How to Be an Effective Assistant in Confined Water

Certified assistants play an important role in confined water sessions. During this transformative time, students try things they’ve never done before, overcome fears, and achieve mastery. A certified assistant aids both the instructor and students acting as a partner and a second set of eyes.

We interviewed PADI Course Directors who have overseen the training of hundreds of divers and dive professionals. Their consensus: communication, preparation, and a thorough knowledge of the course material are the keys to being an effective assistant in confined water.

Good Communication

A good team can’t function well without good communication. It’s important to meet or message with the instructor prior to class to discuss skill sequencing, equipment needs, and any struggles students may be experiencing.

“It’s important to be proactive,” said PADI Course Director Kevin O’Brien from VIP Diving. “Talk to the instructor about where will you be positioned for each skill, and whether you will demonstrate.”

Course Preparation

Anticipate equipment needs such as extra cylinders, weights for buoyancy skills, pocket masks for rescue scenarios, etc. Review performance requirements in the PADI Instructor Manual, and the list of common student problems in PADI’s Guide to Teaching. Jot down notes on the course slates.

“Make sure your gear is in good shape and working properly. A dive professional who has gear that doesn’t fit or work properly sets a bad example for student divers and wastes class time,” advised O’Brien.

Certified assistants are sometimes called upon to work one-on-one with a student. In this instance, a good assistant will refer to their course slates to ensure the student can meet all the performance requirements before sending the student back to the instructor for evaluation.

Skill Demonstration

PADI Course Director Pepe Mastropaolo from Buddy Dive Academy emphasized the importance of using a slow, controlled manner when demonstrating skills. “A good assistant also positions themselves so students can see these actions clearly,” he noted.

Appropriate Level of Supervision

Use a different approach with new versus certified divers. For example:

– In the Open Water Diver course®, the assistant should be close-in and ready to take hold of a student who loses control of their buoyancy.

– During the Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty course, the assistant can give students more space and time to fine tune their buoyancy skills.

Be Approachable and Handle Issues Professionally

“It is no secret that many student divers feel more comfortable approaching the certified assistant than the Instructor. Having a friendly conduit between the student and the instructor makes student learning easier and enhances teamwork,” said Mastropaolo.

Open a dialogue by speaking to each student after class. Ask what they learned today, or just, “how was it?” If a student expresses a concern, be sure to communicate it to the instructor at the appropriate time. Work as a team and avoid making executive decisions.

“Never contradict the instructor or disparage your dive shop in front of student divers,” said O’Brien. “If you have an issue or disagreement, take it offline with the instructor in private for clarification.”


For additional tips on working as a PADI Divemaster, or how to find that dream job, visit the Divemaster section of the PADI Pros Europe blog and follow PADI Pros Europe on Facebook.

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