Our guest blogger this week is Alanna Ettinger, Divemaster Trainee here at West End Divers. She gives us her candid impression of PADI training to Go-Pro in tropical paradise with an open letter to Divemaster potentials.
Hey There, so you are thinking of becoming a PADI Divemaster!
By Alanna Ettinger
My name is Alanna and I am currently a Divemaster Trainee (DMT) here at West End Divers shop. I came here about a month ago and took my Emergency First Responder and Rescue Diver course before starting my Divemaster training. Right now I am only about a week into my DMT (officially) and figured I would give you a day-in-the-life style breakdown of what we do here!
It is an internship, so you are basically assisting the instructors in any way you can each day. There are 2 other DMT's here right now, so a total of three of us, which has been really great. Compared to some other dive shops around here, there can be anywhere from 6 to 13 DMT's at one shop! The feedback we hear from those places are that they can't ever get any time with an instructor, that they are constantly on top of each other, and usually can't dive much because there isn't room for everyone. We have the COMPLETE OPPOSITE situation here. The three of us get a chance to work under each different instructor to see their style of teaching, briefing, and guiding. We can make almost every single dive each day depending on the numbers, and we are constantly reminded that there are "NO STUPID QUESTIONS!" which I love.
The days start at 8am and get done around 5pm(ish). The shop offers 3 dives a day; at 9am, 11:30am, and 2:30pm with the occasional night dive or Blackwater dive. This is the ONLY shop on the island that offers Blackwater dive. So far 1 out of 3 of us has already scored a spot on one of those trips and had an amazing experience!
We begin our day by setting up the wash station and putting out the wet suits. Then we immediately look at the schedule board to see who will be on the first dive of the day, and prepare the boat with the appropriate amount of tanks and scuba kits. If people are diving here for some time, we keep their kits set up and ready to go and use a white board to refer to when grabbing them out of the back to bring out and set up.
In the beginning you do a lot of asking how you can help, or what to do next, but after about a week or so you start to anticipate what the instructors will need and just get right to it. Again, NO STUPID QUESTIONS, so if you aren't doing anything just ask what you can do, and there is always SOMETHING to do :)
If you go on the dive with the instructor, you are typically in the back of the group, or buddied up with somebody that may need assistance or just the comfort of knowing you are there. Typically if someone is running lower on air than the rest of the group, you will take them to do their safety stop, and ascend with your safety marker buoy. Once you all get back on the boat, you break down the kits and organize them in two separate piles of who is going on the next dive or who is done for the day. It is a quick turn over to the second dive, so hustling new tanks on the boat and taking the used ones off to get filled, setting up the next set of kits etc. The deeper into the program you get, the more responsibility you will have. Perhaps briefing & leading the dives, or giving new customers tours of the shop and having them fill out paperwork, etc.
After the 11:30 dive is back and the kits that need to be washed are washed, and the 2:30 dive is set up, it's lunch time! It's super convenient to have a lunch packed because there isn't much time to go out and order something and come back to eat it. There is an awesome cafe spot upstairs that has delicious food and you can usually get away with ordering there and having enough time to eat. After the 2:30 dive we wash everything and get everything off the boat and usually discuss with Andy or the instructors what you will be doing the next day. As I said, the deeper you get into the program, the more stuff you will have to do such as a mapping project, a rescue scenario, and search and recovery, some swim stamina tests and skill demonstrations, and the like.
The girls (Instructors) are really good about letting you know what they expect out of you and support you along the way! We laugh a lot and I look forward to coming to "work" each day! Overall, this experience has been a great one, and I look forward to getting a little bit farther into the program and doing more and learning as much as possible! I am super grateful that we have such talented instructors and overall staff to learn under here and that I have other DMT's that are just as enthusiastic about being here as I am! If you have any other questions please feel free to ask! I hope this helped give a little insight into the gig, and I truly hope you decide to do your DMT with West End Divers, because I absolutely LOVE it here!!