19th July 2023: After six weeks of eLearning and constant study, I was now ready to take on the challenge of my PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC).

This was going to be a relatively simple process I thought, after all, I am an educated man. I have spent the better part of my life working myself up the corporate ladder. Continually educating myself with the appropriate qualifications for the various services I had offered in the financial services industry. I had gone from Mortgage Broker to the manager of a mortgage house. Then moving into Financial Services Financial Planning, completing all the qualifications and requirements. Not stopping my development, I moved into compliance and management and onto owning a financial services license, sitting on various boards and heading up a financial services practice for fifteen years.

becoming a padi professional diver giving ok sign

This current detour in my education journey would be relatively easy to complete the IDC; however it had no tertiary level qualifications for me to gain any RPL’s (Recognized Prior Learning), no written transcript, to see if I could shave off any components from my earlier levels of diving I had completed. It was six weeks of eLearning, that really needed very little effort other than to be able to read and retain the information. I would say the hardest part was being able to answer the questions at the end of each section. Granted, there was the occasional area that made me think when searching through the Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving. Yep, there is a textbook as such, and it does exist. But overall, it was easier than any of the diplomas I have completed as it required no assignments. So, I felt comfortable going into the IDC. This would be a two-week course that would run from the 3rd of July to the 16th of July. The IDC is immediately followed by the Instructor Examination (IE) over a two-day block on the 17th and 18th of July. It appeared at the outset that this would be predominantly a theory-based exercise. With my experience as a tutor and mentor in the financial services sector, once I had read the six weeks of theory, the rest would be a walk in the park.

I had taken a slightly different approach to scuba diving than most divers that have come before me to the IDC. Most tend to know at the beginning of their diving career that they are heading this way. These excited young divers race towards becoming a Rescue Diver, and then onto Divemaster. Once at the ‘Divemaster stage’, they get a taste of the commercial side of diving and move into instruction.

I, on the other hand, had decided early on in my recreational diving hobby that being part of the solution, working in the dive industry, would be the perfect way to stuff up a great hobby. I had seen this before, as an avid golfer who had focused on their hobby wishing to play more golf, I would regularly attend my local golf club. I noticed the club professional and the junior professional that were working at the club and would wonder if they had chased their passion only to find that the move into their hobby left them behind a counter most of the time taking phone calls and booking tee times and only occasionally being able to get out for a game of golf once or twice a week. This, I thought would be like turning any hobby into a career. My friends and I would talk about golf on weekends, at work and after work. I had felt the passion of being in love with a hobby.

becoming a padi pro group photo by pool

Every now and then one of my golf buddies would state how wonderful it would be to play golf for a living. They would say that they would love to give up that ‘crappy day job’ and play golf for the rest of their lives. It does sound wonderful enough, but the main problem is that your family depends on you to ‘bring home the bacon’, even when the weather is bad, no one is playing and you are still stood behind the counter waiting for the phone to ring and the members are asking how the weather is affecting the course.

Knowing that turning my hobby into a job would be a bad idea, I took a different route. I enjoyed diving, and I enjoyed the variety that it offered. I first looked at getting my Open Water Diver certification in 2013, and within a week it was completed. This was quickly followed by my Advanced Open Water Diver certification. The Advanced Open Water Diver course was where my passion for diving was stimulated a little more seriously. I also quickly lost interest in golf and found watching the aquatic life so much more exciting. I now had the taste for trying different types of diving, and I needed to see more and do more. Learning the different specialities and trying different things and locations became the ideal way to enjoy my newfound hobby. Over the following few years, I rose to the rank of ‘Master Scuba Diver.’ This is the highest position to reach as a recreational diver and was a great feeling for me whilst I was still working. I had a corporate life, and I was able to dive anywhere I wanted in the world. I just kept working hard, and the money helped me travel.

Five years after I began diving in 2018, I retired from corporate life and spent the best part of my days either in the garden or playing golf with my friends. Like most people who retire, these are very expected past times, but I had several little problems I needed to control. I was 50 years old, still exercising hard and needed more out of life. I was not ready to retire, even though I thought I was. Just maybe, I was only ready to give up that ‘crappy day job’. With the help of the pandemic, life was put on hold for a few years. The only benefit was, my golf improved. In 2022, the world started to return to normal and places started to open back up. A golf buddy of mine in the Philippines invited me down to his dive resort in Sabang Beach. I had been away from diving for several years, only coming back to the occasional dive every few months. With the help of the owner JT, and the staff at the Big Apple Dive Resort in Sabang Beach, my love affair with the ocean was revitalised. Not only did I have the desire to dive again, but I want to help and be a part of the future. I quickly completed my Divemaster qualification in the latter part of 2022. By the start of 2023, I had a plan to study for the Instructors Development Course. When it came down to just knocking off a simple, two-week academic course, I was definitely the person for the job. This could not have been further from the truth.

becoming a padi pro underwater instruction

Previous participants of the IDC had told me that it was extremely hard and that by picking the right Course Director, you would get an edge. With the right Course Director, they would, if anything ‘over prepare’ me and the result would be a pass in the Instructor Examination (IE) . The problem you have with this is that it is like picking an accountant, everyone thinks theirs is the best. So, what I decided to do was ask the instructor I felt was the best with people that I had met. Over the years, we come across many instructors, some are good, and some are not so good. Some are just outstanding with people. Though the instructor I am mentioning was there when I completed my Divemaster course, he was not the one that signed me off. Gao Jr was another instructor at the Big Apple Dive Resort when I was completing my Divemaster course, but he made himself approachable. When I was looking for a Course Director, I gave him a few names that were offering the IDC in July, and he said for me to talk to Johan Blixt. Johan, from the first time I contacted him, responded to texts within minutes, unless he was training, then as soon as he could. Any question was either handled immediately or referred. This type of ‘before service care’ had told me, over the years of being in the corporate world, was only offered by a professional. Not only would I receive the product I was about to invest in, but I would have a mentor. A mentor I would be able to go back to once I had completed my training for additional support.

On the 3rd of July 2023, I started the hardest two weeks of my educational career. Everything I thought I knew was dissected and rearranged in my mind. The building of an instructor/mentor began with me failing every exam at least once and skill circuits that went into the late evenings. The only thing that saved me was the determination not to fail. After day two, I was sure that I had started the biggest mistake of my life and would only end up a failure at the end of the two weeks. By day seven I felt that I could just sneak through and pull this off. On the 16th of July 2023, the night before the Instructor’s Exam, I believed not only would I be a good instructor, but that the dive community would benefit from someone like me working in it.

becoming a padi pro group photo

How this system that PADI has built has changed me in two weeks is quite amazing. I think now that this is a great career path for any young person wishing to have a life with the ocean.

To conclude, I have made some lifelong friends, the team Johan Blixt put through the class of July 2023 at Bongo Bongo Divers in Dauin will always stay connected. Did he change our lives? Yes, 75% of the group had job offers or interviews by the time we had completed the IE. Myself, I could not have asked for more. JT, a friend, has asked me if I would like to help out, and be a part of the team at the Big Apple Dive Resort in Sabang Beach.

Feeling inspired to take another step on your diving journey? Then take a look at what’s next. Alternatively, if you aren’t already a PADI certified diver, sign up today to get started on your PADI Open Water Course.

This guest blog post was written by Ian Haisman, PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor.

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