Passion or party?

Posted by in Challenge, Diving, Life

Let me state as a first thing here, that there are exceptions to the proverbial “rules” mentioned here. There ARE also “good guys”. And the “rules” I’m talking about aren’t really rules, but my personal, subjective observations.

The scuba diving community is one with many faces, many stereotypes, and many generalizations.
I’d like to pick out one, one which I’ve been pondering about ever since I got into scuba diving, which has only been a brief period, really.

The partying kind
For the young it seems to have the reputation of staying in paradise, while partying every night, getting drunk in the process, and getting laid as often as possible.
Kids get their instructor badge when they’re 18, and travel around the tropics on a budget, using their certification to be able to stay in places for free and using the bit of commission they get on their courses to pay for food and booze, while they party their twenties away.
And they call it a Life Style.

In any other situation I would completely understand. Your teens and twenties are about enjoying Life, learning stuff. The only problem I have with this, is that diving instructors are responsible for other people’s lives.
Imagine you’re taking a scuba diving course from a young dude(tte). You’re placing your Life in the hands of a person who typically has no clue about Life him/herself. You’re placing your Life in the hands of a person who’s been partying until 3-4am in the morning, enjoying a good amount of alcoholic beverages, and a joint or five. You’re placing your Life in the hands of someone who is supposed to be able to react quickly and accurately in circumstances where you have absolutely no clue how to react, and in which following your natural instincts is usually the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to do.

So is there such a thing as “doing it for the right reasons”?
What is right and wrong in this case?
These days when you get a new job, a good number of the employers let you go through a psych evaluation. That’s to see how you think, what the reasons are behind your actions.
That wouldn’t be a bad thing for diving instructors as well.
WHY do you want to become a dive instructor?
Is it because you get access to “the scene”? You get to hook up with the opposite sex. You get to live a beautiful life on white beaches and azure waters.
Is it because you have a passion for marine life? You want to help with conserving what little we have left on this beautiful planet, before everything is destroyed?

Sharing the beauty and pure joy
I know what it was for me. I did my first dive a few months before I turned 39. I’ve always been a water person. Love to swim, but for some reason I never dived. When I finally did, it was love at first sight. Being a photographer, and looking at this completely new world as an artist, I was sold. I loved the colors, the patterns, the textures, the weird creatures… I love everything about it. And I love the feeling of being underwater. I love the feeling of seeing this beauty.
I knew then, when I did that first dive, that this was something I wanted to do. This feeling I had, this feeling of complete wonder, this feeling of being surrounded by beauty everywhere, was something I wanted to pass on to other people.
I became instructor a little over a year later, and since that time I’ve seen awe on many of my students’ faces.

It is one of the most fantastic feelings to be able to make dreams come true. One student wanted to become a diver already since she was a child, and was hoping nothing more than to see a sea turtle up close.
During our first Open Water dive a turtle swam so close by us that we could’ve touched it. I will never forget the look on her face. It was one of wonder, pure joy, excitement, and one of a children’s dream come true.

Getting someone who is scared of being underwater to do the skills and feel comfortable underwater and seeing that same wonder, joy and excitement on their face while they go for their first proper dive…

THAT is why I became an instructor.

Should there be an age limit to this profession?
In general I would opt for a higher minimum age (with PADI it’s currently 18) before people can become a scuba diving instructor. Of course there are still people in their 40s and 50s who’ve never shaken off the partying tweens, but that again falls under those exceptions I mentioned before. People who are partying, and maybe even running away from “real” life, people who don’t seem to have a sense of responsibility… they have no business being responsible for other people’s lives.
There’s too much at stake.
Let them first lose their wild feathers, and learn what Life is all about. Then they can take other people’s lives into their hands.