If you’ve ever been scuba diving, you know your instructor is a pretty important person. You know, the one who makes sure you don’t die and teaches you how to dive? Yeah, that one.
I’ve just celebrated my one year anniversary of becoming a dive instructor and have now certified over 50 students and received my Master Scuba Diver Instructor rating, which I’m incredibly proud of.
There’s a few things I’ve learned. Actually, that’s not true. There’s a TON I learned. About diving itself, about equipment, about marine life, about boats, about my students, and about myself. I can honestly say this profession has changed me, and I’m grateful for that.
Anyway, in every profession where your job is to deal with people daily, everyone knows there are things you just can’t say…as much as you would like to. I’d like to give you some insight into things I would love to say to some of my students and divers!! All of course, is meant in a lighthearted way and to make sure you don’t think my life is all whale sharks and stuff… but seriously people. Seriously.
“What part of ‘DON’T TOUCH’ did you not understand?”
I give very thorough dive briefings and always explain the importance of not touching anything on the reef, living or dead. I talk about the Roatan Marine Park and the importance of not disturbing the marine life. On the first dive today, I pointed out a king crab just sitting there minding his own damn business. The lady kicked it. KICKED IT! I wanted to kick her to see how she liked it…but in the end decided I would like to keep my job (but still offered a telepathic apology to the crab).
“I really don’t know what to tell you if you can’t clear a snorkel.”
So for those not in the know, part of becoming a PADI certified diver is a bunch of knowledge development (videos, reading, quizzes and exams), 5 dives in ‘confined water’ which is in a pool or shallow ocean/lake area, and 4 ‘open water’ dives done at a ‘real’ dive site. On these dives you learn skills (ie. taking your regulator out of your mouth and putting it back in and clearing it, clearing a mask flooded with water, etc.) which I brief on before getting in, then I demonstrate them first, then I have my students do them. One skill at the surface is literally just filling your snorkel with water and then exhaling hard to clear it without lifting your face from the water. I once had a lady who absolutely couldn’t clear a snorkel. WHATTTTTTTTTTT. Is this real life? We tried different snorkels, we went over how hard to exhale, etc. etc. but this lady just could not clear a fucking snorkel. I had to go and ask the other instructors if they had any idea what I could suggest to her and they thought I was joking. It was insane. I had to spend 2 hours on it before she got lightheaded and had choked on enough seawater to puke so we had to stop. She barely made it happen the next day, I don’t know how. I just thanked the lord baby Jesus and moved on.
“Please don’t fucking touch your wife/boyfriend/kid underwater.”
This one is only half true, because sometimes I do say it minus the whole cursing bit. Listen, I know you are concerned for your loved ones well-being, with us being 60 feet under the ocean breathing from some hoses connected to a weird aluminum tank on our back and all. But guess what? I’m a professional. And you’re not. You’re getting in the way and making them anxious. Back off and leave it to me! I promise I will take the best care of them and do everything I can to make sure they have an amazing experience. But you yanking them around and gesturing forcefully in their face with your wild eyebrow motions and slashing hands for no real reason at them is just stressing them out and they’re NOT enjoying it. If you want to share this sport with them and you’re a super-dee-duper diver and they’re not (yet), let the pros take care of them until you guys are on a level playing field. Please! Um, and also, don’t complain to me that we can’t do the ‘cool’ sites because of your newbie partner, but then refuse to dive without them. Deal with it or dive solo with the experienced group! (Also, see below re: ‘experienced’.)
Note: In real life, on more than one occasion, I have had to separate couples on dives. I am not joking about this stuff you guys!
“27 dives does not make you an experienced diver.”
Oh man. If I had a dollar for every time someone tried to convince me that they’re really awesome and experienced divers, I wouldn’t be housesitting. 99% of the time when someone tells me how great of a diver they are, #1 they are shitty divers and #2 they have less than 50 dives. I don’t give a flying saucer about how cool your moray eel video is, if you have 34 dives and they’re spread out from now back to 1978, you aren’t an experienced diver. If you have 10 dives you’re not an experienced diver. If those dumbass shops in Cozumel and Belize who didn’t even look at your certification card took you to 200ft well guess what, I’m not going to…and you’re still not an experienced diver. Sorry. And don’t even get me started on these ‘experienced divers’ who can’t even set up their own equipment.
Not even that – experience doesn’t equal GOOD. I can’t tell you how many times I have panicked about having master instructors with nearly 10,000 dives come and dive with me (oh god what am I going to show them, is my fin going to hit on this swim through, I won’t be able to find anything cool) and they turn out to be terrible divers and blow through their air in 25 minutes. Similarly, I’ve panicked about having too many brand new divers on a dive (what if I don’t have enough hands to catch all of them while they’re going around everywhere with their bad buoyancy) and they’ve been amazing! You never know.
“Don’t complain about having a bad dive after you didn’t listen to my dive briefing.”
I tell people everything in my briefings…water temperature, expected visibility, reef topography, commonly sighted marine life in that area, how to get on and off the boat, max depth, max time, how I lead, how I’ll ask for air, how to get my attention….the list goes on. ALL THE TIME I see people not paying attention during my briefing and then complaining about something I told them beforehand. Ughhhhhhh. Dude. Come on.
“Why. the. fuck. did. you. just. do. that.”
Okay, if I tell my student the steps to the mask clearing skill are: break the seal at the top of your mask and let water drip in, take a big breath in through the regulator in your mouth, put two fingers at the top of your mask with a little pressure and exhale hard through your nose while looking up…and then I demonstrate the skill for them…. why, oh why, do I get the following:
a) look at me and spit regulator out of mouth, swallow seawater and choke
b) fill mask up with water and sit there
c) take mask off face and sit there
d) start taking off BCD
I don’t know you guys. I just don’t know.
|sometimes i just really need a beer. mid-dive. yep.|
However…I think the number one thing I never tell people, but maybe I should, is:
“You moved me to tears. The good kind.”
When I think back on the last year, the number of times people have pretty much made me cry underwater is incredible. I will never, ever forget them. Here’s just a few…
– the 55 year old man who had always wanted to try diving and did a Discover Scuba Dive day with me… we had a great theory and pool session and I took him out in open water for the dive portion of the day. I was already in and waiting for him. I was calling instructions from the water and while I assured him the boat captain was holding his tank and all he had to do was step off and hold his mask, I saw his hand reach up and he was shaking like crazy. He was scared!! I felt AWFUL. It just took me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting it because the pool had gone so well. He managed to get in and after we came up from the dive he was in tears and thanked me for helping him get over his fear of open water. I had no idea he was afraid of open water!! What a rad dude, confronting his fear like that.
– the 11 year old little guy who wanted so badly to scuba dive because his dad was a diver and he wanted to dive with his dad. The kid was shaking, like whole body shaking, with absolute terror on the mooring line as we descended. I could just see his resolve to do it weighing in on his poor 11 year old brain that was all “AHHHHHHHH OMG UNDERWATER SCARY TIMES SHARKS AND THINGS”. I held out my hand and I saw a visible sigh of relief and he took it. We swam around holding hands for a bit until he relaxed. After he realized a shark wasn’t going to eat him, he rocked his course like the little champ he was.
– the middle-aged lady who just could not get the combination of mechanics right to clear her mask, but wanted to dive so badly she worked on it in the pool with me for FOUR hours until she got it. I’ve never seen determination like that. Ever. When I took her on her open water dive, she cried. And so did I.
…..and pretty much every other person who is scared but does it anyway, whose face lights up in a way I can’t even describe on their first open water dive when they see what’s really down there, who tries and tries again on a skill that stumps them and who tells me I’m a great dive instructor. Those are the people that keep me going.
|teaching an open water course to a local island kid who wanted to learn to dive!|