I was never certain that I wanted to take on a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor role #owsi and spent a good couple of years or so acting as a PADI Divemaster, DSD Leader, It was during this time teaching numerous try dives that I realised I really enjoyed teaching SCUBA but was still in two minds about progressing it further so decided to take the PADI Assistant Instructor course to gain a better understanding of what was required of me. It was through completing this course and being able to complete my PADI Instructor Development Course #IDC with Bespoke's own Course Director that really made my mind up to go for the IDC, it just felt like a natural progression and I always knew that I was in the capable hands of Paul French (CD) and Cerys Sprent (Staff Instructor candidate at the time).
My IDC initially got off to a good start over the 2022/2023 winter and I was beginning to build on what I had previously learnt on the AI course the previous year, which was when the wheels fell off with physical and then domestic issues! My life become rather hectic all of a sudden and despite persevering with it was clear by the time I reached the OW presentations in early April I wasn’t ready for the IE in the summer, despite the huge amount of support and encouragement that I received from Bespoke Scuba Diving and the team. I was standing at Leybourne lakes in pouring rain having been told by Paul that I wasnt ready yet, and at the time feeling truly gutted and sorry for myself but knew it was the right decision to take.
Roll onto to September 2023, and after a decent summer of diving in The Maldives, Egypt and the #UK, I was fortunate enough to be given another crack at the whip and was this time joined by Zac and Dave on the IDC, which made a huge difference to me as we were able to support and guide each other along the way in addition to having a fair amount of good laughs to boot.
Despite being more determined and more focused than ever and being able to re-enforce what I had learnt on my first attempt, the IDC still presented me with numerous challenges. In particular the dreaded Knowledge Development presentations that I had always struggled with dating back to the AI. I think Paul at times was at his wits end, but we stuck with it, and , as always, he had a potential solution and guided me to write my own presentation template to cover all of the salient points that these presentations require and it enabled me to write them within 20 minutes – this was a massive improvement from the previous 2 to 3 hours for each one that it was taking me previously! The template went through various iterations with Paul’s guidance and is actually in use by other candidates today. This enabled me to score the dreamt of 5.0!
More skills, more KD presentations, more dive theory and more skill circuits; The PADI Instructor manual and Guide to Teaching were my Bibles; I could finally see light at the end of the IE tunnel (although I must admit I wasn’t to sure if it was a freight train coming right at me…)
The IE Weekend – 2nd and 3rd December 2023
Having travelled up to Leicester the night before (which actually felt like driving a mobile dive centre what with the amount of kit I had managed to pack in the car), I was up sharp at 05:45 to be at the examination centre for 07:00.
On arrival my stomach was feeling like the rope we were using for knot practice the previous night and my legs were feeling like jelly, I can’t ever remember feeling so nervous having finally reached the summit of my long endeavors to become a PADI OWSI. I was literally asking myself ‘what the heck am I doing here!’
The #PADI examiners kicked off with some introductions, orientations and the explained the format of the weekend. They were all true professionals of their trade and must have picked up on my nervous vibe as they were telling us all to focus on each aspect step by step and to relax.
Having calmed down a tad I then received my exam crib sheet indicating what I would be doing over the weekend and initially my heart sank on seeing an AWARE KD presentation (My nemesis) on day #1 along with OW compass skill on day #2 as part of the list of requirements. This was something like Kryptonite to Superman.
One step at a time I thought, you’ve got this Brambles!
‘Focus…. Think like an instructor…..’ Paul had always said, it was like Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi in my brain telling Luke Skywalker to ‘use the force…’, quite surreal to say the least.
The #IE kicked off with dive theory exams, some 60 questions on (Physics, Physiology, Skills and Environment, RDP/eRDP and Equipment) followed by a further 50 questions on PADI Standards. I somehow managed to sail through this, I don’t know how but I did. I truly thought I messed at least one of them up. On hearing the examiner say ‘well done, you’ve passed the theory’ and shook my hand my confidence was boosted a little bit.
What’s next, an AWARE KD presentation concerning a question about the sustainable fishing industry and making the right seafood choices – OH MY GOD!!! I had to dig deep, what analogy am I going to use, where is this in the manual, what is the actual answer? My brain went completely blank at first until I dug out my trusty template Paul had helped me with. Armed with this I looked up the PADI AWARE instructor manual and prepared the presentation in 15 minutes flat, a quick read through and a few iterations it was complete. Sustainable fishing was not that dissimilar to how a power plant works – who knew?
The KD presentation went well, I wouldn’t say I smashed it out of the park but I know I easily scored over the 3.4 from 5 passing mark no thanks to my now much loved template.
A 15 minute lunch whilst writing up for my CW presentation slate and I was ready for the pool that kicked off with 5 from 24 skills – Alternate Air Source Sharing, CESA, Fin-Pivot, Mask removal & Clearing and Regulator Recovery – it was plain sailing thanks to the numerous hours at the Bespoke pool fine tuning these skills. The CW presentation, Mask Clearing, went better than expected scoring a 5 from 5 for the first time ever; again thanks to the #Bespokescubadiving IDC preparation that I had received. I had somehow made it through Day #1.
Day #2 started off with another early start making it to Stoney at 07:30, -2°C, a layer of snow everywhere. 2 x skills OW presentations for Fin Pivots and Compass use followed by Rescue exercise 7 – Unresponsive Diver at the surface, coupled with acting as student and DM for the other candidates – what could possibly go wrong! My guy was a Sheet Bend once again as I stood there in the dark freezing cold car park rehearsing for my gig with Natalie – I was thankful for her help as re-enforced everything I had learnt from the IDC.
Perhaps the coldest I had ever been in my whole life, it was bitter, the whole day was a bit of a blur and the IDC preparation training just kicked in automatically, I wasn’t even thinking about failing or passing, I was simply just ‘doing’ what I had learnt listening to Obi-Wan in my head again. It was quite bizarre.
Next thing I knew I was in the Neptune’s pub at Stoney warming up by an open fire waiting to deliver my OW debriefing, the final part of what was an immense weekend. I will never forget listening to the examiner telling me ‘Welcome to PADI, you have clearly listened to your course director Paul and knew what to do every step of the way and have demonstrated that all weekend, you have nailed the IE, congratulations’…. For once in my life I was actually speechless… I had finally made it – the best feeling ever, what a year 2023 had been.
A big big big thank you to Paul, Cerys, Jan and Natalie for getting me through this part of my life and the rest of the team at Bespoke Scuba Diving, least not forgetting my IDC buddies Zac and Dave, I’m so glad to have shared my journey with you all.