There’s been a few discussions on social media recently about dive masters, when they were guiding. So what is the role of a guide as opposed to a divemaster? There seemed to be an expectation by a few that the guide has a particular level of responsibility for the divers which includes helping them sort their kit, going through the basics of diving again and supporting them with buddy checks. However, if divers are certified then surely they are responsible for themselves, albeit relying on a leader with local knowledge to show them the ropes in that area?
It’s a difficult conversation to have sometimes. Someone told me about a divemaster who hadn’t checked on all the divers before they got into the water and wasn’t sitting with one of the inexperienced divers. They were quite perturbed by this and took it upon themselves to sort out the inexperienced diver. Great if that’s how you’d like to spend your dive. However, if you’ve signed up for a guided dive then perhaps that’s what you should be expecting. If you’d like coaching then you’d need to pay extra for that. In a post on Facebook recently a diver complained that the DM hadn’t set up his kit or carried it for him: “If I’m paying $150 for a dive I expect…”. Mmm. I’ve never been in a situation where I’d expect someone else to set up my kit!
I think the major concern is the expectation that some have on others to sort their own diving. Even after Open Water level you’re training to dive independently (i.e. with a buddy but not solo or guided) in the conditions in which you trained. The AOW course has moved on to include “Thinking Like A Diver” and we certainly include that in all our courses, showing how divers can build experience and move on with their diving – and not by selling courses (that’s another story!) but by linking them up with other dive establishments or by offering dive opportunities in the club.
Another aspect is the desire by some to skip any sort of refresher, declaiming it as sales pitch, or to acquire any kit, citing the “Divemaster” as a font of all knowledge, including keeping an eye on their bottom time.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t support new divers – of course we should. I spent the best part of three years giving up every single dive outside of courses to support people into UK seas. Given most of the time I was paying for the dive, petrol and accommodation, it wore thin after a while, and luckily most of the people who benefited from that support have in turn gone on to pay it forward. In time, the new folk will do the same and the workload will be spread out. This is one benefit of the club system where we have a great network of people who are willing to help others out, albeit, within the skill set, experience and qualifications of both the helper and the receiver.
What I am saying is there is sometimes, from, hopefully, a small minority who expect dive professionals to be all things to all; to coach for free, and to re-do aspects of an Open Water/AOW course, to provide the knowledge derived from a dive computer that someone is unwilling to purchase for themselves, and do it all for the payment of a guided dive that has also to cover the boat and crew costs.
A divemaster can have a multitude of responsibilities as part of their role. If they’re a guide then the expectation should be you’re competent enough to follow. If you don’t get the support you want when you’ve paid only the fee to be part of a group with a guide, then maybe being derogatory about a dive establishment isn’t the way to go. Rather, if you need extra support then maybe you should shell out for a bit of one-to-one.