The Big Decision

The Big Decision….

I have been working in the diving industry since 2010, having become a PADI instructor in the Dominican Republic. I began my diving career like many others, super enthusiastic about teaching and diving. And of course, I was a complete fish geek.

I spent several years working in and around the Caribbean teaching and guiding recreational divers, of all levels, in “factory style” dive centres. Over time I found myself becoming more and more disheartened by the type of training that was on offer. Having to train people in a potentially dangerous activity, with the emphasis on meeting performance requirements, certifying and moving onto the next one. No mastery of skills, just do it, get it done, get your license, out the door. Whilst this style of teaching has allowed more and more people to access diving it is not doing anyone any favours. The student, the instructor and the dive industry.

No one benefits from this style of teaching. I saw people being set up to fail before they even began. I witnessed many of my colleges give what I would consider bad courses. Commission driven bonus’ ensured those under financial pressure would do whatever they could to teach as many people as possible.

I wanted out of the recreational diving industry. I had quite a well-paying job at the time and decided that I would save up my money and take my closed bell training at Fort William in Scotland to become a commercial diver and work in the North Sea. I knew that having spent the last 6 years working as a dive instructor I couldn’t go back to a normal job. I saved as much money as I could every month until I reached my goal. I now had the finances I needed to get trained as a commercial diver and leave the industry that I was becoming more and more disheartened with as each day went by.

Just when I was ready to book my course and go down the commercial diving route the oil industry collapsed. I spoke with my friend who had worked in the North Sea as a saturation diver and he explained to me that with all his experience and working history he is struggling to find work right now. He advised me to put the course on hold until things started picking up again. At the time, I thought this was “just my luck” but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Working as a dive instructor my whole adult life, having a lot of money was not something I was used to. This cash was burning a hole in my pocket and against my better judgement, I decided I could spend this cash and work another couple of years to save up for the course again. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

I wanted to do something for myself. I had spent the last years of my life catering for other divers, now I wanted to be catered for. I decided that I would put my cave diving license to good use and take a trip to Mexico. I specifically targeted several people in the Yucatan. These were people who I had been reading about in books, watching documentaries on them and now I had the chance to dive and get trained by them. I was stoked.

One of those people I contacted was part owner and training director of ProTec, Patrick Widmann. Patrick was very honest and upfront about what could and could not be done during my stay. He was super responsive to my emails and very personable which I liked. Like many of those reading this article, I sent my deposit to ProTec via PayPal and it was set in stone. I was ready to get back my passion for diving.

I spent my first couple of days doing a cave refresher with Jaime which was a huge wake-up call. I came in thinking I was good in the water. Then you look across and see Jaime holding position on the line, not moving a muscle. Anyone who dives with Jaime will know he’s a complete ninja. I wanted some of that. So I changed my plans for the month and ended up taking my full cave course all over again with Rob Bartlett.

 

After the first week diving with ProTec, I realised that my impressions of the dive industry as a whole were impacted by my personal experience and discontent at previous jobs. There was still excellent diver training out there, I just had not been exposed to it yet. As each day went by me I was regaining my passion for diving.

I spent 31 days in Mexico, 30 of those days I spent diving with ProTec. At the end of my stay, I spoke with the guys about maybe moving over to Mexico to work as a recreational instructor and go cave diving in my free time. One year down the line the time had come. I rocked up to ProTec to meet Rob and go diving. Not as a tourist but a resident. To have these amazing caves on my doorstep is such a privilege. The first couple of weeks I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t a dream. Rob took me under his wing and took me diving whenever he could, giving me the inside scoop and tips on living in Playa Del Carmen.

After 1 month in Mexico, I was ready for a new challenge. I wasn’t enjoying my job here as it was again in a factory style dive shop with pressure on instructors to sell and teach as much as possible. I spoke to my friends at ProTec about this and was told I should speak to Patrick and Kim Davidson about doing an internship. I couldn’t believe my luck. I emailed Kim and Patrick and within a week I had a face to face meeting with Kim. It went really well and he was happy to give it the go-ahead but needed to confirm with Patrick.

About a week after I had my meeting with Patrick. I told him about what I was aiming for in my diving career, my strengths, weakness’ and what I could bring to the table. He told me he needed to speak with Rob and will get back to me. I found out I got the job when Patrick added me in the work WhatsApp group. “Elzar is in” were his words.

Since that day I have been continuously trying to improve myself not only as an instructor but as a diver too. Being part of the ProTec family is immense. And being surrounded by all these passionate, experienced divers makes the learning process so much better. I get to dive some of the best caves in the world on a daily basis, and I’m surrounded by great people. Not a bad life ay.

I’ve now found myself in a position where I can teach the courses I’ve always wanted to be taught and can understand the importance of proper training. Getting to see the difference in the divers we create compared to what had seen in my previous job’s makes all the difference.

There was lots of doubt in my mind about moving to Mexico, leaving a lifestyle I was familiar and comfortable with. But this has turned into one of the best decisions of my life.

Remember life starts just outside of your comfort zone.

1 comment

1 James Tully { 11.09.18 at 1:13 pm }

Awesome read mate. Fair play to you! Our IDC in 2010 seems a long time ago now. All the best mate 👍

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