A certified assistant plays a key role during open water training, especially when weather conditions, equipment issues and other variables make life difficult for students and the instructor.
PADI® Course Director Patrick Hammer from Scuba Emporium in Illinois, USA says, “When an instructor works with a certified assistant, it’s like a pilot and co-pilot. You can fly a plane with one person, but with two people, the flight is smoother and safer.”
Review the tips below to learn more about effective assisting during open water training.
Prior to class, meet or message with the instructor to discuss equipment needs, skill sequencing, student issues and review the weather forecast.
PADI Course Director Kevin O’Brien from PADI Five Star IDC VIP Diving in Bonaire says, “Work as a team to determine the most efficient way to complete the necessary skills: shallow vs. deep, surface vs. underwater. This is especially important for multi-level training. Also discuss how the tour portion will be conducted.”
Equipment and Safety Preparation
Ensure your equipment is in working order and consider what equipment is needed for students to meet the performance requirements.
“An effective assistant will make sure any specialized equipment required for the dive is ready when needed,” says O’Brien. “For example, when conducting the navigation dive in Advanced Open Water, you need a reel or line to mark off 30 metres/100 feet, and your student divers will need compasses.”
In addition to diving equipment, be sure to pack a dive roster slate to check divers in and out of the water. Bring the appropriate course slates to ensure you’re aware of skill depth requirements and refer to the list of common student problems in the appendix of PADI’s Guide to Teaching.
Arrive early and set up your gear before students arrive. “Many of our training dives start early in the morning when the weather is still cool. It’s important for staff to arrive early and get setup so they can help students. That way no one stands around getting cold,” says Hammer.
Try to be one or two steps ahead of the instructor to ensure the class can efficiently transition from one activity to the next. “A good certified assistant should be a thinker, someone who can anticipate class needs without the instructor having to ask,” Hammer says. “For example, while I’m working with students, the certified assistant can be getting equipment set up or setting the float.”
Keep students together as much as possible and make sure the instructor knows where you are at all times. If a student unexpectedly separates from the group, take action to ensure the diver’s safety while simultaneously alerting the instructor using a noisemaker or other signal.
“A good certified assistant can corral the class and make sure everyone stays close, keeping an eye on the students I’m not working with and keep them from drifting away,” said Hammer.
The importance of global awareness cannot be understated. A good assistant keeps one eye on the instructor and one eye on the students at all times. If you find yourself working directly with a student, regularly look around to see what the other divers are doing. While you’re checking one diver’s air, their buddy could be drifting rapidly to the surface.
A good assistant also keeps students focused on training. Wait until skill time is done to point out marine life and show off your bubble ring skills.
We hope you learned something from this list of tips. Feel free to add additional tips and suggestions in the comments.
Have a read of our previous blog about how to be an effective assistant in confined water!