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