"Davide, I need you to take care of this family tomorrow. I want a good instructor for them!"
That's how I got involved in a beautiful day with an amazing family from Vancouver, Canada.
It is usually a job of Divemasters, the refresher course. And I've run quite a few of them in the last year. "Hopefully my recent upgrade to Instructor gave me a bit more knowledge and skills that I can successfully apply to such a delicate course, especially when the students didn't dive for more than 10 years", I thought. Was I right? Well, only one way to find out!
Our body is an amazing machine, and once an activity is learnt, your muscle's memory rarely fails. It may get rusty over time, but be patient enough and everything will come back.
Different business is our brain, which if not continuously stimulated tends to remove information not considered useful in the daily life.
And after ten years of zero practice, pretty much everything one learns during an Open Water course is far gone.
Someone once told me: "I don't remember anything about scuba diving. I just remember that I shall never hold my breath and always ascend slowly". Which, to be fair, is pretty much everything you need to remember!
Luckily, my Canadian (really from South Africa) trio of students, accompanied by kids between 8 and 10 years old, well remembered this very simple mantra.
Nonetheless, having slightly more than one hour to remember or re-learn the basics of diving theory it's hard work, and sometimes I'm afraid the stream of words exiting my mouth is a bit too much for whoever is listening! But I managed not to annihilate them with my Italian accent.
After an intense academic session among ascent rates, dive tables, diving maladies and equalization techniques, what I nicknamed "Team Canada" was still smiling and eagerly asking questions. I'm curious by nature and I'd never refuse an answer to someone's curiosity driven question….so we ended up talking about diving for the whole morning, until a fantastic buffet of local food appeared on the table and I gladly accepted the offering of samosa and fried chicken wing.
What a wonderful family…kids running and laughing on the beach, a careful wife overlooking them and three passionate divers hungry for long forgotten scuba knowledge. And they even offer me food!
Sometimes people's hospitality and genuinely takes me by surprise, and Team Canada decidedly won me over from the very beginning!
An afternoon divided in two diving sessions was about to come: open water skills on dive one and a fun second dive to follow. The lovely Mango Bay, north of Koh Tao, provided perfect conditions for my divers to get comfortable again with regulators and buoyancy. A small big achievement put everyone in the perfect mood when one of the students finally managed to overcome the fear of a fully flooded mask, a heavy burden for a keen diver, unfortunately not entirely addressed or fixed during the original training. And, as I said, once under water their bodies amazingly re-adapted to scuba diving and little I had to do to correct them…..easy!
Again, kids snorkeling and taking pictures of their parents fully loaded with tanks and buoyancy compensators, parents hugging and caressing their ducklings at the surface after a successful dive at Japanese Garden…a perfect portrait of happiness in our little Thai paradise!
As always, kids sometimes ask the most amazing questions, and while briefing the team on the upcoming dive, the whole family gathered around me as I started showing pictures and describing behaviors of marine life: "If I want to take a picture of a Moray Eel, will it stay still for the shot or move?"
Back to the shop, the sunset in front of us, we are ready to log the dives with tired but happy and satisfied smiles on everyone's faces, when the eight year old son of M. comes towards me, looks at me solemnly, sticks his hand forth and states: "thank you for instructing my parents!".
Can you see why I love my job???
SSI Specialty Instructor