Becoming a PADI Divemaster in Mexico

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La isla Bonita

It took us a year to finally find the right place for our Divemaster course. We were in search for an instructor who would be willing to teach and show us everything on how to become a pro. We ended up in la isla bonita – really named Isla Mujeres in Mexico. Having already a great quantity of dives logged and therefore plenty of diving experience we were more than ready to start the Divemaster course.

Let me tell you all about it – our Divemaster course in Isla Mujeres.

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Becoming sharp as razors

We spoke with a couple of dive centers on the mainland and on the island. The dive center we liked the most asks us if we can stop by tomorrow to talk to the instructor, Ivan. So we do that. He has only instructed a few Divemasters before, but seems very passionate in his job and most importantly professional. He’s enthusiastic and wants to teach us to become as sharp as razors underwater.

Mr. Viking and I talk about it for two days, thinking about how we can be sure about this being the place to do our Divemaster. To be honest, you can really never be sure if it’s the right choice when you make such decisions. However you can always trust your instinct and so do we. We like the instructor, especially his enthusiasm and energy for the course. We also think the dive center is lovely, which appears to be very personal as it is run by a family. Everyone working in the dive shop lives by a Caribbean rhythm and even that’s appealing to us.

We make our minds up and tell the owners of Sea Hawk Divers that we want to start as soon as possible.

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Making swimming and snorkeling meters

The next day we start our Divemaster. Ivan takes us along one of his discovery dives with an American lady. He just lets us watch and join the dive, so that we can pay attention to what he is doing and simply observe. He mentions that we need to swim some distance so that he can cross that of our Divemaster to-do list, so that’s up next. The same goes for swimming while wearing a mask, snorkel and fins, so also this is on our schedule. Despite the fact that you’d normally simply swim laps and snorkel, Ivan decides to take us for an actual snorkeling trip so that we can enjoy it at the same time. Great idea! In Isla Mujeres you can easily go snorkeling to spot some beautiful sea-life like turtles, stingrays or simply lots of colorful fish.

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Learning to work with Discover Scuba Diving

Practice at the dive center

It’s important to learn how to make certain diving presentations that have to do with skills and diving rules. Also the refresh or dive site briefings before you actually take people diving with you is one of these presentations. Ivan asks us to bring our phone as the videos of these presentations are hard to find on the island. Therefor we make them ourselves! Ivan shows us his briefing, DSD (Discover Scuba Diving) introduction, a refresh, equipment explanation and even how to tie sailor knots. We record it all.

The next thing to do is to demonstrate these presentations ourselves. We do our first DSD briefing for Ivan and it all goes well, but of course it’s not perfect yet. At our apartment Mr. Viking and I practice on each other. I try to show him how to use a mask and how to clear it while he gives me a dive site briefing afterwards. We continue to practice like this and watch Ivan’s videos.

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Can you spot the giant Barracuda?

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How about now?

Spotting volunteers on the beach

After a few days Ivan tells us that he has got a great idea. He wants us to bring a spare tank and equipment and ask people on the beach to get a DSD done by us. While we have to get used to this idea for a minute it is exciting and we’re up for it!

Once we arrive to the beach Ivan asks us to wait with the gear while he tries to find some volunteers. In the mean time we get more and more excited and we would actually even love to ask people ourselves! Ivan finds two Swedish girls, so Mr. Viking is up first. He has to show them the DSD introduction and do the first actual DSD in the water. He does an amazing job and even while the first girl was nervous he got her to finish the DSD try-out. I’m up next with the second girl. She has already seen her friend try it and now it’s her turn. I ask her to do 4 skills underwater with me just like her friend had to do before her.

Skills

Skill number 1. Clear your mask.
Skill number 2. Clear your regulator.
Skill number 3. Retrieve your regulator.
and Skill number 4. Buddy breath from my regulator.

It’s a bit tricky to check if she does the mask clearing correct, but I manage. The thing is that most people blow out through their mouth instead of nose and this is exactly what not to do when clearing a mask. Another thing that can go wrong is that the DSD diver forgets to blow bubbles from her mouth while retrieving the regulator. This would show the person never stops breathing, even with our regulator as you can still slowly breath out.

We learn a lot from this and manage to make the people on the beach enthusiastic to go diving. Many people start coming up to us to ask us where they can book this activity. Ivan has to explain them that we’re ‘just’ doing some practices for our Divemaster course, but people still keep staring at us.

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Spotting Spotted Eagle Rays

Professional DSD’s

During the following days of our Divemaster course we get to take over some of the DSD’s from the dive center. Not that the beach DSD’s weren’t professional, but the people who day didn’t actually go to a dive center and pay for a DSD. This time however, we have to take care of the DSD divers from the dive center. Actual customers.

Gear fixing

Ivan asks us to fix their gear selection in the morning. Five people arrive at the dive center and they’re ours today. Mr. Viking and I decide to do a gear selection together while I start with one couple and he provides the gear to the rest. We give them their fins first. Pretty hard when a Japanese person has no idea which shoe size he has in US nor European size. We figure it our by letting them try the smallest fins we’ve got and continue with the wet suit. The masks and the BCD (Buoyancy Compensator Devices) jacket follow as we make a complete package of everyone’s diving gear with a decent regulator and some weights.

Briefing and skills

After the gear it’s time for a DSD briefing in the shop where I get the chance to tell the five new divers about the most important diving rules and the skills they’ll have to show us in the water. It takes us about half an hour to reach the confined open water area where the new divers can show us the skills. If they can’t perform the skills then we’re not allowed to actually take them diving. Ivan supervises us and tells us how it all went. I remember that a few days ago one of the divers was too afraid to breath underwater during the skills and realized that this is something he really didn’t want to even try. Unfortunately he decided to end his DSD and didn’t come with us for the dive. He stayed on the boat while we took the rest diving. Today everybody joined! Everyone is set and we can go to the real dive site.

Exciting yet tiring

It must be the most intense dive Mr. Viking and I have ever made as we have to make sure the divers are not to deep nor to shallow and we have to show them interesting sea life at the same time. Buoyancy control of others is more complicated to control then it looks! Nonetheless it all goes well and we end the day with four happy divers. Not bad for leading our first REAL Discover Scuba Diving.

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Mapping a dive spot and creating an emergency plan

Something I was really looking forward to when we started the Divemaster course was the dive site mapping. I am a very creative person and I love drawing. Many ideas already popped up in my head for a dive site map. I was even excited to start a design in the water.

On one of the last days of our Divemaster course we get to do our dive site mapping. Ivan wants us to map Manchones. The area exists out of two dive sites, basically called Manchones 1 and Manchones 2. During the first dive I get to do the compass work and orient myself while Mr. Viking draws a map and on the second dive we swap roles. It’s fun and actually a lot easier than I thought. We also have to make an emergency plan for the dive center, which was a bit harder than I thought as most phone numbers seem to be quite difficult to find. The same goes for addresses on a Mexican island. Turn left by the third palm tree and there you’ll find the Hyperbaric chamber! Voilá!

The DiveMaster manual – the final theory exam

Besides the whole practical part of the Divemaster course – the most fun part – there’s also theory. Studying books with many pages about diving doesn’t seem bad, but it’s not just about diving. The theory also goes on and on about physics and equipment. What I find very interesting as well though is the part about the environment. It’s all about protecting the ocean and where waves for example come from.

After having read all those pages of the manual there’s a theory exam. Apparently back in the day there used to be four different books and four exams which are now put into one, so I guess we’re kinda lucky. You have to get 75% of the exam right and we finish ours with a proud 90%.

Now that we have done some DSD’s, learned all the tricks on how to prevent accidents, can map and guide and so much more, we can call ourselves PADI Divemasters!

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Have you ever thought of becoming a PADI Divemaster?

*Pictures by Thom Mattsson & Renate Rigters

Up next: becoming PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors 🙂

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Ever since I left my home country I felt at home at any other place I went to. I enjoy getting to know more cultures by talking to strangers and hearing their philosophy about life. Speaking with gestures when you can not find a shared language, finding places only the locals go to and learn about their customs and values. Hanging out with local people makes me happy. The experience of every new place is a step out of your comfort zone where I like to wander around until it feels like a second home.

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