Travel Magazine

Two Years as a Scuba Diving Instructor in Paradise

By Cubiclethrowdown

You guys. I've been a dive instructor for two years today. TWO YEARS. What the hell!? Where has all this time gone? I feel like I was just writing about how I wasn't sure I'd even get my other courses done in time to do my instructor course. And now I've been teaching people how to dive for two effin years already!

Two Years as a Scuba Diving Instructor in Paradise

the first day of my instructor course in october 2012... so happy that i am still in touch with all my fellow candidates!

I have written a few posts about being a dive instructor. I even was interviewed by PADI about trading my cubicle for an underwater office. But I haven't written all that I could about it... mostly because I still find it tough to put into words how I really feel about my job.
I don't think I will ever forget the first day after finishing my instructor course when I led a dive for certified divers and did a Discover Scuba Diving experience (sort of a 'try-dive' half-day thing). The certified divers had no idea it was my first 'real' dive lead. I blustered through a dive briefing and spent the entire dive frantically searching for creatures because I felt like I couldn't find enough cool stuff to show the divers, and I kept going too fast and had to keep reminding myself to slow down. When we came back, all the divers thanked me and had a good time, but I felt like I hadn't done a good job and then the boat captain told me I had done the sites in the wrong order... I made a hasty retreat to the bathroom with my cheeks burning with shame and had to will myself not to cry. The DSD went better but the instructor supervising me made some suggestions (which were valid), and I felt like I had made a horrible mistake in coming to Roatan and that I was going to be a terrible instructor.

Two Years as a Scuba Diving Instructor in Paradise

Obviously things have changed since then :) It was easy to forget that your first week at any job always sucks and you feel like you're incompetent, no matter what the job is.  I now lead already certified divers with confidence and ease, and have certified nearly 100 new divers. I see new instructors on their first dive lead or certification and am now the instructor offering suggestions! One of the best things about my job is how dynamic it is, and I still take suggestions from much more experienced instructors and incorporate different styles and tricks that I see them using. My teaching style is always evolving as I find what works and what doesn't. I learn something new every day, whether it's new knots for tying the boats out or a new cave system at a dive site.
You can see me teaching at the beginning of this video:

(I'm just doing a refresher with a certified diver, so all you crazies about to jump down my throat for not wearing a snorkel can sit back down.) Also, it's super weird for me to watch this.... I've seen lots of videos of me diving so I know what I look like doing that, but I had no idea what I looked like teaching!
Teaching people how to scuba dive is such a strange thing when you think about it. Like, you read a book and someone shows you how some equipment works and then you GO UNDERWATER AND BREATHE. It's super weird. I have to remind people all the time that it's totally normal to be nervous and feel a bit out of place underwater... that's your brain working properly! Humans aren't designed to be 60 feet underwater breathing and swimming around for an hour.... but I am sure happy that we can.
Two Years as a Scuba Diving Instructor in Paradise

I find it really, really difficult to get across to you all through writing what my job is like. I wish I was a better writer. Some days it is the most frustrating job in the world. Sometimes I take people on dives and no matter how many rare macro creatures I find, or crazy awesome swimthroughs I take them through, they complain about everything and I can't seem to make them happy. Sometimes I feel like asking my students how they manage to get up every day and feed and clothe themselves when they can't do something basic like clearing their snorkel. But some days it is the best fucking job in the world. Sometimes I feel like a queen who's conquered the world when I find divers their favorite fish, or when I take them through a shipwreck and they say it's the best dive of their life. Sometimes I squeal with happiness and joy when my students nail a skill they are struggling with, or when I take them on their first open water dive and I see their eyes get huge as they get their first glimpse of the coral reef during descent. It's feeling that sense of accomplishment when I certify a diver and they are awesome right away. It's an even better feeling when they fight for it - not everyone is a natural diver, but the tenacious ones who don't give up on themselves make me the proudest. I will never have kids, but I have created many baby divers and I love seeing them progress and improve. I won't forget any of them. They probably don't know it, but each of them have taught me something too, whether it's a new way to explain a skill to someone who isn't understanding the way I'm doing it, or to slow my pacing, or to give them more space to figure things out themselves. My students and my divers help me to become better at my job every day.

Two Years as a Scuba Diving Instructor in Paradise

taught my best friend to dive, this was a blast!

And sometimes, just sometimes, my job is a little bit selfish and it's about me. It's about me finding my favorite fish (it's a queen triggerfish, in case you were wondering), it's about me nailing my buoyancy through a tight swimthrough where two years ago I was hitting the sides, it's about finding the boat on a night dive at a shitty confusing site...which is the most glorious feeling in the world, FYI. It's about those times where you get really good divers and your job is actually fun and doesn't feel like work, instead the times where you have to turn around every 30 seconds to make sure no one is about to do something stupid and die. It's about being able to say YES YES YES when my divers happen to be guests on a megayacht and they ask me to get on board and finish their trip with them through the Caribbean. It's about getting to tell people (juuuuust a tad smugly) who ask, "I'm a scuba diving instructor on a tropical island". That's not something I ever thought I would be saying in my life. But it feels pretty fucking great to say it.
Two Years as a Scuba Diving Instructor in Paradise

I didn't jump into this life lightly, although I know it may have seemed like it to other people. But I planned for months, and scrimped and saved. I worked two full time jobs for 6 months to save enough money to do this. If you read back in the archives on this blog, you can see all of this in early 2012. I always said that if I went down to Roatan and become an instructor for even six months, all the planning and work will be worth it. I have such a hard time believing how far past six months I've gone with this. I never planned to still be here well over two years later, but I'm pretty damn happy that I am. No matter what happens going forward, for the rest of my life I will always be able to remember that time where I said fuck you to the corporate grind and became a dive instructor in the Caribbean for a few years. If I make it another year I will be 30 years old and this will be the longest-running job I'll have ever had in my life. Not sure if that's a good thing or not, but I think it says a lot.
Two Years as a Scuba Diving Instructor in Paradise

Cheers to you all for following along with me on this incredible journey! Let's see where my "Three Years as a Scuba Diving Instructor in Paradise" post comes to you from next year.
Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me keep on blowing bubbles. So there's that.

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