Divemaster: Part 1

Val and I are becoming PADI Divemasters.  For those of you that don’t scuba dive a divemaster is basically a professional dive guide. They are responsible for safely leading divers through the beautiful, yet ever deadly, underwater world.

PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) is the largest SCUBA certification agency in the world. They have finely tuned the curriculum we will follow.  Having completed the prerequisite PADI Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver, First Aid, and CPR courses, we are now eligible to start the divemaster course. To complete this course we will need to:

  • Pass 8 exams on topics like physics and physiology
  • Demonstrate exemplary rescue and emergency skills
  • Meet the required times for a 400m swim, 800m snorkel, 100m diver tow, and tread water for 15min
  • Perform the 20 basic scuba skills at “demonstration quality”
  • Pass a stress test
  • Make a map of a dive site
  • Create and emergency assistance plan
  • Demonstrate leadership and resourcefulness
  • Have at least 60 logged dives

Our instructor will watch over the entire process, teaching us what we need to know, grading us as we go, and signing off when we complete each step. Most people take this course with the intention of starting  a career in scuba diving, Val and I just want to spend as much time in the water as we can. We considered locations all over the world and decided to do our course with Bajo Dive Club in Komodo, Indonesia. We’ve agreed to complete the course in six weeks.

Our instructor’s name is Wolfgang. He’s 57 years old, from Austria, and totally bonkers about diving. He’s exactly what we are looking for; professional and thorough without wanting to haze and punish his divemaster trainees (as many instructors have a foul habit of doing). He hasn’t been in Komodo long so he shares our genuine eagerness and excitement to get out on the boat as much as possible.

Wolfgang has held a variety of jobs in his life, but the two things he’s truly passionate about are skiing and diving. Four years ago he quit his job as a ski instructor in the Austrian Alps in pursuit of a new endeavor.  His first stop was Honduras, where he completed his PADI Instructor Course. From there he immediately moved to Egypt, instructing for a couple of years before he started wanting a better lifestyle and, hopefully, better diving. Thailand was an obvious choice and he happily settled into a new life there.  After a while he wanted to take it to the next level and find a position at one the top five diving destinations on the planet.  That led him to Komodo, where Bajo Dive Club’s German owners convinced him that Bajo Dive Clube was the right fit.  Two weeks later, we arrived.

Bajo Dive Club has a diverse cast of characters. The owners, Frank and Anke Winkler, started coming here in the late 80’s. They started the first land-based diving operation in Komodo.  Frank is tough, and looks like he’d just as soon snap you in half than say hello, but he’s actually very relaxed with a subtle and dry sense of humor to every remark that we quickly discovered was ever present. Too many years of pushing for efficiency in the most inefficient of places have taught him extreme patience. Anke is a whirlwind, always doing five things and checking every detail while taking care of Anton, Anke and Frank’s five year old son.

Captain Matt is the man at the helm on Bajo Dive II, our day trip boat. He’s a fantastic captain who knows the personality of these treacherous waters like old friend. He’s from Alor, Indonesia and happens to be one of the most genuinely happy people we’ve ever met.  His English is excellent and he’s more than willing to share his knowledge. He’s an extremely valuable resource to us and we feel lucky to have him.  He’s backed up by two deck hands, Obe and Frankie who are young and love to play jokes on each other, and us.

Nun is the shops head Divemaster.  He’s from Lombok, Indonesia and has experience diving all over Indonesia. He’s made over 8,000 dives, which translates to multiple years underwater. He has eyes like a hawk and speaks 5 languages. Had Nun been born in a Western Country he would have been a doctor, lawyer, or scientist. He is another very valuable resource for our eduction.

We are not the only Divemaster Trainees at Bajo Dive Club.  A girl named Kay has already been here for 3 month already. She is from Russia and used to work for Goldman & Sachs but decided that desk work wasn’t her thing and that Russian winters were over-rated.  She left and through a surprising turn of events washed up in Komodo.

There’s about 10 other employees, but we can’t tell everyone’s story. For now it’s time to take a shower and prepare for tomorrow, a day packed as-tight-as-can-be with only one thing – scuba diving.

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Scott Dusek is a freelance writer specializing in travel and photography. He has extensively traveled to over 50 countries. When Scott is not writing you can find him trekking, climbing, or scuba diving.