This is a Life&Dive ProDiver interview. These interviews are given to dive professionals from all around the world to provide you with an idea of their lives, job situations and opinions about the diving industry.
The interviews do not intend to insult employers or damage the reputation of their dive centres. They merely try to provide an honest picture about the working conditions in diving destinations all around the world in order to provide young and aspiring professionals with a helpful overview.
If you like to contribute an interview yourself, please contact us under mail(at)lifendive.com
Dutch, German, English & French
Number of Dives:
All over the world
General manager for S.C.U.B.A.
You only have one life – dive it well!
Type of operation:
Instructor Training Company
All around Europe and Maldives – area to be expanded later in 2015
Develop the content of the S.C.U.B.A. AG training system and promote it in the target area
Writing, illustrating, promoting and teaching
Mode of Operation:
office work and travel
Real conservation efforts taken by S.C.U.B.A. AG:
Distribution of information via the scuba-stewardship programme and “The Diving Environment” manual
Medical care situation:
Switzerland – what more is there to say 🙂
What brought you to diving in the first place and how long are you actually already diving?
I started diving in 1974 which makes it a bit over 40 years. In those days you did not just do a diving course, but became member of a “club”. As most clubs that meant once a week pool training and diving on weekends. Initially I just joined because friends were also members of the same club, but I soon became one of the “fanatics”, taking every opportunity to go in the water. I took every available course which brought me through 1, 2, 3 and 4 start diver and then instructor. I had already taken all available courses when in 1983 PADI came to Europe. I joined the first programme that was organised in the Netherlands. Also with PADI I have taken every opportunity to continue learning both knowledge and skills relating to diving.
Diving is one thing, working in this business is completely different, especially as a mentor for future diving instructors – what is your motivation behind it, what fascinates you the most about diving?
The diving industry is a “service industry”. This makes working in diving completely different from diving itself. When you go in the water to enjoy yourself, you are in the wrong industry. You have to enjoy increasing the pleasure of other peope (which does not mean that you should not have fun yourself – it should simply not be your main objective). I guess I am well suited for that role and I still enjoy it. Serving as a mentor for future and current diving professionals is a totally different ball-game. The objective is still to increase the pleasure of other people, but in this case not the students (instructors) themselves. Mentoring a single instructor has an influence on many divers and students.
My motivation could be described like this. I love teaching diving and would like to continue in this profession until I retire (as late as possible). It used to be possible to make a very good living of diving, but in the current situation the “cake” is split over too many. This makes it harder to find adequate employment. Teaching instructors used to be an “investment” to assure a pool of staff to teach divers, but unfortunately professional courses have become a “product” themselves. This development had two consequences. Too many professionals have been trained (in addition to those who wanted to become instructor, there were those who were “convinced” to participate). The second point is what worries me most. It has become easier to qualify as an instructor. This has brought us in a downward spiral. The “value” of instructors has decreased enormously (too many available with a too low level of expertise). With S.C.U.B.A. I have the opportunity to do my part in restoring the value of diving professionals.
What fascinates me most in diving is hard to answer – I think it goes back to the point where diving is my “lifestyle”.
Since you’ve been working in this industry for such a long time already, in which way do you think has diving changed during your time?
I do not think diving has changed. Regulators are still the same as they were 30 years ago. Physics did not change, the skills we learn in courses are essentially the same and diving theory still covers the same subjects. Dive computers may have been something new, but the basic concept of avoiding decompression sickness still holds. I think it is society in general that has changed and that this is reflected in diving. What has changed is the diving environment. Everywhere you go diving you can observe devistating effects of polution, global warming, acidification and a whole range of other environmental issues. Divers have changed. Whan I started diving, only very motivated individuals stayed with it. Over the nineties, diving has become a full-grown service industry, which makes participation a lot easier. Somebody fills your cilinders for you, drives to boat and maybe even carry your equipmnet on the boat, set it up and rinse it after the dive. This has increased the number of participants enormously. It has also increased the level of service to be provided. When service came in the ninetees, it was appreciated. In the current situation, withholding part of the service is potentially dangerous. Once modern divers are in the water, they are normally fine. As activities before and after the dive often were part of the service doing training, there are many who have never learned how to fill a cylinder, find a dive spot, check current/tides/visibility, drive a boat, or other. This is fine by the way – their lack of expertise is our opportunity to make a living. But . . . it is what has changed over time. It does bring me back to my “motivation” mentioned in the previous question. Whatever divers are lacking in their expertise must me compensated. This places higher demands on diving professionals than used to be. For me it is unthinkable that a diving professional in the current situation has only timited knowledge of equipment and compressors, cannot identify species underwater (to inform what has been seen) and so on. This is why S.C.U.B.A. AG places so much emphasis on personal expertise for diving professionals (making it easy for beginners, but demanding for those who want to become professionals).
You’ve been a successful PADI Course Director for more than 3 decades, what made you leave PADI and found your own company and create your own teaching system?
That is not exact. I have been with PADI for 29 years, of which I was active in teaching instructors for 28 years (25 as a Course Director). During that time I have trained about 3’000 instructors, which made me worldwide the most active Course Director over a prolonged period of time (every now and then there have been others with high numbers, but never for more than a few years). In those years I had a very strong and highly appreciated working relationship with PADI Europe (rather than PADI in general). Would PADI Europe (with their view on diver training and their vision) have remained, I would probably still be teaching PADI courses. As most will know, this is not what happened. The team that replaced the PADI Europe crew has proven to not be compatible with me (or the other way around). This does not imply that they do things wrong. It just implies that we are not compatible. S.C.U.B.A. AG is not “my own teaching system”. I am the general manager for the opperational staff. I answer to a board of directors, who in turn answer to the shareholders. It is my job to design the educational system. Joining S.C.U.B.A. AG was a logical step. S.C.U.B.A. AG represents a vision that is at least similar, but in my opinion several steps further, than what we used to have with PADI Europe. This means that the system is 100% compatible with my views, which in turn makes me proud to work with them. It is thus not so much that I changed my mind, but more that PADI (probalby due to their current ownership) decided to change direction in a manner that I do not support. It was just fortunate that S.C.U.B.A. AG was launched in that same period, which provided me with a fantastic opportunity.
What are your hopes and desires for the future, also with respect to S.C.U.B.A.?
Staying in the diving industry until a (very) late retirement. That requires that the profession of “diving professional” is (re)established as a “valuable” position. Value cannot be found in a title alone. It is not an instructor card that makes a person a valuable asset for the diving industry. If diving instructors desire to be taken seriously and to receive adequate remuneration for their work, then their personal value is key. With S.C.U.B.A. AG I hope to develop an increasing group of diving professionals with a high level of understanding of their role and the motivation to take the nescesary steps to live up to the requirements of that role. The board of directors of S.C.U.B.A. AG give me a lot of flexibility in that respect. For example: they have provided me with the budget needed to publish books on compressor and equipment maintenance, the diving environment and other subjects for which diving professionals normally lack information sources. With S.C.U.B.A. AG I thus want to be a source of training and education for diving professionals that allows them to increase their value.
And as a last question that aims to directly benefit from your vast experience:
What would be your best advice to young aspiring dive instructors at the beginning of their career?
I think the answer to this question follows from the above. Since several decades, we can split “diving professionals” in two main groups. Those who start and then leave the industry within the first four years and those who stay in the industry for several decades (or their whole professional life). The first group should not worry to much about increasing their expertise (or it is the other way around – they leave the industry because they did not take the steps needed to advance themselves). If you would like to belong to the second group, then expand your horizon. Diving has technical, medical, scientific, environmental, historical, etc. etc. etc. aspects. Learn (both theory and practical) what you can to get an overview of what diving realy is. This allows you to share with your students and clients. This way you establish yourself as somebody people can benefit from. If people feel they benefit from your presence, they will come back to you. A second step (only after the broad overview is established) is to find out what you like most. Then become a specialist is one or more areas. Technical aspects, marketing, administration, photography or whatever is “your thing” (for me my specialty became the training of other professionals). Once you have established yourself as “somebody from who you can benefit”, you have to take the step to become the “go-to person” for something specific.