From Student to Instructor - 10 Years Later
One thing that most of my dive buddies don’t know about me is that my very first dive was an introductory session right here on Maui. Even crazier, I now work at Maui Dreams, the same company that took me out for my first dive 10 years ago, and I'm working as a full-fledged scuba instructor! Sometimes, while teaching introductory classes, I find myself totally and completely gobsmacked! How did I go from student to teacher?
For me, diving has always been easy while teaching has proven to be more of a challenge, albeit a very fulfilling one! Through instructing, I have discovered that not everyone feels as at home underwater as I do. And that is absolutely okay.
My first ever ocean dive was absolutely enthralling! It was both familiar yet so very new. I felt like I was returning home! I found being underwater to be peaceful, calm, and quiet. Around every corner was something new to discover. I was captivated and played in my new environment. I did flips and barrel rolls, blew bubbles and drifted upside down. I was completely enraptured until there was a tap on the front of my mask, followed by a finger wag; it was my instructor, Curly. In my excitement, I was being a little overzealous and without realizing it had drifted close to the surface only to plunge back down to the bottom. I was guilty of having a little too much fun. I immediately stopped playing around and we continued the dive.
While I was sad that I wasn’t doing my flips, I realize now that it was a good safety call that helped make my first dive amazing in the long run! Through the years, I have learned that diving is fun until it isn’t anymore. Choosing to dive with an instructor who is calm, confident, and focused on safety will help with overall enjoyment of your introductory class. Your instructor will handle all the technical parts while you get to just focus on breathing and exploring.
I credit three things to my own successful introductory dive ten years ago. First, the instructor I went with was someone I trusted because it was clear that he was focused on safety, which is incredibly important because it allows you to focus on the fun. Second, I felt prepared and had a basic understanding of diving in general from the briefing during the introductory class. And finally, my love of being in the water, coupled with my curiosity and excitement, helped my push through my hesitations.
My parents had done many introductory dives beforehand and prepared me for what was to come. They shared that the class is split into three main sections: briefing, skills, and dive. Briefing is the set up, skills is the test, and the dive is the fun! It is absolutely 100% important to complete the skills a the start of the dive. Plus, it's required. I know, it is the “veggies before the dessert” but it builds confidence so you have a fantastic dive and stay safe. I vividly remember practicing these skills (mask clearing being my main focus) in our hot tub, reading online articles on diving, and watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. By having solid resources and advice from people who had been in my shoes, I knew what to expect and could focus more on the fun than the logistics.
My mom says when I got out of the water, I had the biggest grin on my face and declared, “I want to do this when I grow up!" While I have always been a waterbaby, as an instructor I have learned so much from those who are not so in love with the water. I have the utmost respect for those who are curious about scuba diving and maybe also the slightest bit terrified, and who take the class anyway. It is an amazing experience to watch one of my students struggle internally or externally with a skill and then successfully overcome the challenge through practice and patience. These are the teaching moments that are my passion. I love it when a student overcomes a difficulty and owns their personal “ah-ha!” moment, which was always just outside their comfort zone minutes earlier. These moments are why being an instructor is my chosen career.
As I sit across from my students, I am blown away by their immense courage. It takes a special someone to look fear in the face and try something new. While I have enjoyed telling you about my experience as an introductory diver, it is my hope that you think about trying an introductory dive if you have ever been the least bit intrigued. There is so much out there to explore, not only within yourself but out in the big blue sea! And who knows, sometimes a new passion might lie just beyond your comfort zone. Aren’t you curious to find out?
(P.S. Yes, that is actually Curly from 10 years ago! For those who dive Ulua often, check out the tree in the background. Look familiar?