Candidate Spotlight!

James Clack2

Our next candidate spotlight is on James Clack who completed his IDC with the London IDC at Diving Leisure London in 2014:

‘Having completed my divemaster in the summer of 2013 I was confident that a career in diving was something I wanted. After getting lots of advice from friends who are also dive professionals I was convinced to take the next step forward and complete my IDC and become a PADI instructor.

Due to the timings of the European dive season this only left me the winter to get this done. Having looked around London for an Course Director I came across Alex. I told him about my needs but also that I had no experience with cold water diving before. We met in the early January and began the course. Having proved my skills in the swimming pool we were able to focus on my main weakness; the written exams! Having never focused too much on the written side of diving I knew Alex would have to be patient with me but when the weekend of the exam came there were no problems and I passed. At the Easter I flew back out to Sicily where I completed my first full season as an instructor.

When I had completed this I knew I wanted to keep furthering my dive education so I made contact with Alex again and we made plans for me to take the MSDT course over the first weekend of November. Yet again time to dust off the dry suit! Following the completion of the course I was able to apply to a wider variety of jobs and I soon received an offer to go and work on the Pacific coast of Mexico. This was a huge opportunity and I completed a full 10 month season out there!

As for 2016 bring on Australia and the Great Barrier Reef!’

James Clack1

Candidate Spotlight!

Vanessa Baxter

This is the start of a regular spotlight on some of our successful candidates. Kicking us off is Vanessa Baxter who completed the IDC with Big Squid Dive centre in March 2015. After doing a bit of instructing in the UK, warmer climes came calling and now she’s working full time overseas as a Dive Officer at Frontier Tanzania located on Mafia Island.

Vanessa Baxter

In her words:

“Frontier Tanzania is a marine conservation outpost that works with the Tanzanian Marine Park, mainly the marine conservation reserve on Mafia Island to help protect and preserve the coral reefs and seas from over fishing and destruction from human activity.

My job responsibilities is to foresee all diving operations, including the boat maintenance, engine, safety and training, financial budgets and administration.

Alex couldn’t have prepared me any better for the IE and life within the dive industry! He has the ability to deliver massive amounts of information clearly and professionally, whilst maintaining an extremely laid back, fun and non stressful persona. His teaching techniques were also very modern and relevant to the PADI IDC. I can’t thank him enough for his patience and dedication during and after the IE!”

VB IE

Vaness Baxter passing her IE in March 2015!

DIVE MYTHS #6: I’m out of air! Er, could I have some please?

The various equipment configurations, hand signals and techniques that revolve around an out of gas emergency are ripe for a good old fashioned internet bun fight. From the contentious to the just plain wrong there are plenty of arguments for the best way to donate gas.

There is a general consensus amongst some divers that in an emergency an out of gas diver will simply rip the reg out of their buddies mouth. This has led to some people poo pooing octo donation as a waste of time or teaching people to cover their reg with one hand whilst handing off the octo with another which gives the overall impression of someone handing medicine at arms length to a plague victim.

In actual fact, most of the time, people follow their training in an emergency. Therefore if they learn to breathe from an octo that is predominantly what they will attempt to do.

At the other end of the scale there used to be a 2 step signal for an out of gas diver whilst practising an out of air drill. This involved giving the standard swipe across the neck to indicate out of air followed by a more plaintive hand to mouth gesture that was supposed to be a request for sharing gas. I used to love the idea that someone might swim up to someone under the water giving a frantic out of air signal only to have their potential rescuer simply look at them blankly in a ‘what do you want me to do about it?’ kind of way until clarification is provided in the form of the air sharing signal: ‘Oh, you want me to give you some gas- why didn’t you say so in the first place?’

Creed With arms wide open

The lead singer (who’s name I couldn’t be bothered to google) from rubbish christian rock band Creed throws his ‘arms wide open’ to reveal his octo.

The current status quo in teaching is to teach the out of gas diver to locate and secure the octopus after giving the signal whilst the donating diver throws their arms wide in a crucifixion pose of beneficence. ‘Here’ it seems to imply ‘Pluck my alternate from my lean and muscular torso and I shall grant you the precious gift of air’. The logic of this methodology seems sound: We are teaching divers to self rescue so we are essentially making the donor an irrelevance during the exercise. However when we look at this set up, do we really want to be teaching the donor to fling their arms wide whilst the out of gas diver attempts to free the octo from one of the myriad of attachments on the marketplace? Surely a bit like telling people not to yell for ‘pizza’ in a rescue course it would make more sense to inject a little more realism?

We don’t really want to teach people right off the bat to do nothing in an out of gas emergency so therefore let’s teach the donor to pass off the octopus.

First off before a collective gasp of horror emerges from the angry instructors of milton keynes this is a directive filtering through from the top bods at PADI. Secondly, let’s have a look at the performance requirement: ‘Secure and breathe from an alternate air source’. It doesn’t say to remove it from the donor’s BCD. In fact, it doesn’t say what side the octo should orient, how long the hose should be nor does it say octo at all. This means that if you want to teach primary long hose donation then knock yourself out. This also means that, just like turning valves a half turn back, the arms wide open gesture is a teaching technique that has caught on without actually being a requirement of the skill. I find this is often the case with many skills, a few other training agencies often like to make out that they teach skills differently to the PADI system but a quick look at the performance requirements of the skill show that there is a lot left to individual interpretation.

I teach this skill by getting the donor to pass off the octopus to the out of air diver but I leave the responsibility of ensuring that the reg is the right way up and the hose free and clear to the receiver. This ensures that the performance requirement of securing the reg is met whilst still differentiating this from a rescue course skill where the emphasis is on the rescuer ensuring that the reg is supplied correctly to an out of gas diver.

The other bonus of doing this is that the donating diver releases the octo clip. Whilst the release of the octo should be covered in the buddy check quite a few divers often have their octos secured in hose clips that often don’t release the reg but simply slide down the hose and restrict it’s length. It’s therefore also crucial that the release of the octo and how it’s secured is something that divers are taught to think about and discuss as part of their checks

I was once given some advice by an instructor who told me that in an emergency the best thing that you can do is consciously slow down your actions and ensure that you get things right the first time instead of speeding up and then forgetting something which causes you to have to repeat it under ever increasing stress. Hopefully by priming students early on to help in a real emergency we might increase the likelihood of gas sharing being completed successfully so that a panicked situation is avoided.

Some FAQs about the Instructor Course

Q. Is it a good idea to become a Scuba Instructor?

A. Yes of course and it will make you more attractive too.

Q. I’ve just learnt to dive and now all I want to do is become an instructor and disappear somewhere hot. Am I being crazy?

A. No that’s exactly how I felt, so that’s pretty much what I did. I started my IDC a week after my 100th dive so I certainly don’t think people need to go and do masses of diving to ‘get good’. You’ll need to do a bit of work and build those dives up but it needn’t take ages and is completely achievable.

Q. What do I need to have done to become a Diving Instructor?

A. You’ll need to have completed Open Water, Advanced, Rescue and Divemaster through the PADI system (or another training agency-crossovers are usually fairly simple). You’ll need 100 dives. If you’re struggling to get the dives up then can I heartily recommend a Red Sea Liveaboard? They’re a fantastic way to get about 20 dives in a week. You’ll also need experience in deep, night and search and recovery diving (best bet is to get the specialities). You’ll need to be declared medically fit and then you’re pretty much good to go.

Q. Will I be able to get a job in the dive industry?

A. Let’s assume that you are a friendly, reasonable person and a competent diver then the short answer is ‘yes, no problem. The longer answer is that full time jobs in the industry are usually abroad but if you’re prepared to go overseas then work can be found easily through the PADI jobs board and once you’re ‘in’ you’ll find out about more opportunities. In the UK most dive centres are crying out for weekend instructors, especially through the summer. It’s a part time occupation which most people do on top of a normal job but it’s immensely fulfilling. However there are fulltime opportunities in the UK if you’re prepared to seek them out and put yourself forward.

Q. Will I be showered with riches?

A. Er no. This isn’t a job you do if you want to get rich. You should receive payment for your work but If you’re primary motivation is money then you might want to re-think….

Q. Do I need to have excellent skills to start the IDC?

A. You don’t need to have them nailed to perfection but you should be comfortable and familiar with them. That’s part of the Divemaster Course. If you’re rusty or want a little more practice it’s a good idea to get a pool session in before the IDC starts.

Q. I’ve read through the website blurb about the IDC but what exactly does it all mean?

A. The IDC is about teaching you to use an educational system which becomes the foundation of how you teach. What that means is that you’ll learn how to put together classroom presentations where you use a template to make sure you hit all the required points. The idea is that you can use the template to put together any teaching presentation. The same applies to the confined and open water stuff. You’ll use a structure where you show control of the group, problem solving and use of your Divemaster. It all follows a logical process and most people eventually click into it fairly easily. You’ll just keep on practicing until you’re happy and then it’s off to the IE

 

A few thoughts on the new padi open water course

Last weekend I finished an IDC for the lovely Aquanaut in Kingston and Dive Wimbledon. We had a great time and I know the candidates will nail the IE. As part of the IDC we spent some time discussing the new skills in the updated Open Water Course and practising those skills in the pool.

One of the things that came out of the practise sessions is that there is definitely a little more investment of time in the new version required to deliver a valuable course.

Both of these centres just like Diving Leisure London and Big Squid offer a quality Open Water Course/Referral. They all charge in the region of £400 for the full open water and just under £300 for the referral course. They don’t do one day groupon deals for £80 (plus course materials, plus PIC etc etc). My views on groupon can be found here…..

The price of an open water course hasn’t changed much since I started in the UK industry over ten years ago. However in that time VAT has increased, rent, rates etc all have gone up.

All these centres are running with a group of students over four days for a full course or two for a referral making it around £100 per day to learn to dive. Personally I think this is a total bargain especially as that is pretty much all inclusive too. Really it should cost more and I’m hoping to see the price of an open water rise to around £450 and a referral to £300.

I’m not aiming to point out the impossibility of delivering a course to the same quality level as the aforementioned dive centres when you’re charging a third of the price with 3 times the number of students and half the time (oh I just did) but more to express my hope that the demands of the new open water course will begin to affect the ability of low cost/high volume operations to actually meet the required standards.

Without entering into specifics, the main differences between the old course and the new are an emphasis on trim and buoyancy as well as the student demonstrating the ability to plan and conduct dives as a buddy team. Buoyancy in particular is a hard concept for many students to grasp over a two day referral let alone one. Introducing trim (ie hovering in a more horizontal position so as to be more efficient and less likely to damage the marine environment) adds a greater level of difficulty.

Trying to bash this stuff out in an afternoon (except in one on one situations) is going to lead to divers who are unprepared for the open water dives and perhaps, just perhaps, the centres overseas that receive these students will begin to question more firmly how the referral course was run.

The new open water course is a fantastic opportunity for quality dive centres to differentiate themselves from the others. Let’s make a big deal about the new skills and how the extra time and smaller groups offered over a 2 day referral course will lead to much more confident divers.

Personally I’m really enjoying getting instructors up to speed with the new course so we can all begin to create happier, confident divers who are much more likely to continue their diving education.

The London IDC June 2014

The second London IDC has just finished this time with Aquanaut and Dive Wimbledon candidates. The ethos of the London IDC is to bring quality London dive centres together to pool their candidates to make much busier IDCs. This has a double advantage, for the dive centres it makes the IDCs a more profitable enterprise but it also makes the IDCs more enjoyable and useful for the candidates, IDCs benefit from having larger groups as the candidates can watch multiple presentations of a variety of different skills as well as seeing how different dive centres do things in slightly different ways.

We began on Friday night with a skill circuit at Putney Leisure Centre.  In total we had 5 IDC candidates (Rick, Sam, Wiktor, Cheryl and Mark), 2 Staff Instructor candidates (Billy and Laura), 3 Staff Instructors (Kristine, Steve and Geoff) and me. Coordination is the key to things like this and it was immensely helpful to have Staff Instructors along too to help with the evaluations. This is another massive advantage of running bigger groups in that it means there’s a real need for the Staff Instructors to come along and help out. The skills were already at a really high standard so things were looking good for the rest of the program.

Putney pool

Looking good in the pool,. Thanks to John Southill for the great picture

We also had a plan to workshop some of the new open water course skills too so we had some DMs and other instructors along as well as Lynne the owner of Aquanaut. It can be a little intimidating even for big, bad Course Directors like myself(!) to suddenly have about 16 faces swivel towards you and watch you demonstrate new skills but we all had fun trying the emergency weight drop and tightening a loose cam band. By the end of the session we had everyone hovering in horizontal trim which was a fantastic sight to see!

Classroom

Pizza in the classroom. Note sun outside

The next day was spent in the classroom doing lectures. Sam amused us all with his non digital, unbound version of the instructor manual which caused him endless frustration in every lecture that required the candidates to check standards (pretty much all of them). Pizza was consumed, coffee was drunk and the day was done. The next morning saw us at the pool practicing our confined teaching presentations. The pool was at a posh public school but something had happened to the water (maybe they had dissolved naughty pupils in it) which meant it was somewhat cloudy. We took this in good spirits as preparation for open water the next weekend and everyone did incredibly well.

Instructor manual woes

Sam discovering he’s in the wrong section again

In the afternoon we headed back to the classroom for teaching presentations, where Sam amused us again by wrapping paper around a workbook and calling it a PPB manual. They love stuff like that on an IE.

Not a PPB manual

Not a PPB manual

I then jetted off to Malta for some sidemount fun(it’s a hard life) before zooming straight back to Heathrow the following saturday morning and directly from there to Wraysbury. I had one of those mornings where the world aligns for you and I landed at Heathrow at 9.25 and was at Wraysbury just after 10. After the sunshine in Malta and the sunshine whilst we were all locked up in the classroom the previous weekend, the UK obliged by sending a torrential downpour for most of the day, leading to the use of a transit van as the base for delivering dive briefings.

Once in the water the vis wasn’t fantastic and once again the candidates did a superb job running their teaching presentations in some tough conditions. They cracked straight on unaware of the ariel jostling for position amongst the evaluators trying to get in close enough to grade the proceedings.

We ended the day with some knots and lift bags and a DSD workshop that saw the candidates attempting to control some really quite abysmal DSD students. It was another excellent day.

Our last day was spent in the classroom wrapping up lectures and finishing up in the Aquanaut shop before a celebratory beer and paperwork sorting at the Norbiton and Dragon.

Aquanaut

Aquanaut

Massive well done to all the candidates for working so hard and all the staff instructors who came along and assisted on the program too, it wouldn’t have gone so smoothly without you.

Bring on the IE!