I actually remember the exact moment that I decided I wanted to become a dive professional . My now wife Casey and I had just finished a week long vacation to Southern Florida. It was Casey’s first time diving in warm fresh water springs and we had elected to have a guide from one of the local dive shops come with us on a fresh water adventure. We where enjoying a dive at Manatee Springs State Park at a location known as well go figure but Manatee Spring. I was just kinda wandering around the spring but Casey was following the guide around like a puppy. Our guide had found a small flounder a the bottom of the spring it was holding it the palm of his hand, after a few seconds of Casey looking closely at it, he brushed the back of the Flounder with his finger causing it to take of like a rocket. Casey jumped (well the best you can underwater) and giggled with amusement.
The guide we had during this dive demonstrated the best aspects of professional diving he loved his job, was excited about what he did for a living and best of all got to pass on the enjoyment of diving to other every day. Compared to what I was doing for a living at the time it was with out question a whole different lifestyle it was the Diving Lifestyle.
When we returned home to Virginia we stopped into our local dive shop Splash Dive Center and chatted with the then owners Ron and Dorri about our wonderful trip and my desire to take my training to the next level and begin my Dive Master training. We headed home that night with a library of books and videos that would cover the information needed to complete the knowledge development portion of my Dive Master Training.
For the next six weeks diving become my life. Two nights a week I would head to the pool with students and a instructor to conduct confined water training. Saturdays & Sundays where spent at the local quarry (Millbrooke Quarry) doing open water training, and another night every week after work I would get together with one of the instructors to work on the development of my diving knowledge in topics like Physics, Dive Equipment, PADI Standards and much much more. After my six weeks of training I had worked with more then 50 students, 10 different instructors, and seen 20 people become new divers.
During my training I remember being annoyed that it seemed like I had to do twice as much as what the minimum standards required. It always seemed like my instructors where making my life harder then any of the other Dive Master Candidates in the group, and know matter how well I did it was never good enough. At the time I was annoyed by this but looking back I couldn’t be happier with the way my Dive Master course was conducted and to this day model my dive master courses around the same principles that where taught. With my Dive Master course behind me I had enter the ranks of professional diving but at the time had absolutely no interest in going any further.
I spent the next two years at the Dive Master role assisting other instructors, my purpose for moving on to instructor actually had very little to do with diving at least not in the physical realm. I was living in Vermont at the time and helping with the development of a Virtual Diving community on Second Life known as Dive World. I was a project being run by PADI using 3rd party content developers. One of the concepts that was expected to be rolled out with the program was an extension of the PADI eLearn system that would allow students and instructors to meet in a virtual environment to conduct classroom actives for upcoming classes. A barrier presented itself for me to be part of this team. PADI wanted PADI Instructors working on the project cause Instructors had the best grasp on what other instructors needed.
With that it was time to become a PADI Instructor. It was the middle of winter and the snow and cold had been getting Casey for months. Nothing like frozen pipes preventing the shower from running to make your wife happy about winter in Vermont. With that we decided to make our move to a warmer location so I could expand my diving education to include instructor level. With in a couple weeks we had put the plans in place to move to the Florida Keys. After all Key Largo, FL is nicknamed the Dive Capital of the World!
On February 10th, 2009 I walked into the classroom at Ocean Divers of Key Largo for my first day of my Instructor Development course. The next 10 days would prove to me just how lucky I was to have had Dive Master training that was not just the minimum training standards. With the combination of corporate training experience and a very intensive dive master training the Instructor Development course proved to be fairly easy for me at least compared to the struggles that others seemed to be having with it.
On February 21st, I attended my PADI Instructor Examination a two day examination conducted by a PADI examiner that would test everyone on dive skills, PADI Standards, classroom presentation skills, general dive theory, rescue skills, and last but not least in water teaching ability. A small part of me was nervous but I felt very prepared and at the end of the examination on the 22nd I walked away with my instructor paperwork on its way to PADI headquarters. With that it was official I was a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor.
From that day on I moved through the certification levels and picked up award after award from PADI. Including multiple awards for Professional and Instruction Excellence. In 2010 myself and my wife where winners of the PADI GoPro Challenge for the video submission telling our story of how we became dive professionals.
Today I have issued over 300 PADI certifications, trained more then 100 divers using the PADI educational system, and am authorized to conduct every course in the PADI educational system include technical diver level courses. July 1st, 2011 is special for another reason. Today I issued my fifth Dive Master certification meeting the last requirement for my Master Instructor rating. For those who do not know the PADI educational system this is the highest level an instructor can achieve with out becoming a PADI Instructor Trainer. The issue with becoming a PADI Instructor Trainer (aka Course Director) is you can no longer conduct courses for other training agencies.
I can not say one way or another at this point if I will move on to course director status or not. Just as I never planned on becoming a PADI Instructor I can not be sure about my intent on becoming a course director. What I can say at this point is the requirements have been completed and the paperwork has been filled out it just awaits submission to PADI perhaps it will be a adventure for 2012.