Hierarchy of Scuba: Is there any form of life lower than a Divemaster Candidate?

A perspective by Jerry Henkins (see his blog/podcast The Deco Chamber)

Many would argue that the hierarchy (from highest to lowest) in Scuba Diving has been fixed for a long time as the classic:

Instructor
Divemaster
Rescue Diver
Advanced Open Water
Open Water

I would however like to offer the following alternative:

All the creatures of the sea
Instructor
Divemaster
Rescue Diver
Advanced Open Water
Open Water
Single-celled organisms that cause foot rot, smelly gear and hives
Divemaster Candidate

In the case of growing up, there is no choice but to grow into an adult. It cannot be stopped. In the case of scuba diving however, a Rescue Diver could continue in their comfortable childlike existence so for the rest of their. However, for some unexplainable reason you have made the conscious decision to grow up and become an adult diver, a Divemaster.

You have walked into your local dive shop and signed on the dotted line, agreeing to become a Divemaster Candidate. In the moments before you signed, you thought you knew a lot. You had trained and learned and achieved. As if by magic, the mere act of signing seems to have removed your ability to do anything right. Just like the young adult out on their own for the first time, you are now expected to know everything but have little experience in actually applying what you know.

Most would argue that indentured servitude is a thing of the past, but none of them have ever trained to be a Divemaster. You have voluntarily signed to become lower than low. Since you are expected to know more, you are held to a higher standard than the Open Water Students. However, without the experience of being a professional, you actually appear worse off than them. You may, for example, shown up for your first day of assisting with an Open Water class at the time scheduled for the students to show up with a coffee cup in hand and an excited smile on your face. Will your mentor, the all-powerful and wise dive Jedi, be happy to see you? Absolutely not. Why were you not at the shop an hour early to help prepare for class? Why is there only one cup of coffee in your hands? You show up late and do not even bother to bring your instructor a cup!?

Suitably chastised, you begin your duties of helping Open Water students explore the underwater world. While putting your gear together you forget one minor thing, which the instructor obviously sees. Once again you are chastised but this time the instructor has a camera handy and preserves the moment for posterity. Later you then go out to assist with the open water dives. Everyone is learning and having fun, and in your enjoyment your mind wanders and once again you forget the same thing. The Jedi instructor is there to catch your mistake, and is not impressed. (The exact same mistake twice!? The world is ending! Except that the world does not end, because that would be too easy.) From this point on, that mistake is named after you, and every time a student does it your name is taken in vain. This is bothersome but it also helps to remind you that you are training to be a professional, to be responsible not only to the students but also to the instructors you assist. You are essentially high enough up the food chain to be held responsible but low enough to not receive any of the glory.

By being a professional, you set the standard and are the example. Fortunately or unfortunately, humans learn by watching and copying others and you must set the example for them. This does not mean that you must be perfect and never make a mistake, but it does mean that you’ll learn to make sure that no one, not even Dive Jedi, ever sees your mistake. You may not realize it, but even he makes mistakes, and was once a lowly Divemaster Candidate himself. There is no mistake you can make that Dive Jedi himself has not already made. However, having been put through the crucible of being lower than pond scum, he has learned to make sure his mistakes go unobserved and are corrected before they ever reach the students.

Then comes the day – the last test is graded, the last swim is timed, the last skill is evaluated. Oh my God, you have survived. You have made it to the ranks of professionals. You are a Divemaster. You look into that first student’s eyes and help open a world to them that is known only to those lucky few who take that first tentative breath underwater. At that moment you realize that all the abuse, all the work, all the jokes, all the sweat, all the tears were worth it. You are not perfect, but you have however mastered the ancient Jedi mind trick of appearing to be perfect. Eventually, a student will come along and make the same mistakes you have made but only uglier. At that point, said mistake will be renamed in their honor. Phew.


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