I first got certified when I was fourteen years old. I had always been curious about diving, and when I mentioned it to my parents, they surprised me by signing up our entire family for lessons. Even before I got in the water, I was hooked. I devoured the manual, taught my parents how to use the dive tables, and loved assembling gear. Finally, getting in the pool and taking my first breath underwater was unforgettable. We ended up travelling to Fiji and Australia to complete our open water dives, and I was lucky enough to see the Great Barrier Reef during my first week of diving.
After graduating college, I moved to Southern California and decided I finally wanted to go farther than my Open Water Diver certification. I did my Advanced and Rescue courses as soon as I could, loving it even when I was “rescuing” men twice my size and carrying them onto shore. The Rescue class gave me so many skills I hadn’t even known I was missing, and I decided that I didn’t want to stop there. I decided I would go to San Diego to become a Divemaster.
My Divemaster program lasted about a month, while I lived in a house the shop owner had built specifically for his DM interns. I had a roommate, Crystal, who quickly became my friend as we went through our training together. Every day we woke up at 5AM to pack our gear and head to La Jolla to dive. We’d get back to the shop around noon to wash gear, and then help with Open Water classes in the afternoon. Once or twice a week we’d add a night dive to the top of it all. Adjusting to the schedule took a while, but even when I was exhausted I was having more fun than I could’ve imagined.
I also decided I wanted to become a Discover Scuba Diving leader while I was there, which required teaching four Discover Scuba programs. To find students, I posted an ad online: “Free scuba lesson.” Unsurprisingly, most people thought it was some kind of scam. So I revised it: “Free scuba lesson. I promise this is real. I won’t try to sell you a timeshare.” That one worked!
The Rescue course made me feel safer, but the Divemaster course helped me improve my biggest diving weakness: navigation. I got turned around easily if I wasn’t following someone, so I focused a lot of my time into developing navigation skills. Compass work, natural navigation, and search and recovery drills slowly but surely got easier and easier. By the end of my program, I no longer felt like I was one kick away from getting lost, and I now felt much more at ease at new dive sites.
I experienced some of my best dives during my training. Sea lions came up to greet me on the surface of my very first dive. Baby octopuses and horn sharks were easy to spot. We dove the Yukon and I got to swim inside a wreck for the first time. Once during a night dive, we came across a sheep crab that was slowly eating the body of a bat ray—creepy, but unforgettable.
My Divemaster certification helped me get a job pretty quickly, but not the kind I was expecting. I learned that I had coincidentally moved to a town near the PADI offices, and they were hiring. So now I work at PADI headquarters, dive in my free time, and wonder when and where I should take the Instructor Development Course.
For more information about becoming a Divemaster like me, visit the PADI website.