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1st Course: Scuba Diver

After assisting other instructors or completing a final dive of a course, I was finally given the opportunity to teach a course from the start, on my own!!! I was to teach 2 students the Scuba Diver course.

What is Scuba Diver

Scuba Diver is the first level of certification, it is usually for those on limited time, only takes two days, or funds, or who feel too nervous to complete the full four day Open Water course. Essentially a fantastic beginner introductory course which gives the student a certification and allows them to continue diving without having to pay for a Discover Scuba Class, something that could become expensive over time. While Open Water allows divers to dive to 18meters/ 60feet, with a buddy, Scuba Diver allows students a more conservative depth of 12meters/ 40feet and always under the supervision of a professional be it a Divemaster or an Instructor.

However, it is important to note that many divers complete Scuba Diver and love it so much that they decide to immediately upgrade to Open Water.

Like Susanna and Filippo, on the right, who upgraded soon after taking their Scuba Diver

Go With the Flow

The night before I reread my literature, compared my slates, made notes and consulted my Course Director for advice on the best flow of the class. Since you only have 2 days and the second day is filled with dives in the ocean, you need to be able to complete all of the 3 pool sessions and at least the first knowledge review. Technically you can complete the last 2 knowledge reviews on the boat, but its always better to have that day dedicated to fun in the ocean.

After contemplating the meaning of life and the wise words of my Course Director I decided on the following:

DAY 1
~Complete videos 1-3
~Encourage students to do the knowledge reviews during the videos
~Discuss chapter 1 and correct it’s knowledge review
~Complete quiz 1

Break

~Pool session 1-3

Break

~If time allows complete last 2 knowledge reviews and quizzes

DAY 2
~Ocean Dives!!!!
~Final Paperwork

My Students

Of course all the planning in the world is at the complete mercy of your students, if they understand the concepts, if they exhibit fear of getting water in their mask, if they discover breathing through their mouth vs nose just impossible… so many things could effect the flow…

Luckily, Murphy was on my side of the law for once. My 2 students were from Germany, 14 and 15yrs old (Therefore a Junior Certification), but their English was perfect, they were enthusiastic and we just flew through the material. They showed no fear in the skills completing them on the first try (the joy of being young, still fearless). They showed initiative and questioned possible issues with equipment, be it the snorkel that wouldn’t stay or a hose that leaked a little.

We breezed through the 3 pool sessions and even had time to finish all the knowledge reviews and quizzes with the kids scoring 85-100% on them. Love it when they get the info!!!

Open Water

The day before the ocean had been quite lake like in it’s behaviour, flat and gorgeous!!! Today however, the wind had started up and turned the water surrounding the rock into the Sail Rock Rollercoaster. The kids showed no fear, as usual, and were super psyched to get in. We giant strided, which they did perfectly, and made our way to await our turn for one of the descent lines, riding each roller of a wave. Eventually it was time and we started down the line. At about 2.7meters, the lad showed the symbol for a problem and pointed to the nose piece of his mask, possibly an equalization issue. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with his mask but made sure to proceed slowly until he felt comfortable.

We had to do the skills at 6meters and the line did not go quite deep enough, so we shifted against the current to another line, again the kids did great. We managed all the skills with no problem, however, the problem with the mask did not go away. We kept shifting up the ladder to see if whatever was bothering him abated, we proceeded like this: up a meter, all good, down a meter, problem, up a meter, all good, down half a meter, problem. Eventually I decided to just let them get the feel and stay on the line, the lass was loving every minute of it and pointing everything out. The final skill was to release the SMB (Surface Marker Buoy). First the lad, retrieved it, then the lass. At the surface he explained that he had pain in his jaw. I realised he most likely had a cavity, usually a rare occurrence to get a “squeeze” from a cavity, but here we were. We decided on the second dive to take it extra slowly and if necessary swim at a shallower depth.

Getting back on the boat turned out to be quite the amusing mission, hanging onto a line, collecting their fins then having them board one at a time as the boat bounced and bobbed in the waves. Just as I climbed aboard the latest swell abated and was “almost” calm. Murphy at it again.

The second dive was much more successful, we got down to depth slowly and no cavity squeeze, completed outr skills which involved an out of air, alternate air, skill to the surface. He was so chuffed that he hadn’t had a problem so we excitedly headed down nice and slowly. At 2.7meters, PAIN! Bummer! We hung out and waited with him going up and down the line trying to work the squeeze out. Eventually we were able to swim around a bit and the kids did great, great positioning and buoyancy, all an instructor could dream of.

Back on dry land we completed the paperwork and I handed them their log books with their first dives! They were thrilled and will most likely move up in the ranks of scuba diving in the future!

20150820_150459
Congrats to my two amazing Junior Scuba Diver students

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Thailand, Travel

 

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Let the Work Begin!!!

Come Discover Scuba Diving

And so with certificate in hand the work begins to filter in, first up were a couple of DSD’s. DSD is a discover scuba diver, folks who are trying out diving for the very first time. They require an introduction, orientation of the equipment, complete 3 basic skills and usually the instructor holds onto them during the dive in some manner to control their buoyancy. This is an excellent opportunity for the instructor to instill the love of diving, to encourage the guests to continue to take the open water course and beyond. It is also an excellent opportunity for an instructor to scare the living daylights out of someone if they are not careful. Luckily that seldom happens.

Trying to get used to handling DSD’s is one of the great secrets, for some instructors they have the DSD link arms, or hold onto elbows, or the instructor holds the tank of the DSD and let’s them just enjoy while the instructor acts as a taxi driver… I prefer a variety of these, depending on the DSD themselves.

My first 2 DSD’s were French, so with the aid of Thomas, a Divemaster candidate, we were able to do the briefing and everything in a combination of French and English. I almost had them interested in doing their Scuba Diver Certification (just below Open Water Cert), but they decided they just wanted to go out and enjoy. They had been diving in Malta once before and were excellent students, in fact it was difficult to get them out of the water, especially after the second dive.

Great DSD's and an Awesome DMT

Great DSD’s and an Awesome DMT

My next DSD turned out to be more of a challenge. A wonderful lady from New Zealand, living in Phuket. 4 of her family were already divers and were taking their Advanced course, while another 2 were taking their Open Water course. So this was her entry into the world of Scuba Diving. During the orientation and the knowledge review she seemed calm and confident. Then I got her in the water and she was nervous but ok. When we got to the line there was a bit of wave, but we managed to get down a bit below the surface and begin the skills. We had to pop up once or twice as she was getting very nervous. It didn’t help that another instructor waiting for the line had his brand new divers too close and we both got nudged in the head by fins… luckily he was able to move them before anything more serious.

We headed down and stayed really shallow as she had issues equalizing. We only made it for 15minutes before she decided to end as we surfaced out came the regulator and she fed the fish… she felt so bad for doing throwing up, but I just kept swimming and told her not to worry, the fish were happy. She had really enjoyed it but just felt a little sea sick, which can easily happen. Back on the boat she fed the fish a few more times but was determined to try again. This time the dive was 16minutes and she did much better with equalizing and swimming and is now tempted to do her Open Water. A very educational morning for me.

Later on that week I had a request from another Dive School to take out a DSD from Israel. Dana was a sweetheart but her english was not perfect so we took a little extra time to explain everything. This must be one of the most entertaining DSD’s I have taken thus far, we were diving at Sail Rock and usually going around the rock and enjoying what you see should take you 20-30 minutes at least. We zipped around the rock 3 times in 31 minutes. It was like having my own little propulsion vehicle, I just held on and had her drive me round, a nice change from having to be the driver. She so badly wanted to go deeper but due to equalisation problems she was having I decided to keep her around 6 meters, which meant I had to keep pushing on her tank to stop her from pulling us down. The second dive she did much better so we were able to get a little deeper. Dana loved every minute of it and had excellent air consumption, in fact I started to think her air gauge wasn’t working or she wasn’t breathing. By the end of the day she was super excited and wanted to do her Open Water Class as well. A great day diving!!!

DSD Dana!!

DSD Dana!!

I truly love taking DSD’s and seeing the expression on their face when they discover the underwater world for the first time!

Tune-uos and Fun Dives

Other than DSD’s another section of divers that do not involve a few days of course work are the Tune-ups and the Fun Divers. Tune-ups are the ones who are certified but just not been in the water for a period of time and need a refresher. Fun Divers are just that, out to have fun, already certified and loving diving!

My first Tune-up was combined with a fun dive. The mum was getting a reminder and her 12yr old daughter was fun diving. The 12yr old was an absolute natural and her mom picked up the skills perfectly, although had some issues with buoyancy so I kept a hand on her tank just in case. The second dive was tremendous, both of them were phenomenal and at the end of the dive the mum said something that made my day:

“That was brilliant!! I have never felt so comfortable diving before in my life!!! Thank you so much I think I want to do my Advanced Class soon!!! Thank you again!!”

Great family of divers

Great family of divers

My most recent Fun Divers were a father and son. Another great day diving in fairly challenging conditions, there were some waves after the first dive but then a storm moved in, getting back onboard after the second dive was more akin to riding a bucking bronco in a rodeo, but we all survived and enjoyed the ride. The son had just passed his Open Water course and was doing his first fun dive, he was a little nervous but did fantastically, a few buoyancy issues on the second dive but he compensated very well. His Father on the other hand was a Divemaster who had logged hundreds of dives and had freediving fins that were almost the same height as me.

Now THOSE are FINS!!!

Now THOSE are FINS!!!

So all in a days work of being a Dive Instructor… can’t wait till the work week begins again!!!

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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Dadum…Dadum..Dadum Dadum Dadum (Jaws theme) The Final Day is Upon Us!

Classroom Presentation

The final morning arrived with me awake at 5.54am, this was becoming a trend, found coffee and worked on my classroom presentation while I waited for the lads to arise. My presentation was from Project Aware and focused on the main forms of ocean pollution. I was super excited when I saw this, as my degree was Environmental Education and this was right up my alley.

Finally the troops arose and we headed off for the center. I decided to go first and get it over with, realised I was shaking when I attempted to write on the board… This could be an interesting presentation. However, I got through it, thoroughly enjoyed it, and so did everyone else in the class, all the boys said it was great and we even had an awesome discussion on pollution and clean-ups and changing habits with Examiner Colin putting his 2 cents in. I asked him about becoming involved in Project Aware and he gave an email stating that they would be lucky to have me!! Well that’s a great compliment!

Then scoring time…. 4.7 out of 5. Colin actually stated that I deserved more, that the presentation was excellent but still gave me 4.7, oh well sounds good to me!

All the boys did great presentations from Wreck Diving, to RDP work. But the best statement out of all of us was by Drey who was doing a presentation on Peak Performance Buoyancy. Coming from the Bronx he has a certain way about him, and his personality shined through with this:

Dudes! PPB is like Jedi mind tricks man! You just THINK NEUTRAL…. and you areeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

He had the course, the equipment, everything sold to all of us even if we had it already, even the examiner wanted to sign up. Brilliant job mate!!!

Two Skills Down…. 1 to Go!

All too soon the final test arrived, we geared up and headed to the boat, leaving our Course Director on the dock waving nervously at us. We got all sorted with our kit and then chatted among ourselves about the skills we had to perform. Each of us had 2 skills and then we had to complete Rescue skill number 7 (rescue of an unconscious non-breathing diver at the surface).

My skills were CESA (my nemesis returns) and Bowline. Not too bad in the long run but still not my favorites.
Once the group was together and Examiner Colin had arrived we went through our briefings, as I got into mine the boat started moving and I did a bit of a samba as I finished off. As the others went through theirs I accidentally happened to catch a glance of the marking slate, big mistake, even if they hold it in front of your face don’t look, because I convinced myself that I had screwed up somehow and the pent up stress started reaching a boiling point. I held it together and kitted up preparing for the GIANT stride off the boat which was about 3 times my height. I think if my nerves had been calmer I might not have been able to jump because I would have realised just how high it was, only after I surfaced and motioned “O.K.” did I see the true height of the jump.

We hung out in the water waiting for Examiner Colin to finish his other groups briefings and to get his gear on. Finally it was on like Donkey Kong… or something like that. Drey was first and got through no prob, then Jet, again no prob. Then it was my turn…

My vision narrowed, possibly even caused my eyes to cross, I began concentrating on breathing, all I had was 3 skills to get through and I would pass… Why did it seem like I was climbing Mt. Everest. In the briefing I had stated that we would start the CESA from the surface but since the others had gone first we were already underwater, so I wrote on the slate that we would begin from there.

As I mentioned before in the skill circuit section of the confined water, a CESA is a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent. As an instructor I have to make sure I am within contact of the diver, make sure they don’t hold the line, that they emit a continuous “ahhhhhhh” sound and don’t take breaths, otherwise they need to repeat it. Due to my statue Neil and I had decided the best position was for me to be in front with my left hand holding the line and the bcd and my right gently touching the regulator to feel for vibrations. This was perfect except for the fact that I had limited range of vision vs being able to see from fingertips to fin-tips.

I got the first “student” to the surface and didn’t see any problems the examiner might have given him, but as we got back to the bottom I began doubting myself. The second “student” actively pulled on the line, so I caught him holding it, and had him repeat the skill. But right as I was about to start the second one, a cloud passed my vision, my weights I was wearing on my calves to help keep my feet down loosened and I motioned to the examiner that there was an issue. When he wrote on his slate “What is Wrong”… I managed to take a breath, clear my vision and write back “all good”, F*&k it I was just going to get through it.

My next skill was the bowline. Since it was a skill that would be in the Advanced course it is encouraged to have 2 or more students tie it at the same time. Of course trying to focus on 2 at the same time when your nerves are on edge is not very easy. When the second student had an issue I had him wait and focused on the first who had just finished tying the knot. The way he pulled it made it look strange but still correct, however, the examiner came and looked at it, which made me look at it again and convinced myself it was wrong. So I motioned to everyone else if they were ok and had him do it again. He really struggled this time, after 3 tries I took the rope and showed him, then he did it perfectly. I then moved on, continuously checking on everyone and caught all mistakes that were made.

Moving to the end of the line, I kind of felt like I wanted to throw up, I was pretty darn certain I had screwed up and would have to return to repeat this section in 3weeks on the next exam date. Of course I happened to be the first in line so all the other kept having me do the skills, liftbag, hover, alternate air, while the rest of them just relaxed at the end of the line… I was wrecked by the time we surfaced.

Rescue Exercise 7

The final test was here, although I was still convinced I had failed the underwater section. We waited as 2 of us paired up at a time rescuer and victim, then the victim would become the rescuer. When it was my turn to be the victim my rescuer almost drowned me, pushing me down and letting water in the mask, I think I may have started trying to make a little fountain through the top of the mask. He was also so focused on keeping my airway open that he almost broke my neck… but at least I would have bee saved!

Then it was my turn to rescue! Our Examiner this time was another course director from Koh Tao named Bob and the very amusing Rescue 7 went something like this:

Kathy: Diver diver are you ok
tap on shoulder and flip him over…
Bob: just push him under
Kathy: His buoyancy, my buoyancy, his weight belt, my weight belt, his mask, my mask..
Bob: oh look what a cute little white mask
Jet: it bends too
Bob: oh how cute it is squishy a little squishy mask….
(this was the background conversation for the rest of the rescue)

At least it helped me relax a little.

And the Results Are???????

Back on the boat we had to wait for Examiner Colin to finish with his other group, I pretty much was at a constant point of needing to through up or cry or both. Then as the boat headed back to dock we did our debriefings, then we had to wait for the second group to do theirs.

Finally our group started getting results. Neil was on the boat and looked anxiously at me, I made the “I don’t know, maybe problem” signal and just looked really worried. Then it was my turn, I felt like I was about to receive a death sentence or be told I was not worthy…

Colin: alright Kathy let’s start with skill 2, the bowline
(Oh shite that’s not good, means I failed skill 1, why does he want to start with skill 2…)
Colin: you did a good job and managed the group, maybe move on to another diver if one takes to long and return to him but overall good job.
Kathy: mmmhmmm
Colin: Now skill 1, the CESA, did you notice anything with the first diver.
Kathy: No but he told me later he held the line
Colin: Yes he did, could you see him from fin tip to fingertip.
Kathy: No not really with my height I tried to make sure I had hold of him and to check the regulator.
Colin: OK next time I think it is better if you hold the line behind you with the left and the bcd with the right and just watch the bubbles, if he takes a breath the bubbles stop. He was just using the line as a guide so we will say missed problem. Now you were trying to tell me something underwater, what was going on.
Kathy: Yes sorry got nervous because I had a feeling the first student had done something wrong and then my calf weight came loose, but I sorted it out and could continue.
Colin: ok good, well then the scores are for the CESA 4.0 and the Bowline 4.4, any questions?
Kathy: ummmm am I an instructor then???
Colin: well I have to do some paperwork and such first…. but yes!!

At that point I realised I must have been holding my breath the whole time, I just wanted to hug him, I stood up and almost fell down, I started crying like a baby. Neil who had started filming was wondering if this was bad news and if he should stop filming, no one including myself, was sure if I was crying or laughing or both. When Neil asked how I felt I just said “I want to through up!”

I have never felt so much emotion rush through me at one time, and the single thought through my mind was “I am finally cool!!!”

Enjoy the following video showing my journey:

A huge thanks goes to:
*Ron and the team at Eugene Skin Divers who got me hooked on diving in the first place
*Ricardo who encouraged me to do my Divemaster here on Koh Phangan
*Monique Richards for first suggesting this crazy idea.
*Neil Richards of Scuba Futures for training me and putting up with so much, you are truly the finest instructor I have ever met and hope I can live up to your legend!
*To http://haadyaodivers.com/en/index.php for being so great to work with before and now after the IDC
*Jet and Drey for being great friends and Course Director Dave for all his help.
*Lulu, Thomas, Marius, Davey and everyone else at the shop who helped out
*The great group of guys who made up our group during the IE from Easy Divers, Koh Tao

And especially to my parents who supported me completely as I pursued another crazy idea and fulfilled a lifelong dream… now let’s teach those Guppies to Dive!!!

I Passed!!!!

I Passed!!!!

Examiner Colin!

Examiner Colin!

Newest members of the Pro Team PADI

Newest members of the Pro Team PADI

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand

 

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Dom Dom Dom…… DAY 1 of THE INSTRUCTOR EXAM!!!! (read in voice of Darthvader)

Off To Koh Tao

Our valiant course directors, Neil and Dave, had hoped that with 3 enthusiastic Instructor Candidates we would have enough for the PADI examiners to come to Koh Phangan… However with Koh Tao leading the pack with lofty 37 candidates we all met up at the pier and headed off for some rather nerve racking adventures…

Waiting for the Ferry

Waiting for the Ferry

Turned out to be a wonderful day to relax on the one and a half hour ferry ride, with our fearless Course Directors hobnobbing with the PADI examiners in the air conditioned section of the boat. Jet, Drey and I tried to make conversation without unintentionally leaking in course material… which was rather difficult as it pretty much consumed most of our minds.

As we neared Koh Tao we were greeted by a rather ominous looking cloud.. could this be a sign of what was to come??

Heading to Buddha View

It always seems to be that no matter which side of the ferry you sit on they always seem to unload on the opposite side and you have to squeeze through the aisles, other tourists and locals trying to push in front, until you eventually emerge at a slightly unsteady looking gangplank that leads to the outside. However, we made it out, made it to the taxi and were off to the resort we were booked into, Buddha View. With 4 boys and me, it meant they shared 2 rooms.. and the cost… while the little princess got her own room (YAY!) and the full cost (Bugger!!). Ultimately I was thankful for my own room though so it all worked out.

We got settled in, grabbed some lunch, apparently when you order a sandwich of any variety at the resort restaurant you get precisely 7 fries… we tested this theory over the next few days and it came to 7 fries every time… I ordered my own plate of fries and got 14… there must be a trend. That evening was just time for dinner with copious amounts of Thai food all shared and, at least for me, an early night!

THEORY AND STANDARDS… be afraid be very afraid

The next morning dawned with me awake at 5.45am…again! I wondered around, grabbed a coffee at 7-11 and waited for the others to arise. Today was the dreaded theory and standards exams, approximately 3 hours of brain numbing physics, math, physiology and PADI standards (luckily that section was open book).

We arrived at the center, just a short walk from the resort and got settled into our seats. There were 3 PADI examiners and they gave us a brief intro, all the while with slide in the background reading:

WELCOME TO YOUR EXAM…RELAX!! A bit of an oxymoron if you tell me.

During the whole intro they would randomly as k questions like “who loves to dive?” “who wants to be an instructor?” “Who is awake?”.. most of us were too nervous to even blink let alone answer enthusiastically so we just sat wide eyed in the horror that awaited us. Eventually with a bit more joking and teasing more and more began to participate and on the question “who knows how to clean a mask?”, I finally tentatively put up my hand….

“You there what’s your name?” I think my eyes glazed over and I stopped breathing….
“Umm Kathy”
“Correct, now show us how”
I proceeded to do a half decent explanation of mask clearing with hands shaking, my tongue numb and my brain short circuiting…
“Excellent, moving on”

I believe I heard a little yelp of “YES!” from behind me in the form of Neil, who I believe nearly wet himself when the examiner pointed at me.

And then it was time to start…

I had Theory first, and it took me about 45 minutes to complete it, nervously I got up and realised I was the first one to finish, I handed in my exam and the Examiner asked “Are you finished?”, my reply was along the lines of “I think so” as I glanced around at everyone else still feverishly working through it… After a 5 minute break I dove back in, this time the open book Standards Exam. You would think open book would make it easier, but no it just seemed more confusing. After about an hour or so I finally completed it and walked to the front for my scores…

Examiner Colin: Well on your theory you got 96%, you missed one question in every one of your sections.
Examiner Rob: In your Standards you got 98%, you also missed one question.
We all looked at each other and they said together: At least you are consistent!

Woohoo passed!!!! Feeling light headed, slightly nauseous and giddy at the same time I exited the classroom. Neil was nervously waiting at the resort and met me half way like a proud parent!

Calling a good friend to tell her the results

Calling a good friend to tell her the results

Jet and Drey followed shortly afterwards but not before giving their Course Director Dave a few more grey hairs!!! They too had passed with little trouble.

Confined Water Session

The next hurdle to jump was the confined water session at one of the local pools. We each had a skill to teach and 5 skills to show. I had Mask Removal, replace and clear. One of the easier ones in theory. As a dive instructor when teaching courses there is always at least a day or 2 in the pool teaching the students the basics, you have to be able to be clear and concise, praising the student for something they did right (this can be difficult to think of sometimes) and reminding them of things to improve on. You also have to be a very very careful to follow the standards exactly, such as skills that have to be in shallow water, my skill being one of them.

With 3 groups of 6 candidates all squeezed into the pool it was very easy to think that we would just stick to our one spot and ignore the depth, thank heavens for one of the guys in our group who mentioned his having to be in shallow water, as it had not even crossed my mind, being so focused on the skill itself.

When my turn came about I moved the “students” into shallow water and had my back to the deep water, I went over the briefing stating the skill, the importance of the skill, signals and then a review of the skill. I just bought a new slap strap (the comfortable cover that goes over the plastic mask strap) and as I showed the removal aspect the mask slipped off with my movement, not what I intended. I am pretty certain my heart stopped or at least missed a few beats, but I just kept going. During the actual underwater part where I demonstrate and then have the students copy, the examiner is behind me telling the students to do a problem. I caught both problems all though was a little slow on one of them. At the surface I congratulated them stated what a good job they did, “I like the way you both looked up when clearing”, reminded them of issues, “but I did notice that one of your had your mask upside down, remember to always find the nose piece with your thumb so you have it the right way, great job guys excellent!”.

SCORE TIME: Fearing my mishap with the mask coming off during the briefing might effect my score, I moved nervously over to Colin the Examiner. A score of 3.4 is required with top marks being a 5.

Colin: Great job Kathy, nice briefing, clear and concise, excellent you scored a 5!!!!
Me: really???? I mean thank you

Glancing over to Neil who looked like he was trying to send me mental instructions and seemingly leaning as far forward as he could, I tried to casually hold up 5 fingers, he returned the sign with the expression of “really 5????”, “yup 5!!”. Now all I had to do was survive the 5 skills in a row.

Skill Circuit

There are around 27 skills every Divemaster and Instructor should know, from skin diving to mask clearing to hovering, and of those we get 5 picked at random that are done at the instructor exam. Our 5 included:
CESA (nemesis #1)
Mask Remove Replace and Clear
Hover (nemesis #2 – I checked if I turned upside down it was fine as long as I hovered)
Regulator Recovery
Alternate Air Stationary

The first one was the CESA, when you are low or out of air it is an option for surfacing when you are less than 9meters/29 feet from the surface and your buddy is too far away. You need to swim, elevating your arms and inflator hose while emitting a continuous “ahhhhhhhh” sound. It is one I have had problems with because I always forget to become neutrally buoyant before beginning the swim. This time round, I did great, only problem was that, at the start, Colin (floating at the surface in water that was fairly murky), pointed at Jet and I and then pointed to the other side of the pool. I thought this meant move to that side, so I merrily started swimming. I can only imagine what Colin thought, he got my attention and motioned the CESA signal, I swam back very quickly mumbling sorry into my regulator only to see Jet in the midst of preparing his CESA. OOPS!!!

Everything else went fine and I completed all the skills. Then came the scores…. unbelievably I got all 5’s!!!! Maybe Neil did get it all through to me afterall… There was hope for me yet!

 A great team to work with!!

A great team to work with!!

Tomorrow loomed with a classroom presentation and 3 skills in open water…. so close and yet so far!!!

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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Week 2 of Instructor Training

Pool Sessions

View from one of the pools

View from one of the pools

The copious amounts of book work continued however this time it was intermingled with pool sessions. Over and over again I practiced teaching students a certain skill and perfecting my own technique. Again because of shortness it meant creating techniques that would work for me and also work for students.

"teaching" Lulu and Neil.

“teaching” Lulu and Neil.

These included weight belt removal:
Normal: unclip weight belt and pass behind your back to the right side, clutch to chest then pass it back and reclip.
Problem: with my gear on my arms are too short to reach behind my back!
Alternative 1: kneel on left knee and pull weight belt over right knee, then return and reclip.
Problem: I have floaty feet and my right knee did not want to stay down and stable….
Alternative 2: lean forward, unclip and pull belt to right side and lean back, then nudge belt over right hip and sort of roll it on, clipping it as you lean forward again.
Problem: solved

Weight belt removal

Weight belt removal

Hover:
Normal: become neutrally buoyant and hover in a stationary position using your breath to control your level, you can hold your fins and look zen like or simply hang midwater.
Problem: my floaty feet mean I am unstable with each ankle attempting to go in a different direction.
Alternative 1: hold knees
Problem: upside down
Alternative 2: hold fins and attempt zen like position
Problem: upside down
Alternative 3: leave legs straight
Problem: legs start going in different directions again
Alternative 4: F*&k it, hold fins and just hover upside down and continue teaching
Problem: we all start laughing….

and so it continued with Neil realising with every skill that adaptions were needed, the good thing that I will know how to help divers with similar issues.

Regulator Recovery Skill

We had numerous other folks from divers to divemasters to other instructors all helping with the training. Really a great crew from Haad Yao divers and super supportive.

I was pretty saturated every day from hours in the pool followed by classroom and homework, but it seemed to all be getting through to me… slowly but surely.

Pool Session Brain Fart

It happens to all of us, the nerves just take over. On one pool session I was briefing how to hover with oral BCD inflation (using your breath to fill the bcd rather than pressing the button to automatically inflate). I briefed it all correctly, positioned everyone and prepared to give the demo. Hovers made me so nervous (see above) that I demo’d the auto inflate vs the oral inflate and didn’t realise it until Neil (my student) came and promptly began the skill with oral inflate. I believe i cursed in multiple languages through my regulator but continued seemingly unphased. At the debrief this would have been a 1 and therefore a fail, Neil said the only thing that may have saved me was the fact that I didn’t freak out when I realised my idiotic mistake… oops, at least now I am super aware when it comes to which version of the hover I am doing.

Being Scored.

Being Scored.

Working Together

Being the only student was great for personal tutoring, although I think I drove Neil back to drink! But it was also hard because you had no one to compare your level with, no matter how often Neil said I was doing great, I never felt good enough and was very hard on myself. as it so happened, there were 2 other instructor candidates doing their course with Dave at Sail Rock Divers, so we joined forces for an ocean dive and then a final mock exam pool session. A great way to meet others and see where your level truly was.

Instructor Candidates Jet, Kathy and Drey

Instructor Candidates Jet, Kathy and Drey

Final Ocean Dive

Neil decided to squeeze in one more dive at Chaloklum bay, Lulu a Divemaster candidate had to practice a lift bag and I needed to review a few more skills. However that day was one of THOSE days, where everything seems to go wrong.
– Our plan to dive right from Haad Yao, therefore requiring no driving, was thwarted by the weather.
– We called close to 7 people hoping someone was near Chaloklum bay to check the conditions there, finally someone could tell us it looked ok.
– I was exhausted and just couldn’t seem to get it together with my preparations, not to mention I had navigation, another arch enemy along with the hover.
– The visibility was almost non existent and we lost the line in an attempt to do the compass work
– Neil got a sinus squeeze during an attempt to find the weight belt and lift it for Lulu

The only victory was our search for the weight belt which had almost got lost in about a foot of muck at the bottom, I just saw a piece of the belt sticking out and we were able to bring it to the surface…. What a day!

And So The End is Near….

All too soon the teaching and studying came to an end as the Instructor Exam suddenly appeared and it was time to head off to Koh Tao for the 2 day long exam….. just breathe in and out in and out!!!!

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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Week 1 of Instructor Training

Prep Work

My second day on the island Neil got me sorted with a moped, possibly grew a few more grey hairs as we watched my little legs stick out as stabilizers every time I turned a corner, am much better at it now. Then he sat me down and gave me a test and some knowledge reviews… ahhhhhh the physics, the math, the physiology, the dreaded RDP table (used to figure out Nitrogen concentration and surface intervals between dives)…. The next 5 days involved around 2 practice tests every day, review and teaching on the balcony in the morning, one day we spent almost 5 hours just going through all the sections and this was just the prep work.
balcony study

The Interview:

(Dramatic Theme Music) Let the PADI Instructor Training Begin

July 1st 2015 Neil I drove down to the main shop of Haad Yao Divers, to officially begin my course. We started off with an exam to see my progress and I pretty much aced it!!! Yeah Baby!!!! There was hope for me yet. The next week consisted of early morning breakfast and coffee sessions followed by hours in the classroom, pool sessions and open water. Due to a storm system approaching we decided to do the ocean dives the first week.
**

Very 1st Dive

One bright morning Neil decided it was time to do my first ocean dive in close to a year and a half, perhaps even practice some rescue skills. We drove to Haad Yao beach unloaded the kit, got sorted and started walking to the water line…just shy of the water I suddenly realised I had my watch on:

Me: oh shite I still have my watch on!
Neil: is it waterproof?
Me: it’s $20 from Walmart
Neil: that would be a no! Let’s leave it at reception

walk back up the beach, give my watch to reception and walk back down, at about waist deep I suddenly realise why I feel so comfortable:

Me: oh shite I am still wearing my pants!
Neil: oh good lord!!!

(he may have considered dropping his gear and running for the hills at that point… either way I will never live it down, but it was a way more comfortable dive than usual – the next morning I bought some swim shorts)

Also on this dive we realised that I have floaty ankles, a common occurrence with women… I also think we realised that this was not going to be a normal Instructor Course for Neil but rather along the lines of Adaptive teaching…. what had he got himself into???

Classroom Sessions

We spent hours in the classroom going over the standards and the theory and doing classroom presentations. Around 2.30pm we started a new tradition, Ice Cream Break!
icecream break
In fact we were spending so much time together we started to look alike.

Gimme a Break, Gimme a Break, Break me off a piece of that kitkat bar!!!

Gimme a Break, Gimme a Break, Break me off a piece of that kitkat bar!!!

Approximately 20 minutes of concentration later the giggles would start. This is where the classroom session turned into a minion video:

Although, in his defense, Neil never farted his revenge (at least not that I knew of), he did however have a series of goofy hats.

Neil's Revenge.

Neil’s Revenge.

Ocean Dives

Due to a storm system threatening the peace of the island the next week, Neil decided to do my ocean dives in the first week. We chose Chaloklum beach as there was no coral to walk across just a short surface swim…. of 1km / 0.62miles, there may have been a lot of swearing during the swim out. At least my ankle injury was getting strengthened.

.

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Chaloklum Dive Site.

Chaloklum Dive Site.

A few different people came out to help:

.Lulu and Thomas (Divemaster Trainees)

.Lulu and Thomas (Divemaster Trainees)

Dave (Course Director) Jet and Drey (Fellow IDC students).

Dave (Course Director) Jet and Drey (Fellow IDC students).

Emergency First Responder INSTRUCTOR Course

At the end of the first week, Alan from Dive Inn joined us for the EFR Instructor course. Shits and giggles can not explain how much fun and silliness we had…

Poor Neil has a BooBoo

Poor Neil has a BooBoo

The Whole Family

The Whole Family

Alan getting way into the course

Alan getting way into the course

Icecream Break

Icecream Break

And everyday we went to a great restaurant called Big Mountain for lunch

Lunch Time

Lunch Time

Week 1 ended and a pile of laundry awaited me for the day off, not to mention homework….

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Thailand, Travel

 

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Why Not Become a Scuba Instructor….

Cruise Ship vs Dive Instructor

about 6 months ago, Monique, a good friend and dive instructor tossed a thought out to me, why not return to Koh Phangan Island, where I did my Divemaster, and become a dive instructor… Her husband, another good friend, was studying to be a course director and would be my instructor….

The conversation in my head went something like this:
Me – Cruise Ship hostess vs Scuba Dive Instructor…. mmmm
Rational Side – WTF you are 37, you have a good gig with the cruise ship, save and then settle at home with a real job!
ADHD Side – been there done that with the cruise ship, onto the next adventure
Rational Side – what are you thinking
ADHD Side – something new something exciting …. D I V I N G T H A I L A N D
Rational Side – well it is always good to have multiple skills, and the cruise ship is a good backup
ADHD Side – come on Rational you know what you want
Rational Side – ok the deal is we pretend to consider this for at least a month, don’t want people thinking we just jump into decisions at a moment’s notice! Also we work as a Divemaster first for a month or two before taking the Instructor Development Course (IDC) need to get your skills sharpened!
ADHD Side – Deal sold, we are off see the wizard the wonderful wizard of Thailand!!!

So there it was, I had convinced myself, at age 37, to fly to Thailand and pursue a dream I had never even let myself consider – To become a PADI Scuba Instructor
For months on the ship I dreamed of Koh Phangan and diving, it had been almost 2 years since any serious diving which made me nervous. My time there before was amazing doing my PADI divemaster, the food, the friends, the freedom of riding a motorbike/vespa and of course living in a tropical paradise.
WHAT AM I THINKING!!!!

Adventure is Out There

Finally end of contract arrived, my month and a half vacation at home ended, all packed and ready to go I set off on a jet plane. In the initial planning stages I had decided to visit my friend in Slovenia and then a couple of nights in Venice… of course this meant literally nearly flying all the way around the world just to get to Koh Phangan… but it was worth it. While in Slovenia I got a message from Neil, my soon to be amazing patient, very very patient instructor from Scuba Futures and Haad Yao Divers, informed that an IDC course would be starting on July 1st (about 5 days after my arrival). I think I nearly choked on my coffee. The email back and forth went something like this:

Me – but but but
Neil – you will do fine
Me – but but the math, the physics, the the the
Neil – you will be fine
Me – but I need to get my skills up to par I need time to remember the dive sites…
Neil – you will be fine
Me – BUT THE PHYSICS AND MATH!!!!
Neil – you will be fine, the theory can be taught, the diving will be remembered, being an instructor is about personality and, well, you have plenty of that…
Me – but will I really be fine??
Neil – yes you will be fine

Thank heavens Neil is supremely calm and patient because this course was going to be a mental and emotional roller coaster for me, with numerous giggle fits!

Island Welcome

The heat and humidity of Bangkok nearly took my breath away, I had forgotten what it was like. Of course I got the taxi that had no idea where the hostel was and then I left my favorite light jacket in the taxi and then discovered my room was on the 3rd floor and no elevator. Always a good start. But got myself sorted, lugged my bag upstairs, stood under a cold shower for about 20 minutes, found a sim card and texted Neil with my arrival. I took the 6am bus, which worked out perfectly because I couldn’t sleep and was awake by 4am, giving me time for another cold shower and final sorting then a long 8 hour bus trip and 2 hour ferry ride. The weather had been perfect and just as the ferry pulled into Koh Phangan the heavens opened and welcomed me back with a good solid drenching. Neil was their with his side car to pick me up, we briefly considered I take a taxi but finally said “screw it” I was wet already, the ride home just meant I didn’t need a shower anytime soon. We pulled up to my little bungalow and it felt like home almost immediately.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

We popped into the Crow Bar just down the road and said hi to a few old friends then Monique helped me stumble to a little place to grab some food. I took it home managed maybe 2 bites and passed out. What a welcome back!!! Tomorrow the studying would begin, bring on the physics!!!!

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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