The TDI Tech Divemaster – What is it & why do it?

By Cris Merz

The life of the Divemaster has often been associated with palm trees, soft white sand, turquoise water, and evening rum punches.  Right or wrong, this is in the minds of many when deciding to become a professional in the scuba diving industry.  And while guiding tours in the warmth of the Caribbean, or being used as a number to increase ratios on a Scuba Discovery course, may be all you are looking for, be aware that you can take this rating one (or several) steps further and into the world of technical diving.

New challenges
Technical diving offers new challenges with advanced levels of planning, gear configuration, and of course training.  In technical diving, many times the divers are  restricted to direct access to the surface; be it by physical constraints such as an overhead environment inside a cave, or physiological limits like required decompression stops.  This means tech divers need to solve any problems or emergencies that arise while they are underwater. Despite the challenges, with proper training, the rewards are amazing.  Being able to go places very few have ventured; and see and record amazing views, bits of history, and visit some of the last pristine places on Planet Earth may be  some of the greatest benefits of technical diving.  As a technical DM, you can be a part of that.

Become an “expert” in the field

As a TDI Technical Divemaster you will be able to assist active TDI Instructors during approved diving courses, provided the activities are similar to your prior training.  Many Technical Divemasters stay involved in assisting tech courses to improve themselves as tech divers while working toward their goal of eventually becoming a technical instructor. What better way to stay sharp than to be consistently immersed in the education side of tech courses while also being engaged in the practical work? There is no better way to gain experience and work your way to becoming totally proficient.  You will see what works, what doesn’t, what is easy, and what is difficult in all components of technical training; making you extremely knowledgeable in the variety of scenarios and techniques involved.  By the time you are ready to take your technical instructor courses, you may already have more experience than many of the candidates taking the course with you.

Earning the extra buck

Becoming a TDI Technical Divemaster holds more for the professional than just a fancy new card. When crewing vessels that are running technical trips, you’ll have the working knowledge to assist technical divers with stages, decompression cylinders, safe sorb disposal, and detailed dive site descriptions. The real world knowledge to actually assist in the technical aspects of a techie charter, without having to be told which clip goes where, easily earns those big tips. Nothing is worse than an inexperienced sport Divemaster handing you a stage bottle off the boat and bonking you on the head!  The benefits of being a TDI Technical Divemaster is that you speak the lingo, understand the reason behind “this” and “that”, and can answer questions of the other technical divers on the boat – because you are one of them.

Successfully leading the tech dive
Let’s look at Florida as an example. With many deeper South Florida wrecks being “hot drop” dives, missing the wreck is a big deal, especially when it’s in 200ft of water where you can’t just ascend and try again. In the water, TDI Divemasters can successfully get decompression divers onto the wrecks, to the cool spots, and ensure their vacation goes well. Having an in-water guide, who’s insured and trained, is a big comfort for traveling techies. On deeper open circuit dives some TDI DMs might even bring down a juice box to the first stop, just to check in and make sure the deco is going well. TDI DMs are extremely useful for boat operators frequenting technical dive sites because they’re the only divers insured and formally trained to be assisting with decompression dives, courses, and on boats.

Rescue and emergency

TDI Technical Divemasters will be trained on the equipment they will be working with – if it is a rebreather then they will have background knowledge and experience on rebreathers.  They may not be able to teach it, but they will know the theory behind it and what to look for while conducting rebreather guided dives.  In the case of an emergency, they will also have a much faster reaction time as they have been trained on bail out techniques and gear configuration.  At the end of the day, rebreather, decompression procedures, or advanced wreck, the TDI Technical Divemaster will have a much better understanding of the needs of the technical diver as well as better able to assist them if they get in trouble underwater.

What’s next?

The TDI Divemaster Course is the first professional level certification in the TDI leadership levels. During this course you will be challenged and learn what it is like to work with divers as they begin or continue their technical diving experiences. You will learn how to manage divers, work as land or boat support, and conduct enjoyable dives. Dive physics, physiology, how to conduct pre-dive briefings, how to assist technical instructors, as well as how to be a professional TDI Divemaster, are all part of the course. Your skills will be refined to demonstration quality and your knowledge increased to that of a technical diving professional.

TDI Divemaster minimum requirements:

  • Satisfactorily complete the SDI/TDI written or online Divemaster examination with a minimum score of 80 percent, followed by 100 percent remediation.
  • Satisfactorily complete the SDI/TDI written examination for the specific course for which they are applying for a Divemaster rating.
  • Complete all water requirements.
  • Demonstrate mature and sound judgment concerning dive planning and execution.

Reach out to your local TDI Dive Center and see if they offer the TDI Divemaster course and take your professional career to a whole new level.

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