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How to tell the DM you're not a disaster underwater?

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by anchochile, Apr 5, 2019.

  1. anchochile

    anchochile Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Northern California
    I'm going to try to frame this question without it sounding like a humblebrag, so bear with me.

    I'm a new diver, certified just 9 months ago, but have packed 50 dives into those 9 months, the vast majority shore dives in the cold water of Monterey. I also did a one-on-one AOW course with a great local instructor - not because I needed the card or consider myself "advanced," but because I wanted to do some intensive additional training on buoyancy, propulsion, and navigation.

    When I've traveled to warm-water locales and gone boat diving, I've found that the DMs often separate divers into groups based on experience. They usually do this based on some simple questions - how long have you been diving, and when was your last dive? Based on this, I usually get put with the "inexperienced" group.

    The "inexperienced" groups tend to be mostly vacation divers who dive a few times a year, maybe they haven't been diving in over a year, they're using all rental gear, their trim and buoyancy are way off, and they suck down air.

    For my first warm water dives, I thought it would be better to be with the inexperienced group, thinking of myself as "new." But pretty quickly I figured out that, in comparison to most of those divers:
    • My buoyancy and trim is much better (as a cold water diver, I find it takes barely any effort to hover motionless in warm water and keep my hands still. Holding blue-water safety stops without a reference is no problem)
    • I use less air (my RMV is around 0.5 cuft/min, not amazing, but on these dives, I'm often back on the boat with 1000+ PSI)
    • My propulsion and control of my position in the water column is much better
    • I'm comfortable navigating by compass in low-viz or low-light situations
    • I'm diving all my own gear
    • Above all, I'm calm, relaxed, and efficient
    I'm not trying to brag here, and I recognize that I'm still a very new diver and have a ton to learn. I also recognize that there are conditions I am not experienced in, due to my local diving conditions (strong currents, drifts, negative entries, depths below 100ft, to name a few).

    But I've repeatedly had the experience of finishing a dive and having the DM tell me "You don't look like a new diver - I wouldn't have guessed by watching you that you've been diving less than a year."

    Bottom line: I'm a newbie, sure, but as a cold-water diver who dives frequently at home, I've found that on MOST warm-water boats, I'm a better fit paired with the more experienced group.

    I've tried to gently communicate this to DM's by saying things like "I've only been diving 9 months, but I do a lot of cold water diving at home..." But I still always get put with the vacation divers who are crashing into the reef and suck down air like nobody's business.

    Any advice on how to tactfully but effectively ask to be paired with more experienced divers in these situations, so that I can have longer dives and better buddies?
  2. Jcp2

    Jcp2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    Tell the DM in private before he makes up the groups what you just told us. It’s not rude, it’s the truth. And if it’s not, you’ll be sure to hear about it.
    mtngoat2674, Hoyden, gypsyjim and 6 others like this.
  3. Seaweed Doc

    Seaweed Doc Marine Scientist

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Seattle, Washington State, USA
    That's interesting: I'm asked how many dives I've done, sometimes deepest dive, and when my last dive was.

    If you want to avoid a long story, just tell them you've logged X dives in that time.
  4. NorCalDM

    NorCalDM Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Vacaville California
    My experience the guide usually figures it out pretty quick once you're under water. Also when you book trips look for operators with smaller boats or if they offer "advanced trips" they will usually have less people on them. I go to Hawaii to dive a fair amount and several of the operators will run advanced trips or they call them extended range trips they cost a little bit more but you have less people to deal with and they sites with less used.
    chillyinCanada likes this.
  5. Steve_C

    Steve_C Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh, NC USA
    1. If money is not an object hire a private DM
    2. Go out more than once with the same operator. If as you said, they should move you to the more experienced group on subsequent dives.

    Sometime the groups do very different dives. From same boat I have seen half go over a wall and the other half play on a shallow reef.
    markmud, chillyinCanada, Doc and 2 others like this.
  6. swimlikethefish

    swimlikethefish Divemaster

    Instead of telling your experience. Why not request to be put with a more experienced group of divers? If someone asks me to be placed with a certain group, I can usually ascertain if they should be there with a few questions. The sooner you ask me this the better. I will then pay attention to you while you setup your gear and prepare for the dive.

    Everyone paid an equal amount to be on the dive. I expect all customers to leave with a smile. If I can assist with this I will. As long as it doesn't interfere with the safety of yourself or others. If you are doing multiple dives over a few days, I also might be inclined to have you do your first dive with me. So I can assess your abilities myself.

    You would be surprised by the amount of people whom drastically inflate their abilities. Not saying this is what you are doing. At the end of the day it all comes down to liability. My job is to reduce that at all costs.
  7. anchochile

    anchochile Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Northern California
    I think this is key. So far, I haven't had a chance to do multiple consecutive days with the same operator. My warm-water trips have been a mix of non-diving days (with my wife who isn't certified yet), a shore dive here and there, interspersed with a morning boat dive here and there - usually with bigger boats with multiple DMs.

    We're headed to the Big Island this summer and I'm hoping to do several days with a single small operator (Pacific Rim Divers) so hopefully that will make it easier - and maybe I can do some of the advanced/long-range trips.
  8. Streydog

    Streydog Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: DFW, TX
    Can you imagine how often dive masters in vacation spots hear divers talk about how good they are? They would rather see it than hear it. I am vacation/ destination diver but most of my diving is with one particular shop. They have multiple boats and do a good job grouping skill levels. Do your research on how a dive shop operates before you sign up, they can vary greatly.
  9. anchochile

    anchochile Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Northern California
    Yup, totally get this from the perspective of the operator. If I were in your shoes I would also err towards putting someone in the "less-experienced" group if I had any doubt.

    Also, just to be clear, I'm mainly talking about situations where all groups are doing the same dive profile. I'm not trying to get permission to do the "harder" dive. If I feel comfortable with a deep wreck or wall, I'll sign up for that boat. But if everyone on the boat is diving the same pretty reef at 30-50ft, I'd rather be with the group that will have a longer and more relaxed dive, where we don't have to wait around at the bottom of the line for the two divers who can't get below the surface, etc.
  10. wetb4igetinthewater

    wetb4igetinthewater Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Seattle
    I'd suggest contacting the dive op in advance and ask about checkout dives for quick evaluation. I think its better to do this in advance than on the boat. If you are really adamant, make your own demo video of various skills and send them the link.

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