A few weekends ago I trekked up to Monterey, California to partake in the final step to becoming a Scuba Instructor through PADI. My friend and co-classmate Shane and I were driving a couple extra hundred miles because I would be out of town for the IE nearer to us the following weekend, and the next available was not until November. I’m so glad he agreed to the Monterey because it ended up being a great experience.
Here’s how it went down. We packed up Shane’s car with every Scuba related thing we owned. Books, manuals, slates, gear – new and old, odd little accessories, and a couple of tanks each. Then we threw in the odds and ends like ropes and balloons, etc…anything that might be useful during the classroom presentation. A stop at the gas station, and quick bite for lunch and we hit the road. It was a long and fairly boring drive up to San Jose where the written tests and pool sessions would take place. The I-5 runs fairly straight though California farm land, and other than some rolling hills its a wide open landscape. We got into San Jose in the evening, settled into the hotel and did some last minute review and prep for the written exams the next morning.
Bright an early we were up, grabbed a quick breakfast from the hotel (they had a waffle maker in their continental breakfast..best thing ever). We had to be at the hotel where the test was taking place by 7:00am, and we rolled in about 15 minutes before. I walked into the classroom and quickly surveyed the scene… guy, guy, guy, guy….(you get the picture). I was the only GIRL at this IE! At first it made me a little more nervous, but after about a second I went yeah, I’m that awesome. Ha. The examiner was a woman also, Gale Carli, which made me feel better, and actually she was the first ever woman to become a PADI examiner which is pretty cool. We settled in our chairs and after a brief orientation to the IE and what to expect it was test time.
There are two tests in the IE, a Standards and Practices, and a Theory exam. The S&P test is open book; you are allowed to reference your Instructor Manual and Guide to Teaching to help answer questions on ratios, and rules and administrative requirements, etc. Over all this test was straightforward and pretty easy. I sweated on a couple of questions, purely because my mind was trying to over think them, and read between the lines when I shouldn’t have. I ended up missing 2… nothing to sweat at all. The theory exams were similar to the practice tests we had taken during the IDC and our dive master exams from earlier in the year. The major difference was that there were fewer questions which meant that you could only miss 3 on each section in order to pass. Not a big deal, but I tend to make little mistakes like filling in the wrong bubble or missing a “not” or other key word in the question and marking the opposite answer from what I should. So to counter that I made sure to read each question twice and double check any work I had on the physics problems. I then double checked every bubble against the test sheet to make sure I filled in the proper one. I felt I did well, though I had marked a couple questions in each section that I was a little unsure whether I answer correctly. When Gale came over to give me my scores for the tests her first words were, “well you almost had it.” I freaked. For about the two seconds it took for her to flip over my answer sheet, my head was going, well shit, shit, shit. I’m going to have to take the tests again. Ugh! Then the answer sheet was flipped over and I saw her smile. I missed 1… total. One question missed on the physiology section and that was it. Her “almost” referred to almost a perfect score. Phew.
The pool presentations were next, so it was off to a pool a few miles away. The session was split into two groups, half at a time. Lucky for us, everyone in Shane’s and my group showed up a little early so we got to go first. My pool skill was Alternate Air Source Use – Stationary. There were four of us total, which meant two would act as students, one would be your assistant while you acted as Instructor. Each student would be given a problem by the examiner that you had to catch and correct safely. All in all it was straightforward, and after the first guy went, I saw that the grading was going to be much more lenient that the grading I had received from Ron, Brett and William during our training. I relaxed and knew it would take a major catastrophe on my end to fail this part of the test. My skill went smoothly… Shane and I demoed the skill, I caught the mistakes, one put their alternate regulator in upside down while the other was asked to perform it correctly. My only fault was that I didn’t make enough contact with my assistant during the skill so I lost 1 point, giving me a 4.8 out of 5. I figure thats cool, because it will be rare to have an assistant in real life anyways! The second part of the pool work consisted of a skills circuit, in which we were give five skills to demo back to the examiner to show we had demonstration quality abilities. That went smoothly with 5’s for both Shane and I. Happily Shane and I headed back to the hotel with lots of time to prep our classroom presentations.
The classroom is another part of the exam that I find a bit nerve wrecking. My biggest issue is finding a “non diver training aid” that I can use effectively to teach. My subject for the presentation was on barrier use, specifically Pocket Masks. I did the best I could, and things went pretty smoothly. I wasn’t too worried because I knew that she was grading easier than I had been graded during training, and I never failed a practice presentation. I walked away from the class room part of the exam with a 4.7 out of five, which was great.
Now all that was left was the rescue assessment and ocean presentation the following morning down in Monterey. We stayed at the same hotel in San Jose, in retrospect I would have looked harder for a hotel near Monterey so that we could have had a few more hours of sleep. Instead we were up at 5:00am, to load the car, check out and drive down to Monterey, about an hour and a half away. Meeting time was 7:00am again. There was a brief run down of how the day would go, we were again split into two groups but this time everyone went together, we had Steve assisting as our examiner. One aspect of the day which made everything else 100% easier was the ocean conditions. I had been warned about Monterey… big waves, bad viz and cold water were the norm. We arrived to the Breakwater to cloudy skies, and an ocean as flat as glass. There wasn’t even a wave breaking! The water was the same temperatures we’d had all summer long as LA had been unusually cold this year and the visibility was no different from what I usually experienced in the ocean, especially once you start moving around with students in the sand and it gets silted out. All in all a good thing!
First up was the rescue assessment. For this we shed any unnecessary accessories like the surface marker buoy, slates (and I left my gloves so that I would better be able to unclasp buckles, etc). Honestly, this was probably my best “rescue” ever. I felt calm and went through each step, calling it out, and completing it well. From there we gathered up the remainder of our gear and headed out in the ocean.
The ocean portion of the exam involves a combined skill presentation, like you would do in reality. You brief the students on the two skills, reminding them how they are performed underwater, any cautions for the ocean vs. what they experienced in the pool. Underwater there is no demonstration, you just have the students perform the skill, then after there is the debriefing. For the exam I had Mask Removal, Replace and Clear followed by Rescue Assessment #4, which is Out of Air, distressed diver. Both skills went smoothly, I caught the problems… trying to clear a mask by exhaling out of the mouth, and the same problem with the out of air situation as yesterday, reg in upside down. I felt good, had a solid debriefing, and scored a 5! This was the key score because both Shane and I had been promised a new regulator (the ScubaPro A700 w/ MK25 first stage…sweet!) if we aced the ocean portion of the exam and overall did well. With that in the bag, and a successful IE under our belts we finished the exam with closing remarks, and the passing out of a certificate of completion! No one in our group failed which was great to see, and everyone was happy as we broke apart to go our separate ways.
For Shane and I we hung around in our gear to do a fun dive, then walked into town a bit, wandering through backscatter (an underwater photography store…where I drooled over cameras I can’t afford, and learned about a camera I have decided will be my next upgrade). Then we had lunch before reorganizing the car and hitting the road bound for Los Angeles.
We were now Scuba Instructors, and it felt so amazing that I have come this far with diving. Since the test, I have started to work with Eco Dive Center and I completed my first Open Water Dive class this past weekend. I had three students successfully get through every step, and are now certified divers. It really feels great to see them finish the course, then get to go off and do a fun dive on their own, coming back and talking about how much they saw and how fun it was, and just overall excited about diving.
So a big thanks to Ron and Beth and Eco who helped me get through everything this year, a major thanks to my parents for letting me get scuba certified back on a family trip in Hawaii, and thanks to Ron, Brett and William who trained both Shane and I so well that we cruised through our IE with high scores and little stress!