Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A dive to remember

Working as a PADI Pro lets us live and work in some of the most amazing places in the world, such as Koh Samui where I have lived for the past 12 years. Not only do we get to live in great places we also get to share our love for the underwater world with others and get to introduce new divers to a whole new world and to see the pleasure that brings them when they see it for the first time.

Occasionally we also get to enjoy some awesome experiences for ourselves and on a recent trip to the Maldives I was lucky enough to have a couple of very special experiences.

We went on a night dive where we knew there were 3 Manta Rays and, as we were told they would, the Manta Rays came in close to the group for lots of interaction. They stayed around for about an hour until we finished our dive. After the dive we had dinner on the boat and we could see that the Manta’s were still playing around at the back of the boat, attracted by the spotlight from the boat.

A couple of hours after our previous dive me and one other diver from the group decided to make another dive and this time we were lucky enough to have 4 Manta Rays to ourselves. We sat on the floor and just waited for the rays to come to us and they didn’t disappoint as they played around us for the next hour and a quarter, sometimes bumping into as as they glided past us. With spans of up to 5 metres the Manta’s completely blocked out the light from the boat as they swam over us within inches of our regulator, so close that we felt we had to duck at times to avoid them bumping in to us.

My buddy for the dive thankfully took some great shots of me as the ray’s came close and gave me some great momento’s of an experience I will remember for a long time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

From Science Lab to Scuba Instructor

We asked one of our Instructor's, John Holland, to give his views on his decision to leave the real world behind to become a PADI Instructor  

How long have you been a diver and how long a PADI Pro and what made you want to be an Instructor?
My first certification was two years ago in September 2012 when I completed my Open Water Course in Ireland. I became a PADI Pro in March 2013 when I completed my Divemaster Course. After having the best experience and fun completing my PADI Rescue course, I could see why the people teaching me and assisting on the course enjoyed themselves doing this as a lifestyle choice. For me it would be a huge change from working in a laboratory for the past six years with long hours, stressful work and dealing with dangerous chemicals. Getting into scuba diving and going pro was the change I needed, wanted and still enjoy to this day.

Where did you take your Divemaster Course?
I did the Divemaster Course with Parrots 5 Star PADI Dive Center on Utila Island, Honduras.
On my first day as a DMT (Divemaster Trainee) I assisted on an Open Water course, and it was a great feeling to pass on my experiences in diving and knowledge to someone who is learning to dive and give them an insight into what I experience most days. Seeing the amazement on a new Open Water student’s face and knowing that you are a part of the process of introducing them to the underwater world and have them thank you at the end of the day says it all for me. The things I learnt and saw throughout the Divemaster course strengthened my abilities as a diver and gave me the knowledge in how to assist other divers and help them get over any problems they may have throughout their learning process. As a qualified Divemaster, daily tasks varied from leading qualified divers on trips to assisting in all the different levels of PADI courses, sales and maintenance of shop equipment. This kept the job fresh and interesting and guaranteed something different every time we dived, always something new to see and show to other divers. Certainly a difference to what I previously worked at and because of it I became excited for future plans leading me further up the PADI ladder to become an Instructor.

What did you find different from being a Rescue Diver to being responsible for other people as a DM?
The Rescue course made me feel more confident about myself as a diver and taught me how to handle an emergency and equipped me to be ready to assist or organise the emergency situation. Being a Divemaster, you realise that your responsibly reaches outward to not just being responsible for yourself but the group that you are guiding or assisting in their training. This is not limited to just dealing with the people on the day but can include the whole logistics of the dive, from preparing equipment, having spares to deal with problems, transport and even simple things as having food and water for the day. At Divemaster level, you are a confident diver and are constantly aware of your surroundings, where other divers are, and ready to identify the need for changes during a dive or trip to deal with weather changes etc and anticipating what is needed from an instructor if assisting on a course.

What made you come to Koh Samui and The Dive Academy to take your IDC?
While working in Australia as a Divemaster, an Instructor colleague of mine had asked if I was planning to progress to the instructor level. He told me about his fantastic IDC experience at The Dive Academy a couple of years previously including the small groups, the willingness of the Course Director, support staff and all of the Instructors  to help work on any area that you might be struggling with, either practical or theory related.  And the fact that by the end of the IDC the PADI Instructor Exam is fairly easy as the preparation in the IDC has you more then ready for it. That said it all for me!!!

How do you like being an Instructor and how is it different to being a DM?
Its been great to step in from the sidelines and actually be the person to show people the underwater world by teaching them the skills needed to become an Open Water Diver. Being a Divemaster was great but it had it limitations and I wanted to do more. Becoming an instructor has gotten past these limitations and I now get to enjoy seeing first hand the appreciation of beng the person that has helped someone else get a first person view of the life underwater and their excitement and initial fears overcome.

What have you found most challenging as an Instructor so far?
Time management but, as a new Instructor, I've been told it gets better with experience. Bring on the experience!!!

How do you like living on Koh Samui?
Samui is great. People are friendly, very cheap to live and eat here, weather I'd say is hot 90% of the time but I do enjoy the odd thunder shower to cool down the place. For me the only negative is the mosquitoes, they love me too much and I never get my insect repellent on in time.

Do you have any advice for divers thinking of becoming a PADI Professional?
The best advice I can give is to go for it, make the leap, become a PADI Pro and travel and work abroad and enjoy the best life experience you could have meeting new people and going to new places at the same time as doing something you love - DIVING.

For details of becoming a PADI Professional with The Dive Academy contact us: [email protected]

Friday, July 4, 2014

Midnight Blue has arrived!!

The Dive Academy are excited to say that our new speedboat "Midnight Blue" has arrived and we took it for a quick spin to Koh Tao today.

Having our own boat will allow us to increase our already exceptionally high levels of customer service, safety and fun and will give our guests an even more fantastic experience than before (if that's possible!!).

Midnight Blue will get us to the dive sites quickly and comfortably and will give our customers plenty of opportunity to relax and enjoy time on the boat with our staff.

Having our own boat will help us to offer the best standard of Divemaster training around and will give the DM Trainees plenty of dive experience and opportunities to perfect their abilities before reaching the first step of the PADI Pro ladder as a Divemaster.

Instructor Candidates will also reap the rewards of the arrival of Midnight Blue with great packages to complete the MSDT Prep Course and a number of PADI Instructor Specialties.

Come and join in the exciting times at The Dive Academy!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

CDTC Diary Final Day

So today starts with a trip to the clinic to confirm (or not) the DVT diagnosis. My leg feels much better and the swelling has more or less gone but I think I should still go for the scan to be sure.

Good news from the scan results is that it's not DVT but the swelling was caused by a Muscle Crush - one of the muscles in my calf had contracted and had trapped a vein against another muscle which had caused  the vein to swell - a bit like when you squeeze a straw between two fingers. Nothing too alarming but something to get checked out. And even better the doc said no problem to go in the pool this afternoon to finish my course.

So.............. a mad dash back to get ready for my final classroom presentation. Unfortunately for my team mates it was during lunch hour and as I needed at least two of them to sit in on my presentation I had to ask them to demolish there lunch and join my for my presentation. As I said I only needed two bodies so was really touched when all six of my team mates turned up for my presentation - Peer Cooperation was one of the topics I was covering in my presentation and here it was in action - thanks guys it meant alot for all of you to come. The presentation was wrapped up with no problem then ..................

My fantastic Green Team teamates.

....... off to the swimming pool for my final confined water presentation where again my fantastic team mates all volunteered to jump in if they were needed. Only three were so the others sat by the side of the pool offering support - all except Jaroen who happened to notice that Holland vs Australia was on TV in the bar so he decided to watch that instead - a decision I fully supported because I would have done the same if it was England playing!! Again no problems this time I remembered to actually demonstrate what I wanted them to do and everything went according to plan and everything finished.

Just the last bits of paperwork and now..............................I've got the badge so I must be a

It was an stressful and eventful time but also such an awesome experience and I've met some great people that I'm sure are going to be amazing CD's and hopefully will stay in touch.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

CDTC Diary Day 8

Today didn't quite go as it was supposed to after my leg swelled up last night to nearly twice it's normal size and left me unable to walk and in excruciating pain. Fortunately, after laying flat on my back all night with my leg raised, the swelling had subsided a bit by this morning but my right calf was still around an inch more in diameter than the left - and I am known for having quite big calves already so imagine how big it was!! To compound my misery and add to my discomfort I also had Gaut in my right foot - everything at once!! The good news is that my squeaky ears from the other day have completely cleared up. 

I managed to get a good score in my second Prescriptive Teaching Presentation before popping into the clinic at the resort to see the doctor. The doctor immediately diagnosed Deep Vein Thrombosis which even I know can be fairly serious if not treated right. The PADI guys then "suggested" I go to the hospital / clinic immediately to get a scan and told me that I wouldn't be able to complete my Confined Water Presentation this afternoon because of "Risk Management issues" - fair enough I suppose!!

After driving around to 3 different hospitals or clinics and calling a few more there was nobody around that could do the Doepler Ultrasound Scan to confirm the doctor's diagnosis so I went back to the hotel. Fortunately I was just in time to complete my final IDC Presentation and was very happy with my delivery and score - by now the very strong drugs I have been diagnosed have kicked in so everything is good. 

After the presentations and evaluations were done I went back to my room to relax and put my feet up as per doctor's orders. I did pop into the jacuzzi for a short while as it was the first time since I arrived that I had the time. Team Green Stars and the other candidates all went off to complete their final Confined Water Presentations and from what I hear everybody did a great job - well done guys.

Not sure whether it is the drugs kicking or just natural healing but my leg feels much better this evening and the swelling has reduced so hopefully the scan will be positive tomorrow and show nothing too serious.

Thanks to everybody for the get well messages and responses to my Facebook Status - I don't usually post things like that on Faceache but I was very frustrated and wanted to vent!!
I don't care how it looks if it helps me be able to catch my plane on Thursday I'll wear it everywhere I go.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

CDTC Diary Day 7

This morning we had to deliver our Marketing Pitch trying to get James Morgan, one of the top men at PADI, to choose our team as the place to take his IDC. Our attempt was by far the most adventurous and had the terrible internet connection not ruined our planned Skype calls we for sure would have walked away with this challenge. We still had the most original idea and presentation and are still confident we will get the points when the winner is announced at the banquet on Wednesday.

After all of the marketing presentations we were given a presentation on Project AWARE and came up with a few good ideas how to raise funds and how to promote Project AWARE to our future IDC Candidates. At the end of the presentation we were given a brief presentation on the history and some facts about Dominican Republic and the treasures found in the waters around the island, We then had a Skype call with a real life Indiana Jones, Dr Charles Beeker from Indiana University who is an underwater explorer and may or may not have found the wreck of the Santa Maria - one of Christopher Colombus's ships - very cool to listen to him.

This afternoon we finshed with our IDC Con-ed presentations and again all went well in Green Team.

CDTC Diary Day 6

Another early meet this time for a slightly longer bus journey to a place called Bahibe where we were guests for the day at an all inclusive hotel. Unfortunately, even though we were given the purple wrist bands, we weren't able to make the most of the all inclusive as we had to go into the water before and after lunch to give our two Open Water Presentations and had to evaluate one of our team mates!! We also completed our Rescue Skill Demonstration and all members of Green Team had a successful day.

Today was a particularly hard day and it seems that all of the pressure and intensity of the course so far has caught up with us as many of my fellow candidates are flagging as badly as me. Fortunately Kat had brought her magical drugs with her again today and some horrible tasting nasal spray as my ears are now squeaking like Mickey Mouse on helium.

The bonus was that we actually got a short time to swim around underwater and have a quick look at the marine life in the area. There was some really cool stuff including the smallest squid I've ever seen, some beautiful Rays, a couple of Lobsters, a Trunk Fish and a tiny thing that looked like an Angel Fish. We were also lead over the Underwater Museum there where there are remains of a 17th Century wreck including Cannons and Cannon Balls - very cool.

CDTC Diary Day 5

An even earlier start this morning so we can take a short ride to the beach to do Open Water Evaluation Training and  a Descent and Underwater Tour workshop. The cool guys at Blue Vision Adventures (http://bluevisionadventures.net/), owned by an English guy called Mark provided the logistical support and a bit of moral support too.

I'm starting to have a few problems with my ears (not because they are big and sticking out) with what feels like an ear infection coming on. Fortunately Kat (the Aussie in the floppy hat on Day 3) had some great drugs on her because she was feeling a bit rough too and they did the trick.

At last we getting a chance to jump into the sea, even if only for a short while and without a chance to take a look around - but at least we are underwater.

Jereon Blokzeijl from Curacao and Charles (Chuck) Russell from Missouri 

After lunch we get to give our first IDC Presentation - I had to speak about the Goals and Benefits of Teaching in Confined Water and all in all everything is going well for me and everybody else in Green Team.

Fortunately PADI had strategically organised an O2 Provider Course this afternoon so we had to finish the CDTC early - in time to watch the England vs Italy game. Disappointed to lose but the young lads gave it a go.

CDTC Diary Day 4

Today was a classroom based day with an Instructor Development Workshop, the second part of the Marketing Presentation followed by a PADI Quality Management and Risk Management Workshop after lunch.

My Green Team colleague John Flanders from Pheonix, Arizona - the brains behind our marketing plan

To finish the working day off we had to present the first of our Prescriptive Teaching Assignments - I had the Project Aware Specialty Course and had to talk about Causes of Pollution in the Aquatic Environment - including Hydrocarbons and Biocides!! Before I could talk about them in my presentation I had to look up what they were - still not sure I'm any the wiser!!

As if we hadn't worked hard enough today we then had to get together and continue our marketing plan to convince one of PADI's top men that we are the ones to take his IDC with!! By now on day two of our Facebook Page being created we are up to around 1,000 Likes, our website is up and running, our Twitter Account is Tweeting away and our You Tube Channel has got videos of each of the group giving a little speech.

Friday, June 13, 2014

CDTC Diary Day 3

Today started with review of some of the Instructor Level Training Standards to make sure we know the correct way to teach our courses followed by a workshop on evaluating Prescriptivie Teaching Presentations. Tomorrow we will be giving our own presentations to our fellow candidates so this was a good chance to make sure we've got everything in the right place to give a good presentation as well as get the points!!

Next we reviewed the new Open Water Diver Course and discussed the changes and went through the new skills now introduced in the course. My colleagues from PADI Americas Region have been teaching the new version of the course since early this year so it was good to hear from them how they teach things and how they conduct the parts of the course and has given me some ideas for when we start teaching it next month!!

After lunch we sat through a Marketing Workshop and we were assigned the task in our groups of setting up, marketing, promoting and selling our IDC's. We will need to do a pitch to James, one of the PADI Staff, to convince him that Team Green Stars IDC is the one that he wants to take over all of the other offers he is going to get from the other groups. Later this evening we had a team meeting over dinner to come up with some ideas and suggestions that will help us win first place and get the 1,000 points up for grabs to the winners - we don't know if points make prizes but we can hope!! During the presentation this morning Jaroen set up a Facebook Page for Green Stars to help with our marketing and by the time we had finished dinner this evening we have nearly 1,000 Likes!! We are rocking already.

After the marketing workshop we went off to the pool to give our confined water presentation in which I had a brain fart and forgot my demo - I'll nail it next time. The main purpose of the pool session though was for us to evaluate our team members performance and try to match the same score as the PADI Examiners in at least 3 of the 5 areas. We all nailed that so all was not all doom and gloom after my schoolboy error forgetting my demo - fool!!
It's pretty hot here so standing around listening while 7 people give presentations leaves us exposed to the sun alot so hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are a must. It is great fun but being out in the sun for long periods can also be very tiring.

CDTC Diary Day 2

After another amazing breakfast (which I won't mention on any other days because it's bound to be as good every day!) the day starts with an Evaluation Training workshop which consists of 3 members of the PADI Staff giving Knowledge Development Presentations for us candidates to mark. All in all the PADI guys did pretty well although I didn't always agree with the scores the PADI guys gave their colleagues - far too lenient but they're the scores we had to match!!

Next came a presentation on how to Counsel Instructor Candidates - saying you're kidding is that the best you can do was way down on the list of suggestions - better change my ways then!! This presentation was really helpful and gave a lot of new ideas on the best ways to give feedback to candidates without hurting their feelings too much and working out if there was a reason they messed up if they had been great so far.

We did a bit of role playing which was quite funny: I played a candidate who happened to be a very well known and respected professor who had just waffled my way through a presentation without actually telling the students what they needed to hear. I also happened to be very good friends with the people who would decide on a contract the Course Director had applied for so the phrases " Do you know who I am?", "I've been a professor for many years, I do know how to teach" and "Don't be silly of course I told them what they needed to know, and a lot more besides" had to be handled very delicately by Chuck who was playing at Course Director (we're only playing for one more week!!). He did a great job.

When it was my turn to play CD, Chuck pretended to be a very experienced IDC Staff Instructor that taught me my Open Water Course many years ago and was a role model for me as I progressed and was now staffing on one of my IDC's. Unfortunately I had just given a candidate a low score because Chuck had told him that the way I had demonstrated a skill was right but there was a better way to do it which is how they do it "in the real world" (sound familiar anybody?). The candidate performed a skill the way Chuck had shown him but unfortunately had broken standards so the candidate failed because he listened to Chuck. My feedback to Chuck was full of praise for his experience and guidance followed by a reminder that as good PADI Pro's we always do things according to PADI Standards even if we do believe there is a better way - PADI would have been proud. I ended the feedback with a suggestion that he swiftly hangs up his wetsuit and takes up golf!!

After lunch we jumped on a coach to a Confined Open Water site which was a fantastic lagoon on a private beach on a private housing estate where each house is about 1 mile away from the next. Julio Englasias and Oscar De La Renta have houses there but unfortunately weren't around today to join us. The lagoon is separated from the sea by a big, rocky wall and is perfect for playing at being Open Water students. Two PADI staff members gave Confined Open Water presentations for us to score and then compare our scores with their's - happy with how that went.

A quick skill circuit to finish all of the skills we need to perform went very well for everybody in the Green Team apart from a slight mishap for poor Chuck who had left one of his weight pouches on the beach. As soon as Chuck went into the hover position his lack of sufficient weight spun him completely upside down and he proceeded to do a perfect hover with his fins where his head should have been and vice versa. He stayed like this until the examiner told him to stop but he admitted afterwards that he was actually stuck and couldn't turn himself upright. We all felt very guilty for laughing at poor Chuck's unintentional somersault but he nailed it once he got his weights right though.

CDTC Diary Day 1

After a fantastic buffet breakfast we head to the conference centre for the candidates registration at 8am - no taking it easy with late starts!! We are all put into teams of 7 and given a team colour - I would have preferred Blue or even Red but ended up in the Green Team - the Green Stars as we were named.

We receive our Candidate Assignment sheets which tells us the presentations we will need to give and some are understandably more happy with what they got than others - I don't even dive in a wetsuit so how am I supposed to give a presentation from the Dry Suit Specialty Course when I've never worn a dry suit in my life?? And Knot tying and CESA in open water - ouch!!

After the orientation to what we can expect over the next 8 days (part of which was conducted by the guy I saw standing by the pool) and PADI Staff and candidate introductions and lots of laughs we all begin to relax and enjoy what we are doing. And then it was off to a fantastic lunch at the resort.

We are told in the orientation that only 1% of divers globally make it to Course Director level so it hits home a bit where we have all got to in our diving careers. I've been diving for 13 years but when I talk to some of the other guys I realise just how much experience and knowledge is in this room - and then there's me!!

After lunch we review the Course Director Standards Exam and Knowledge Reviews that we had been tasked to do before we left home - no problems passing that exam as you would expect when you are expected to look the answers up in your manual!!

We then go off to the pool for the Rescue Skill workshop and Skill Circuit evaluation which again is good fun and also helps us relax a bit more and to enjoy what we are here to do!! The fact it is really hot and sunny is also nice.

Diary of a Course Director Training Course - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic June 2014

After what seems like ages since I was accepted  the time has finally arrived for the CDTC.

I land in Punta Cana in the beautiful Dominican Republic the day before the course is due to start.and make my way to the fantastic Westin Punta Cana Resort & Club - it reminds me of being on Koh Samui!!

As I check-in and walk to my room I can't help looking at everybody and wonder if they are on the course with me - or if the smart looking guy standing chatting to some people sitting in the jacuzzi is from PADI - I think I recognise him from a PADI DVD!!

It's a bit cloudy and grey but a guest in reception says it has been really hot all week so let's hope it stays that way.

The resort is amazing and being only opened late last year everything is shiny and new, The staff are super friendly and happy to help and my room is lovely with a huge soft bed and flat screen tv - I'm here for a course honestly not for fun!!