Hey all check out these articles I wrote for Scuba Futures am sure you will get a kick out of them:
Hope you enjoy them!!!
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.
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!!!
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!!”
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.
So all in a days work of being a Dive Instructor… can’t wait till the work week begins again!!!
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!!!
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!
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.
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!!!!