And so the IDC began. I embarked on the Instructor journey…8.5 days of listening to presentations about the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), reviewing all the PADI courses from Discover Scuba Diving to Divemaster, learning standards, standards and more standards, and learning the PADI way to teach in the classroom, in the pool and in the open water. I turned up on my first day, cheerful but feeling a little unsure of myself and unfortunately my first session back in the pool did nothing for my confidence.
Of all the skills we demonstrated for Bent, our Course Director, I struggled to complete one of the most basic, weight belt removal and replacement underwater. I was able to remove it with ease but it then took me, what felt like 5 minutes, to replace my weight belt underwater. I just couldn't slip the end of the belt back under the clasp to do it up again. Frustrated, I started talking to myself through my regulator. “What’s going on? Why can’t I do this? This is stupid!” I muttered as I peered down at my weight belt to see what was going on. I stayed calm, kept persisting, finally did it back up and signalled “OK” to Bent. We surfaced to exit the pool and Bent commented, “Nice weight belt demonstration.” I flashed a cheesy smile and said “I know! I can’t believe it. I have never had problems with that one before.” I inspected my weight belt and then noticed the end wasn’t sitting flush which caused the initial problem and quickly replaced it with another one. Nonetheless, my inner critic gave me a hard time and I went home that evening feeling a little bit bummed.
The next two days were a bit up and down. My first confined water presentation was Partial Mask Clearing. I was so nervous trying to remember everything we had been taught and wondering if I would be able to identify the errors that my “students” (fellow IDC candidates) were instructed to make. I did OK . Well actually, it was better than OK, I scored 4.6 out of 5 and a boost to my confidence. I just needed to remember to have my hand closer to their regulator for this type of skill and remind the student of how to correct their initial error. I went home to prepare for my classroom presentation and second confined water presentation feeling positive and optimistic.
Day 3 was our first classroom presentation. I was glad that we stayed in our small group of 3 students as I have never been a fan of public speaking. My presentation was “Streamline yourself”. I had a lot of fun thinking of my non-diving analogy to use as my contact story. I settled on Formula 1 race car designs. I showed a picture and had my “students” describe its appearance, including lack of “bitsies” hanging off it that would cause drag. Preparation was more fun than delivery and I scored 4.5 out of 5. I was a little disappointed as I thought I could have done much better but it was still a passing score.
Later that afternoon we had our second confined water presentation. This time, I was teaching fin pivot by oral inflation of BCD (buoyancy control device, the jacket that scuba divers wear). Again, I was nervous. The same thoughts running through my head, trying to remember what I had been taught, hoping that I would pick up the errors that my students were told to make, which I did, albeit a little too slowly today and I scored only 4.2. Still a passing score, but the high achiever in me was disappointed with my results and I went home feeling a little bummed not knowing that everything was about to change.
Day 4 of the IDC was the turning point for me. The day that I truly believed that I could do it and I could do it really well. We started the day with our first Open Water Teaching Presentations. I taught Regulator Recovery and Mask Removal & Replacement. I was nervous and my briefing showed it, my voice quivering as I spoke. We went into Relax Bay, Le Meridien’s home reef, and dropped onto the sand at about 6 metres. I was grateful that I wasn’t the first to do my presentation when I discovered that our Course Director was one of our students. But I needn’t have worried. I identified and corrected errors on both skills with ease. I jotted down my errors on my teaching slate so I wouldn’t forget them between the surface swim back to shore, dismantling my gear and giving my de-brief. I gave my debrief and then waited for the verdict from our Course Director...and waited…and waited…because I was given my score last....and…. perfect 5.0’s for both skills. I was rapt and remember thinking “Wow, I really can do this.”
Later that day I gave my second Classroom Presentation on Finding Minimum Surface Interval using the Recreational Dive Planner Table. Again, I had a lot of fun trying to think of my contact story. I used the comparison of planning an overseas holiday with connecting flights because everyone wants to minimise the amount of time spent waiting in an airport. I actually enjoyed giving this presentation, probably because I made my “students” do most of the work, showing me where to find the answers on the table. Well, I wasn’t completely lazy, I did guide them through it. Anyway, the end result was another perfect 5.0. Three perfect 5.0’s in one day. I was doing something right and these scores positively buoyed my self-belief.
Now the course was starting to become fun. I challenged myself to create interesting contact stories for my presentations and I looked forward to my Open Water teaching presentations, wondering what errors were going to be given to my students and looking forward to identifying and correcting them. My in-water rescue demonstration was good. I felt great and started looking forward to the IE….then I hit a major hurdle….knots!
I discovered I was knot-lexic, bow-line knot-lexic to be precise. I had a major inability to tie the bowline in the pool or in the open water. I found it most confusing when I had tied one end of the rope to an object with a bowline and then had to tie the other end of the rope to another object with a bowline. I went through phases of being able to tie them on land and then in the next moment not being able to tie them. This was a very big problem because for the IE, you have to be able to tie three different knots, bowline, two half hitches and a sheet-bend, not just on land but underwater. I was almost at panic point. I could do two half-hitches and sheet bend but bowline kept eluding me. I had practised and practised at home and been able to tie them with no problem. But the first time I went into the pool to tie the lift bag to the weight belt, everything just looked different. I couldn’t tell one end of the rope from the other and I struggled to tie the knots. Eventually I succeeded but not in an easily repeatable manner. My stress levels began to rise. “I am going to fail the IE because I can’t tie a stupid knot” I thought to myself.
I began to carry a rope with me everywhere and every opportunity I had, I practised tying the bowline. I talked myself through it. “Lake is in front of the tree, snake comes out of the lake, around the tree and back into the lake." Sometimes it would work and sometimes it wouldn’t. “Jeepers, I am an intelligent person, but I can’t tie a simple knot. What’s going on here?!”
Just when I though I had it conquered, I discovered, in the open water, that I still hadn’t perfected the knot. I volunteered to tie the lift bag to the weight belt first, thinking I would be able to do it easily but I still couldn’t get it right. After several attempts, I shrugged my shoulders and raised my palms to Adriano, our Staff Instructor, asking what I was doing wrong. He tied the knot in front of me but I still didn’t get it. Raising the lift bag was no problem but attaching it? Oh dear. My stress levels took a sharp rise.
I became distracted in class. Focusing more on tying knots than listening to the presentations in class. I would sit there and my rope to the rings in my binder, untie, re-tie, untie, re-tie. Just when I thought I had it sussed, I went back out in the open water for a practice session and I still struggled to tie them easily. “Why?!!!!” I exclaimed to myself, close to tears. “It really shouldn’t be so hard”. Then, after watching my friend Ina demonstrate the knot slowly, I finally figured out where I was going wrong. “Ahhhh, now I get it. You have to hold the snake’s tail, and pull the tree”. After that, I had no more problems. I tied, un-tied, re-tied the bowline, perfectly, every time with ease. Now I felt ready to go to the IE.
The IDC passed quickly. My days were timetabled and full of the things I needed to learn to pass the IE, lots of information to absorb and lots of practice. Every day started at 9am and I generally didn’t leave Le Meridien until 4pm every day but my day didn’t finish then. Although I still found time for Beer O’Clock with my friends, every night was filled with preparation and study and of course, knot tying. No sooner had it begun, the IDC was over. I had passed. It was time for the IE.