A Divemaster


I’m a divemaster now. A PADI Divemaster, newly minted. I took a sabbatical to go to Thailand and decided to train to become a divemaster in December 2022. Most people think it’s a vacation but I’m not sure. I’ve been diving non-stop for two months. I would wake up at midnight most weekdays to attend virtual conference, work a bit. snack up from 7-11 and then attend some more meetings. Then around 5 am. I shower, pack my gear and head to the pier to board the morning boat. We usually do 2 dives in the morning and 2 dives in the afternoon. The boat comes back to dock and resupplies around 11 am. That’s the only time I have to get lunch before we’re heading out again to another dive site. Sometimes, we would do a night dive after 7 pm. Which means I won’t have a real meal until 9 pm. And after 1-2 hours of sleep, do it all again.

My diving experience went from inexperienced to proficient in a very short period of time. I have logged a total of 124 dives during my Divemaster Training (dmt). As someone who works a 9-to-5 desk job with a somewhat sedentary lifestyle, I’m actually surprised I was able to pull it off. Scuba diving is not a taxing activity by any means. However you still get exposed to the element frequently and by doing it non-stop for 60+ days that can be exhaustive.

Get good

The structure of the scuba certification level is interesting. As an Open Water Diver or Advanced Open Water, you’re not expected to know much about problem solving if at all. The same cannot be said for a divemaster. People do look up to you to know what to do when a situation arises. Being a good diver means you can take care of yourself underwater and be able to address any issue you might run into while maintaining your safety and others’. Being a good divemaster means demonstrating role-model behaviors and a display of professionalism. The bread and butter of the training goes to internalizing the procedures in case of emergency. Achieving that takes time. Ultimately, it’s more about exposure and number of times you have dive rather than what cert level you are at that determine how good of a diver you are.

Koh Tao

This is my 2nd, and the longest time I have spent on Koh Tao. Life on the island is not without any problems: public transportation is non-existent, booking an accommodation online is so unreliable it’s best to go on-site and personally check out the property, unreliable internet connection and utilities, etc. The list goes on. But I was… happy. No trace of depression of any kind. I was finally at peace with myself.

A new found happiness.

In retrospect, I really don’t know why I was happy then and I’m not happy now. Maybe it’s because I got to do what I love everyday: diving? Or that I can get someone else to tidy up the room for me? That all my needs have been met? Or perhaps it’s a carefree lifestyle without stress? Maybe because I felt like a king that my dollars go much further there than in the Bay Area? That I felt loved and welcome? Maybe it’s this sense of belonging. That I’ve found my people that do and like things the way I do. Someone who I just met but with such a glint in their eyes because we just witnessed the natural wonder of the underwater world together. My best guess is this: I have got a solid affirmation that I’m more than just my money and my job. I used to think I’m only good at one thing: coding. And even then, I wasn’t so sure I’m really that good of a programmer. The impostor syndrome is real. I’ve been living life full of insecurity for so long, that upon realizing that I’m capable of much more, it liberates me.

No words can describe it.

We use words to express our experience in written form. There are many words describing the beauty of many things on land but not underwater. Every time I descend into the depths, I have this feeling rushing through me that I don’t know how to describe in any spoken language. The water embraces me as I go down deeper and deeper. The rush I get as my body tries to adjust to the changing in pressure and temperature. I see life moving around me. Gravity loosen its grasp. I float and sink as I breathe in and out of my lung to maintain buoyancy. I see things I have never seen before so close. I’m now part of a different world. All these sensations silences my noisy mind and the world above me. I’m at peace. My scattered mind is now focused on the present. I leave my worries on the surface. For a moment, I’m free.

Ocean never disappoints, only people do.

The ocean never promised you anything and that’s the beauty of it. You don’t go diving expecting to see a shark or a turtle. If you’re lucky, sometimes you get a spectacle beyond your wildest imagination. To me, the fact that there’s no other way than to go diving to experience it makes it the most precious memory. It teaches you optimism. You may or may not get what you want out of that dive, but that doesn’t make it a bad idea. That’s not a reason not to go diving. I have never regretted deciding to go diving in my life.

Love is sweet, bitter, and beautiful all at once.

My time on the island also gives me an opportunity to spend a lot of time together with Penny. She was not into diving at first but after I managed to convince her, she gave it a try. With her being certified, I get to tick off an item on my bucket list. It’s my dream to be holding my loved one’s hands while diving together. I will never forget that. Someone told me you never really know someone until you have spent more than a month traveling with them. I hardly know myself let alone someone else. But I got to see a different side of her that let me know her better. It’s not always rosy, of course. There are some good times and bad. And I’m grateful for every single moment we have together. Sadly she has to go back to work in Bangkok. Before I know it, I miss her dearly. Because we’re not together it become a challenge to maintain the bond we made. But I never regret dating her. To be enough for someone, in the world of greed, is everything.

Final note

I didn’t think it’d be possible to be making friends at my age. But apparently, in a certain corner of the Earth, people who share the passion of diving can still find each other. Looking back, the only regret I have is not deciding to get into diving sooner. I’d like to write more about my observations of the diving industry. This is how the unregulated, free market fails spectacularly. This is also the same reason why the professional diving culture is so toxic. But that will be a story for another time. I want to end the essay by imploring you to go out and explore the world of diving. I’m certain you’ll be surprised how rich the experience is.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.