It’s storytime. Matching with the latest post about my first liveaboard experience to the Similan & Surin islands in Thailand this one is about diving as well. To be more specific it is about how one of my biggest fears became my passion. How I became a dive master.
Looking back to two years ago if you asked me whether I would like to try diving I’d answer with a: “No thank you, I don’t think I like it. I can’t even equalize and being in the ocean scares me.” Today, I am a dive master and find myself working in the diving industry. This sport turned out to be one of the most meditative and relaxing activities I’ve done – against all expectations.
A discovery dive that made me dislike diving
In March 2020 I first came to the island Koh Tao in Thailand as my friend really wanted to complete her open water certificate. At that point I didn’t have any interest in diving. Snorkeling also has never been an activity I particularly liked or needed to do, so I figured that diving wouldn’t be either. Also the island felt way too busy and starting the open water course as part of a big group without really liking it didn’t feel very good. When I went to restaurants and talked to people I felt like I was in the wrong place as I couldn’t join the diving conversations.
When my friend left I thought to give it a try and signed up for a discovery dive. That consisted of half a morning of academics and in the afternoon going on a try dive down to 12 meters. The dive instructor held me and the other person during the whole dive. Honestly? That was quite a bad first diving experience as half of my brain was making up terrible scenarios of things that could happen. Due to the academics being so short I didn’t really know how things worked which made me feel quite insecure. The discovery dive – against the idea – didn’t make me to want to continue.
Two months later another try with the Open Water
Due to the beginning of the pandemic I couldn’t continue my travels and decided to stay on Koh Tao. All the dive schools closed, weeks turned into months and I started making friends. Most of them: divers. However diving wasn’t really a thing then as no one could go out on the boat due to C-restrictions.
When the restrictions got lifted the dive schools reopened and my friends went back into the water. Something inside of me said: Linda, do the full program. Learn more about the academics and give it a try with the open water.
So on the 17th of May 2020 I decided to start my open water with Big Blue diving. It was only me and my dive buddy completing the course which was awesome as the instructors could fully adapt it to our needs (Thank you Ciara&Ste!). We learned a lot about the academics of diving and practiced the skills in the shallow ocean. That helped me a lot to get used to being in the water. I remember the first time swimming neutrally buoyant. It felt like flying.
With the open water being such a positive experience I then started with the Advanced Adventurer right after. I learned to dive at night, at wrecks, to navigate underwater and to improve my buoyancy. Instead of 18 meters I was now allowed to go down to 30 meters.
Lots of fundiving
After finishing the certifications I did many many fun dives and got more and more comfortable. The deeper dive sites were still a bit scary at that point but all in all I really enjoyed diving. After leaving Koh Tao I also did some diving in Tenerife, which was a very different experience. Cooler water, different topography and marine life.
I created a list of dive gear I really wanted to buy and knew that at some point I wanted to be more than “just” a fun diver. I wanted to learn more about diving and become a professional. It was still unclear when and where that was going to happen but I had the feeling it would happen at some point.
Becoming a dive professional: Dive Master
After 1.5 years and some lockdowns in Europe my partner and I booked our flights to Thailand and went back there in October 2021. There was a rough plan to go to Koh Tao at some point but nothing fixed. However, when we came to the island mid December it became clear that we couldn’t leave after only a few weeks. Koh Tao is home! We settled – and I decided that it was time to finally start the dive master training. There could have been no better school to become a dive professional than with Big Blue diving.
From mid December to mid March 2022 I learned a lot about the science of diving and being a dive guide. The training consisted of a fitness test, academic lessons, planning and leading dives and practicing rescue skills. During the training I could dive as much as I wanted to and got to know all the dive sites very well. I drew a map of each dive site to be able to guide around and not get lost. What seemed very confusing as a fun diver made much more sense when actually navigating. The dive site suddenly becomes so small and you just know where you are. During the training I also assisted on Open Water and Advanced Adventurer courses.
Facts about the Dive Master Training
Costs: Around 1000 Euros
What is needed: It’s best to have your own mask, fins, wetsuit, compass, torch, dive computer and surface marker buoy with reel. Having your own BCD and set of regulators makes it more comfortable but is not needed. There are plenty of options to buy these things second hand on Koh Tao through Facebook.
Timeline: The program can be done within 4-6 weeks. I took three months but didn’t got diving every day. I recommend to take more time to manifest all you’ve learned.
Where I am today
This day two years later, 17th of May 2022, I am at my 160iest dive, completed many fun dives with my own customers and refreshed those who haven’t been in the ocean for over a year. Thinking back, I am still amazed how this fear turned into a passion and is now even a profession I can see myself doing.
Diving is one of the most relaxing and meditative activities for me. Every time I’m speechless about the underwater world and how diverse the fish all are. However here’s a fun fact: I’m still not a big fan of snorkeling.
Learnings & future ideas
When I started the dive master training I couldn’t see myself as a dive instructor. It seemed more fun to lead dives and show customers around. This is still something I would love to do while traveling around the world. However, I found refresher dives with customers quite rewarding. When doing a refresher I go trough the basic skills with them and remind them of what they learned in their Open Water. We then go on a fun dive. The happy face of the customer after those two dives and helping them to feel comfortable diving again is very rewarding. Therefore I can see myself being an instructor. To help people learn diving – responsibly and respectful towards the under water world.
One thing I learned from this experience is to listen to my intuition and to just be open to try things. And this is the message I want to send to you reading this. When trying something new you might decide that it’s not your thing but it could also be the complete opposite and change your life. You might find a new passion, hobby or even a new profession. If you have the choice, go for it!
I’m not sure yet what and when my next step in my diving career is, but it will come. Until then I’m guiding happy divers around the under water world and blow bubbles!
UPDATE 08/2023: I am close to reaching my 300th dive and have realized that I don’t want to pursue the instructor path for now. Instead, I bought an underwater housing for my camera and am finding a lot of joy in this hobby. Check my underwater Instagram channel here. I also love being a dive guide!