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My Journey to Becoming a Divemaster for my Career in Marine Science

Author: Sharks4Kids volunteer Hunter Wortmann

Diving is one of my passions and is something I learned would be crucial to my career as a marine scientist. My journey started in Cancun, Mexico when I was 12 years old and went on my first ever Discover Scuba Dive. The fact that my first dive was in Mexico was a great introduction for me as Cancun had clear, warm waters perfect for a beginner. The Discover Scuba Dive allowed me as a non-certified diver to experience what it would be like to explore the wonders of the ocean. As I took my first breaths below sea level, I realized what potential could come from being able to fly underwater.

Many years passed between my amazing experience in the warm Mexican waters and when I was able to experience the freedom of breathing underwater again. This was due to the fact that I am from the Midwest, and there were not ample opportunities to get my fins wet. The next time I went diving wasn’t until my junior year of college when I took my first Open Water Diver course in San Luis Obispo, California. I knew that I wanted to be able to dive for my career and the first step was to get certified. Once I completed my course which entailed learning all about dive gear, navigation, and safety, I discovered the freedom of being able to dive anywhere around the world with my scuba license (at my own risk of course).

Being an Open Water diver gave me the opportunity to dive wherever I wanted, but I still didn’t feel satisfied. I decided I wanted to become a Divemaster because of the opportunities it could open up for me in my career. The next step in achieving my goal was to enroll in the Advanced Open Water course. In this course I chose three adventure dives: underwater naturalist, digital photography, and a boat dive. These three unique dives added on to the required peak buoyancy and deep dive (where I got down to 60 plus feet for the first time), to grant me my certification.

Hunter doing her Channel Island deep dive

After coming back from a high of diving the Channel Islands and having sea lions swim curious circles around me, I dove right into the next course. This Rescue Diver course was the most physically challenging, but in my opinion provided me with a necessary skillset to becoming a professional diver. In this class I learned how to rescue myself and my buddy under many different circumstances: whether it be from a submerged state or at the surface, and with or without gear and assistance.

Finally, the end was in sight; it was time to take my final certification course to become a Divemaster. I am very happy I continued on to this level because not only do I feel I am a confident and experienced diver, I have benefitted greatly from this experience in my career. Even though I wasn’t sure I would actually be diving for my job as a marine scientist, many jobs in this field require you to have the license (and the level of experience that comes with being a Divemaster,) since you will mostly likely be working around or in the water. After racking up over 60 dives during the course of my diving career and diving down to 100-plus feet to explore the depths of the Carmel Canyon, I was finally a PADI Divemaster. Not only did I have the license I wanted, I also gained a better understanding of how the science of the ocean works from how its density, currents and topography affect ocean life to what different habitats look like and how they came to be. Diving not only benefits me in my career now as a marine mammal trainer, but it speaks to my adventurous attitude and natural curiosity about life beneath the surface.

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