My Experience as a Divemaster Candidate
There are so many options when it comes to choosing where to complete one's Divemaster training, but choosing the right one can make all the difference in a student's experience. I cannot stress enough the importance of doing one's research before committing to a particular program.
I originally came to Oahu to work for a different dive shop (I won't name which one). They had a professional website that was clean, and everything seemed legit. They even had great reviews on Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp. During our phone interview, the owner told me everything I wanted to hear and it seemed like it was everything I was looking for in a Divemaster program. Once I arrived, I quickly realized the operation was not how it was advertised. I had made a commitment, so I just kept going with it. The Divemaster I worked with was really supportive, helpful, and completely overworked and underpaid so I did not want to leave him stuck with everything alone.
After being with that shop for a few weeks and constantly being belittled and talked down to by the owner for things that I had not been properly trained for, I began to feel discouraged and had wished I never came to the island. On the phone, I had been told that all the Divemaster costs were covered in exchange for working for the shop until the end of June (I arrived in March), but once I began working there the owner changed his mind and said that I needed to pay him $650 for items he originally said were included. He also said that I could not complete my training unless I stayed and worked for free until the end of July even though I told him I could not stay that long due to school and that I did not budget for an extra month. Finally, the tipping point came when I realized that the dive shop owner was being negligent and putting students' safety in danger just to make more money.
I was fortunate enough to have a roommate who introduced me to Justin, the owner of Aloha Scuba Diving Company. After my roommate explained the bad deal I was given at the other place, Justin immediately invited me to join his crew that weekend free-of-charge for some wreck dives off his boat. After spending the day with them, I was amazed at how much higher the level of professionalism was with this company. The crew genuinely cared about making sure everyone enjoyed the trip, and it had been the best diving experience I had ever had. My boat diving experience with the other company felt like there was always too many people packed onto someone else's boat like sardines, but Aloha's boat was really nice, clean, and I never once felt like I didn't have enough space to set up my gear.
After the day of diving with them, Justin offered to let me do my Divemaster training with his shop instead, and that he would allow me to work off the costs in the store. I am nearly done with the Divemaster course, and I am so happy I chose to come to Aloha. I spend every day except Tuesday and Thursday in the store, with usually one or two days being on the boat before opening the store. This is the first job that I actually get excited about and look forward to coming to each day. Nothing is more satisfying to me than to see how happy and excited our customers get when they're on our boat, which is completely different from what I experienced on other boats. I have never felt this appreciated by an employer, and I know that Justin and I will remain lifelong friends after I get back to the mainland.
I am not writing this to tell people where to do their training, but to tell people to take some time to get to know a shop before committing to them for a long period of time. I don't want to see anyone make the same mistake I did and be stuck in a situation where they are not happy. There are truly good people who want to see you succeed and will do everything they can to help. I believe Justin is one of those people, and I am thankful for everything he has done to help me.