently here with the PADI Divemaster Course at Sairee Cottage Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand when we train our Divemaster candidates?
To start with we strive to increase their knowledge. In addition to the core curriculum we provide extra lectures on useful topics such as Dive Physics & The Physiology of Diving, plus other important subjects such as Advanced Diving Risk Management, PADI Standards and Marine Conservation Lectures.
In order to give them as much real-life diving experience as possible, we have them tag along on each of the PADI Open Water, PADI Advanced and PADI Rescue courses, along with PADI DSDs and PADI Refresher courses, sometimes two or three times each. This allows them to see all the different types and levels of divers, experience many different situations that may arise, and observe how the PADI diving instructors deal with them.
As leading other recreational divers is going to be such a big part of a Divemaster job in the future, we spend plenty of time practicing how to become the best Dive leader. Our Divemaster trainees begin by tagging along with our working and highly experienced Divemasters we have on staff at Sairee Cottage Diving when they are leading customers. They can then listen to their dive briefings, watch how they control divers underwater, get diving navigation tips, and learn more about the dive sites and marine life.
The next step is then to go diving and leading one of their fellow Divemaster trainees (DMT/DMCs). This allows them to become comfortable in the water without someone to follow, to practice their navigation skills and start to learn the dive sites and to become proficient at skills such as deploying their DSMB. They will then move onto leading the Divemaster Mentors (and other trainees) on fun dives, so they can practice their dive briefings and be assessed on the three core skills of being a good dive leader – keeping their divers safe, being an excellent tour guide, and navigating their way successfully around dive sites and back to the boat.
And finally, they will get the chance to try the job out for real, and take paying customers out on their dives. This is done under the guidance of our experienced Divemasters and Diving Instructors at Sairee Cottage Diving who can help out where necessary and provide useful feedback after the dive.
As many Divemasters often go on to become PADI Diving Instructors, be it immediately after they have finished the Divemaster course, or in the future, I feel we are also training them to be ready for the PADI IDC Course here on Koh Tao or any other location in the world. We therefore put a lot of emphasis on how well they can demonstrate the diving skills to students for the Open Water course. We have them do at least four PADI Divemaster Skill Circuits / Workshops, with the first being in the classroom, where we review our PADI Skill Circuit videos of the skill demonstrations and discuss the key points, and the next three Skill Circuits being conducted in the pool and confined open water.
Our aim is that by the end of their course, our Divemaster Trainees know these skills off by heart and are able to demonstrate each of them to the highest score of 5, so that they don’t need any further training on this area during their Diving Instructor Course (IDC), leaving them free to focus on other areas, and making the PADI IDC a little less stressful.
This obviously also makes them real assets to a dive instructor when they are assisting a PADI Open Water Diver Course should the Diving Instructor need any extra help. It also makes them better when conducting PADI Reactivate and, of course, just be overall better Divemasters.
It is my aim that anyone who completes the Divemaster Course with us at Sairee Cottage Diving is immediately ready to go out and get a Divemaster job, and that their employer will know that they have someone who will keep their customers safe and ensure they have the best possible diving experience.
We thrive to create one of the best Divemaster courses in the world by teaching far beyond dive organisation standards, focusing on following PADI Standards, Advanced Risk Management, Marine Conservation, Divemaster Job Placement, Divemaster positive attitude, Fish Identification and so much more.
If you have questions or need advice on how to become one of the best Divemasters, then please contact us.
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer / DM Mentor
Sairee Cottage Diving PADI five-star IDC Centre
Koh Tao, Thailand
Photo credit: Peach Snaps Underwater Photography