The Way of the Divemaster

When I signed up for my Open Water Class way back when, I was introduced to my Instructor, with good idea of this person’s roll in my scuba education. I mean, “Instructor”, right? Helping her was an “Assistant” and even with my total lack of experience I could imagine this person’s role in the process. On the third evening of the course held at the dive center’s pool, our Instructor mentioned “We were supposed to have a Divemaster here with us tonight, but we will make do.”

Now what is this Divemaster person? Do we need a “Master” to proceed with the secrets of Scuba? Without this person, the Divemaster, would there be special “Master” knowledge we would be missing? Would my (mere) Instructor be able to take up the responsibility without the Divemaster being there?

It turns out that the scuba Certifying agencies (PADI, NAUI, et al) have seen fit to entitle the entry level position of scuba professionals as “Divemaster”. So the lower tiers of scuba professionalism in ascending order are; Divemaster, Assistant Instructor, Open Water Scuba Instructor, and etc., up to the level of minor deity. The Divemaster’s duties when assisting Instructors and those higher up on the food chain is to be Sherpa, safety diver, gear organizer, nose wiper, strong back, weak mind, and whatever else is below those above. Perhaps to make up for the lack of monetary compensation (you will need a day job) the position was given the coolest title.

The Divemaster’s relative positioning in the scuba hierarchy is often misunderstood. After I became one, yes I speak from experience; I was assigned one weekend to assist a dear friend and Instructor while she taught a Boy Scout group from her church the joys of SCUBA diving. Classes in this area (Washington State) typically consist of four or five pool and class sessions at the Dive Center, and a weekend outing 100 miles away to do the four Open Water dives required to complete the course. I was invited to come to the dive center for the last pool session and to meet the students and be there for the final plans of the weekend outing. Being Boy Scouts, and minors, there were four of the student’s fathers at the shop who would be accompanying the group providing transportation and chaperonage.

Arriving at the shop I was introduced as I entered the door with; “And this is Gary, he will be our Divemaster this weekend.” Well, before I could get out my patented “howyoualldoin?” I had four fathers on three compass points, all very near to invading my personal space, and asking me what my plans for the weekend entailed.

(I find perverse pleasure in situations like this.) “This coming weekend?” attempting to look confused, “Diving, I hear, how about you?”

A quick concerned look is shared by the boy’s fathers, and the articulate one explains “We were wondering what you have planned this weekend when we arrive…”

“Oh yeah” I interrupt, “Where are we going, anyway?”

“You don’t know?” I am asked by a mouth that remains open.

“Well no, I just got here.”

“But aren’t you in charge of the diving?” an incredulous parental figure asks.

“Oh heavens no, Connie is the boss” I say pointing to my diminutive friend, “She says jump, and I hope I get high enough.”

It took a day, but eventually they realized I was just there to help, and I got let into the old guys club for the weekend. To end it all we had a full group of Boy Scouts as certified Open Water Scuba divers, and four fathers with a realistic view of what a Divemaster is.

Please don’t take this as belittling the position, after all I am one. Becoming a PADI Divemaster has opened new worlds and experiences I would have never had, or would ever trade. It is not the best paying job, but it is the best job, and a stepping stone to other great possibilities.