The Road to Divemaster

The viz has just improved from a little over zero to perhaps five feet, just enough that I can see that my Divemaster instructor Zac Lenox has lost a fin. This is the last dive of my training and I am guiding Zac and another Divemaster student Matt back to shore at Olowalu after completing a Scuba Review skills section. Only another one hundred yards to go, but in the wind and break the bottom is stirred up and I am doing my best to keep an eye on my charges while navigating with my compass to our dive flag set just off shore.

I point to my eyes and make sure Zac and Matt will remain where we are, and set off to locate Zac’s fin. I pray this is the last challenge to my leadership on this dive. In the past hour I have retrieved a mask three times, and picked up a dumped weight, not to mention a diver drifting upward towards the surface, multiple divers wandering off, and a run of having to re-demonstrate and correct the 20 skills I am responsible to cover for the Scuba Review. These are all situations I am likely to encounter on a typical day working as a Divemaster, and I am being thrown everything but the kitchen sink to help me prepare for the inevitable.

I took my Rescue Diver course in February and then started as quickly as possible into Maui Dreams’ PADI Divemaster course. I spend my winters on Maui and each year devote a large portion of my time to increasing my skills and certifications as a diver. With less then a month’s time available this winter, Teri and the instructor crew at Maui Dreams assured me we could do the necessary course work. I would ideally have wanted more time as it is a very demanding program requiring a lot of reading, diving, internships, testing, and scheduling, but I was up for giving it a go.

Along the way I developed many new skills and expanded my confidence and experience as a diver many times over. We were assigned many challenges that demanded we multi-task while always remaining alert to our own and our peer’s safety. On one dive, it was having to completely exchange all our gear with another diver underwater while sharing air. On another, it was using search and recovery principles to search for a wicker chair that was carried into a bay during the March 11 tsunami in under five feet of visibility. I practiced towing an exhausted diver 50 yards in rough seas, located a simulated unconscious diver under water and brought them to shore while delegating an emergency action plan and performing rescue breathing all the way to the beach. Along with some of the other Divemaster students we cooperatively created a dive map for Wailea Point, and on a more regular basis I was responsible for organizing the necessary equipment at the shop to outfit the day’s course as an assistant to the instructor.

My Pacific NW Dive Entry

The Divemaster training is a very demanding and exciting program. It requires commitment to push ourselves beyond where we think we can go. It is one of the hardest courses I have ever done in some 34 years of professional guiding. But it is taught in an atmosphere of support and fun by the crew at Maui Dreams. Zac was my primary instructor along with sessions led by Charlie, Donnie, and Rachel. In-shop, Teri was always available, interested in how it was going and how we could keep the schedule moving forward to meet my deadline. Two of the other shop employees, Sara and Jon were also in the Divemaster course and besides being amazing peers, also provided insight and service when I had shop needs. And finally Gabriel the tech wizard and all around great guy always addressed gear needs and helped in resolving a long standing technical issue with my dive computer I had purchased over a year previously from Maui Dreams.

All I can offer is my deep mahalo to everyone that was part of helping me succeed in earning the title “Divemaster”. I look forward to my next winter and the opportunity to work and dive together again.