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Published on 19th May 2019

The Realities of Being a (Good) Diving Instructor 2

Where there's people, there's diving.

And obviously, where there's diving, there must be water. It's come to my attention over the years, however, that divers are not picky about the colour, shape, size, or indeed quality of the water they dive in. It just has to be wet, and a little bit deep. You don't even need to be able to see very much in it. Where there's water, whether it be lake, loch, ocean, or oil tanker, people will find a way to dive in it.

I learned this the hard way at my first ever job as a SCUBA instructor, which was on an island in an area of the world (SE Asia) usually renowned for great diving (thank you Marketing Gods.) Actually, the diving around this island was great - you just couldn't see it. On at least 9 out of ten dives, if you stretched your arm out in front of you, you wouldn't be able to see your fingertips. Even on the beach, if you waded into waist-deep water and looked down, you couldn't see your own knees.

There were also plenty of other things wrong with working in this particular location, but they make for another (great) story. It's also a far cry from where I am now, on an island in the Mediterranean with crystal waters, no tides, and world-class wreck dives. Working here is a completely different ball game, which will - eventually - bring me to explain my bad tan lines and patchy sunburn.

All of this is to say that diving logistics and operations differ startlingly from location to location all over the world. Many of the dive shops I trained and worked at throughout Asia employed locals for day-to-day things like driving, customer pick-ups and drop-offs, loading boats, and offloading gear. Dive centre managers handled bookings, payments, communications. Hordes of internship trainees (or slaves) were there to fetch, carry, drop things, and get in the way. 

It's very different here. Here, we do all of the above, and more. We fill tanks and maintain equipment, fix things (well I watch while things are fixed), keep track of who's paid and who hasn't, and drive in circles around fancy golf resorts trying to find our customers. It is exhausting, but the fuck-yes-I-did-it feeling at the end of the day - everything packed up, happy customers dropped off, nothing lost and no one late - is immense and is mostly what kept me going through the first couple of months of some fairly extreme anxiety and stress. 

And it did take about 8 weeks (say 10) for that anxiety to abate, for my heart to stop pounding and my head to stop racing at the words, "So tomorrow, Liz, you're picking these guys up here and taking them to..." a lot of this stress was, I think, mostly as a result of my own anxieties and inability to control what I like to think of as the What-If Asshole, that little voice in your head responsible for thinking up all the possible ways tomorrow could go disastrously wrong. Hey, Liz. What if you get lost? What if you forget something? What if you're late? What if they notice what a terrible driver you are? What if they don't like you? What if you get a bad review? Oh, and what if you kill them? And so on, and so on.

And then, do you know what? One day I shouted back at the What-If Asshole, the same way you'd shout at a partner or a friend or a boss who's just going on and on at you and you're too tired and fed up (or hangry) to take it anymore. I actually snapped at myself and momentarily, the What-If Asshole shut up. Hey, asshole - what if everything goes GREAT tomorrow?? How about that?

It doesn't always work, and the voice is still there, especially on days that I have to do something I haven't done before  - a new route on a hefty wreck dive - or drive somewhere I haven't been before - the other side of the island for a boat dive on a site I've never seen - but now I've found the What Ifs much quieter and less obnoxious. What I find particularly helpful is to think of all the things I've done that the What-If Asshole told me I couldn't do - so there! - and then apply the logic that if I - and my customers - survived that, we'll surely survive this. (And they have).

The realisation that I was just too fucking tired to take it anymore was a revelation too. This job is tiring, physically and mentally demanding, and  - for me, at least - often emotionally taxingI suddenly realised on a long drive how much more tiring I was making it for myself, and also that it would be a very long drive indeed if these What-Ifs and anxieties were to continue. Think of what your mind can unravel if you let it, alone in a car for an hour and a half! It was at that point that I think I did the spiritual equivalent of saying "I'm not in the mood for this" and getting up and walking out. 

So now I actually get to have fun with my customers, get to know them, and enjoy my dives with them, and that's what I remember whenever I hear a little "what if..." start to form somewhere behind my left ear. And I think of all the things I've done and done well, and all my good TripAdvisor reviews, and remember that if I've done all of that, then I can do this.