Am I really a Divemaster?

Did I really make it?

I have the shirt, labeled “Emily Ciabattoni, PADI Divemaster”.

And the cap, which reads “DIVEMASTER” around the back headstrap.

I could hardly contain my excitement when Captain Bob gathered the DMTs into the office– Carys, Charlie, and I huddled in a half-circle; Bettina was also present for moral support, her time soon to come. He held three plastic bags in his hands; individually wrapped pale-pink jerseys, and khaki hats. A gift, to each of us. Divemasters.

I know the books say you’re Divemasters, but here at the shop, we believe we know when you’re ready. And all of you are ready.


Soooo I guess it’s official. I guess it’s legit.

Putting together this packet of official papers, and repping the merchandise, it’s all great fun. But it has me thinking– what does it mean to be a divemaster.

Yeah, someone can complete all of the steps. Someone can pass all the tests and check off all of the tasks. But is this person a master of diving? Could this person look after his/her own life, as well as another’s? Could this person assist with equipment, think creatively and problem solve, and guide and navigate underwater.

A Divemaster must have the ability to take command, make executive decisions, and exercise responsible leadership– and sometimes, these qualities seem contradictory to a personality. Some people are not born leaders, they follow. Some are timid, not commanding. Some are sweet and lighthearted, not determined and hardminded– a mentality sometimes necessary when dealing with lives, to obtain and maintain control.

Many DMTs do not start out with these qualities, but they can be acquired. They can be learned. And through the Divemaster course, I wrestled with these characteristics. When I arrived at Ocean’s Unlimited in Quepos, Costa Rica, I wouldn’t raise my voice. I shook a little when authoritative people spoke to me. I wouldn’t dare speak up for a day off.. in fear of displeasing people.

But during my Rescue course, I was forced to yell and scream for the life of an unresponsive diver. I was called to make demands others, and I learned that it wasn’t mean– it was necessary. For efficiency, for the sake of leadership– and stepping up to the plate.

Now– if yelling is necessary, I yell.

Now– if I need to say no, I will wave my finger in discipline at a DSD.

Now– if people are chatting and distracted from their gear, I will raise my voice above theirs, and ensure that the group is preparing for a dive.

Not to be mean, not to hoard control, but to ensure the efficiency, and the safety, and the timeliness of everyone– for the better of everyone, in the end.

After my course here, at Ocean’s Unlimited, I feel capable. I’ve been challenged in ways I’d never imagined– and I’ve come out on top, when primarily it didn’t seem possible. When primarily, I thought I didn’t have the strength, the experience, whatever it took. I discovered my strengths, and my weaknesses. And with those weaknesses, I want to improve– and I plan to keep improving.

I am a Divemaster.. But in training. Always in training.