The Divemaster Chronicles
Chapter 4: Assisting an Open Water class in the pool

Let me introduce this chapter by saying I had the greatest and most fulfilling weekend of my dive career. Equally matched in work and fun, the Open Water class I assisted as part of my Divemaster training was incredibly enriching, stimulating and tiring. I enjoyed every moment of it, from the logistic work to the social interactions to the underwater skills to the cleanup afterwards. It’s quite funny, but everytime I take part in a Divemaster activity, it makes me all the more excited to become a Divemaster, I think I’ve truly found the right thing for me. But anyways, today I am going to present to you what it means to assist an Open Water class, from start to finish, with as much detail as I can! Let’s go!

Let’s talk preparation

Students are required to show up at the pool around 2:45pm (this varies depending on group size and instructor), so that they have plenty of time to get to know one another, do the review quizzes and ask their questions before heading into the water. Sadly I wasn’t able to be there at that time as I worked at the shop, but next chapter I’ll make sure to include a little peak at what happened in those early hours! Thankfully another Divemaster in training, Yosri, was there to help.

At 4pm, the class headed to the pool, and started putting their kits together. The second I arrived, I was passing out regulators, tanks, weights and BCDs according to sizes. A group of 16 divers all coming at once requires quick work, and is rather intense, but the idea is to give them all their equipment as fast as possible to get in the water. Once everyone started gearing up, I went around giving tips to fasten the tank, or which low pressure hose to link to the direct system. I noticed that the fastening of the tank was what most people had difficulty with. I showed them multiple times a broken down, step-by-step technique.

Steps for fastening a tank tightly:

  1. Take out the strap from the final hole.
  2. Pull the strap as tight as you can, in a horizontal direction in regards to the BCD. If you pull the strap vertically, as in perpendicular to the BCD, you will not be able to pull it tight.
  3. While holding the strap tightly, push the buckle slightly forward to lock it.
  4. Slide the strap through the final hole of the buckle.
  5. Pull down the strap to snap the buckle into place against the tank.
  6. If you hear the click, it is tight enough. Check by holding the BCD and the tank buckle and pulling up: if it doesn’t move, then you are good to go.

I noticed it took multiple tries to get all the steps together, so I made sure to pay attention to that. I double checked that everyone had put their weights in, made sure tanks were open, and everything was fastened correctly before we began to jump in the water.

Get ready...get set...get wet!

Through the 5 open water dives required in the certification preparation, we entered the water many different ways. The first dive, we wanted quick entry: put the inflated BCDs in water, dress the students in water, descend into shallow water. To make this entry run smoothly, it was important to check all BCDs and drop them in water as quickly as possible. Then to gear myself up, jump in and help dress everyone. At this point, most students still don’t know their BCD that well, so I explained to them what I was buckling and tightening as I helped dress them, making the experience a bit more fun.

The second type of entry was the giant stride in the deep end. With the instructor and one divemaster in the water to watch over the students, I stayed on the surface, doing final checks on them before they jumped in.

Steps of the giant stride:

  1. Be used as a steadying pole while they put on their fins.
  2. Quick tap on the BCD - ok it is inflated or “remember to put air in your BCD!”.
  3. Check that the tank is open - ok.
  4. “Mask on, regulator in mouth, where do you put your hands? Yes good one on the mask and reg, the other holding the waist line altogether”.
  5. “Check surrounding - ok, 1...2...3” and ploof in the water they go.

I particularly loved this process, the students lined up and waited for their turn, the line was efficient and fast and very satisfying work, especially as they did it with more and more easy every entry. The fun part once everyone was in, was to run to get my own BCD, put on my fins, mask, regulator and jump in, all in under a minute because I’m needed in the water now.

They also practiced getting dressed in the water on their own ,but by that time they knew what they were doing so I was pretty useless, save for a final check.

I really enjoyed the entries, because it’s when I felt the most useful, and I also enjoyed the challenge of having to gear up as fast as possible. Assisting an Open Water course required perfect handling and knowledge of equipment, as well as strong skills, to be able to help and assist in any way the instructor needed me.

Underwater assist

Underwater, the role of the divemaster is to keep an eye on everyone, keep them in tight formations, and control any problems the instructor cannot deal with while doing skills with an individual. A few panicked divers took longer to descend or get used to the particular way of breathing, and I was there to watch over them as they too their time adapting. I enjoyed this part as well, as it is one of the most important: making sure each student has a good and safe experience.

The main goal of the Divemaster assisting an Open Water course, from what I understood, is to make life easy for the Instructor, that means keeping everyone in formation, at a similar depth, and taking care of any logistical issues - missing weight pockets, foggy mask, equalizing problems, before they can catch the Instructor’s attention. It’s challenging, but very satisfying work, particularly when you manage to solve the issues quickly and efficiently.

Personally

This experience was a good test for me, both in terms of scuba diving skills, patience, and problem solving abilities. The center focus was the students, taking care of them and their equipment, making sure they were ready and functioning. My own equipment and readiness because secondary, a tiny thought between bigger tasks. Let’s compare the feeling to cooking: if I’m cooking for myself, I can just make pasta, no stress. If I’m cooking for someone else, making pasta needs to be muscle memory and I shouldn’t give it a thought, I need to focus on the sauce and dressing when it involves other people. Did that make sense? Well anyways it was a good test of how fast and right I could do everything to be of best service possible to the students and instructors.

I honestly had a wonderful weekend, we cleaned everything and brought all equipment back to Total Diving, then hung out with my fellow Divemasters and coworkers. It was a really fulfilling weekend, there’s no other way to describe it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this first look at being an Open Water assistant taught me two things: 1. Being patient and attentive is key. 2. It’s awesome to be a Divemaster. I can’t wait to get back in the pool with another group and gain even more experience! So as always, I conclude this chapter by reflecting on how great Divemaster training is, how thankful I am to be part of such a great team, and by congratulating all divers who succeeded at the pool last weekend!!

I hope you all have a wonderful week, and see you soon with more Divemaster Chronicles!

Marie Brier
Comments
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25 Jul 2019
Barry MacEwen
Awesome recap of what it means to be a DM.
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