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Let’s Talk About Divemaster Training

With the conclusion of Rescue Course, our group of CDCs officially wrapped up our last day working Beach and traded in our 5:00am starts for 7:00am ones. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, we got to welcome the new group of CDCs who have come to Sodwana to call Villa their home for the next three months. There are 17 new CDCs, meaning we all got booted out of Villa and are now spread out around Coral in various staff accommodations. I got moved to B Camp, which is a group of 12 freestanding reed dorms in the very front of Coral.

I’m not going to lie: the new rooms are amazing. Since B Camp is technically guest lodging during peak season, the rooms have front porches, two twin beds, multiple electrical outlets, and screened windows with shutters to let the breeze through (and since it’s only one staff member per room, I stacked those two mattresses as soon as I moved in. I’m sleeping in a cloud). The only downside is that B Camp doesn’t have a bathroom (we’re not really sure why. We assume the guests would also like to have a bathroom?) and we have to trek to C Camp to use theirs.

So, we all moved out of Villa and the new CDCs showed up. We spent three days teaching them how to work Beach, and then it was time to hand over the reigns and begin the next phase of our stay here in Sodwana. It was time to begin Divemaster Training (I don’t know why it’s called DMT if Divemaster is apparently one word. Take it up with PADI). DMT is so far very different from any other course we’ve done so far as recreational divers. For one, DMT is not recreational. It’s a professional course designed to be the first stepping stone in your career as a professional diver. Most people who go through the Divemaster course go on to become PADI Instructors and work full-time in the dive industry (Emma and I are outliers in the fact that we’re stopping at DM). Since the course is aimed at those who are seriously dedicated to becoming dive professionals, the standards and expectations suddenly shot through the roof. Take basic dive skills, for example. We’ve moved on from “be able to do them well” to “be able to demonstrate them at Instructor-level”. As a DM, we’ll be in charge of leading refresher dive courses for people who haven’t been diving in a while, so we have to be able to teach basic skills to guests in a manner that is slow, deliberate, and professional. We spend three hours a day in the pool drilling three or four of these skills with our Instructor until they’re satisfied that we’re doing them up to standards.

Expectations for our personal lives and fitness have also changed. While most of us had already taken up swimming or running (or both) out of sheer boredom, physical fitness isn’t much of an option anymore. There are a series of physical tests we have to pass as part of the course. Our first test was a fifteen-minute water tread where we had to spend the last two minutes of it with our hands out of the water. Our second test was a 400 meter swim. You got five points if you finished in under 6 minutes 30 seconds (literally only one of us got that) four points if you finished under 8 minutes 40 seconds (Emma, myself, and the majority of the DMTs got that) and three points if you finished under 11 minutes. We still have to do an 800 meter snorkel and a 100 meter tired diver tow before we’ve finished the physical tests. Then we have to become demonstration-quality proficient in 20 dive skills and 4 skin diver skills. At the same time, we’re spending three hours in the classroom every afternoon going over theory, knowledge reviews, dive briefings, and customer interaction. We’ve definitely had to step-up the amount of time we spend self-assessing, studying, and preparing for pool and for class. After pool ends at 11:00, we usually spend an extra hour there by ourselves working on skills, and an extra hour or two outside of class working on knowledge reviews, readings, or preparing dive briefings (which we then have to present to the rest of the group. It’s just like being back in college). And we don’t even get to dive while we’re on course, so we’re all drying out and catching colds. Luckily, though, we should be taking the exam on Sunday, and then we’ll be back down to the beach to begin shadowing current DMs. But for now, it’s back to basics, back to pool, back to class. And, let’s be honest, we’re loving every moment of this, too.

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