SDI Instructor Development Course
I dream of sharing my passion for diving with new open-water divers. So, when Blue Label Diving offered the opportunity to take an SDI Instructor Development Course with Ben Reymenants, I knew I should seize it.
The jump from divemaster to instructor is significant. Both are professionals, but the responsibilities of an instructor exceed those of a divemaster and, as such, the program to become one is more rigorous. Though nervous, I enrolled confident in my abilities as a diver and enthusiastic to begin the next stage of my diving education.
The other candidate and I began with a thorough introduction to ITI (International Training Incorporated – the parent company of SDI). It added perspective to diving that is not obvious on the surface. The afternoon was spent in the pool learning how to demonstrate skills. As instructors, it is our performance that new divers will emulate when they dive on their own. Therefore, it’s critically important that an instructor has mastered the skills and is able to explain their importance. Ben took us slowly through the process. It’s not totally natural at first, but quickly gets easier for a well-prepared candidate.
Dive theory – lots of it! We mastered the presentation of dive physics and physiology. Although we began with a good understanding of the principles, having to teach them forced us to examine their fundamental importance. Instructors must not only understand these principles, but be familiar enough to answer the questions of others unambiguously.
Bring on the fitness tests! We completed a grueling 800 meter fin swim as well as a pool swim test – both timed of course! With current, our endurance was put to the test. That’s what being an instructor is about – having the skillset to act in real situations. Being fit is a key component in the big picture. Later, we spent time in the pool doing rescue scenarios. It’s exciting to progress into more competent dive instructor candidates with every passing day.
The challenge – use what we’ve learned in a simulated open water dive. Off the beach, we practiced briefing, demoing, and debriefing open water skills. When one of our BCDs failed to inflate sufficiently to maintain positive buoyancy, a realistic element of unexpected problems was added to the dive. Luckily, we overcame this obstacle by adjusting trim to trap air and it turned out to be a learning scenario – goes to show things like this really happen while diving!
Pool, pool, pool! We’ve worked hard and had plenty of opportunities to practice briefing, organizing, and imparting knowledge and skills on new divers. Today’s focus was rescue scenarios, which require notoriously complex skills and decisiveness. The scenarios were challenging and I feel more confident in my ability to handle these situations in the future.
We had a day of boat diving at Racha Yai island. The variability of taking divers into the open ocean is sobering. Many factors can go wrong fast– it’s the ocean after all! Our training took an unexpected turn when the tide suddenly changed directions and a group of open water divers used our training anchor line to ascend…dragging it thirty meters downcurrent through urchin-infested coral while we performed the underwater swim without a mask. If this had happened in an open water class, the instructor would need to take quick action to minimize risks. The most prudent decision, sometimes, is to accept that certain skills are not possible depending on conditions. Our dive pressed this lesson into our minds as instructor candidates.
The final day of the IDC. We reviewed presentations and perfected skills. At the end of the day, Ben handed us slips of paper with the topics for academic presentations, skills, and briefings we would each perform.
We were well prepared but receiving the list of the things we’d be evaluated on was nerve-wracking. I spent hours preparing the presentations I’d give the following day. The SDI Instructor Evaluation (IE) would be a trial.
Our evaluator arrived midmorning and it began. The first official evaluation came in the form of a written test followed by a series of simulated briefings. It quickly became apparent that Ben had prepared us well, but also that handling new situations would be a large part of the evaluation. There were constant twists, forcing us to make critical decisions as dive professionals.
The pool segment of the evaluation included more simulated briefings, discussions, and the skill circuit. The other candidate and I were challenged to perform the skills clearly and instruct students using only hand signals. Of course, twists were staged into the exercises to gauge our decision-making. An unprepared candidate would easily lose his cool in the face of these unexpected problems.
I passed! The evaluator revealed that his ultimate criteria was this – if he felt comfortable with us teaching his loved ones to dive, we were qualified to be instructors. It was a rare moment when your direction in life takes a new turn and you are proud to have overcome a real trial. I’m now an SDI Instructor capable of teaching open water diving students! Thanks to Blue Label Diving, Ben Reymenants and the others involved in the IDC and IE for a fantastic experience!