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May 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 26, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Back at You, Dive Guides

one customer replies to a divemaster’s rant

from the May, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

After reading J.D.'s article, "A Divemaster's Thoughtful Rant," in the April issue, I think what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, so I've written a similar rant from the dive clients' point of view. I agree with her points, with a couple of exceptions. Sure, you see lots of dive clients come on your boat, both good and bad. You have plenty of fodder for beer-fueled bitch sessions. But divemasters aren't the only party with gripes. Dive clients have their own bitch sessions, and sometimes have plenty to gripe about.

Yes, I know you've been at this dive site a thousand times before, but please slow down. This is our first time here, we're not bored, and we want to take some time to see the small things. I know you can get a good workout swimming fast, and you can run us out of air faster to be back on board and home sooner, but that's not why we paid to be here. Try to see this site through our eyes and take some excitement in it.

Please put the camera away and spend time with us. I know you make extra income from selling me a trip video or CD of photos, but if you're down here as a divemaster, please do your job and make the camera an incidental tool. If you're here to polish your portfolio for National Geographic, stop diving as a divemaster. Please show me sites you think I might like, not the ones you want to shoot. And if I've got a camera, please don't shoot until after I'm done. You'll be here again and again. After this one chance to shoot, I likely won't see this site again.

Please don't treat us like children, unless we are. Yes, you probably have way more dive experience than we do, and almost certainly know these dive sites better. And yes, some of us behave stupidly from time to time. But if we're adults, we deserve to be treated that way until proven differently. Treat ignorance with education, not a lecture or derision. If you treat us like unruly kids, we're likely to resent it, or even start acting like kids in response.

Don't limit our dive time because you want to go home. It takes a lot of our time and money to come out to this dive site; please let us get the maximum amount of pleasure out of our dive. Don't impose an artificially short dive time or automatically terminate everyone's dive as soon as the first air-sucking beginner is out of air. Figure out a way to let people with better air get better dive times.

Learn something about your dive sites' natural history, and please tell us something about it. We're not asking that you know the scientific name of every creature we encounter, just recite some stories about what animal behavior you've observed (you are watching, aren't you?) and what we might see. It adds meaning to our dives, and might even spice up the dive briefings so we pay close attention.

Please don't check my air unless I'm a beginner, I ask for it, or the dive requires it. I know some dives require us all to stick together, including during the ascent, and I'm happy to keep you informed of my air supply if that's the case. If it's not, and I'm an experienced diver, please respect me enough to let me keep tabs on my own air supply. Don't insult me by grabbing my air gauge and looking at it, and I won't insult you by giving you advice on how to run the boat.

If you're going to be a practical joker, please know your limits. Yes, it's funny to put purple Kool-Aid in a dive sock, or to paint a diver-down flag on a sleeping passenger's toenail, but not all divers like to be in on those kinds of jokes. Learn which of them do before you go at it. And if the tables get turned and the joke's on you, please don't be grumpy about it.

If you're handling my camera, please learn to put the lens cover on and take it off. We're not asking you to be a camera tender, just to help us get our cameras in and out of the water. We depend on you to take our lens covers when we dive because we often lose the covers if we take them with us. It does take a little extra effort to find the lens cover and put it back on when the camera comes up, but without a lens cover, ports worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars can easily be ruined, especially on a crowded boat without good camera facilities.

Please don't force your buddy-diving philosophy on me. I don't believe that diving with a buddy is always safer, especially when I don't know my buddy. Please don't assign me a much-less-experienced diver to be my buddy because you can't conceive of anyone diving without a buddy. Please let me dive alone if I have the experience to do so. And please don't chastise me about staying close to my buddy at all times if we know each other's habits well and are safe solo divers.

Please think about your mood at a dive briefing. Yeah, I know the boat's probably not paying you enough, you didn't get enough sleep last night, we're all behaving like jerks, and the world's just not right. But your attitude at the dive briefing sets the tone for the whole dive, and sometimes for a whole trip. An excited divemaster before a dive leads an exciting dive. A grumpy, lecturing divemaster leads a disappointing dive. If it's too hard to get excited, maybe it's time for a vacation or to look for another line of work.

I have deep appreciation for all the divemasters who have led me on trips, most of whom aren't guilty of my points. But there are the memorable few who stand out for the wrong reason -- and I know plenty of Undercurrent subscribers reading this who share similar experiences. Just some food for thought for all divemasters before you step foot on your next boat trip.

M.B. has worked as a liveaboard videographer and has logged 1200 dives on day boats, liveaboards and from shore.

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