Much like the Open Water certification, dive master trainees have to prove a certain level of physical fitness to proceed with DMT training. These skills involve a 400meter swim, an 800meter snorkel, a 15-minute float, a 100meter tired diver tow and an equipment exchange. There are a possible 5 points given for each skill – based on competency or time, depending on the skill – and DMT candidates have to have a collected 15 points to pass.
The 800m-snorkel part of the test is much like diving since it involves fins and a mask. We started with this part of the test and even though I was in an ocean bay and had to occasionally avoid getting hit by a boat, I did well and completed it in just over 16 minutes, scoring a 4 out of 5. For all you curious DMTs out there, I’ll pass on the advice I received: My instructor recommended that I pace myself for the first 600 meters and then go for broke on the last 200 and she also reminded me that snorkels don’t completely clear exhaled air so I should occasionally purge hard to release any stale CO2 and to get maximum oxygen input. I’d say this snorkel was hard but it was nothing compared to the swimming.
I haven’t done any swimming since college. Diving is not swimming. At all. Diving is propelling yourself slowly through water using your legs while wearing buoyant devices. This is not swimming. And even though I knew I’d have to pass a swim test, I still didn’t do any swimming practice.
To all future DMTs, I suggest you practice swimming. Swimming’s hard. Even for 400 meters. And it’s especially hard if you’ll have to do it, like we did, in the open ocean. 400 meters is only about a quarter of a mile and it’s half the distance of the snorkel but it took me 12.5 minutes to complete it.
800 meters snorkeling in just over 16 minutes and 40 meters swimming in 12.5 minutes? This makes no sense but it does prove that I’m a bad swimmer and it got me a 2 out of 5. I was pretty angry with myself and my lack of swimming preparedness but rather than immediately repeat the test, I decided to get through the rest of the skills and assess my score. Either way, I figured it wouldn’t hurt me to practice swimming since I hate doing badly at important things.
The 15-minute floating/treading water was a breeze (scored a 5) but I found the tired diver tow to be harder than it seems. There are two methods of towing a tired diver: swimming alongside them holding onto their tank valve and pulling them with you or propping their fins on your shoulders and pushing them ahead of you. After some discussion with my instructors, I wanted to try swimming alongside the diver and pulling them because it sounded like it would go faster.
WRONG. It took me 3.5 minutes to go 100 meters. Pulling someone dressed in full scuba gear by holding onto their tank valve is very hard to do because your body is alongside theirs. Your fins run into them, your one pulling arm gets tired and you want to switch sides, which wastes time, and it’s inefficient because your head is out of the water and increases drag. It’s just not good. It’s a fine towing method if you aren’t on a time constraint, the diver isn’t in distress and you want to stay in communication with them but it’s a terrible method if they’re unconscious, not breathing or you’re being timed.
So, I took a short break and repeated the test using the pushing method and knocked a full minute off my time. 2.5 minutes to push someone 1oo meters vs. 3.5 minutes to pull them 100 meters. That’s a dramatic difference and gave me a 4 out of 5, which was a total of 15 points so it didn’t actually matter what my score was on the equipment exchange because I’d pass either way.
The equipment exchange was the scariest test in the whole bunch so I’ll save it for tomorrow. It deserves it’s own post.