Indeed, the diving guides constantly assess their environment and all relevant factors in order to ensure a safe dive to the guided divers. It's a serious job that need to be done with a smile in order to also ensure a relaxed atmosphere and an enjoyable moment.
At IFDI, we prefer the word "guide" than the official ISO title "leader" which might induce a useless sense of authority whereas the word "guide" is more friendly and much closer to the expectations of the divers. We all prefer to be guided rather than listening to a chief. This subtility makes the all difference !
Diving guides need to adapt to the context. Sometimes, some certified divers prefer to dive in a buddy team rather than being guided. The first role of a guide is to check this eventual case. But, particular conditions may also dictate a safer dive when guided. For example: Strong currents and divers who have never dived before in strong currents.
You should be familiar with all the possible emergency procedures that you might need: First aid box, oxygen kit, the different useful phone numbers, VHF radio, the location of the nearest decompression chamber and so on... Accordingly to your local conditions and regulations.
The ideal ratio is 1 guide for 4 divers or less. 6 guided divers is doable. 8 guided divers is a big group. More than 8, if conditions allows, the most experienced divers should dive in a buddy team independently from the guide but following the path of the guide if they wish. If the divers are too many or if the conditions do not allow a big group, it's time to consider a bigger amount of guides. When guiding the 10m divers or any beginner divers with an equivalent level to ISO 24801-1 (supervised diver) you can guide a maximum of 2 divers.
For the unguided divers, your pre-dive briefing should be enriched with the necessary details in order to allow them to orient themselves to the points of interest of the dive spot. You should also mention the eventual hazardous points of the dive spot.
As we cannot talk underwater, the pre-dive briefing is very important. A good briefing ensure a safe and enjoyable dive. The only reminding of the general safety rules already known by the divers would be the worst and most useless briefing. Your briefing should point at the specificities of the dive spot and today's conditions. Your briefing should be done in a calm and relaxed atmosphere to ensure that the divers fully receive the information that you give. A short briefing is always better than a long one. But, a too short and incomplete briefing would be a mistake. You should also adjust your briefing to the level of the divers. A good briefing will never be the same from one day to another as the relevant factors, conditions and participants might always be different.
A small drawing of the dive spot could help a lot. Here is an example of a good briefing:
"Welcome on board, we'll arrive to the dive spot in 30 minutes. My name is Valerio. I am your guide. Our group is composed of: Anita, Franck, Tina and Jose. Today, we'll dive at "Maga Kan Thila". As soon as we arrive there, I'll jump in the water to check the current. Please, don't jump with me. I'll come back on board and the captain and I will decide the best entry point.
The top of the reef progressively goes from a depth of 3 meters to 30 meters. The main current is perpendicular to the reef. We'll jump at the shallow part and then we will make sure to position ourselves along the reef, about 2 meters below its edge. There, the current will gently go along the reef and the dive will be easy. If you have any doubt where to position yourself, simply come close to me and at my same depth. During the descent, let me know, of course, if you have any ears problem. Please, never go above the top of the reef, the strong current will push you away in the blue and you'll be separated from the group...
We will progressively go along the reef till 27 meters depth. Then, we'll stop and hold on a solid part of the reef and of course not on a beautiful fragile coral. We'll hide as a rock and we'll simply watch to the sharks swimming into the current. Don't swim toward the sharks, this will scare them away. Please, let me know when your air gauge reaches 100 bars. This will be the sign to say "bye bye" to the sharks. We'll then let ourselves go above the reef and once behind the edge of the reef, we won't feel so much current anymore there and we will be able to slowly ascend back along the reef.
Let me know when your air gauge reaches 50 bars. We'll end our dive with a long safety stop at 5m depth in the middle of schools of fishes and we may also see a turtle there. At 30 bars, we'll ascend to the surface and the boat will come and pick us up. Do you have any questions?"
After your briefing, your divers will certainly appreciate that you ask to each of them individually: "Is there anything in particular that I should know about you? Any difficulties to equalize? Or any other particular points?" Your divers will feel in good hands with you. They'll trust you and follow well your guidance. This personal approach could also be done before the briefing. This is up to you or up to the context. Diving guides should be flexible rather than being stuck in one single way of doing things.
If ever you forgot a detail in your briefing, there is no shame in saying to your divers: "Oh, I forgot something..."
As a diving guide, you should also check the diving equipment of your divers in order to spot anything wrong and to be familiar with the eventual specificities of their equipment.
It's now time to go in the water. We often see the diving guides jumping in first... But, if a diver has a last minute problem on the boat, the guide cannot help this diver. Indeed, the guide will first need to get out of the water. Whereas if you're still on board, you can help on the boat and also quickly jump into the water if help was needed there.
Once in the water, your very first objective is the safety and the well-being of your divers, and this all along the dive. Then and only then, your second objective is the following of the path that you wish. These 2 objectives must NEVER be inverted. The most common mistake of the diving guide candidates during their training is that they focus too much on their path and often swim too fast for the divers behind, who may even end exhausted. No need to say that this would no more be a fun dive and even a potential risky dive.
During the descent, do not hesitate to often ask to your divers if they are fine with the equalization of their ears (and other air spaces). Also observe their breathing rhythm (thanks to the bubbles), this is a great indicator of their emotional state and general condition. Be ready to adapt your guiding accordingly.
During the dive, remember to often have a look at your divers. When they are not in your field of view, you may still listen to their breathing rhythm thanks to the noise of their bubbles. And then, enjoy the dive and point at the special things that you spot. Your divers may also spot special things. Simply share with the other divers what one diver has spotted and the dive will be a great moment. Spotting special things is not the exclusivity of the diving guides. As a guide remember to be exemplary in your behavior. Always show a profound respect for the marine life.
A good habit is to have your divers indicating you when they reach 100 bars and 50 bars. At 100 bars, it will be time for you to orient your dive toward shallower depths. Your divers might forget to look at their air gauge, you may sometimes discreetly have a look at their air gauge. If you cannot do it discreetly, simply ask them if you have a doubt. Remember that big men often empty their tanks faster than small ladies.
At 50 bars to the latest, you should be starting the safety stop. If conditions allows, you should always extend the safety stop while enjoying the marine life at 5 meters depth. If ever you had planned some decompression stops, you should start them at 60 or 70 bars depending on the needed decompression time. Adding a safety stop to a decompression stop is always good. Around 30 bars, it's time to go to the surface. As a guide you should pay attention to any particular hazards such as boats. Open your ears and listen for any noise of engine on the way up.
After the dive, your divers will certainly love to ask you some questions about the fishes that they saw. No shame if you don't always know the answer. The underwater world is huge. This is the main reason why we keep on diving. There is still always a lot to discover.
You'll need to add extra information into your briefing such as the specific signs of communication and particular procedures that may apply. Once in the water, always privilege to see with your own eyes the air gauge of your divers rather than using any hand signals. A small coloured light or a luminescent stick attached at your mask strap and floating just above your head will be of a great help for your divers to easily identify you as the guide among the other divers. Avoid using flashing light for such use.
You should be open to others.
You must be in a good health condition.
You must perfectly masterize all the diving exercises.
You must know the dive spot before guiding your divers there.
You must be familiar to a specific environment before guiding divers there.
You should be humble and never behave with a superior attitude toward your divers.
The prevention of a potential incident is always the best way to take care of an eventual incident.
You should be curious to always learn more about diving rather than pretending to know everything.
Your divers may expect assistance from you but you should not expect assistance from them.
Having a general knowledge about first-aid is a skill that you'll hopefully never use.
This page mainly focuses on the guiding aspect. The only reading of this page and the filling of the referent quiz are not sufficient. As a diving guide, your knowledge about the physic, the physiology and the equipment of scuba diving need to be as good as an instructor. You should get all the necessary information from your instructor and/or through books in order to complete your theoretical knowledge. Then, your instructor will check your knowledge through complementary exams. Your skills in the water also need to be as good as an instructor. You must be able to perform all the scuba diving exercises with a total ease as if you were demonstrating them. Your instructor will also check this point.
As required by the ISO standard 24801-3 (Dive leader), you need to be qualified and certified in first-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) prior to become a diving guide.
As a diving guide, you may be employed by a dive center to guide the certified divers on the dive spots and you may also be entitled to conduct "check dives" or "refresh dives" with certified divers who have not been diving for a while. Present yourself as a helper rather than as an inspector. During the refresh dive, you'll first help the divers to adjust the amount of weight that they may need, and then in shallow waters (2 or 3 meters), once they feel comfortable in the water, you'll let them refresh their diving skills such as regulator recovery, full mask emptying and buoyancy control. At IFDI, we prefer the words "refresh dive" to "check dive": This gives a more friendly and relax atmosphere.
As a diving guide, you are not an "assistant instructor" but you may keep an eye on the students that are waiting while the instructor is busy with one of them. This may also be part of your roles.
We invite you to test your knowledge and do a medical check. Once you'll finish the course, your instructor will give to you your IFDI Diving guide certification. This certification allows you to guide certified divers and to conduct refresh dives. You are not qualified to teach scuba diving. You obviously need to become a diving instructor if you wish to teach scuba diving.
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Edited in 2021. Updated in 2023.