A Peek Into The Future (or: what a divemaster does)

This is NOT what we do
In between counting down, pre-packing and saying goodbye to people, routines and places I find myself thinking about the future. Not The Future, as in my blueprint for life (although perhaps I should do that more often) but the future, as in what I’ll be doing in two weeks. Most of you probably think I have a perpetual holiday and sit on the beach under a palm tree, sipping from a coconut, and taking dips into the ocean. I wish that was true, but it’s not.

 

I am a PADI Divemaster, and while that gives me the opportunity to work in some of the most beautiful places in the world (‘my’ home is ranked the 6th most beautiful beach in the world according to this list) it IS a job. You know, like a proper job, with 70-hour work weeks, responsibilities and shit. So to all the people asking if I shouldn’t get a ‘real job’, shut it, and read this.

A Day In The Life Of A Divemaster

 

My alarm goes off at 7.55am. I get up, check which bikini has dried from the day before and put it on, together with a pair of shorts and a shirt. I walk downstairs and voilá, I’m at ‘the office’: the dive shop where I work. And live. And hang out.

The shop opens at 8am, so we sweep the floor (there’s always sand everywhere), fill the buckets to wash the dive gear and check if there’s enough coffee and tea for our customers. A quick glance on the board tells me that I’ll be doing the morning dive at 9 ‘o clock with three not so experienced divers, so I start putting up their equipment but first I have to carry the tanks from the compressor room to the shop. They are about 15 kilos each. I take two at a time.

When the divers, our customers, are finished with their banana pancake breakfast I ask them to sit down and give them a briefing about the dive. With the help of my ugly-ass drawing of the dive site I tell them where we’re going, what our bottom time will be, what to look for (stingrays, pufferfish, some bottom-dwelling sharks, a school of barracudas and maybe turtles), what to be careful of (current, poisonous marine life) and necessary safety procedures. Because we can’t talk underwater we communicate by hand signals and I show them these as well. To the ignorant onlooker this must look like I’m putting up some ridiculous mime-show and yes, it probably does look stupid when I place my thumb against my nose and wiggle my fingers. But there’s no other way to tell people that we’re looking at a clownfish.

Clownfish looking grumpy in his anemone

After the briefing we gear up, do our buddy-checks and walk down to the beach where our boat waits. I am the last one to leave the dive shop but have to be the first one to get on the boat so I run across the sand with my gear on and jump in. Then customers hand me their gear and I pull that onto the boat too. It makes for a very nice early-morning workout. When everyone is in, the speedboat will take us to the dive site in twenty minutes. There’s a surge so it’s a bumpy ride but as a divemaster I know what that means so I sit in the back of the boat where it’s less bumpy. It is one of the privileges that comes with the job.

At the site I hook the boat up to the buoy line and ask people to gear up again, sit on the side of the boat and roll backwards into the water. Although it’s only a 50cm fall, some people find this very scary. I help them and tell them it’s OK. Once everyone is in I jump in too, ask if everybody is OK and there we go: we descend to 18 meters. The bottom is at 24m but since the divers aren’t that experienced, I can’t take them any deeper. I swim in the front and am constantly on the look out for fish and cool marine life, but also for the safety of my divers. They are certified, which means they should know how to dive and necessary safety precautions, but sometimes things go wrong anyway. By the stream of bubbles they blow and the look in their eyes I can tell that my divers are a bit nervous but excited. During this dive everyone is fine and I show them, with my funny hand signals, some shrimps and pipefish hiding out in the crevices of the reef, a turtle, some sleeping sharks, a stingray and some really cool sea slugs. People love the sharks and big fish but don’t get my enthusiasm about the slugs.

The dive lasts until one of the divers runs low on air. When we ascent I make sure they’re not going too fast so they don’t get decompression illness. They know how to do this but people often rely on me so I have to be careful here. As soon as we surface people burst out laughing and shout “that was soooooooo awesome!” This is why I love my  job. On the way back we share stories, tell why we love diving, the cool stuff we’ve seen and I try to sell them a second dive. It works. Selling dives is part of the job but it’s really easy: I don’t need to make an effort because the next dive site is my favorite.

We have two more dives today and by the end of the third dive I am exhausted. Diving may be the most lazy extreme sport in the universe, it is still pretty tiring. Between dives I run around to talk to customers, give future students information about their courses and the certificates, put up equipment, sweep the floor (there is still sand everywhere). When we return from the last dive I just want to sit down and relax but we still need to wait till 6pm to close the shop, put away the equipment and then, finally, I can take a shower and put on some dry clothes and have a little me-time before heading out for dinner.

It is hard work. We make long days. Dangerous things can happen. But most of the time it is awesome. The people, the boat rides, the weather, the fish, the diving itself, the simplicity of it all. I love my job and I can’t wait to get back in the water. Only ten days before I leave.

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