A day in the life of a Dive Master Trainee at Master Divers.

Mari

I have never imagined myself as a Divemaster. My first dive was 3 years ago, in cold water and bad visibility in the south of Brazil. After some dives in other places, my interest about diving increased. Therefore the wish for a new lifestyle brought me to Koh Tao.

The Divemaster Course is very fun and I have enjoyed it so much! I have meet great people who share the same feeling as me: The love for the sea and the underwater life!

In my course and internship at Master Divers, I have learnt a lot about the environment, marine life, equipment (operation, maintenance and care), physiology, safe procedures, and, of course, underwater skills! Now I am able to do things underwater that I couldn’t imagine 3 months ago! And the best part, I can help people to improve their skills and have fun too!

mari and Andre

Another thing that I love here is participating on “Beach clean ups” promoted by Master Divers. In my opinion, actions like this show how good and responsible the company is. Also as a Divemaster, the responsibility about the environment is bigger because you are a role model for beginner divers. So if you take care and do something to protect the environment, other people will do the same.

Mari1

For me, the Divemaster Course was very challenging, especially because I haven’t done it in my first language, but I can assure you it is the most fun and excited training in a diver’s life. Of course I still have a lot to learn but by doing the internship with the professional support helped on my development and to feel safer on my new career. Now, I’m a Divemaster and I’m so happy for that!

 

By Marilei Kuns

How to find scuba work on Koh Tao?

With over 40 dive centers on Koh Tao, you might think that it would be very easy to get work. However, it’s important to remember that these centres are also producing professionals. This is why it’s extremely rare to see dive jobs advertised on Koh Tao; there simply is no need. On the whole, speculative CVs mailed to dive centres are either ignored or replied to with a polite thanks, but no thanks. If you want to work on Koh Tao you have to take the leap, come here and start out as a freelancer. You will find it is tougher if you  haven’t trained on the island but it’s by no means impossible.

Make the leap?
Make the leap?

If you trained here its possible that your training dive centre will have work for you but this is by no means a guarantee. Whether you trained here or you just arrived, make no mistake you have some pavement, well beach, pounding to do to get your foot in the door.

If you have the right attitude, a little tenacity and are well presented then you will go along way.

First, you will need a simple one page CV, not endless reams of information. Dive centre managers want to know who you are which means name and a photo. Make your phone number large so it’s easy to find and stands out. List your qualifications, languages,  any relevant dive experience and make it short and concise. These end up in a pile or folder and get flicked through it all has to be in one place.

Next, you need to get off your butt and take your CV around every dive centre on the island. DO NOT EMAIL IT! This is simply lazy and means that you don’t get the opportunity to have a look around each dive centre, talk to people and see what you like. Try and talk to the manager, if they are not there, get their name and find out when is a good time to see them. Write it down so when you go back you can ask for them by name. Leave your CV even if they are not in. Move on to the next one and repeat. This will take a few days for sure.

Get out there with your CV!
Get out there with your CV!

Do note that trying to talk to the manager at a very busy time will not endear you. Boat change over time is one such time so avoid 11.00-1pm and 4.30-5.30pm. Otherwise take a look around and gauge if it looks hectic or if people look like they have time to chat.

Once you have completed your whole island circuit, pop back to the centres where you didn’t meet the manager and keep trying. Once you have done that, hit the beat again and wander around, saying hi and making sure your CV comes back up to the top of the pile and that they know you are still here.

By now your phone should start ringing…… Good Luck!

 

 

How to be a good freelance dive instructor on Koh Tao.

Being a good freelancer starts from when that phone rings!

When you get offered work, don’t be picky or try to hedge your bets that something better might come in. Don’t whine that it’s a small group, you are a freelancer and if you are a new one, you are at the bottom of the ladder. So say yes, smile and say thank-you!

Dont worry, be happy!
Don’t worry, be happy!

On no account should you ever call back later and cancel because someone has offered you work for more money. This is not only very unprofessional but it will guarantee you will never work for that dive centre again. Dive centres do talk to each other and pass references and recommendations – Koh Tao is a small island!

Confirm you have the relevant phone numbers and know who to call if you are taken sick or have an accident and can’t work the next day.

If you are working for a centre but get a call from another for work the next day, before accepting it, its polite to double check with the centre you are working for that day as they might have planned you in for something already.

It should go without saying that you need to turn up clean and tidy, smelling nicely with a smile on your face.  Do not wear a t-shirt from another dive centre on the island. If your divers are coming in at 9am, get there15/30mins before. If you are heading straight out on the boat, ensure you are there in enough time to pack your divers bags and help prepare the boat.

Work it baby!
Work it baby!

Take care that you have all of the things you need from a white board marker, to copies of knowledge reviews and answer keys and other appropriate teaching material and full dive gear including torch! Dive centres have a finite amount of gear and are unlikely to lend items to any member of staff unless in the case of failure on the boat. If your reg is in for service, get it done quickly and let the appropriate person at the dive centre know.

Each dive centres processes are different and they will all have slightly different ways for checking out gear to divers, transferring gear and divers to the dive boat, protocol on the boat, washing and returning gear. If you are not briefed, ask and help the rest of the team. Remember they will be providing feed back on your performance.

Finally there will be paperwork for both your diver and for you to do, complete it fully before leaving for the day. Before you go, check that there was nothing else expected of you and say thank-you!

Master Divemaster

Checking out the Top Ten from Master Divers I came across Phil’s great work in explaining what his Divemaster experiencewas like. I remember my course like it was yesterday how much fun it was & how much I improved as a diver over that short time.

Guiding Divers

Now as an Instructor Trainer, I’m involved in the development of professional divers & the structuring of their programs. With this in mind we’ve set about developing a Divemaster program without equal, built around a team of experts from various fields to teach our budding candidates & making it the Divemaster program I wish I’d completed.

In the same boat.

The Team

With over 50 years of professional diving experience between them, the Go Pro SSI team teaching the Divemaster program count among them an Instructor Trainer, a Dive Medic Technician, professional videographers & photographers, a journalist & published writer, an environmental specialist, Technical Diving Instructors, a Freediving Instructor, equipment maintenance & repair specialists, a marketing manager & even a fitness coach! Having dived on almost every continent & in every condition know to dive-kind, their quality speak for itself.

Fun in the sun.

The Course

All the requirements for the Divemaster course are exceeded during our program; we give more time for skill practice for the trainees & even work on neutrally buoyant skill development to prepare them for working in other environments. The trainees work towards taking on more responsibility as they progress through the program, spending more time with customers, learning about the practical & logistical considerations of the dive operation, moving towards their leadership level requirements & beyond. During the Divemaster program we teach the Science of Diving Specialty, giving the trainees a solid understanding of the basics of diving physics, physiology, equipment, planning & the environment; a necessity for any professional wishing to achieve the level of Divemaster. A complete review of the skills required to perform in-water rescues is also performed during the course along with a review of all first aid skills & oxygen administration for diving accidents & even introducing some advanced rescue techniques.

Briefing Divers

The Extras

Once certified as a Divemaster we offer our successful candidates the opportunity to stay for our FREE Internship program. During the program they get a chance to use all of the skills learned during their program & get the valuable experience of working in a real dive centre. Learning the “ins & outs” of a dive centre from the front of house; customers relations, administrative duties & equipment sales to dive decks; filling tanks, maintaining equipment & running a dive boat.Internship candidates also have the opportunity to try different types of diving with our Try Tech & Try Freediving programs to broaden their horizons into the rapidly expanding markets of SSI Technical Extended Range & SSI Freediving. If that wasn’t enough we also offer career development seminars to help new Divemasters get a step ahead in the world of Scuba by looking at how to apply for positions, create an effective Resume & what skills you have or may need, both in diving & beyond to clinch that dream job.

Get a rounded expereince!

 

I really do wish this was the Divemaster course I completed as going out into the world as a new dive professional can be a daunting experience. With the skills & experience essential  to being a successful Divemaster provided during our program & Internship, a Master Divers Divemaster can truly be referred to as a Master Divemaster.

 

 

PADI Diving Specialities for Dive Masters.

While  completing my Divemaster course I was guided down the road of completing some relevant specialties. 

Why…?

Think about it, will you be hoping to guide people on Nitrox?

Most definitely, especially if you want to go on to work on Liveaboards,

Do you fancy some Tec diving, or Gas Blending?

Maybe you might be looking to go deep, well how deep?  At least occasionally to 30-35 let’s say, and so you will need to have a Deep Diver certification.
 

So there are a couple of specialties I was advised about, that I would strongly recommend thinking about.  Deep Diver and Search & Recovery have become integral to the new Divemaster course anyway..

A great specialty to complete with the Master Divers team has to be the wreck spec.  What with the Introduction of the HTMS Sattakut, perfect for penetration, along with the beloved MV Trident there is plenty of practice to be had.  Combine that with the availability of Tec courses with the team here and all of a sudden it could be you on the next Tec Liveaboard.
 

Master Divers is not only a great place to come and dive with generally but within the team there is a lot of Tec Diving experience as well.  During my course I was given the opportunity to try for free a Discover Dive in Tec diving as well.  A chance to get into the gear and to give the first few skills a try, it’s done shallow so you can remain comfortable and at 10 metres we had a nice long (90 minute) dive to experience some of the other perks of carrying twin sets.  With so much exposure to the Tec world here it is easy to get comfortable and confident and Wilco is an expert in making it make sense.
 

I was keen to add more strings to my bow and soon after finishing my DM,  I completed my Tec Gas Blender course as well.  This now enables me to blend Nitrox and get comfortable with the use of the compressor a very useful attribute to being a well-rounded Divemaster.

As mentioned previously I was forever in the equipment room pestering whoever I could to find out how things worked and how I could maintain it, so the team advised me about an Equipment Specialist course available on the Island.  They supported me in getting on and completing the course and once certified (and with watchful eyes) they let me help in maintaining and managing the equipment in the shop.  Again an incredibly useful asset as a Divemaster, and now I find it is me answering the questions from the simple “how do I change my mouth-piece?” to the ” there’s bubbles coming out of …..”.
 

Then there was the Photography.  Well one of my greatest passions in life is contributing to our natural history and capturing the beauty of our watery planet.  And at the rate we as a species are eating our fishy brothers and sisters, some of the pictures we take now will be the last of their kind.  Tragic.   So I wanted to be able to work at educating people into the existence of the beautiful yet fragile ecosystems that lie under the sea. Combined with my love of showing people this beautiful place, Underwater Photography soon became another string in my bow. 
 
Remember Ayesha is a published and fairly renowned Underwater Photographer, all the guys here are handy with a camera and their images and inspiration is all around you.  And so I was captured.  In a place that loves diving this much [Master Divers] then it’s inevitable.
 

Ayesha coached me through the PADI Speciality and then introduced me to her personally designed course, more focused towards your skills and needs so I was quickly able to get to grips with it all.  Not only that but she is a master at fuelling confidence, and so after a short period of time I felt ready to complete the PADI DUP Instructor course.
 

Now as I settle into my career not only do I get to exercise all of my Divemaster training including the use of my specialisms, Master Divers are pushing me to increase my profile as an Underwater Photographer and Photography instructor, a great chance to get into some fun informal teaching even as a Divemaster.
 

This is the fourth of 6 posts which I have written about being a Dive Master, starting from why I became one and  how to choose the dive center at which to take your course, , what to expect and then followed by this one  how to expand your knowledge and finally what its like to work as a dive master. Check back to get the next installment…
 

What to expect in your Dive Master Course.

For most when starting your dive master it can feel like you have absolutely no clue. I was a fairly experienced diver, a confident diver, and keen to bring diving to the customers that came in.  However with regards to the details of the training and then the role, there was a lot to learn.  So with this in mind, at Master Divers the first port of call is having a chat with your mentor, filling in all the paperwork and taking a wander around the dive shop whilst working out your schedule.  A 1 on 1 experience from the start reassured me that I was not going to disappear into a DMT puddle and left to figure it all out on my own.  There is none of this approach here, everyone wants to get you going, get you wet and keep you working towards you goals.

 

The primary objective of the Divemaster course is to get you as comfortable as possible with the potential future and tasks that lay ahead, making sure you have the skills and experience to effectively undertake this role.  It’s a little like going back to school, but more like the first day at ‘big’ school and ‘diving school’ all at once. That feeling of “Blimey this is all very mature isn’t it”,, you are training to be a dive master after all, the first step on the professional ladder admittedly, but you will have divers safety in your hands.  Worth taking on responsibly and being proud of eh?.  Well that’s how Master Divers quickly started to make me feel.

Under supervision,  I was guided quite literally through the practical application of everything I was reading in the books and writing in the exams, Perfect.  I would regularly hang out in the equipment room and pester one of the team for explanations of “how did that bit work”, or “what does this bit do?”  My questions were always answered with patience – I will forever be grateful of that.  At most centres the equipment maintenance area is off limits and this valuable experience cannot be accessed.

 

Then there was the theory side of it all, man theory sucks !  It definitely doesn’t involve being wet, but it is the only real way to prove it is sinking in.  Handled with the utmost compassion there was the occasional afternoon where we would sack off diving for some extra washout time playing on the whiteboard.  Dudes the theory is necessary, however in what is regularly a maximum 3 people group you definitely get plenty of opportunity to ask stupid questions.  And have them answered.  With diagrams.  Phew.

All of a sudden towards the last few weeks it all started to become a little real.  Under the watchful supervising eye of a free instructor I would be escorting fun divers around Koh Tao’s dive sites.  Mainly 1 or 2 customers (the max group size at Master Divers is 4), it was sweet.  I was cruising around all responsible and that, finding cool fish and giving people the energy and time they needed to have an amazing time .  Talk about a confidence boost and a brilliant start to the future ahead.

 

By the time I was starting my mapping project usually the thing you leave until last (try not to by the way), I was pretty happy as a very soon to be certified dive master…I was regularly left responsible for my logistical tasks of preparing the dive trip and equipment.  The ‘real’ Dive Master for the day would come and check.  You know what the whole experience was tied up in this way, in such a professional, confident and creative team of experts I was being pushed to blossom and having a pretty much 1 on 1 experience, with everything being already in place and sorted.  And more so with the constant personal support and guidance this was happening, my entire way of life was changing.

 

This is the third of 6 posts which I have written about being a Dive Master, starting from why I became one and how to choose the dive center at which to take your course, , what to expect and then followed by how to expand your knowledge and finally what its like to work as a dive master. Check back to get the next installment…

Which dive centre to choose for your Dive Master Course.

So to the first challenge of obtaining this dream like existence, finding the right school.  Well the right school is Master Divers, but then I am a little bias right?  So why then is it the right school and how do you choose for yourself.

 

Well the first part of taking on any challenge is to keep your solutions simple.  Don’t overcrowd yourself with priorities, necessities, reasons, just go with what feels right.  Go with the knowledge that you will indeed be training hard, and learning a lot, but go with the knowledge that you will need your school to support you as you essentially change your life.

 

For me, and with close to 50 dive schools on Koh Tao, it was all about taking a walk around to visit as many as I could, take dives with a few that you like and talk to them both professionally and socially, tap into the feeling of the place and see if it is right for you on instinct.  I had a few factors to base my conversations on:

 

Size: I wanted a smaller school.  Avoiding the dive factory feel I wanted a close team.  Team mates and colleagues that have the time to teach, to remind, to support as you work through the course.  I wanted a shop with a professional attitude, goals and ambitions whilst sustaining that chilled relaxed beach vibe.  Master Divers has this kind of focus and it is apparent.  I knew in general it would be easier to settle in at this school rather than with a school that felt like it was losing its head.

 

Professionalism: I wanted a professional and proud school.  You know what I mean if you have dived with any of the slightly less caring operations out there.  I have nothing against cowboys, but stick to the agriculture, in the water these operations can make you feel like you are working for something more along the lines of agro-culture, and above all it’s not safe.

1
Expertise: Whilst starting out I wanted to be able to tap into knowledge to have those dumb or simple questions answered.  Of course the Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving is always on hand to help, but there is nothing better than sitting down with an expert in their field and tapping into all the experience they have.  Well it certainly helps when you get the question “What is a J-Valve?” or, “How does a Second Stage work?” Believe me even now as a professional it is still very useful to be surrounded by so much experience and expert knowledge.  Thanks to all the team for still answering those dumb questions.

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Customer Flow: Continuous customer flow.  Well it is always a little difficult to assist or learn when there are no customers diving. Something to be very mindful of if looking at smaller schools. Find out if they close for any particular seasons, for example we close for Monsoon (November) so we had to plan for that in my schedule.

 

Gear and Resources: I wanted to see good, well maintained equipment, up-to-date and well stocked.  For most it is uncommon to start your training with a full set of gear, and so it is good to know you will still be able to borrow a good standard of kit until you get your own. Make sure your school are teaching the new outline and have all the correct materials too.

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Attitude to the Environment:  You take care of your environment and it will take care of you.  A Law of the universe.  Above all for me I wanted to choose a school that was both active and aware when it came to integrating and supporting the natural environment I was going to be working in.    Likewise it is as important for my experience anyway, to find a school that was as high on nature as I was. I do not believe there are many people out there that love the sea and the creatures in it more than the team here.  All of us had gills in previous lives, as I am sure you did if you are reading this.

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So with my criteria (clearly I wasn’t looking for much hey), I found a few schools that met the mark.  I felt I had done my research, and I was still not sure.  Then I walked into Master Divers, just as they were hurrying around  closing for the day, and do you know what they said?…”Please come back tomorrow….…”.  Here I was ready to start my Dive Master and I’m being politely ushered out of the door.   Brilliant !

 

However they took the time to explain what the big rush was about. The team was on their way to a fund raiser to generate money for the sinking of the MV Trident. The boat was being sunk to create an artificial reef and ship wreck dive on Koh Tao.  It had once operated technical diving liveaboards out of Master Divers and along with its owner was clearly very dear to them.  I was invited along and it appeared that the whole island actually attended, over 65 thousand baht was raised in just on night.

 

The team are focused entirely on safe, fun and exciting diving.  It’s a business but they are sure to make as much time for socializing and relaxing too.  This team has found the work/ life balance, and believe me they are a long way off retiring.  Not a necessity in making the choice of dive school but if you know your team are into life as much as diving then you know you are going to be well looked after.  Slightly more brilliant.

 

This is the second of 6 posts which I have written about being a Dive Master, starting from why I became one and including this one, how to choose the dive center at which to take your course, followed by what to expect, how to expand your knowledge and finally what its like to work as a dive master. Check back to get the next installment…

Why I Became a Divemaster

Carrying the last tank up the beach from the long tail I pause on the beach at the back of Master Divers. Soaked from head to toe in the tropical sweats and I realize I have been wet pretty much all day. Scuba Review in the morning, guiding divers this afternoon and wrapping up the last few tasks of the day, and although wet, still looking forward to my shower…

Big Oksm

Behind me I can tell by the amount people rushing for their cameras on the beach it is a gorgeous sunset, gently warming the world around for the last time today. In front of me the beaming faces of my customers tell the story of an awesome day had, already the majority of them are writing in their logbooks. Likewise the smiling faces of my teammates, tell the story of another great day in the office. Everyone around me is royally stoked, stoked on diving and stoked on life, the vibe in here this afternoon is typical, but still captivating every time. It is great after essentially quite a short time of being on this small island to have that feeling of being home.

Wilco pats me on the back as an expression of his gratitude and reminds me not to be in too early the next day as it is a little quieter. Can this actually be a profession? A career? On the outside a dive loving, frisbee throwing, surf hunting beach rat, but with an internal sense of pride and satisfaction as it is entirely our love for what we do that makes it appear this easy. Putting the tank amongst the others ready for filling I am reminded, yes, yes we do call this work.

Me looking over coral nursery

Where I come from (UK) and from some life experience behind a desk, it became apparent that the vast majority of us spend a large proportion of our lives trying to create a comfortable work/life balance, and then normally just as we find it we are made to retire.

As anyone here will tell you it’s never too late.

I too set out on that path, but my love of the sea, nature and my passion for making people smile was just not being fulfilled, In a suit in a cube. So I had to change my environment.

After some time traveling in the world, surfing my butt off in Oz, and volunteering in conservation/research diving with Marine Conservation Cambodia I ended up in Thailand. To put it more appropriately stuck in Thailand. Not stuck through any financial, visa related or smuggling issues gladly, just stuck on the place. Stuck because of the beautiful culture, stuck because of the food, the fun, the lifestyle. Hooked on the diving.

When in Thailand and diving, at some point you will travel to Koh Tao. A globally renowned diving site location in itself, Koh Tao is entirely surrounded by a variety of beautiful reefs and abundance of cool fishy critters and wrecks to hang out with and inevitably work with as colleagues.

Through my conservation work in Cambodia and having started diving very regularly my heart was telling me to just do it. To give it a go, I was free from criticism and skepticism perhaps the prejudices from the western world about the lifestyle choice, to become a professional diver. It is addictive, how can it not be, every dive another trip to the zen like garden of our underwater world. Spending time in the other 70% of our planet’s surface, that maybe less than 3% of the entire population will ever see. I wanted to show people what else there is to see on the 3rd rock from the sun, and revel in each individuals reaction. I wanted to be a dive master without hesitation.

 

 

 

 

 

This is the first of 6 posts which I have written about being a Dive Master, starting from why I became one and including how to choose the dive center at which to take your course, what to expect, how to expand your knowledge and finally what its like to work as a dive master.  Check back to get the next installment…

 

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