Change of Life!
Choose life. Choose sand & sea. Choose scuba. Choose Crystal. Choose sunsets. Choose cold beer. Choose PADI. Choose island lifestyle!
That’s it! I decided one cold and miserable day in Northern England. Working for a DIY store in wet and windy Stoke was not for me. Seeking a new life in the tropics and wherever my PADI will take me was what I wanted.
I immediately started to do some research. I was pretty sure I was heading back to Koh Tao and to Crystal Dive. After all, there is no better place in the world to embark on a Change of Lifestyle and become a PADI Instructor than the ‘Mecca of scuba diving’.
However, I also knew this was not another “Gap Year“. This was a serious. I was embarking on a ‘Career Change’. Outside some specific questions related to the PADI Instructor Internship I realized the Internship training was only part of my goal.
I needed to find full time employment afterwards. I was wondering how hard that was going to be.
Through many correspondences between Crystal Dive’s PADI Course Director and general ‘big cheese’, Matt Bolton, I was satisfied signing up to Crystal Dive’s ‘Diving Lifestyle’ Instructor Internship. The Internship includes all core PADI courses through to PADI Instructor plus some very useful PADI Specialty courses.
The Diving Internship also included some important extras such as a full professional level personal diving insurance and a ‘working internship program’ both of which caught my eye as I hadn’t seen these on other Scuba diving Internships I had researched.
Four months later I would say my goodbyes again and return to the little island paradise I was soon to consider ‘home’. This time I returned with the sole purpose to dive, become a PADI scuba diving Instructor and find a job!
I started with a few fun dives to get back into the swing of things, before completing the Emergency First Response course. This was a basic first aid / CPR course and an important perquisite. I was now ready for the PADI Rescue Diver course.
The Rescue course was by far the hardest course I had done to date, although it was also the most rewarding. It really was serious fun!
There were 4 students on the course. For 3 days we were pushed from the first minute to the last. We were encouraged to work together as a team. When doing a PADI Rescue course, the Instructor, assisted by two ‘DMT’s’ (Divemaster in training) role played, taking turns to be distressed divers, in various simulated emergency situations.
A lot of effort was put into making each scenario as realistic as possible. This teaches how to deal with the most difficult problems. The aim of the course is to teach what to do in a real rescue situation.
Making the rescue scenarios realistic improves your confidence in decision making and your ability to handle any given rescue situation. Ultimately, these decisions and actions can potentially save a person’s life.
It was a great 3 days. I was absolutely shattered by course completion and spent the following day, catching up on some much needed rest.
Time to Go Pro
The PADI Divemaster course is the first step on the PADI ladder of professional scuba diving and the world’s most popular professional level scuba course. I quickly learnt why!
The PADI Divemaster course at Crystal Dive is one of the best experiences I’ve had. Within days of starting I knew I had made the right decision to return. I spent the first week after the Course Orientation ‘self studying’.
During this period I continued to dive, at least one dive trip (2 dives) per day. I wasn’t short of a dive buddy, diving alongside fellow DMT’s, who were at the same stage of training.
It was great being able to go diving with a buddy of similar experience and just explore. I say explore. What I really mean is to get lost. Quite a lot too! I was not the Underwater Navigation genius I first thought!
As with everything the more you practice, the better you become and my underwater Navigation was no different. I became more competent as I gained experience. This week long period of diving served me well when I started assisting the Instructors.
I worked through the PADI Divemaster manual, completing the knowledge reviews before passing the exams. I could now begin ‘assisting with students in training’.
The Crystal Way
PADI standards require you assist one full Open Water course, a continuing education course as well as assist with certified divers. The PADI Divemaster course conducted at Crystal Dive, gives you the opportunity to assist many more courses than just the minimum. I assisted 4 Open Water, an Advanced Open Watercourse and a Rescue course and I could have done more!
This gave me the opportunity to observe how individual Instructors work. Different styles, techniques, methods and personalities were all part of the learning experience.
The PADI Instructors at Crystal not only make it look easy, but make it lots of fun too. It gave me a much better understanding of what is needed to become a quality PADI Instructor.
Dive. Eat. Sleep. Repeat
One of the highlights of the PADI Divemaster course is the social aspect. I was not alone during the time I completed the course and made some lifetime friends. This ensured the entire experience was more enjoyable, more rewarding and more fun.
Another highlight with doubt is the staff. Friendly, willing to give advice and help, there really is a family feel around the place. Students and staff relaxing at the end of a great day’s diving, enjoying the sunset, and watching the dive movies on the big screen with a cold beer before heading for a meal and an early night. It’s definitely an early to bed, early to rise culture.
My most memorable dive and THE highlight of my PADI Divemaster course took place at Chumphon Pinnacle. Immediately upon our descent we were greeted by amazing conditions with viz (visibility) of 25 meters plus. Swimming further down, we passed a carpet of sea anemone spotting several Giant Grouper lurking in the shadows close to the Pinnacle.
My attention was drawn to a school of Yellow Tail Barracuda, 500 strong. We moved closer, slowly swimming underneath, positioning ourselves in the center. For 10 minutes we just hovered as the barracuda slowly circle us.
As we continued to explore the dive site my attention was drawn to the endless wall of blue sea, off the dive site. Even though there is nothing to see, with great conditions the endless blueness draws you in. Your mind starts wondering. What else was out there I thought. I started to daydream….the blue seemed endless….then it got darker, almost like I could see black shadows. “Hold up a minute”, I thought. “That’s not a shadow, it’s a silhouette!”
Out of the silhouette swimming directly towards me came the most incredible thing I have ever seen in my diving career. Finally after months of diving every day on Koh Tao I cast my eyes on the ‘Big Spotty Fish’!
She was an absolute beast. She must have been 7-8 metres in length, although listening to the stories later she had grown to 15 metres by sunset and after a few beers closer to 30 metres! Nevertheless, seeing a creature of that size, puts in to perspective just how small we are in this world.
It was an incredible experience to watch this massive animal, move slowly and gracefully through the water. She seemed completely unfazed, somewhat curious as to who we were and what we were doing swimming by her side.What funny and unusual creatures she must thought we all were. She really was a gentle giant.
The Final Test!
The final test of my Divemaster course was the infamous Snorkel Test. The snorkel test is a rite of passage for every newly certified Divemaster. There were 8 of us lined up on bar stools, wearing mask and snorkels, each with a funnel attached to the top. One of the DM program coordinators was the MC. We were introduced, before being asked a few simple questions; where are you from, what was your favourite aspect of the DM course, who was your favourite Instructor….
A large crowd had gathered in the bar eagerly awaiting the spectacle. Prior to the main event, a scuba diving Koh Tao quiz was conducted. Quick fire questions with even quicker time limits to answer correctly! If we answered incorrectly, or too slowly there where penalties!
Then came the main event. Our mentors behind us, pouring a bucket of fluorescent orange liquid, containing a variety of mixed fruit juices and obviously some alcohol. In fairness, and credit to the Instructors, our mentors had spoken to each of us previously to identify the non drinkers, occasional drinkers and those who enjoyed a drink.
Each bucket was tailored specifically to each Divemaster’s personal needs, pretty much like the entire training program!
However there were some surprises; an additional shot, or beer, Tabasco sauce, some red chilli peppers or the occasional egg thrown down the funnel for good measure. When we had finished, we had to spin around our stool, race through the crowd to the beach, into the sea and back to the bar.
The last one back, plus the candidate that spilt the most from their snorkel during the test get one more challenge; they both had to drink a warm Beer Chang!
Now I’m proud to say I hardly spilt a drop on the snorkel test but I was definitely last returning to my stool. It was time to don the mask and snorkel one more time!
Afterwards we all went out and had a great night. What an enjoyable and fun way to finish the PADI Divemaster, although I must admit I had a small hangover the following morning!
Author: Andy McEvoy (PADI Master Scuba Diver Instructor)