Becoming a Divemaster: Hazing
After five weeks of theory testing, skill practice, and practical experience of teaching and testing, it was time to get down to the business of the Divemaster Training. The business of hazing.
First, I had to survive the Stress Test. The Stress Test is actually just a sadistic modification of / addition to the PADI-required equipment exchange, in which the trainee must exchange a full set of gear (including mask, fins, weight belt, BCD and regulator) with another diver while underwater and sharing one tank of air. What makes it the Stress Test is the barrage of other divers in the pool ripping your fins off, blowing a spare tank of air in your face, turning off your air, and generally doing everything in their power to make you fail.
I had done the equipment exchange in the pool with instructor Becs already, so I was pretty confident going into the Stress Test aside from one aspect — my eyes. I had fairly significant eye surgery two years ago and occasionally have painful flare ups of irritation. The last thing I wanted was to have some sort of eye infection or inflammation when I was hours away from the nearest general doctor, let along corneal specialist. So after a serious talk with my mentor about taking it easy on removing my mask, we hopped in.
As you can see in the video, we had one false start after being tangled in a Surface Marker Buoy string forced me to the surface. At times I had to wait an uncomfortable amount of time to have the air passed back to me, but overall it was actually quite fun! I was relieved when it was over, though.
Next up was the big one, the final initiation into becoming a professional diver: The Snorkel Test. Now, Anyone who has done their Divemaster Training or spent lots of time in the dive community knows that there is a heck of a lot of this going on:
Something about a day out on the reefs just goes hand in hand with a few cold ones knocked back at the bar later. And as much as I enjoy that aspect of Gili Trawangan and the dive world at large, I spent the five weeks of my Divemaster course (and a few years leading up to it) absolutely petrified by the idea of my snorkel test.
It goes a little something like this. After completing all of the official requirements to become a Divemaster, then comes the ritual Snorkel Test — something I’ve witnessed around the world from Central America to the Caribbean to Southeast Asia. At a bar or other public place, the “graduate” will be dressed up in a ridiculous costume that they quite obviously have no say in. Subject and depravity of the costume will depend on the graduate and their ability to be a good sport. Then, after entering the bar to a ridiculous theme song, the graduate/victim will be sat down to don a mask and a snorkel modified with a funnel on top. The contents of what goes into the snorkel depends on the mood and tradition of those pouring, but generally involves strong concentrations of various alcohols.
As the newly-inducted divemaster rips the mask of their face and gasps for air after chugging enough alcohol to kill a small animal, the partying really begins.
And that’s how I went from this,
To this, on the night of my own snorkel test.
I had been a ball of nerves that day. Going to art school meant I had never so much as stepped into a frat party and my college years had been markedly keg-stand-and-chugging-contest-free. Any yet for some reason my cohorts at Big Bubble dismissed all my suggestions that my snorkel test consist of me sitting on a stool politely sipping a mojito over the course of an hour while the crowd cheered me on.
Once I accepted the fact that I was going to be inhaling alcohol via snorkel, I focused my anxiety somewhere new — my costume! After watching a particularly skin-baring snorkel test earlier in the month, I had turned to Steve and promised that I would happily turn on my heels and walk off the island certification-less before I would do a sexy dance routine in front of a bar full of people in my bikini (before chugging the liquor no less!)
I was pleasantly surprised by what they had in store for me — a Brooklyn-inspired gangster getup complete with a gold chain, Sharpie tattoos and a Nelly-style cheek band aid.
I was quite relaxed at this point and having a good time with the group when I heard the rap music come on. Later I would reflect on the fact that simply walking from the back of the bar where I got ready out to the front where it felt like the entire island had gathered was the worst part of the whole ordeal — a few too many eyes teemed on me!
And onto the drinking. The trick to the snorkel test is that wearing the mask closes off the nose as as a breathing passage. If you’re the sort of person who regularly chugs beers, next time try doing it with your nose plugged. Not fun. So I took a deep breathe and hoped that I wouldn’t be one of the Divemasters that people would still talk about weeks later thanks to their horrible performance.
It was one of those moments when what is in front of your eyes slows down and what is in your ears seems to go on mute and you lose track of time. When I ripped the mask off and heard the cheers and saw the wide eyed looks around me, I knew I had done well. “Always the quiet ones!” exclaimed one of the island expats. “It was like you had no throat — it poured right into you!” said another. Then Steve informed me there were twenty two shots in the pitcher he poured down my snorkel. I promptly went to the bathroom to make myself throw up.
But not before taking a few ridiculous photos first.
What some might flag as peer-pressure induced binge drinking, others will defend as a right of passage and a tradition. While I had been quite jittery about the whole experience, it was much worse in theory than in practice. I prepared by hydrating heavily throughout the day, eating a good dinner, and asking Anders and my good (and sober and pregnant) friend Becs to keep an eye on me. And of course being proactive with the induced puking — apologies to my queasy readers.
I made it! I joined the ranks of professional divers everywhere who have survived the love child of a massive theme party and a college fraternity hazing. It felt good — though that might have been the liquor talking.
Have you ever heard of the Snorkel Test? Do you think you would survive it?
Many thanks to Steve Woods Underwater Photography for the underwater photos and underwater video footage in this post! Readers, please contact me if you are looking for a recommendation on where to do your DMT in Gili Trawangan.
I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of the snorkel test, but I definitely laughed out loud. That’s an awesome way to end what looks like a really, really intense training time period! Congrats on everything. 🙂
Thanks Amanda! Glad I could pass on a laugh 🙂
The underwater karate chopping and champagne popping is the coolest thing I’ve seen all day! Lol.
You handled that snorkle test just like the G you were dressed up as would have. Yay for embracing your inner thug life :-p
Thanks Kristen! I’ll cheers to that 🙂
looks like so much fun!
Hey, no one said you need to do the DMT to do the snorkel test. You could arrange your own for a Friday night 🙂
Oh Alex!!! WELL DONE!! Your stress test looked INSANE. We never have anyone ripping fins, blowing air (or I’ve heard about silting out), etc. etc. on ours! But my DM buddy kept freaking out every time she took off her mask, and I had to do the entire thing over FIVE times before she got it. I was not happy 🙂 And what a champ on that snorkel test. Mine was at Sundowners on the beach and after chugging at warp speed to impress a boy, promptly mumbled some crap (we have to give a speech as soon as the snorkel comes out) and sat on the sand for 10 minutes before making myself puke. Then enjoyed a great night of partying. The trick is to puke! Congrats girl!!
That sounds like a stressful stress test! I was glad we only had one false start. They were definitely harder on my partner than me due to the eye situation I mentioned, which I felt a little guilty about. Oh, and I LOVE the idea of the speech after chugging! I want to start that here!
Um not so sure I could do the snorkel test!! Despite many nights at frat parties I’m still awful at chugging 🙁
Ha, I’m just awful at beer drinking! I probably did better at this than I would have done at drinking two beers. I am so pathetic 🙂
What up Gangsta! Great way to close out this chapter and I don’t think I would have survived the snorkel. The induced hurl was quick thinking as I would have done the same lol.
Noticed something cool too. The bar is called Tir Na Nog. That’s a mythical Irish land. A place of pleasurable pursuits! Fitting no?
Ha, I do love that the most popular bar on an Indonesian island is an Irish one. They are everywhere!
I must admit I have never heard of the ‘snorkel test’ but I have been initiated before… Like, ten years ago. :\ Although my days of anchoring boat races are done, I probably have one more night left in me when I become a divemaster. Good tip for the proactive stomach emptying.
I’m only here to help 🙂 Productive travel tips from Alex in Wanderland!
Ahhh, Alex, this is such a fun post 🙂 Love the ritual Snorkel Test! I wouldn’t survive it for sure! LOL
Great party pics!
Thanks! I’m so glad someone was hauling around a big camera all night… I love these photos!
OMG–that video is hysterical. And very impressive feat, but still so funny. I have never tried to drink a beer underwater either. . and this also explains your gangsta outfit–thought it was Halloween. Great post girl! xo
Thanks Aunt Karen! The beer underwater was definitely interesting. I think once was enough though 🙂
Dear Alex, Congratulations on your great accomplishment . Maybe you should consider joining the Navy ? A college graduate, and with your skills, you would be an officer …. before joining definitely brush up on the marshal arts…Oh, there are certainly other options ! What an accomplished young lady.
Thanks John! Don’t think I’d be much for the Navy, I’ve been doing my own thing for so long now it would be hard to follow such stringent rules 🙂
You kill me. Let’s have a snorkel test in Brooklyn, Luzzy 🙂
Congrats! Ha ha, I have some of these photos on your instagram and was wondering what this dressing up was all about. Now I know. Looks like you had a great time!
I imagine those photos might have been confusing to someone not in the diving world, ha! Glad this explained it all 🙂
I love that video and how it’s sped up! Still, even sped up, seemed like the equipment exchange took a looooong time.
Your snorkel test reminded me a bit of Freshers Week in the UK–we each had to drink a pitcher of beer out of a frisbee with a straw in under 2 minutes–but far, far worse.
Okay, I must be getting older or more responsible or something because my first reaction was, “But were the frisbees clean?!”
haha…amazing story. You have quite some fun experience! I envy that.
Thanks Denisse! This was one of the most fun nights of my travels 🙂
I realize I’m a bit late to this post, but I’m so bummed I couldn’t watch the video…
Sorry about that Abigail! You get a pretty good idea of the fun from these photos 🙂
Wow… This seems HARD and sadistic, this stress test… I can’t see the video, it’s set to private? 🙁
Would love to see it…
(But only to get scared as hell, lol!)
Unfortunately removing the video was beyond my control. I have left my experiences here in writing though so I can still share my story 🙂
Thanks for the really cool blog about your divemaster experience. I can’t seem to watch the video on this. It says “this video is private” I tried refreshing the page but still the same.
Apologies, but the video is no longer available. Hope you’ll enjoy the words and photos in its place 🙂
I don’t understand why anyone would find the snorkel test “a laugh” or fun. What do you do with people who have serious issues with alocohol? Regardless of whether it’s moral, medical or ex-addiction…
I’m one of those people, that’s why I ask this question…
Hey Jessie, the snorkel test is by no means a requirement to get your certification. By the time you get to that phase you’ve spent a month at minimum with your dive center cohorts, and by then I’m sure they’d be aware of your situation. I know none of the dive centers I’ve ever been involved with would pressure anyone to drink who couldn’t or didn’t want to.
They’ll respect that you don’t want to drink. I’m sure they’d also appreciate you respecting that sometimes, they do 🙂
Hey, Alex, sorry for the late reply.
Of course I respect people who drink, don’t worry. Even if I have major moral problems with it for myself. Even if they drink until they pass out and/or don’t remember anything in the morning after. 🙂
After all, they do it to themselves, don’t they?
And I’m sure I’d be respected as well. But I wouldn’t really fit in, would I? Chances are great I’d be the boring, party pooping diver there…(be honest!) 😉
Hey Jessie, I truly think you’d fit in fine. We had some in my dive school who weren’t really drinkers — maybe they came out once the entire six weeks I was there. Some people were busy studying or just not into it. It wasn’t a huge deal and we were all buddies on the boats 🙂 There’s no reason you couldn’t join in on group dinners or a night at the bar just drinking soda water!
Yeah, I’ve heard of the snorkel test, I first saw one happen when I was 13 and found it funny, but freaked out a little… I’ve seen many happen these past 3 years (now 16) and I’m still not convinced I would be able to do it as I don’t drink!
My friends and diving instructors promised my parents when its time for me to do it they’ll just use Ice Tea! Hahaha!!
I’ve met divers over the years that aren’t big drinkers… they still manage to make their snorkel tests a good time! It’s all in good fun and no one will make you do something you wouldn’t be comfortable with 🙂
I have both of these this week and I’m not going to lie…I’m bricking it! I still really hate taking off my mask underwater and the thought of doing it while sharing air freaks me out big time! I’m also not very good at holding my breath so I can see myself being especially bad at the snorkel test too! Wish me luck! 🙂
Lots of luck going your way 🙂 You’ll do great! I was most nervous about my mapping (dive sites in Gili are not easily mappable!) and my snorkel test 🙂
Wow, I just found your blog and I’m completely blown away. Not only the travels you did and documented, but also the concept of the blog and the interaction with all these people is just amazing. Keep up the great work and be safe!
Max from the blog https://tauchmaske.com
Aw, thanks Tauchen! Really appreciate your kind words and hope to see you again around here someday 🙂
I’ve never heard of the snorkel test but I also don’t know any dive masters (or have ever been diving). See this is the kind of stuff you don’t learn from just reading books. Love the pictures!
Haha, I remember the first snorkel test I ever saw. They are wild! Maybe it’s time for a vacation to a popular dive training island so you can witness one for yourself 😉