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Why you should ‘Go Pro’ – by Katie Woodroffe

9 Reasons to Go Pro with Master Divers

After 4 months, 90 logged dives on Koh Tao, over 80 hours underwater, countless fish swam with including two big spotty fish aka whalesharks and many lifelong friendships created, I have finally completed both levels of the professional training that I won as a prize in the Master Divers Life competition in 2018. I can only describe it as an experience of a lifetime and in all honesty, I don’t want it to end! Luckily, I still have an Instructor Internship to complete which will see me co-teaching a few courses with some of the experienced instructors at the shop to gain that extra bit of valuable experience.

dive-instructor-on-the-surface

I decided to write this blog, not only to reflect on my time here, but also act as a helpful tool for others. You may have followed my journey, from the first vlog I made back in England explaining why I dreamed of becoming a dive instructor, to reading the winning blog entry about my previous work in wildlife conservation in Thailand, and the subsequent blogs I have written and vlogs I have made whilst training here over the past few months. Maybe it is thanks to this that you are considering learning to dive or making a career change that sees you the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world and find work. Either way, I hope that this blog helps you realise why ‘Going Pro’ with Master Divers is that once in a lifetime opportunity to provide you with a lifelong career that brings passion, people, diving and nature together, all in one place.

 

1. Koh Tao – Living in Paradise

Living on Koh Tao has been a dream! A picture-perfect tropical island in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand; there are not many other places that I would have rather been completing my dive training than here. I have mentioned in earlier blogs about the sense of community this small island has and how it brings people from all over the world together to share their love for diving. From the beautiful hidden bays, to the incredible views seen from any of the island’s several viewpoints, the food, the laid-back island vibe night life, to the wonderful people that occupy it; it is a special island that has so much to offer. 

 koh-tao-sea-view

 

2. Aqualung – Diving with the Best

Master Divers is an Aqualung partnered dive school, which means that they have high quality equipment for use by all students. Diving with equipment this good really makes the difference between that enjoyable dive and an uncomfortable dive. Aqualung have over 75 years’ experience designing SCUBA gear and were really the main name that opened up the world of underwater exploration. They are one of the worlds premier dive equipment manufacturers and pride themselves on innovation and quality, so you can only be comfortable and confident when diving with Aqualung. Some dive shops try to save money by using basic gear that isn’t maintained well and often overused and abused. This isn’t the case for Master Divers, they work around the clock to ensure that students are diving with top quality, up to date serviced gear. I am one to say that once you have dived with Aqualung equipment, there is no reason to dive with anything else.

 

3. Learning from the Best

Whilst completing my PADI Divemaster and PADI IDC, I have been lucky enough to have had the help of all the instructors at Master Divers and I cannot praise them enough. There were times that I struggled with certain requirements of the course and needed a bit of extra support, guidance or time and this was what they gave me. At no point did I feel rushed into completing anything, and if I didn’t feel like I fully understood something, I was offered help from everybody, willing to take the time out of their day and help me catch up. 

 instructor-training-in-a-pool

The quality of the instructors really stands out to new students at the shop. I remember my first-time visiting Master Divers in September 2017 and it was the first thing I noticed. They came across approachable, friendly, knowledgeable and passionate – and these are things that everyone wants in a teacher and a mentor. Having these individuals by my side as they guided me through two of the most challenging PADI courses has been one of the best things about the whole experience.

 

4. All-Round Effective Learning Environment

I guess this flows nicely from the previous point. It is one thing having quality instructors, but the overall learning environment must be suitable too. Master Divers have a prime location which makes learning, and diving, easy. From the sociable yet small shop atmosphere, to the classrooms and balcony study space, to the equipment room and access to the longtail boat and two dive boats – the whole environment functions smoothly. 

There were about 6 other candidates that I did the Divemaster course with which worked great for diving together and completing course requirements together. These small groups allow for effective learning, encourage focus and team work, as opposed to some other schools where there could be 20 + candidates on one Divemaster course. Even when it came to my PADI IDC course, there was just me and one other candidate, meaning we had our PADI Course Director, Gaz, to ourselves! And of course, with small groups, it is this sort of learning environment that forms friendships!

 first-aid-training-with-dummy

 

5. A Variety of Diving

I have been lucky enough to experience most, if not all, the diving that Koh Tao has to offer over the past four months and, believe me, there are some impressive dive sites around here. Not only are the sites impressive in terms of the marine life they showcase, they are so varied which allows for almost all types of dive training to be carried out here. There are sites like Mango Bay and Japanese Gardens which are ideal for PADI Open Water Diver students who are having their first experience of using SCUBA, to the more advanced sites suitable for those deeper dives, like the HTMS Sattakut wreck and Chumphon Pinnacle. Note: You know when you are an instructor when you start looking at dive sites and assessing their suitability for the level of divers as opposed to what can be seen there!

White Rock and Green Rock are two of my favourites as there is always so much to see, from majestic turtles to colourful nudibranchs, the cute little boxfish to the menacing looking but harmless eels, the “on a mission” triggerfish to the inquisitive banner fish, the sites never disappoint. It is easy to see why Koh Tao is one of the top places to complete your dive training, whether recreational or professional. 

 three-divers-under-water

  

6. PADI

The Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) remains as one of the top dive training agencies in the world. I have always been impressed by the structure and content of the courses, right from the very start when I did my PADI Open Water Course. Now I am teaching these courses, I am only more impressed with how PADI designs and delivers the theory and practical aspects of all their courses, whether entry level or advanced, speciality or professional level; all courses are cleverly interlinked to one another and, when taught as they should be, produce competent, confident and safe divers, that are encouraged to continue their learning with PADI depending on their interests.

 

7. Professionalism

Throughout my training I have not seen anything other than utmost professionalism from all involved, and this is something that has been passed onto us as professional level divers. One of the first things I noticed was that Master Divers do not cut corners. Everything they do falls within the standards and procedures set out by the training agency, PADI and safety is a prime priority for the shop. Again, similar to the equipment, there are dive centres across the world that will attempt to cut corners in the hope that they speed things up or make that extra bit of money. Most of the times these centres get away with this, but it only takes one time for something serious to happen. 

master-divers-team-photo

Seeing how the instructor and dive operations team work here behind the scene has shown me how an effective, professional and safe PADI centre should be run. I have always felt that I have been in safe hands, guided by people that know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it.

  

8. Care for Environment

When I was choosing to do my PADI Open Water Course, I shopped around for a few dive centres that put a lot of emphasis on sustainable diving practices and conservation projects. A dive centre that engages staff and students in doing their little part to help save our planet was a must for me. Over the course of the four months I have been lucky enough to be involved in several clean ups, small and large, attended various eco talks delivered by Master Divers own Conservation Instructor, Hayley, helped initiate the first ideas and steps for a local eco project involving the islands school, taken part in water testing and Coral Watch surveys and designed a few presentations for future talks and workshops.

Thanks to Master Divers’ involvement in protecting the land and ocean, it has helped me develop into the instructor that I wanted to be. One that doesn’t just teach people how to dive but helps them find ways to use their new-found hobby to protect the ocean for future generations. 

dive-site-clean-up-results

 

9. Fun

I attribute a part of my success throughout the courses to the fun that was had. After all, no one likes learning if it is not fun! I have had some of the best moments underwater and on land with everyone at Master Divers, and its been a long time since I have laughed so much with people that five months ago were just strangers to me. 

It is amazing to think of the progress and learning that has taken place over the short time that I have been here. I arrived as a PADI Rescue Diver with 38 dives underneath my (weight) belt, with 19 logged dives in Thailand and the rest in the cold quarries of England. I will leave with so much more than just an Instructor qualification, but with the confidence that I have been trained by the best in the industry and my future students will be trained to nothing less than that level.   

new-instructors-on-koh-tao

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