As a PADI Course Director, I have the opportunity to work with and develop hundreds of budding dive professionals.
I feel as though I have an obligation to set each and every one of my candidates up for success within the Dive Industry.
For me, personally, this means to push them to be the best they can possibly be. This is a large part of the reason, myself and the Pro-level team I work with, decided to start conducting the majority of our Professional training, neutrally buoyant.
It had been an idea of mine for quite some time and it was always something I had tried to encourage.
When PADI introduced a brand-new Instructor Development Program, I was very excited to see that a few of the skills on the skill circuit placed emphasis on neutral buoyancy.
I knew this was the direction I had always wanted to head in when it came to training professionals.
I had a conversation with Platinum PADI Course Matt Bolton, in order to understand what his thoughts are on the subject.
We both agreed that encouraging our dive pros to complete a large portion of their training mid water, would not only challenge them, but make them better in the long term. Here are a few reasons why:
Neutral Buoyancy & Muscle Memory
As a former Ballet teacher, I see a lot of similarities when it comes to training dancers versus scuba divers.
I know what you must be thinking, but trust me, you would be surprised how comparable they actually are.
The biggest example of this is developing proper muscle memory. Muscle memory is all about fusing a particular motor task into memory through repetition.
While preparing for a performance, I would have my dancers practice their routine over and over again.
I had them rehearse to the maximum every single time. This was to make sure they ingrained the correct movements into their bodies.
As a diver we perform every single time we are underwater. As a dive professional it is essential that you always train properly to the maximum.
This will allow you to develop correct muscle memory and be comfortable once you are task overloaded with student divers.
As an instructor it can be extremely difficult to focus on your own personal dive skills while working with students.
You become an underwater parent and all of your focus must go towards them. This means that your body needs to know what to do without you having to think about it.
You do not want to be leading a dive and struggle with your own buoyancy control while helping students master their own.
Teaching a diving course is not the appropriate time to be working on your own skills.
Take advantage of your Divemaster and Dive Instructor training as this will allow you ample time to focus on developing proper neutral buoyancy muscle memory.
Become a Neutral Buoyancy Role Model
It is so important, as a dive professional, to be a Buoyancy expert. During the PADI Instructor Development Course, we are constantly talking about having a positive attitude and being a role model for others.
To be a role model you must lead by example, this is also the same, when it comes to your own personal dive skills.
Your students will look up to you. They will try to mimic you in the water and copy your every move.
It is important that you set the bar high for yourself and as a dive professional this means excellent fundamental buoyancy skills.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not about being perfect. This is about striving to be the best you can possibly be.
Moving gracefully in the water takes time and you cannot expect to be picture perfect right away. That being said, the only way you will get better is by practicing every chance you get.
This is why we believe it is necessary to give our Pro-level candidates every opportunity we can, for them to fine-tune their Buoyancy skills.
Skill Circuit’s and Workshops give us the perfect occasion to achieve this.
For example; rather than have our Divemaster candidates practice tying knots underwater on their knees, they can perform the skills neutrally buoyant. This will turn a simple skill into a Buoyancy clinic.
Neutral Buoyancy and Underwater Environments
There are some great shallow dive sites around the world that seem as though they are designed for new scuba divers.
You have minimal water movement, great visibility and an unobstructed sandy bottom that goes on for an eternity.
A dive site like this would easily allow you to position your divers on their knees in order to complete a skill.
The thing is, you may not always have a setting like this available to you. The whole idea of becoming a PADI dive instructor is to travel around the world and share your love of diving.
In this case you need to be ready to train in any type of environment and adapt to different situations.
You may not always be able to conduct a demonstration skill on your knees and you need to be prepared to handle yourself accordingly.
If you have never practiced conducting or performing a skill neutrally buoyant, you may struggle to adjust and therefore struggle to teach your course.
Neutral Buoyancy and Continuing Education
As a dive professional, there will come a time when you start to get bored. It doesn’t matter how passionate you are when it comes to teaching, there will be a moment where you will need to spice things up.
This is usually the perfect opportunity to take a course and gain a new skill. It is always a pleasure to be the student again, especially after countless hours of training others.
The good thing is, there are plenty of options to discover. Just bear in mind, some of them may require more skill then others.
One avenue I see a lot of instructors wanting to explore is Technical Diving. Becoming a Tec diver will open up a whole new world and help to make you a much stronger diver.
The knowledge and skills you gain from your new training will also help you to grow and develop as an instructor.
The problem is, technical diving is not for everyone and it can be extremely challenging.
If you do not already possess strong fundamental skills; especially when it comes to Buoyancy, you will struggle immensely.
This should not discourage you, it just highlight’s how important it is to work on yourself.
You never know what the future has in store for you and you don’t want to close any doors.
I would say that this is the same for cave or wreck diving. Putting yourself in an overhead environment, can be as equally exhilarating and terrifying.
If you are not able to conduct yourself mid water, you would most likely be discouraged to take part in this type of training.
Again, these types of courses are not for everyone, but as mentioned before, why close any doors as a dive professional.
Another popular activity in scuba diving is underwater videography and photography. This has always been a popular choice for many of the dive professionals I have worked with.
Some want to do it as part of their diving profession, while others do it more as a hobby. You will need fantastic buoyancy control when it comes to getting a great shot.
Dealing with a camera underwater is tricky enough, let alone having to focus on basic dive skills at the same time. Train correctly now and you will be able to adapt into this new style of diving.
All in all, no matter what path you choose to explore, you want to be prepared. It is easy to feel like a buoyancy expert when you are surrounded by open water students.
However, it is important to keep on pushing and moving forward. Practice, practice, practice! It is the only way you will get better.
Neutral Buoyancy – No Turning Back
I’m sure you can agree with all of the points I have made; however, you must be curious to see how well it has worked out with our training so far.
We have been very successful and received nothing but positive feedback.
We implemented this training within our Divemaster & Instructor programs and ensured it was conducted in a fun and encouraging manner.
We found that because the majority of candidates are so afraid of making mistakes, they choose to play things safe.
As soon as we got over the stigma of “messing up,” or “looking silly,” our students flourished. They pushed themselves and in doing so improved at a much quicker rate.
So many of them agreed that it wasn’t as difficult as they thought and they never would have challenged themselves in the way that we had done.
In the end, this is exactly what we hoped to achieve. To train confident and well rounded dive professionals who are ready to step out into the underwater world.
Andrea Warren – PADI Course Director