A little update on the current travel. I’m in Costa Rica to become a divemaster.
A journey in South America
Since I came back from Antarctica via Argentina, I had the opportunity to visit places in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil. So there’s some backlog in the pictures and stories for the blog. Working on my book The Fragility of Ecosystems, and on the articles, I’m writing outside of the blog got a bit of a priority.
These days I’m spending my time in Costa Rica, on the Pacific side. I’m starting my Divemaster training with Rich Coast Diving here. Over the next 3 months, the plan is to combine that with the finishing of the book about the “Fragility of Ecosystems” and with some consulting missions, I’ve accepted in New York and other places. Being a digital nomad, as one could say.
What is a divemaster?
A divemaster in the PADI curriculum is a diver who has reached the level of training where he/she can be in charge of a dive. When you dive in many places in the world, the person diving with you will be one of these PADI Divemasters. Becoming a divemaster also helps in becoming a SCUBA instructor later. I’ll see how these 3 months go first before I launch myself in that PADI IDC course.
Before you can start the course, you’ll have (in the PADI system) to obtain the rescue dive certificate. It’s one of the most rewarding courses I took as a recreational diver, and can not recommend this enough – whether you like to move on to become a PADI pro or stay recreational. The rescue diver course improved my dive skills more than any other training I had before. A combination of Master Scuba Diver certification and the rescue course are an excellent start to jump on this internship. It sets you apart from other certified divers by the skills you’ve picked up.
Why would you become a divemaster?
If you have ambitions to become a diving instructor later, then the divemaster certification is the first step to becoming one. But even if that’s not your ambition, know that this step is the first on the professional ladder of dive pros. Once you’re certified, you might find paying jobs in the industry. Guiding guests on their dives, assisting instructors when they teach new and experienced divers. You’ll dive for free. Even better: you’ll get paid (be it not that much.)
Divemasters have the chance to increase their logged dives, while ‘being on the job’. From the 40 dives in your logbook, you require to start the course, you’ll see how fast more dives are logged. And how much better you become as a diver on every one of them.
Why an PADI Divemaster internship?
A dive shop is not just a place where people come to become (better) divers. It’s also a business and an ecosystem. Being part of a crew teaches an aspiring dive pro the administration of a dive operation, typically will give you an insight into how to sell dive courses and equipment. As an intern, you exchange your time in helping the dive shop for training and dives.
An internship steps away from the vacation diving. You know, when you’re in a hotel and someone (yes, a divemaster) prepares your gear and cleans it after your dive is not the experience you’ll have as a scuba pro. So during the internship, you feel the other (sometimes less pleasant or glamourous) parts of operating a safe shop. And you’ll be with other people who share your passion, what’s more to ask for?
It however requires you to free your schedule for three months and commit to the program. I’ve combined my internship with a part-time job as a consultant. And I’ll be very honest, it made for a challenging combination. There’s waking up early to go and prepare boats (Most days I woke up around 4 am, to have my mails replied and had breakfast before I arrived at the shop at 6am. Loading tanks, setting up gears, preparing the boats, and being ready to welcome guests at 8 am. Two or three submerges with guests or with a trainer in our ‘own’ program are the highlight of the morning. Before lunch, the operation reverses: getting the gear back to the shop and cleaning it. Afternoons were time to catch up with work, have calls and remote meetings. And after a lite dinner time to study, as there is a part of the theory that comes with the course. A quick beer at sunset in Costa Rica to have a break, and early turn in on most days.
Don’t get me wrong: I would do it again!
Why a Divemaster internship in Costa Rica?
When I was researching where to do this, I had a couple of requirements:
- Distance to NYC
First, as I am figuring out how this location independent working style works for me, I needed to have a place where I can fly in an acceptable time (and budget) back to New York. Costa Rica has 2 airports that fly easy into the US. Being a loyal Delta Air Lines Customer, it was reassuring that from Liberia and San Jose, there are direct flights to Los Angeles LAX, Atlanta ATL, and New York JFK.
- Reputation of the Dive Center
When holding a Divemaster certificate, I wanted to make sure I was holding one from an institute that is highly recognized by PADI, and that had the highest level of Course Director. In Costa Rica, Rich Coast Diving is only one PADI Career Development Center (CDC) that has five stars. And on top, their course director (Martin Van Gestel) is one of only 70 PADI Platinum course directors in the world.
- The Fun Factor
Rich Coast Diving has an excellent reputation among the Divemasters, Padi Pros and IDC-alumni. But they also make sure that the time you spend with them is not just carrying tanks and gear. Having an international crew shows that people actually WANT to be part of this group, and that in itself helps to create a nice atmosphere.
Of course, becoming a better diver will also give me an excuse and some extra skills to improve my underwater photography.
And what’s next?
The certification as a PADI Divemaster is required when you want to start the Instructor Development Course (or IDC) and become an Open Water Instructor. And maybe one day a staff instructor. In the real world, this might sound more glamourous than it is. Starting a diving career is not one that will make you rich when you use money to evaluate that. But the experiences, friendships, and lifestyle are unique. The dive industry attracts people for fun and adventure. But it’s not with a Wall Street salary.
Or you just keep on diving as you did, but now you’re known as a dive professional, and you’ll be the desired dive buddy! The divemaster course will give you tons of extra skills and experience.
Updated October 2017
Based on the great experiences of becoming a divemaster, I decided to push a bit further and became an Open Water Instructor.
Updated January 2022.
A long dream of owning my own sailboat happened. I’ll be cruising the planet with the Bagabonda. And of course, I’d be happy to take you along for some diving or some dive training!
Dive With KoenDo you want to start diving? Do you want to upgrade your diving skills? Does the idea of diving and sailing appeal to you? Then let us know in the form below: We'll let you know when we sail out on the next diving adventure.
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Koen Blanquart is a strategy consultant, journalist, and author.
Wanderlust is one of his driving factors, and he shares his travels here on Boarding Today. Koen is also the skipper of SV Bagabonda, a sailing vessel making a slow circumvention of the globe..
Koen recently published a book on how to manage a remote team: The Suitcase Office.