Updated: Feb 18
In June of 2021, I officially became a Scuba Divemaster! It has been an exciting, emotional, and hardworking journey!
I have been diving since 2013, but that doesn't mean that I dove often. I grew up north of land-locked Atlanta, and I am the only member of my family in the states and of my friends that is a diver. My family was very supportive of my dreams, but they were never quite as outdoorsy as me. They took me to Panama City Beach, FL for my Open Water check-out dives. Two years later, when we visited my family in Puerto Rico, I got to go diving with my brother-in-law. And then in 2018, I did five dives in Grand Caymen with some good friends (at this point I was 21).
If you've read my story, you know that in college, I was trying to figure out what I want to do, and how to do it! After graduating college in 2020, I fully began my journey to be a professional scuba diver.
I visited Rainbow Reef in Key Largo, FL for two weeks to get my Advanced Open Water
certification. Here I was able to get 9 more dives. (The reason that I am counting my dives, is because it is required to have at least 40 dives to begin a divemaster course and 60 dives to graduate). After this excursion, I called every single PADI dive shop in Georgia, USA to find one that offered a divemaster program, was a decent price, and that I felt a connection to.
My heart fell upon Bubbles or Not in Harlem, GA (near Augusta). This little shop, from the moment Mrs. Rose answered the phone, gave me high hopes. Even though I live in Atlanta, this shop worked out perfectly because Zane's, my boyfriend, family lives in Augusta, so we visit here often. I met with Bob and Rose the next week. We discussed my goals to be an instructor, what steps I had to take to get there, and how I can do a work study with the shop by helping with their social media and project aware events!
My next step was to begin my Rescue Diver course. This I did in October of 2020. By the end of this course I had 23 dives. It does get cold in the winter months of Georgia, but the water will stay around 70 degrees F until mid-November. On January 25, 2021, I was able to sign up for my Divemaster course because I had hit 40 dives that afternoon on a shark dive in Myrtle Beach.
I was so excited to get started on this new journey. I had my first classroom lessons with my
mentor, Bob Bennett (the owner of the shop), and the next week we met down at the Blue Grotto in Florida for him to run through my skills to make sure that I know what they are and how to perform them at an instructional level. We had a fantastic day, and I was able to learn a lot. Sadly, that was the last time I saw Bob... Bob Bennett passed away on February 5, 2021. He was a mentor and friend to a lot of people. He put a lot of faith in me, and invited me into his family and business. The short amount of time I had with him will always be cherished. This loss took a toll on all of us at Bubbles or Not.
We all took some time to process this change, and to get ourselves back into the water. That is what Bob would have wanted. I asked Scuba Fox Dan to be my new mentor. We started planning dives and workshops. For the next 6 months, I had nearly every weekend booked with either diving or family events.
I think that the most difficult thing for me on this journey was diving with low visibility or in darkness. I have always been scared of the dark, so diving in that kind of condition really freaked me out. I had to practice breathing, and knowing that Jesus is with me and keeping me safe. I don't intend on doing too many night dives or dark dives as a professional, but I have learned enough to be able to compose myself on one of these dives. Another insecurity I had was public speaking. So, learning how to give dive site briefs made me quite nervous, especially because this is a key task for divemasters. As I became more confident in my skills, and my dive sites, I was able to share with divers my expertise as a divemaster.
Another skill I have always struggled with is my buoyancy. Some days I will have it perfect, but the next dive even in the same site, with the same exposure suit, and weights, it would be so difficult. I still practice this on every dive I do, and as I gain numbers, I will gain experience in numerous environments to find what is right for me.
In addition to in water skills, to become a divemaster I need to pass a multiple choice exam that covers scuba physiology, physics, emergency care, gear, ocean conservation, ocean physics, and PADI regulations. I was nervous about this part, but I studied very hard and passed quite easily! For anyone going into their divemaster course, I recommend getting the Starfish Book and making handwritten flash cards of every question in that book and from your online e-learning quizzes and exams! Yes, it is tedious but writing helps to engrain the lessons into your memory.
Towards the end of June I finally made it to what I have been working so hard for! I filled out my paperwork and sent it off to PADI to be approved! About a week later I received my PADI Pro number! My card actually did not arrive in the mail before I left for Costa Rica, so I do not physically have my certificate or card, but I did it and I am so proud and excited.
I definitely had my doubts and my lows where I wondered if I was even meant to continue on with this direction in my life. Whenever, these times of doubt came to me, I prayed and talked to Bob. I knew that he was there pushing me and helping me overcome those obstacles. He had so much faith in my ability and I dedicate this certification to him. Thank you for opening up your doors to me Bob and Rose.
Next up is to work on getting my Discover Scuba Diving rating, becoming a PADI Project Aware instructor, and then beginning my IDC to become an instructor. This path is taking longer than expected, but I have been able to meet wonderful people, gain new skills, and see new places along the way and I am so grateful! Sometimes you learn more on the slow path.