There’s a saying here at Coral: “life happens in a week”. It’s very true. Since we’re living at such a condensed and accelerated rate, everything you think you know changes from Monday to Monday (as if we have any idea what day of the week it actually is...). So, since it’s been a week since my last update about DMT, I figured it was time to sit down and post an update in all my newfound free time (seriously, there’s so much of it).
First, we all passed our physical pool tests. My personal favorite was the Gear Exchange, which is an exercise in how comfortable you are underwater in strange and pressurized circumstances. The objective is simple: you and a buddy have to swap kits underwater (BCDs, masks, and fins) while sharing one regulator. I won’t lie: I was very uncomfortable the first time I practiced it with one of the instructors. It felt awkward, unnatural, and more than a little harrowing to perform tasks underwater in someone else’s kit without constantly having access to an air supply. When I voiced these concerns at the surface after the first time, the instructor, Jesse, explained it to me like this: “Diving is a solo sport. Yeah, you have a buddy, but he’s only there for emergencies. Otherwise, you take care of yourself and expect others to do pretty much the same. This exercise is the first time you have to completely trust the other diver to pay attention to you, to help if you get stuck, and to give the reg back. That’s why I like this exercise so much. You have to rely on the other person, and that doesn’t really happen in diving.” It was reassuring to have a more concrete reason for my discomfort, and to understand the true purpose of the exercise. After that initial bump, it was easy to figure out how to do it swiftly and most efficiently with another one of the DMTs for the actual evaluation (which we crushed, by the way. Descent, swap, and ascent took a grand total of two minutes).
Second, we have all passed part one of the written Divemaster exam. Part 1 covers things like what a Divemaster’s duties actually entail, diver safety and risk management, which programs we’re allowed to conduct, which skills we’re supposed to know at demonstration-quality, business and customer interaction, and the marine environment. Everybody passed with flying colors, and now we have to take part 2, which covers physics and human anatomy. As of today, we’ve spent four and a half hours in the classroom learning about pressure, partial pressures, inert gases, and how all of those mess with the human body at depth (quick shoutout to Grey’s Anatomy for teaching me terms like “air embolus” and “subcutaneous emphysema” before we got to that section of the divemaster manual). Third, we’ve started shadowing and assisting as part of the practical assessment of DMT. We got our nice blue polo shirts that identify us as Coral Divers staff, and now we attend dive planning every night to work out what we’re going to be doing the next day. Some of us will be shadowing Divemasters on dives, which means getting to do the briefings, pre-dive safety checks, holding the buoy line, etc. Some of us will be assigned to assist on Open Water or Advanced Open Water courses, which means we help the instructor demonstrate skills in the pool before supervising the students on their first two open ocean dives. At the same time, we’re being taught how to check gear out, book used gear back in, and how to do all the paperwork guests must fill out before they can dive.
Any and everything can happen in one given day. Two days ago, I spent the morning on an Advanced course and then the afternoon was nothing but gear rental returns. Yesterday, I was booked on two dives because two of the guests spoke Spanish and so do I (seriously, if you want to become a marketable DM, learn how to speak German, Dutch, and Spanish). Today, I spent the morning filming for a couple’s first dive in Sodwana, and in the afternoon I was on an Open Water course doing pool sessions. Two of the other DMTs have spent the past two days in the pool assisting on a different Open Water course, while the rest of the DMTs have been mapping dive sites. We have to be on-call for any and every task, because you never know when someone is going to suddenly point to you and assign you to guests, a specific dive, an instructor, or a course. Our days can either be full to the brim or we only dive once in the morning and that’s it for the rest of the day. It’s very hectic, but interesting to see how much more there is to being a Divemaster than I think any of us originally thought.