Category Archives: My Diver Training

Rethinking Divemaster Training

To become a PADI Divemaster you are required to complete several prerequisites including being at least 18 years old, having completed Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, and Rescue Diver certifications, attaining at least five PADI specialties, and having a minimum of 40 logged dives before you can begin the course. By the end of the course you must have a minimum of 60 logged dives. Since I meet all of the prerequisites by attaining the Master Scuba Diver with 10 PADI specialties, and over 70 logged dives, I have already started my Divemaster Candidate (DMC) course and am working on completing all of the necessary internships and course requirements.

The other day while I was at our Hawaii Kai dive shop getting signed up to intern a couple of classes one of the instructors that I had for one of my classes a couple months ago asked me if I was ready to be a Divemaster. When I said yes, he walked away shaking his head. This has bothered me ever since, at the time making me very upset.

Another instructor stated that I needed to be signed off on setting up a dive site, to which I stated that I already had completed that part of the training the previous week and was already signed off on it with a near-perfect score (44/45 points). He asked where I did it and I told him on the North Shore on a shore dive and he said that doesn’t count because I did not have to tie off a boat at a mooring during the dive site setup, so he asked who the instructor was. When I told him that I chose to work with Michelle at the Scofield Barracks location because I knew her longer he said “isn’t she a new instructor?” smirking and walking away.

A DMC can work with ANY PADI Instructor on their course requirements, another reason I chose her is because she is a fairly new instructor, completing her Instructor Development Course at the beginning of this year. To become an instructor she had to perform all of the skill requirements that I am required to perform, all to demonstration quality as I have to perform them. So I knew that her demonstration quality skills would be sharper than an instructor that had to perform theirs years ago that may have become lax in their quality over the years. I also know that the examination is performed in front of PADI Instructors who are coming from the mainland and since she had recently performed hers in front of them, she may be able to give me some tips as to what they are looking for now that may help me with my testing.

The one that really ticked me off was when an instructor the other night said that he was worried that I was rushing through my training. This same instructor was taking his Divemaster training when I was taking my Rescue Diver course, and now not quite two months later he is already an Open Water Scuba Instructor! In the past month and a half he has completed Divemaster, Instructor Development Course (IDC), and this past weekend he completed the Instructor examination and is already teaching new students. PADI requires that a new instructor wait until they have received their certification and have it in-hand, which takes about a month, before they start teaching classes. Yet somehow the very next day after he finishes his testing he is teaching an Open Water Diver class, before PADI even has a chance to start processing his certification. The comment that I seem to be rushing my training, coming from him of all people, really got to me, I have almost as many dives in as he does.

Michelle made the comment last night that the Hawaii Kai shop is in one of the most challenging areas to operate a dive shop because of the strong currents that are there year round. That’s why I am grateful that almost all of my dives have been out of that dive shop. The South East Coast of Oahu has some ripping currents year round that we have to deal with, which is why we do so much drift diving down there. Almost all of my dive training has been in those currents, which I feel has made me a better diver and a better DMC.

I feel like I am being targeted and harassed because I chose to pay cash for my training myself instead of going through their “Hawaii Scuba University” (HSU) eight week course and letting the government pay for my Divemaster training which they would receive more money for. When I paid for my Divemaster course I was told that if I go through HSU for the course, it was a scheduled eight week course, and I would be required to meet at the Hickam shop two nights a week, but if I paid for it myself instead of letting the VA pay for it, I complete it on MY schedule, so that is what I chose to do. However after paying them the money, that’s not how it has been working out. I wanted to start my DMC course on April 3rd, right after receiving the Master Scuba Diver certification, however I kept getting put off every time I asked the instructors about how to get it started. I kept getting told that I had to wait until the next HSU class started, to which I would reply that I am not part of HSU and am not bound to their schedule and that I complete everything on my own schedule.

I was finally able to get the course started by taking it upon myself to ask Michelle to start working with me on the course and my internships because no one at the Hawaii Kai shop seemed to be interested in it. But even now I still run into problems with getting skills checked off because since I am not part of the HSU program and am doing it on my own schedule, I don’t have access to a pool for my skills. I will have to perform them out in the ocean and deal with surge and silt getting kicked up while I try to do the equipment exchange skill. I feel that I am clearly being discriminated against because I chose to pay for the class myself instead of letting the government pay a higher price for the exact same training.

With all of the flack that I have been getting this week from other instructors I am starting to rethink even becoming a Divemaster. If this is the type of person that I will become when I become an instructor, I don’t want any part of it. Right now, I have no interest in continuing with the training. As a DMC I dive for free for the next year, so I plan on using that benefit so that I do not have to pay for dives. As far as getting certified as a PADI Divemaster, I don’t think so.

As a Divemaster I would be required to carry additional professional liability insurance on top of what I already carry as a First Aid & CPR Instructor. I would have to pay an enormous fee to PADI every year just to stay active as a Divemaster. The chances of being hired as a Divemaster by one of the dive shops here is extremely remote because they all would rather hire Instructors who can teach more classes than a Divemaster can. Instructors here barely make more than minimum wage each year. After adding it all up, it doesn’t make financial sense for me to get certified as a Divemaster, so why bother with it.

On top of all of that I am tired of putting up with all the BS from some of the other instructors from Island Divers Hawaii. Several of the instructors from the Hawaii Kai shop have stated that they will not sign off on anything that you do once or twice as a DMC, you will have to do it multiple times before they will even consider signing off on it. This is not PADI’s procedures, and doesn’t make any sense to me. Once a person completes an internship, they should get graded on the internship, and if they receive a successful grade, the internship is complete. This doing the same internship over and over again, hoping that the instructor will finally be in the mood to grade you on it, one of these days, is complete hogwash.

Many other dive shops on the mainland and around the world offer the DMC course as an 8-DAY course. If I ever become interested in completing my Divemaster training again I will go to one of those shops to complete it, without all of the BS that comes along with it here. For now, I am fine with just keeping the Master Scuba Diver rating.

Divemaster Mapping Project

As part of my PADI Divemaster training I am required to create a map of a dive site to teach me underwater mapping and reinforce the underwater navigation skills that I learned in the Underwater Navigator Specialty course that I took last month.

For this task I was allowed to choose Koko Craters, a popular dive site off the South East coast of Oahu. Because I dive this site very often, and had already started a rudimentary map of the location in the Underwater Navigator Specialty dives it would save me some time.

Normally the mapping project is done by a group of Divemaster Candidates (DMC’s) who collaborate on a finished map. Since I am doing this mapping project alone I would have to do everything myself, which would mean multiple dives at the location to get measurements, compass headings, etc.

Unfortunately we have been getting hit with a south swell for the past couple weeks that has made diving on the south shores almost impossible. Most of the dive boats have cancelled their dives and everyone is shore diving up at Sharks Cove for the past two weeks. In order to work on my map today I was forced to do a solo kayak dive in very rough waters.

I ended up getting rolled 4 times today while trying to get out to the site. Once I was offshore out at the site the seas were much calmer and I was able to get some diving done. Unfortunately the visibility was very poor for this location, normally we have around 100′ visibility at Koko Craters, but because of the south swell today it was only 10 to 15 feet, which made working on my map very difficult. There was also a strong current which also added to my challenge, luckily I had strapped one of my DPV’s to my kayak in anticipation of the strong currents and surge. Using the DPV I was able to overcome the current and get some work done on my map.

Here is the map I made of the Koko Craters Dive Site. Hopefully it will be good enough to pass and I can get signed off for this project. I don’t see how I can make it much better.

KokoCratersDiveMap

You can download a Printable .pdf version of the map by clicking here or a larger .jpg image by clicking on the map above.

DMC Course Update

After we completed the last of the required dives today for the Open Water Diver course a couple of the students had to retake their written exams, so I used this opportunity to take Part 1 of my Divemaster Final Exam. I had already completed Dive Theory Online so that will take the place of Part 2 of the exam, keeping me from having to take another exam.

Since my score on the Dive Theory Online exam was a perfect 100%, I was very nervous about todays exam. I needed to make another perfect score. Unfortunately that is part of my Type – A personality I suppose. I have always been very hard on myself, and demanded only perfect scores for any exams that I take.

As I took the exam the nerves and butterflies in my stomach started in, which made it difficult to concentrate on reading the questions. I was finally able to complete the exam, now I just had to wait what seemed like an hour for the score (it was actually only about 5 minutes). I told her that I may have missed one question that I was not sure about, but I know the rest were all correct. She said “I bet you missed more than one” and went inside to grade the exam.

I waited outside the classroom while Michelle graded the exam, and when I went in to check on my score she had a disappointed look on her face and said that she couldn’t help me with the exam, because I got a 100% on it. I was starting to think I had failed the exam somehow, she scared me.

Afterwards we went over my Divemaster Application packet to see what I had already completed in the past couple of weeks, and what I still needed to complete. As she went down the list checking boxes and signing off on items listed I started to feel better about my progress in the course. Basically I have about half of the course requirements completed, and now I know what I need to work on next.

I will try to complete my Mapping Project this week. In it I have to create a dive map of a dive site. Michelle let me choose the site, so I chose Koko Craters, because I dive there often from the boat out of the Hawaii Kai shop and it would be easier to get enough dives at the location to create the map by myself since I am not working as part of a group on the Mapping Project.

If things stay as scheduled now, this next week I will complete my required water skills on Thursday evening. Hopefully Wednesday or Thursday I will have a chance to check off some of the other requirements that I still need, that is if the boat goes out from Hawaii Kai then, it has been canceled this week due to the high south swells that we have been getting the past few days.

Confined Water Dives 3, 4 & 5

Yesterday I completed the PADI Divemaster Online course and am finishing up the last chapters in the Divemaster Manual this weekend. I’m not sure why I am required to do both the online course, and the knowledge reviews in the book since they are both the same course, but alright, whatever it takes to get it done.

I assisted with the last Confined Water training session for the Open Water Divers class at the MWR pool last night. Extra equipment was brought just in case, and sure enough it wasn’t needed. Equipment only seems to break when you don’t have replacements handy. This time I was able to get in the water to assist Michelle with the class instead of watching from the side of the pool.

Once the classroom portion of the training was completed the class was divided up into two separate classes with 8 students each for the pool sessions. Our class was down to just 5 students for tonights class, which would make the class go much quicker than Wednesday nights class did, or so I thought.

Some of the skills the students would work on tonight were the alternate air source ascents, controlled emergency swimming ascents (CESA), mask clearing, weight removal and replacement at the surface, and BCD removal and replacement underwater. Just before getting in we went over the procedures for the skills that we would be doing while the students were getting their gear ready and doing their buddy checks.

One of the students upon entering the deep end of the pool almost immediately gave the out of air signal and started heading back to the surface quickly. At first we were thinking “we’re not ready to do that skill yet”, but when Michelle reached the student she realized that the students dive buddy husband had mistakingly turned her air back off during the buddy checks. Apparently he had forgotten which way to turn the valve on the tank. I remembered once when a dive buddy of mine in my Open Water class back in January had done the same thing to me, and the panicked feeling that it quickly brought.

Along with supervising the students that the instructor was not working with at the time, I also demonstrated the Fin Pivot and Hovering skills to the students. While I watched them struggle through their skills tonight it reminded me of how I struggled with those very skills just a short four months ago, and now they seem like second nature to me.

After the pool session was completed we headed back to the Island Divers Hawaii dive shop on Scofield Barracks to rinse the gear and refill the scuba tanks that were used. We finally got out of there just past 11:00pm once again, and because of the late night again without eating dinner, I am fighting another migraine this morning.

The open water dives that were supposed to be held this weekend have been postponed until next Saturday and Sunday because the surf conditions were going to be too high for the shore dives that were planned. Unfortunately that means another whole week before I can get signed off on anything for my DMC training.

Confined Water Class Fiasco

Last night was the first night for the Confined Water skills portion of the PADI Open Water certification course that I have been assisting with this week for my Dive Master Candidate course. All in all everything went well. I showed up at the Scofield Barracks dive shop and loaded 20 scuba tanks for the 16 students while the instructors assisted them with getting their wetsuits, BCD’s, and weights, then we went over to the MWR pool a few miles north of the base where we would hold that nights class.

The students started off with their laps and other swimming skills before putting their wetsuits on for the scuba portion of the class. Once all of the swimming skills were completed I demonstrated the correct assembly and disassembly of their equipment and described each piece and what it does. Then the students were required to assemble and disassemble their own equipment three times.

While the students were assembling their equipment we found that an o-ring on one of their submersible pressure gauges had blown and we searched for a replacement for it. Luckily Davie, a female instructor recently added to the dive shop from Australia, had brought a backup regulator assembly and we were able to switch the student over to it.

Just as we got that student’s situation resolved another student found that they had a blown o-ring on their alternate air source. So once again we were scrambling around trying to find a resolution to the problem.

Unfortunately we could not find a replacement o-ring for the student so our only option was for me to disassemble my rig and let the student use my regulator assembly for the class, which meant that I could not be in the pool with them to assist with the class and demonstrate the regulator recovery and mask skills to them so that I could get signed off for my DMC requirements.

At the end of the class Michelle asked me if I would assist the students with disassembling their gear while she worked with one student that would not be able to attend class on Friday night, so while I helped everyone get their gear loaded back up for the trip back to the shop she worked with the last student completing confined water dives 3, 4 & 5 so that she would be ready for the open water dives with the rest of the class this weekend.

I have today off to prepare for the rest of the class starting tomorrow. I need to decide today if I am going to finish assisting with the class even though I won’t be credited for it, or if I will just skip it and wait two weeks for the next class to start. It’s a tough decision.

Dive Master Candidate Course

Becoming a Dive Master is the first step towards transitioning from recreational diving to professional diving and becoming an instructor. I have been working on the online training portion of the course and the bookwork for the PADI Dive Master Candidate course for the past month or so and I will be starting on the practical training this weekend.

On Sunday I will be assisting Nate Jonson in teaching an Advanced Open Water certification class as part of the “Continuing Ed” portion of my DMC practical training. The following week I will be assisting Michelle Martus with teaching an Open Water certification class with the pool sessions and open water dives.

When I spoke with Michelle on the phone to get this training set up I did not realize that I already knew her until she asked me if I remembered her. She was also in the Emergency First Response Instructor class that I took back in January of this year. She was already a Dive Master with Deep Ecology on the North Shore and was in the process of becoming a scuba instructor then. I kinda went backwards by becoming an EFR Instructor before becoming a scuba instructor.

I had talked to Michelle about going diving together during the EFRI class, but I forgot to get her contact information and I changed dive shops from Deep Ecology over to Island Divers Hawaii so we were never able to plan a dive together. It just goes to show you that even though Oahu has a population of over one million people on it, it is still a very small island and you never know who you may run into.

I am nervous about assisting in my first classes this week, but at least knowing both of the instructors that I will be working with will make it a little easier.

Over the next few weeks I will have a very hectic schedule while I try to get all of the practicals checked off as well as the required “demonstration quality” skills and pool work that has to be completed. On the pool work, the two parts that are concerning me are the timed 400 meter and 800 meter lap swims and the 15 minute water tread.

Until learning to dive in January, I have not had an opportunity to learn how to swim. I did not swim as a child before all of my fears took hold of my life, and after they were in place I had no desire to go near the water. I can swim now, but not very fast, and for short distances before I start to panic. This will be a huge obstacle for me to overcome to be able to complete the Dive Master Candidate course.

Wreck Diver Specialty

Since there are so many wrecks to dive in Hawaii I decided to add the Wreck Diver Specialty to my list of certifications. Diving on a wreck and diving on a wreck properly without damaging it or injuring yourself are two different things so I wanted to learn the proper way of diving on a wreck so that I could make sure that I did not do anything to harm it for future divers.

The course required four wreck dives, each with various skills that need to be performed. The first wreck dive I completed in my Advanced Open Water certification course, so this left me with just 3 more dives that needed to be performed.

On the second wreck dive I had to map out the wreck so that i would have a map showing my penetration points for the last wreck dive when I will actually penetrate the wreck. I have no idea why, but this seemed difficult for me because I can not draw. I just was not able to easily draw it as I saw it. It took me a while to get it right, but the finished map was good according to Nate the instructor from Island Divers Hawaii.

On dive 3 we learn how to deploy and retrieve penetration lines by practicing on the outside of a wreck. We also need to show that we can swim along a penetration line without kicking up silt while holding a dive light.

On Dive 4, the final dive of the Wreck Diver Specialty we actually penetrate the wreck using a penetration line that I deploy to be able to relocate the entrance once we are inside. We also need to be able to swim through the wreck maintaining contact with the penetration line using a dive light without disturbing silt which would hinder visibility.

Unfortunately I was not able to complete dives 3 and 4 this past Friday when I had them scheduled because on Thursday I went to test out my new Trident 4.7 kayak and got sunburned very badly on my legs, so I had to reschedule the dives. On Friday morning the pain was so bad in my legs when I tried to stand, I am glad that I rescheduled the dives instead of trying to “grin and bear it”.

I will be completing dives 3 and 4 of this specialty on Thursday morning.

Night Diver Specialty

Along with my claustrophobia I am also now afraid of the dark, otherwise known as Achluophobia, which stems from my being buried alive in my past. I decided to go for the Night Diver Specialty to help me get over my fear of the dark.

For this course I requested that my instructor be Nate from Island Divers Hawaii. Nate was the instructor that helped me complete my Open Water Diver certification with back at the end of January. I feel very comfortable with him and I knew that if I had a chance of completing this course, it would have to be with him as the instructor.

The Night Diver Specialty consists of 3 separate Night Dives, each with various skills that need to be accomplished, culminating with a three minute lights out while sitting on the bottom of the ocean skill. This was the part that I was so worried about not being able to complete.

With Nate’s direction, I easily accomplished the required skills, and even went above the required skills by performing a wreck penetration in the darkness following him.

After completing the Night Diver Specialty course I am no longer as afraid of the dark as I was. Now it is at a manageable level that I can control myself.

Underwater Navigator Specialty

Getting lost underwater and running out of air is a major concern of mine, so I decided to do the Underwater Navigation Specialty course to make me better at navigating and finding my way underwater.

For this course my instructor was Tara with Island Divers Hawaii who also did part of my Advanced Open Water Diver course back at the beginning of March.

There was a mild current, which I had to keep in mind while trying to navigate the courses that Tara gave me to follow. I had a minor “brain fart” at the beginning when I was reading my compass incorrectly, but as soon as I realized what I had done wrong I was able to correct it and complete the pre-determined course patterns correctly.

What made it difficult was for the last part of the course, not only did I have to follow bearing headings that were given to me, making course adjustments due to the current, but I had to draw a map of the area at the same time. I can barely draw “stick figures” so I was impressed when I was able to draw a map that actually resembled our dive location somewhat. I’m not sure if anyone else would be able to follow my map and find their destination, but at least I could use it to find our way back to the boat so thats all that mattered.

Hopefully what I learned in this course will keep me from becoming lost at sea.

Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialist

Since I recently purchased a new BCD which is a back inflate style instead of the jacket style that I had been using up to this point I decided that this would be a good time to take the Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialist course to help me dial in my weighting and buoyancy with the new equipment.

I worked with David, my instructor from Island Divers Hawaii and with some tips from him we were able to really zoom in on my ballast weight. We were able to drop 4 pounds off of my weighting which made a huge difference in being able to move easily underwater. I felt a lot lighter and more fluid as I moved now, and with the extra weight being off of me I barely had to add any air at all to my BCD which kept me more streamlined with the bladder tighter against my back.

I had heard that this was an important specialty to take, but until actually doing it I had no idea how much of a difference what I learned in the class would actually make.

%d bloggers like this: