So You Want To Be A Scuba Instructor? Read This Story

Paradise Cove Malibu 

Los Angeles, CA – January 30, 2015 - January morning in Malibu’s Paradise Cove, windless and sunny, I was packed into seven-millimeter thick neoprene, geared up for a beach dive. It was my first ever on the southern California coast and my first step toward becoming a dive instructor, though I’ve been certified advanced open water since I graduated high school. You’ll have to guess when that was. I’m not telling. It’s been that long and, for me, too long to wait to take my diving to a professional level.

For professional training I turned to the top PADI instructors in the western United States, Malibu Divers. They’re located just fifteen minutes from my Santa Monica apartment on the PCH, across from Duke’s Malibu; a favorite hangout. Try the “lava flow.” Becoming proficient at anything well enough to teach it requires dedication, hard work, and the right coach. On just my first outing, a Sunday fun dive, I found I at least had the third. Sunday Fun Dives have become a Malibu Divers tradition, usually take place the first weekend of every month, and come with all kinds of discounts on gear.

I was anxious about the dive. It was over a year since I dove with giant turtles off the southern coast of Kauai. Even though I was confident in my abilities, like anything, being a good diver takes practice, and I was out of it. Barbara suggested a tune-up class, but I explained to her I taught surf lessons for seven years just south of the Santa Monica pier. I’m also an ASA certified sailor and very comfortable and experienced in and around this stretch of the Pacific. She trusted I could handle myself and the trust was not misplaced. However, once in the parking lot by the sand, when it came time to strap on the gear, I got jittery. It was nothing more than butterflies in the stomach, making me a little uneasy about the responsibility I was about to take on. It didn’t take more than a sentence and a hand on the shoulder from Barbara to settle me down. There was nothing technical about the dive. It was just for fun, maxing out at about thirty feet. I needed reminding. She saw that. Way to go, coach.

Nerves steady, my buddy and I dipped into the surf, donned fins, and kicked out to what he assured me was a beautiful nearby reef. Once away from shore, we deflated our BC’s and down he went. I remained afloat. I didn’t have enough weight in my belt to drop; rookie mistake made by a veteran well on his way to teaching new divers- great first step. Way to go, me. Luckily, my buddy was attentive and professional. It wasn’t five minutes before he’d removed some of his weights. He had more than he needed. We packed them into my dive belt and resumed the mission.

It was a wonderful dive, a more-than-worthy introduction to the Southern California coast: rays, kelp forests, reef, an octopus, and a shark; all not more than ten minutes from the sand. Unfortunately, it was over before I was ready. I was gulping air like Darth Vader at an oxygen bar (remember those?). I was down to 1000 PSI while my buddy still had two-thirds of his air. I had anticipated doing this to him. I’m what black-and-white movies used to call a “heavy breather.” I knew I’d feel bad about it too, and I did.

My buddy generously offered to swim back with me, but a funny thing happened on our way to the parking lot; my tank got lighter as it emptied. I picked up three or four rocks, hoping to offset the weight loss, but despite my best effort I rose to the surface. Once there, I found I was much further from shore than I imagined; well beyond the end of the pier. The initial shock of seeing dry land that far away brought the anxiety I’d experienced before the dive roaring back. Yep, I was in the early stages of panic. The journey back seemed impossible- it’s much easier to swim under water than on its surface. I can’t fight this tide with a clunky BC, and a tank, and a seven mil neoprene suit binding me up like a Chinese finger trap, this wasn’t going to work -- and I was alone. How was I alone? My buddy must have abandoned me to swim back underwater. “Why would he do that?” I thought.

Then there he was, bobbing next to me, the second person of the day telling me to calm down. Oh yeah, that calm thing again. Am I that obvious? Reassured, we began the kick back. It took about half as long as I worried it would. You can’t tell me worrying doesn’t work. Everything I worry about never happens.

We reassembled in the lot. It was a good group that day, sixteen or so Malibu Divers regulars, all paired up. All were helpful, friendly, informative, reassuring; well trained by the folks who will train me. Again, kudos to the coaches.

We shared what we saw and found, and went over my problems.

“I’ll need more weight next time.”

No problem.

“I’ll need to breathe slower next time.”

No problem.

Anxiety relieved.

“When’s the next time?”

We sat down for brunch at the Paradise Cove Cafe, try the “Big Kahuna nachos.” One thing you’ll learn diving with Malibu, they not only have the best instructors, but the best taste in post-dive restaurants as well. We discussed the next step in my evolution toward PADI certified SCUBA instructor: rescue diver training and certification. PADI offers a whole series of courses for all experience levels, and there isn’t one that can’t be taken at Malibu Divers. In fact if there’s something you’d like to learn, and don’t see it on the calendar, don’t be shy about calling the shop to put in a special request.  

If you’re already certified, and want to give rescue diver training a shot, just keep an eye on that calendar. You can join me on my adventure with Malibu Divers. Leave your worries at home… or bring them with you. They won’t last long.

To learn more, we encourage you to setup an appointment to discuss your scuba career or sign up for SCUBA instruction by contacting us.


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