Dive Master!

Dive Master! After ten grueling, fun and exciting days Marisa and I passed our last test, demonstrated the last required skill and became PADI Dive Masters, Yahoo!

I started this adventure to enhance my knowledge and to become a better diver. I have been leading dives for many years and frequently on this trip. I have not hadany bad experiences or disasters, a combination of being consciences and fortunate. The constant haunt of “what if something went wrong, what would I do?” has dwelled in the back of my mind. Unlike most who take this course,which makes me certified for a professional position in the dive world, I am not looking for a job. My motive was to become a better diver, dive leader andbe more able to avoid disasters and to react to one if it occurs. I have met those goals and more.

The course was divided into segments; knowledge tests, physical tests, skill tests and demonstrations, emergency scenarios and real life experience with leading divers. Parts of this were a bit hard for me, the non- assisted swimming test had me spooked but I trained hard for it so was prepared and passed, albeit with a very slow time. The rest of the tests; assisted swim (mask, fins and snorkel), the tow a tired diver, tread water for 15 minutes were no problem albeit tiring. The last test involved a full exchange of dive gear while sharing air under water. Now you might ask,why would you do that? No feasible scenario would put two divers exchanging all their gear especially the weight belt while sharing one air source. This was simply a problem solving exercise. To add to it, there were “style points” for making it look cool. Trust me you cannot look cool doing this. To complicate matters there is a bit of a difference in the sizes worn between Marisa and me,da. We must have looked a bit above foolish as we got a 4 out of 5 possible points.

practicing above water helped

The 24skills were right out of the Open Water Class, which I took 30 years ago so a bit rusty. Then we had to demonstrate them as if with a student. I got a break from my constant struggling to keep up when it came to navigation; I have spent a bit of time face in a compass so this was natural for me.

Also I had a reprieve from being the class dummy when it came to knot tying, we had to perform a bowling, sheep’s bend and half hitches. We actually got to use these when setting up a deep dive scenario with supplied extra air tank hanging at safety stop level. The girls had a bit of a struggle with the knots; it brought back the many United States Power Squadron classes we taught on this. I fondly recall my old friend Fred Hepner as he tied knots like an artist paints.

This class is a precursor to becoming a dive instructor and allows us to assist an instructor at many levels so some hands on teaching were involved. This has not interested me much but I must say the joy of sharing the underwater world with newbies lit me up a bit. We were leading a snorkel class, boring I thought, until I showed a nice Indian lady how to dive under the water. She was so elated with her new experience that it really became rewarding. Next we assisted in a Discover Scuba Diving Class, which gives potential divers a fast peek at scuba diving. The class had two Chinese couples and one Australian lady. I helped the very timid Chinese couple at first, “put your face in the water and breath” sort of thing. Next we took them on an actual shallow dive with great supervision; one instructor, one assistant instructor and two dive master interns for five divers. I lead the Australian lady who took to it all easily and it was a blast to watch her see her first fish under water. I may continue on to become an instructor down the road yet.

Richard, a PADI Course Director (top of the PADI ladder) and managing director of Dive Downbelow was our hands on instructor for this class. I think he really likes working with potential dive professionals.He was a task master for sure, no shortcuts were taken and he was rigorous in making sure we did every step right.

There is a significant emphasis on rescue and lifesaving in this course and we redid many of the skills we just learned in Rescue Diver. These are things you cannot get enough of so repeating them was good. I have now procured a CO2 kit for Furthur and two of us are CO2 certified. I was real happy Marisa did this so well, it could be me she is saving, hahaha.

The facility at Downbelow is enchanting, as with the previous class we were picked up each morning right in front of Furthur and taken to Gaya Island to the dive camp.Set at the jungle’s edge and on a long sloping white sandy beach the dive buildings take on a “Robinson Caruso” motif. Classes are taught on the large deck facing the sea and with a constant sea breeze to keep the heat at bay.Each day a healthy Malaysian lunch is served, they even accommodated Marisa’s vegetarian diet with separate dishes.

I was especially impressed with the Downbelow staff, mostly Malaysian and young they ran a tight ship, well organized yet always smiling and fun. The eagerly saw to our every need and really made this a great experience. I had to chuckle when they went to huge trouble to find me and hand me a phone. I had asked them to fill CO2 tank at a price, they needed to let me know it would cost 3rm (that is one dollar) more because it needed a special cleaning for the first fill. It was apparent that the crew and Richard had a deep bond. Richard can be very proud of the job he has done selecting and training the crew.

With the class over and some time to catch up, I am doing the never ending boat projects while the girls handle the provisioning. They are going to do a fast land trip,must see an Orangutan while in Borneo. We will depart for southern Borneo in a few days, more epic diving then down to some very remote and new parts of Indonesia. I will sadly leave KK, yet another place of wonder and wonderful people, off to the next adventure!

some photos courtesy of Dive Downbelow