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!|
Alex Cutler says
This is great. The first I’ve come across that talks about scuba diving and actually how to become one. I would love to go scuba diving and who knows, at least be experienced enough to freely explore with others safely. Thank you for the insightful information!
Bali Dive Shop says
I just want to thank for sharing this amazing post……
It seems that your recent poor experience has blinded you a bit to the tongue-in-cheek nature of this post (if you take a look at the other comments, you’ll see others found the humour in it).
I’m terribly sorry to hear you had such a tough time with your course. Some people do find the skills scary and difficult. Some are able to overcome and succeed, and others decide diving is not for them. Both outcomes are equally ok and valid!
I can understand your frustration and feeling that your instructor was impatient. That’s not good on the instructors part. However, instructors get a set amount of time to finish a course and if students are not able to move through the objectives in the set amount of time, the shop should have a meeting with you to offer options. You have the right to ask for things such as a private instructor or extra time, however please keep in mind that these are not free and you will have to pay (and tip) extra for it. But there’s no shame in using these options to feel comfortable and have success in your course! The mask skill is difficult for many divers and if you search online there are thousands of tips and resources to help divers with this skill.
If you decide to give it another go, I recommend paying for a private instructor and extra time. Go with a shop that doesn’t make you feel bad and is supportive! They are out there and they will help you succeed!
If you decided for sure that diving isn’t for you, there’s still lots of amazing snorkeling and free diving experiences out there that you can enjoy.
Ocean Scuba Dive says
Brilliant post Rika! Some of these really made me giggle, and others hit home as I have seen some of these things pass my instructors mind at times 😀 Keep up the great work!
Thanks so much!! It was actually fun for me to look back on this and have a giggle. Seems so long ago now… there are lots of things I miss, but some I don’t 🙂 Happy bubbles!
Jennifer Berkey says
Hi, Rika! You are doing a great job! I wish I can try scuba diving soon and see the beauty of the marine world. Thanks for sharing your experiences in this blog. I love reading all of it.
Thanks so much! Very glad you enjoyed it!
scuba diving san diego says
nice post and very knowledgeable, scuba diving is just an amazing thing in this whole world thank you so much for posting.
Lara Angler says
You’re right, experience doesn’t equate to good. I have seen divers who say they have dived hundred times but they still fail on some moments. The ocean is unpredictable and no matter how careful one is, unexpected events might happen so one should be very careful and pray always.
Billy Blanks says
As much as possible, we must not leave trash but only good memories. That is one essential rule. I love your blog, I am now a fan. I hope I can be a diver soon. It’s the closest thing one can be when she wanted to be a mermaid. haha.
Chrissy Flynn says
Yep, it’s true. Scuba divers must not touch anything under the sea. We must not disturb the balance of their natural scheme of things. I hate it when friends collect ‘souvenirs’ from the ocean. I wish everyone will be like you and become responsible scuba divers.
Thanks Chrissy! I’m always trying to spread the “look but don’t touch” message wherever I can.
Marina Ford says
Hi! I just cried the whole time I am reading this post. I wish to try scuba diving too! You are doing a very brave thing and just keep on doing what will make your heart happy. Cheers!
Awww, thanks Marina! Wow! What a nice compliment. I hope you get to try scuba diving. It’s a whole new world 🙂
The main reason I love scuba diving is for the adventure, you don’t know what it may happen or what you may find below the water surface. In the past years I’ve taken a lot of pictures which I store in the https://dive.site logbook, along with all my diving logs. It’s cool that I can also search new dive spots or even add my own.
Tim Marshall says
As a fellow instructor, I love it. We often get together and laugh about it over beers.
Totally!! The best stories over beers 🙂
Ria (@lifeinbigtent) says
I love this post and the way you present it 😀 I added your link to my blog post about my first ever scuba diving in Bali 🙂
Rika - Cubicle Throwdown says
Thank you Ria! I loved your post ?
Jelly Andrews says
I am not a scuba diver so I can’t really figure out how to
clear the snorkel. How was it really done? How was that possible when you are
Okay Rika, I have an interest in scuba. I'm a half ass snorkler and don't honestly know if I can keep myself underwater. I've been practicing my swimming and have more of a panic swimming "on top" of the water than underneath. Do I stand a snowball's chance learning how to scuba? I'd like to conquer that fear but just don't know if I can.
I'm so glad your divings bring you such joy. And there's always gonna be somebody that gets on your f'in nerves, Lord knows I know the feeling, but you've seemed to be able to handle it. Hopefully those morons are few and far in between. I mean really, kicking a crab? Come on! I don't know how I would have handled that one.
Yes, if you can snorkel you can scuba!! Keep working on your snorkeling! Having your face in the water and trusting a breathing device like a snorkel is a HUGE first step. Make sure you have a really patient instructor, and you will be fine 🙂
Yep, diving is like any other kind of customer service – I'm glad you picked up on that. Lots of different kinds of people to meet!
ifs ands Butts says
Ah I cannot imagine how many standout moments you have in this job (well, you just helped me imagine, but I know this is only a glimpse). I almost cried hearing about that guy overcome his fear of open water!
I can't believe that guy didn't say ANYTHING to me beforehand! Just went out and slammed it out, he was a champ. I felt so bad though, I probably would have been a bit more kind haha. And yep, saying "wow…just wow" on a daily basis here is the norm…sometimes a good wow, sometimes a bad one 🙂
Jacquie @ Must for Wanderlust says
Seriously love this post! You sound like such a badass diver, I'm making it a mission to come & have you as my dive instructor. The stories were the best part. x
Hahah well I like to think I'm pretty badass, glad to get some confirmation on that 🙂 You should definitely come dive with me!!
Agness Walewinder says
This post is so hilarious, Rika!! I have done diving once in Egypt and I remember how much I trusted my diving instructor. I was so stressed and panicked a lot (I can't swim, I'm scared of water and that was my first time diving) that I didn't listen to him properly. He started shouting at me and that made me scared :-P! I not how frustrating people can be, I'm one of them 😛
Agness, I'm so glad you picked up on the humor!! I really do think these things, but I honestly don't mean them in a mean way. People are just so strange sometimes! Aw, I'm so sorry your diving experience in Egypt was scary and stressful. That's not how it should be…even when I *want* to shout at people I certainly don't, that's not very professional. Come see me and we'll have a good one 🙂
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) says
Loved this post, Rika! Reading through it, I've no doubt you are a kick ass dive instructor. Tony & I are always really thorough when we choose dive operators, because some places really are negligent and we like to know that we are diving with some one who is professional (but fun!) and that we can above all else, trust. I realized when we were diving Komodo, which is definitely a tricky place to dive (esp as we only had 32 dives at the time) that so long as you listen to and trust your dive master and instructor, you have nothing to fear.
I'm so glad you called out (on the blog at least!) those folks who have like, 15 dives but think they know it all. We recently dove with a couple who have been diving all over Asia recently and said they had 50 dives (more than us); based on that, I expected them to be a lot better than I was, but their buoyancy was AWFUL and they clearly didn't understand what it meant to be properly weighted. You just can't know what kind of training people have received or whether they are committed to developing best dive practices, but diving is really one of those things where I think there is no substitute for experience and people need to really work at learning their skills. This is also why I think it is ridiculous when people go from OW to AOW in one go… I'm sorry, but if you have only done 10 dives, you are not an advanced diver. You just aren't! At 41 dives, I know I 'm not a full on beginner, but I know that I am definitely closer to that end of the spectrum than the expert side and there's nothing wrong with that!
I really hope we get to dive together one day! I just know we'll have a blast!
Thank you so much Steph!! Yeah, I wish I could call these people out in real life but I can't really while I'm at work. Seriously though, they need to give their head a shake. The best thing you can do as a diver is NEVER think you're an experienced diver – there is always something to learn, and you always need to be 100% on your game and not get complacent. What I do know for a fact, is the number of dives you have has NO correlation as to whether you're a good diver or not!!
I am sure we are going to cross paths underwater some day – I would LOVE to dive with you guys!
Also, you guys have done 41 DIVES NOW!?!? Holy crap. That is not easy on the world traveler's pocketbook! Good job!
LOVE. THIS. SO. MUCH. One of my favorite posts! Well said, chica.
Thanks Amanda! Clearly this one has been brewing for a bit haha.
Colleen Brynn says
I can't wait to go diving with you. And I promise, I will NEVER claim to be experienced! But I will promise to listen and have a ball with you. 🙂
Haha deal!! I can't wait to dive with you either!! xo