Hard working recreational diving instructors are the unsung heroes of the UK diving industry.

Bonus points for spotting the reference…

I remember when I was first thinking about becoming a diving instructor, which was pretty much as soon as I came up from the last dive of my advanced course, it seemed like one of the coolest professions it might be possible to have. At the time, tec diving was still a tiny niche area and the heroes of the scene were people like Mark Ellyatt who were doing immensely deep dives on open circuit. It was epic but hardly the kind of thing that was aspirational to your average recreational diver.

Fast forward 15 odd years and the landscape has changed. Tec diving has become much more accessible and popular but it’s aspirations have changed as well. No longer are the deep divers held up as heroes (albeit slightly bonkers ones), witness the outpouring of unpleasant schadenfreude after the death of ‘Doc Deep’ a couple of years ago. Nowadays tec diving has become fixated upon technique with the result that our current heroes are held in high regard because of their ability to hover without twitching an arse muscle instead of their achievements and accomplishments. I’ve already ranted about this more than enough times already

The upshot of this is that becoming a recreational instructor is not always seen as the top of the tree. It also occasionally seems there is a degree of snobbery aimed at recreational scuba instructors mainly centred round things like kit configurations, perceived lack of personal skill or lack of skill demonstrated by their students.

I believe this is because, as an industry, we have pitched tec diving as if it is a superior activity to pro-level recreational courses when in actual fact they’re just different. I don’t really care how many amazing deep dives you’ve done on CCR, it won’t make you a good diving instructor.

As an example, whatever someone might want you to think, teaching DSDs is not an easy task that anyone can do. Meeting minimum standards might be straightforward, but actually making a DSD enjoyable and safe takes an immense amount of skill and work, very little of which has to do with looking good in the water. In fact, if you spend time worrying about how you look, instead of looking at your students, you’re probably at risk of being distracted if a problem does arise. When you think that for many people a DSD is their first diving experience and the make or break over whether that person will continue diving, then it quickly becomes clear that instructor ego and a fixation on skill perfection is a toxic combination unlikely to do the DSD candidate or the industry any favours.

In fact, I’d go as far as saying that a lot of instructor trainers and tec instructors (me included) would probably soil themselves in terror at the prospect of taking 5 people through an open water course now. That’s because we’ve been spoiled by only dealing with customers who have their own kit and already know what they’re doing (most of the time..). This means we get to sit in our ivory towers bollocking on about horizontal trim when we don’t actually have to get a group of open water students through 2 dives in rented drysuits in cold water and then drive a van full of kit all the way back to the centre, unload it and sort paperwork before we finally get to drive home, often all for the love of it.

Last week I was at NDAC doing a tec instructor program. On the Sunday I watched an instructor with a big group of Advanced students running through his briefings. He had 3 dives to do (always a challenge with the van runs at NDAC) but he was funny and engaging and his students were clearly having a good time. On top of all this, he’d somehow found the time to be wearing a Pokemon costume over his drysuit for Halloween which his students also loved and at the end of the day I saw them all laughing and joking over paperwork.

I wasn’t in the water with them but all thing being equal, to me, that’s the true sign of good instructor and also a reminder of just how challenging and rewarding it can be.

Tec diving is a brilliant next step for a diver wanting to continue their education but it’s not always the best thing to rush straight into either. I see lots of divers who might otherwise have chosen to progress down the DM and Instructor path now choose the tec path instead. This is all well and good but I can categorically state that divers who have attained at least DM level almost always have a greater level of skill and comfort in the water than those who haven’t. It’s also true to say that whilst DMs and Instructors will regularly continue onto tec diving, which I think is great because it gives them a diving activity that’s just for their enjoyment, it’s rare for tec divers to come back and do DM or instructor, which is often a great shame.

Becoming a recreational diving instructor is an incredible achievement and being a good diving instructor takes a rare combination of skills of which in water prowess is only a part. Don’t let anyone let you forget that!

PADI IDC skill circuit in London

Yesterday I started an instructor development course at Aquanaut in South London with a staff instructor course beginning too. We had a great day in the classroom and then a skill circuit in the pool in the evening. Gary and AJ did a great job running through skills with Rich evaluating!

Why you should treat your PADI Instructor Development Course like a delicious sandwich…

sub sandwich

How many of you out there have heard of ‘Goldilocks pricing strategies’? It’s where you do the whole bronze silver and gold thing in an attempt to at drive people to the silver option (it’s not too hot and not too cold, geddit). It’s a system that works well but personally I find the whole bronze-gold terminology a bit lame. It’s also really, really hard to come up with alternatives (I was playing around with something to do with playing your IDC on a legendary setting but then realised that was lame too). The other issue is that there are so many ways of putting together an IDC that having three options doesn’t really do it justice.

So instead I want you to think about your IDC like a delicious subway sandwich (OK, I know it’s mainly processed facemeat on cheap bread but bear with me here):

What I want you to do is look at the basic IDC of AI, OWSI and EFRI as the standard sub: Bread and some fillings. If it’s a good IDC it will have some cheese too. My IDCs always come with cheese, in more ways than one.

The trouble is, that basic sandwich is only going to be so fulfilling depending on whether it’s a light lunch or a life sustaining source of fuel for a big night out. If that’s the case you’re going to want to add some delicious toppings, a tasty sauce, maybe get it toasted and if you’re really hungry you’re going to need it a footlong too.

Your IDC is kind of similar too, if you’re wanting to become a great instructor who’s good in the water and super employable, you’re going to need to add some stuff to the basic setup. For example, if you want to teach in the UK you really do kind of need your drysuit spec. And you’re going to need that straight away and you’re going to want to do it with me because I am going to really show you the tips and tricks for not only effectively diving a drysuit but how you pass those tips onto your students too. Then you can go forth and create your own legion of super slick drysuit divers, not a hoard of over-weighted Michelin men riding invisible underwater unicycles.

When you book your IDC with the London IDC we want to know what your plans as an instructor are, that way we can tailor make the IDC to suit your needs. Are you going to be working in the UK or abroad? Are you going to be part-time or full time, what are your personal diving interests. All of this can help us put the right package together for you.

So here are a series of tasty treats that you can choose to add to your IDC when booking it. You can have some, none or all of them which will get you a special overall price for doing that too. The idea is you can build the IDC that suits your needs (hopefully any eagle eyed instructors will also have spotted the contact, value and application to the current level of training in those opening paragraphs too. BOOOOOOOOOMMMM):

  • BASIC IDC (including AI, OWSI and EFRI): £1095
  • Speciality Ratings: £100 each
  • MSDT Package of 5 specs: £500 (including Drysuit, Wreck, Deep, Nitrox and S&R). Wreck and Deep can be run at the UK coast giving you hands on experience of teaching techniques at sea and from boats as well as introducing you to Chris Webb and the team at Mutiny Divers who can help you facilitate your own teaching weekends at the coast. As an added bonus for signing up for the 5 specs you’ll also be to do the following 3 specs free of charge: SMB, Nav and Equipment and in addition you’ll be able to get 5 speciality applications to PADI for the price of 4.
  • Self reliant student/instructor level: £300 This course goes into a great level of detail regarding gas management, carrying redundant gas, dive planning and self rescue which are all extremely important for a working instructor. I cannot recommend this course highly enough to new instructors. It will help you teach other courses like the dive planning segments of Open Water and the ‘Thinking like a diver’ sections of the Advanced. It also helps you meet the requirements for carrying redundant gas when diving in cold and/or deep water.
  • O2 Provider: £75. This speciality is incorporated in the EFR Instructor course and subsequently you will be able to add this into your rescue programs, which adds value and extra certifications for you.
  • Night Diver: £100. This can be run either at Wraysbury or at the UK coast during the summer and is a fun added bolt on.
  • PADI Digital Products Suite: Get 5 new touch products from PADI when you sign up to an IDC with me for only £90, a massive saving of £137. Digital products are definitely the future of the industry so having and understanding how they work is crucial for a diving instructor
  • PADI Business of Diving Course: £150. An essential extra days worth of training invaluable to any UK based instructor and also in particular very useful for anyone looking to develop a scuba diving business whether part-time or full time. The course covers all the HSE requirements of UK dive training as well as covering many basic business principles.
  • IDC/IE Prep: £150. An extra day either before or after the IDC where you’ll be able to practice any areas that you feel you would like to work on. These can be done in the classroom, open or confined water and can cover any areas that you would like from dive theory and knowledge presentations to confined water skills or open water teaching.

The total value of all these courses (excluding the PADI digital products which is a payment made directly to PADI and also the night diver which is offered on a seasonal basis) comes to £2,270. If you sign up to the whole thing (as in get your sandwich ‘with the lot’) the discounted price is £2000. In addition you’ll receive £50 off a Tec course if you would like to start down that road too!

In total you’ll receive over £500 worth of courses and savings by signing up for your IDC ‘with the lot’.

For the latest IDC dates, please look at the calendar or drop us a line directly. Now go enjoy your sandwich, mine’s a subway melt on honey-oat bread with southwest sauce.

 

New combined PADI IDC and OCR Level 3 Diploma in Management

In some exciting news the London IDC alongside PADI and White Rose Training are now able to offer an OCR Level 3 Diploma in Management alongside the PADI IDC! The OCR Diploma is eligible for a learner loan from the government which makes the course incredibly accessible. To give you some idea about how all this works, here are some key questions answered:

WHAT IS IT?

The course is called an OCR Level 3 Diploma in Management. OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA) is the leading awarding body of accreditations from GCSEs to NVQs. The course is aimed at those who will or would like to take a management role in the workplace and deals with all aspects of management from coaching and mentoring to training and development and conflict management. The course results in a recognised, useful qualification which maybe in itself a proof of competence for a job role or can add value to an existing set of qualifications.

HOW DOES IT RELATE TO THE IDC?

The PADI Instructor Development Course already covers many areas that are required as proof to show competence for the Level 3 Diploma. As an example, the IDC teaches the use of various techniques for putting together teaching presentations whether in the classroom or under the water. During these presentations candidates will show the ability to effectively use their Divemaster assistants as well as evaluate and critique performance. These are just some of the areas where the Level 3 Diploma and the IDC overlap. This means we can use these parts of the IDC to teach the skills which the candidates can then demonstrate to meet the requirements of the OCR course.

IN ADDITION TO THE IDC WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO DO?

The IDC runs in almost exactly the same way as it normally does. The only 2 major differences are that an individual completing the Level 3 Diploma will also complete an online e-learning portfolio before, during and after the IDC. This is essentially where you’ll demonstrate how the lessons learnt during the IDC can be translated into more general management practices. This is the bulk of the OCR course which is independently assessed in an on going way by White Rose training and PADI.

There is also an extra module which needs to be completed for the IDC which is a ‘Diving Business Management Course’. This is a diving specific course which goes into far more detail of the business side of the dive industry. For example you’ll learn more about gross and net profit, margins and how to price products and courses.

WHO SHOULD TAKE THE COURSE?

This is an excellent opportunity for anyone looking to get into the diving industry as well as earn a useful business qualification which will assist them in applying for other non industry specific jobs. Given the eligibility of the course for government learner loans, it’s a great opportunity for people who are put off by the initial up front cost of becoming an instructor. It’s also excellent for someone looking to change their career or anyone wanting to do a more in depth, business orientated instructor course.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

As a OCR Level 3 Diploma the course is eligible for an Advanced Learner Loan from the government. These loans are potentially open to anyone resident in the UK over the age of 19. They are relatively simple to apply for and work in a very similar way to student loans in that you won’t need to start re-payments until you are earning over 21k and the payments then start very small, coming out of your PAYE, and tracking up with your income. The interest paid on the loan is at inflation plus a maximum of 3% dependent on your income.

The OCR Level 3 Course costs £2500 all of which is eligible for the advanced learner loan.

The PADI IDC costs £1199 to include the extra 2 days of the Diving Business Management Course.

PADI will provide the course materials, instructor application and IE for free.

HOW DO I SIGN UP?

Very simply by contacting us! The application for the learner loan is very easy to do and we can guide you through the process.

 

Candidate Spotlight: Dan Mills

Dan Mills

Our latest candidate spotlight is on Dan Mills who completed his IDC in 2014:

“I started diving in 2005 gradually gaining experience and progressing through the PADI system until completing Divemaster in 2012. I hadn’t really pictured myself as an instructor but I’ve always enjoyed training and coaching in my regular employment and I love diving so it seemed to make sense.
“I embarked on the IDC with Alex in the autumn of 2015 and passed the instructor exam at Whittlesey in the November.
“Of course we all learned a great deal during the IDC, fine tuned our own skills and really thought about the delivery of PADI OW courses and beyond. Alex created a relaxed atmosphere with room for debate, provided encouragement and fair critique and we developed considerable camaraderie within our cohort.
“I find I can get fairly frequent part time work as a freelance instructor for Aquanauts in Kingston, Diving Leisure London and Puerto Rico Diving in Gran Canaria. I genuinely enjoy introducing new divers to the sport, meeting people and making new friends.
“Since passing the IE, I have been lucky enough to spend time with Alex on Specialty Instructor weekends and attained MSDT.  As well as being an awesome diver, Alex is tremendously knowledgeable. His approach though is pragmatic and realistic and his slightly sarcastic sense of humour means that his courses are both enjoyable and memorable.  I have always felt comfortable checking my understanding of a standard or asking for advice or guidance. Even when it’s a topic from a recent blog (that I obviously missed) responses are patient, professional and generously given.  Nearly two years on, I’m looking forward to repeating the IDC – this time with the aim of becoming a Staff Instructor.
“Longer term I am planning to return to the Canary Islands, where it all began for me, and taking up the reins full time running the dive centre.  I’d like to think that while the London IDC made me the instructor I am, I will still be able to call on the support and friendly advice that will help continue my development as a PADI professional, even when I’m two thousand miles away.”

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

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!

Speciality Instructor training

To be a fully rounded instructor regardless of where you’re teaching there are a few specialities that you need to have under your belt. Here in the UK the most important ones are drysuit, deep, search and recovery, wreck and nitrox. If you can teach these specialities you’ll be more employable and more likely to get to do a wider variety of courses than just running referrals in the pool! Specialities are the most fun courses to teach, you’re usually dealing with qualified divers wanting to learn new skills, that means you’re not trying to ‘sell diving’ to someone you’re teaching them new cool stuff. It’s also really important to be able to up-sell from an Advanced Course to specialities as this will often be a newer divers first taste of activities like wreck or drysuit.

Teaching lining off

Teaching lining off

I do a ‘UK Specs Weekend’ that covers these 5 specialities. This also primes you for MSDT as you require 5 specialties to qualify and means you can then go onto Staff Instructor and then hopefully help out on our IDCs!

Earning instructor specialities is a little more involved than many people think. For each speciality, amongst other things, you’ll need to do a knowledge development presentation and then in water demonstrate all skills involved including running an open water teaching presentation just like you did on the IDC. If a speciality has 2-3 dives then most of the time the instructor speciality can be conducted in 1. If the speciality has 4 dives then it’s 2 at instructor level.

I normally run the course as follows:

Day 1:

Drysuit: 1 dive

Search and recovery: 2 dives

Nitrox: Theory only, no dives

Day 2:

Deep: 1 dive (based on deep run as a 3 dive course)

Wreck: 2 dives.

As you can see this is a full program and we cover lots of stuff: Skills, drills and tips for teaching drysuit and search and recovery and then a lot on the control and supervision of deep and wreck courses which is vital to understand in the UK. I have heard of some individuals getting over 10 specialities signed off in a weekend. This isn’t possible and should raise a few eyebrows if offered.

Mark and plane

Mark using a real plane as a non diving related training aid!

The weekend can be run alongside an IDC before candidates attend an IE. This can be really useful as it gives another weekend practising the skills required to pass the IE. The candidates simply process the speciality instructor certs after completing the IE.

The cost of a UK Specs Weekend is £500 as an added bonus I’ll also let you come back on another weekend and complete any other specs you might be interested in, for example Equipment, SMB or navigation!

See here for a full list of available specialities courses