My Path to Becoming a PADI Scuba Instructor on Maui

Posted: Jun 5, 2013

Two years ago I moved to Maui “knowing” that I was going to be a dive instructor. The problem was that I only had five dives, with the most recent being in 2000. I had no idea what was involved in becoming an Instructor. I had heard that I needed a hundred dives and at the time I didn’t think that sounded too difficult to achieve.

Upon arriving on Maui with mask, snorkel, fins and a 2 mm wetsuit, I set out to buy some2000 Diver gear. I bought a BCD and regulator from Craigslist and quickly found out that it pays to know about gear before you buy used stuff. The BCD was two sizes too large and the regulator had the SPG and computer flood on the first dive. I don’t know if the previous owner knew of any problems, but that’s the risk you take when you buy used gear.

Once I got all my gear working again, I had to find a dive buddy. This can be much harder than it sounds. At the time, I didn’t know about the “buddy book” (available upon request at MDDC) and finding a reliable dive buddy online proved to be very difficult. I ended up signing up for my Advanced Open Water with Maui Dreams Dive Co. because they had the most reasonable rates and seemed friendlier than some other shops I’d checked out. I was able to knock out my Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver certifications pretty quickly and in the process found another diver that wanted to get his Divemaster and needed more dives. We buddied up and got a bunch of dives completed together.

Divemaster is the longest certification, taking several weeks. It is great because it is a mentor-style class. You get to intern with instructors and see how they solve problems and make diving fun for others. You also have to ability to really get to know your primary instructor. When I first started with Zac, he was teaching a little girl who had some anxiety about breathing under water and when I first saw him dealing with her anxiety I thought, “How does he know what to say or do?” But by the end of the program, not only was I a better diver but I was better helping others become better divers too.

The Instructor Development Course (IDC) comes after Divemaster and is the most intense class. It is two weeks of all-day learnin’: pool sessions, open water sessions and lots of class time! Our Course Director Teri makes it fun and the classes have all been filled with real interesting people from very diverse walks of life and far flung locations. The biggest thing that I didn’t realize was that the Instructor Development Course is not offered very often. Since PADI only holds the Instructor Exams in Maui twice a year, the IDCs are held to coincide with those. If you miss one, it can be six months or longer before it is offered again on Maui, and I am sure this holds true in other areas of the country as well.

Anyway, I was so prepared after my IDC that the two-day instructor exam seemed EASY!

Instructor 2013While I was motivated, I could have completed everything in a much faster timeframe. I think the best way to get it done is just to sign up for the class, even if you have a TBD date. The academic side of SCUBA is reasonable and if your schedule is open, Dreams can get ‘er done! All said, it took me about eight months to go from Open Water Diver to Instructor. I could have accomplished it in a much shorter amount of time if I had been aware of the infrequency of the instructor exams on Maui (or if I’d chosen to fly to another location for the testing).

I was lucky and had a job offer as soon as I passed my exam (and the shop facilitates job interviews with other scuba operators looking for instructors), but held out for the position at MDDC. I am very glad that I did!!!

Even though I am an employee of Maui Dreams, I loved this shop before I came to work here. Most of what I found out about MDDC and described in this blog, I learned as a customer.

I just passed my first year here at Maui Dreams and it is better than I could have imagined. Being an Instructor is an amazing career. I have the pleasure of working with some really great people (both in the shop and our customers). In addition, I get to live in paradise and actually get out in it on a very regular basis!! Being able to see a pod of 30+ spinner dolphins swim right by my face (at depth) is probably a once in a lifetime experience for many. It only took me a year and 400 dives…can’t wait until the next time. If you’re interested in becoming a Divemaster or Instructor, I’d say...GO FOR IT!

At the time of this posting, our next Instructor Development Course is in September - you still have time to GO PRO, so if you're interested, go ahead and get in touch with our Course Director, Teri.

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June 10, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

Having just taken Curly's rescue course, I am very impressed. He is an amazing and natural teacher. Nice flowing locks!

Teri Leonard
June 6, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

Jorge, I am looking forward to meeting you and your wife at Maui Dreams! We love to dive!!!

June 6, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

Awesome story! Thanks for posting it. I stumbled upon it while looking for a dive shop for my wife to get certified. Hopefully she'll get certified with you next month when we visit Maui.

Megan Denny
June 6, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

Loved reading your story Curly. I felt the same way when I was doing my DM internship - how do they know what to say!?!? I bet before too long until one of your students is following in your footsteps. Cheers, - Megan

June 5, 2013 @ 11:54 pm

I look forward to putting all the names together with the proper faces and will definitely make MDDC my home base. As far as Dive Master and Instructor go, though, I dunno since I'll be 76 tomorrow. LOL Open Water Diver will be my birthday present.

June 5, 2013 @ 7:57 pm

Great Curls Curly!!! Maybe someday I will do my version of this blog after I graduate the IDC in September and have a year on and I will post a picture of me with my curls! Great blog! Join me in September fellow Instructors to be!

June 5, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

Curly, I had no idea until now that Instructor was your goal from the get-go! It was cool to learn something new. Plus, we've recently been meeting new-to-Maui divers who seem to be on your same trajectory, so I think your timing on this one was great!

Teri Leonard
June 5, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

Your blog made me smile many times Curly:) Maui Dreams is lucky to have you too! I especially enjoyed seeing you with long CURLY hair! For anyone interested in the Instructor Course in September, space is limited, so I recommend you get in touch with Maui Dreams right away. We will be doing it again in late January.

Michael Roberts
June 5, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

Well done article Curly. You lucked out finding Maui Dreams early on.