Women’s Dive Day: Go Pro, Girls!

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Today is PADI Women’s Dive Day, and in this guest blog article, Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler shares exactly why she wants to encourage more women to take the next step and become PADI Pros…


I have been a diver since 1992 and I can say, without a doubt, that scuba diving has been the driving force behind my own personal development. I became a professional diver on Halloween 2005, joining the largest diving family that is PADI, and it changed my life forever. How have I felt throughout my journey? How did I feel entering a sport that I had considered a “manly” activity? Why am I passionate about encouraging more females to take the plunge and Go Pro?

Cultural

Equality. It is a beautiful word. It opens so many doors and scuba diving is definitely one of them. Women are being encouraged to lust after everything, women are encouraged to try anything that takes their fancy. Scuba diving is no exception. What was before considered extreme has become safer. What was before considered unusual has become an experience not to be missed. Equality has given women the confidence to think “I can do everything” and we can. Cultural differences may have meant that men were considered to possess greater physical strength, finding it easier to lift heavy scuba equipment, but that perception is a thing of the past.

Alexandra DimitriouExperience

When I became a scuba diver I was seen as a “tom-boy” – a little unusual, and it makes me extremely happy to say that this is no longer the case. When I was a child my father had over 10 friends who he would dive with – only one was a woman. She was seen as a dare-devil and I wanted to be just like her. I was the only girl on my dive courses from my PADI Open Water Diver course to Rescue Diver.

When I signed up for the Divemaster course, however, things had already started to change. The dive center where I received my training had more female instructors then male and my course had a balanced split of students from all genders and backgrounds. I felt more at home, and less of an anomaly. It became more and more evident that diving could be an interest for anyone, that is was a uniting force that allowed global discovery across the board.

Equipment

Diving equipment now exists that has been developed with females in mind. Female specific BCD’s can now shift the load of our equipment from the upper back onto the hips – making it more comfortable. Wetsuits are now tailored to fit the female form, they fit better and are definitely more flattering! All equipment comes in a huge variety of colours and girls can now express themselves underwater. Diving equipment has become more female friendly.

Becoming a PRO

So why should more women think about taking the next step? Why should more women “Go Pro”?

Because we can do anything we want to do.

We can teach and spread our passion to the next generation. If I can do it, so can you. When a guy signs up for his PADI Open Water Diver course, encourage his girlfriend, sister or mother to sign up too! Any doubts that she may have can be immediately dispelled when she sees that you can do it – and that you have made it your career. She can become “one of the gang” and it will be life changing.

In my experience dive centers like to keep ratios even. They like to have both female and male instructors, as it allows them to cater to more of the market. This can improve your chances of getting that dream job in an exotic land.

So, over the years I’ve seen a shift in the diving world. A shift in perception, a shift in involvement and a shift in the pursuit of adventure. We can do everything, and anything that we set our minds to… so tie up that hair and jump in girls!


Alexandra Dimitriou selfieAlexandra Dimitriou-Engeler is a dive center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner at Scuba Monkey Ltd.

Skills Deconstructed: The “How-To” on Happy Hovering

Alexandra DimitriouAlexandra Dimitriou-Engeler is a PADI Dive Center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner of Scuba Monkey Ltd and is writing a series of guest blogs for PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa. Her next article shares advice on teaching the tricky skill of hovering to new students…


Good buoyancy control is one of the most important skills that a diver must master for two reasons: It keeps the diver in control throughout their dive and protects the marine environment at the same time.

Many students find hovering a tough skill to master. I know I did when I was an open water student, and that was over 20 years ago. I can still remember the frustration of not getting it right the first time. I can also remember the calm reassuring voice of my instructor.

So let’s see why students struggle sometimes.

Being overweighted: Take a lot of time with your guests when you first enter the water on day one. If a diver is overweighted, hovering is a nightmare. Take the extra time at the beginning and you will save time later.

Not thinking about how they are breathing: Try to emphasize that buoyancy should become a habit, and they should not just treat it as an isolated skill. Get them thinking about their breathing. Nothing more than that. Just make them aware from day one.

Getting Frustrated: Emphasize that hovering will take a little time, and because it is a skill that is controlled largely by the lungs, any changes to their rhythm of breathing will affect their success. If they get frustrated, their breathing will change, which will make it harder to control their buoyancy…. then they will get even more frustrated and the issue compounds itself.

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The Perfect Buddha Pose

So, what techniques can help you help your student?

#1 – Briefing

I like to tell my students the steps that I will go through before going into a hover. I ask them to kneel, stand or lie on the bottom, but I also emphasize the notion that, soon, contact with the floor will be eliminated altogether. I ask them to visualize their lungs once they get into the position that they would like to stay in for 30 seconds.

“Hovering requires control and it requires calmness” – This is my opening line when I start briefing them about this skill.

I keep this briefing for hovering only. I reassure them that they will be able to do it because they have already done multiple fin pivots and that hovering is almost the same – except this time ALL of their body will be off the bottom. I warn them that this is tricky because it is mostly about feeling the differences in their buoyancy as they inhale and exhale.

“As soon as you feel your body start to rise…. Exhale.

“As soon as you feel your body start to get deeper then inhale”

I repeat this several times. I show them how to signal this thought process underwater.

I find that keeping my voice to an almost yoga whisper keeps their nerves at bay. I keep repeating that they should stay calm, to have fun with this lesson and within a very short while they will never touch the bottom again if they don’t want to. I tell them that this is where the magic happens.

#2 Underwater

I find that this briefing is the key to success underwater. Students are prepared for the possibility that hovering will take time and therefore they give themselves the mental space to get their head around the physics of it.

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Success for Michelle Finlay, hovering like a Pro!

I demonstrate the exaggerated breathing hand gestures that we instructors have used since our IDC. I get my legs into position and inflate my BC in tiny bursts to get to that bouncy feeling, signifying that I am neutrally buoyant. I show them that I am inhaling, that I start to rise because of it and that I exhale just as I get to the mid-water position. I show them the signal for thinking. Thinking about how full my lungs are as I control my position in the water.

In my experience students get to the mid-water point quite easily, but they cannot help but try to balance themselves with their hands and fins. Let them do it for a few seconds before gently silencing the movement. You are looking for a calm face. Let them feel the movement of a slightly-too-deep inhalation – how they ascend a little too far as a result. Let them feel it – don’t correct them too early but also be ready to stop them if they go up too fast. It’s a fine line between trial and error. Keep them safe above all but give them some learning room.

It won’t be long before they’re hovering like a pro – and they will remember your methods long after they have completed their first logbook entry all the way to the day when they might be teaching their very own students to hover!


Don’t forget, once your students have completed their PADI Open Water Diver course, they can sign up to complete a PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy specialty course to further improve their diving skills. For more information on becoming a PADI Peak Performance Specialty Instructor, click here or contact the PADI Training department.

How to Become Part of the Diving Dream Team (And Other Useful Tips)

Alexandra DimitriouAlexandra Dimitriou-Engeler is a PADI Dive Center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner of Scuba Monkey Ltd and is writing a series of guest blogs for PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa. Her latest article focuses on what dive center owners look for when hiring scuba staff…


Scuba diving Instructors and Divemasters are considered to have the “Dream Job”. This year marks my 10th anniversary as a diving instructor. I have worked for countless dive operations before becoming a dive center owner, so I know both sides of how the staffing cookie crumbles….so let me share a few insider tips and tricks to a successful application.

So…..you are now a PADI Professional – but how do you get the job?

How many people were on your IDC? How many successful instructors did your examiner see this year? How many in the last 5 years? Ask the same question about becoming a PADI Divemaster. Just how many PADI professionals are there in the world anyhow?

I think you will find that the answer is “a lot” – close to 150,000 professionals in fact, and they are all competing for that “dream job”. What makes you so special? What makes you stand out above the rest? What are dive center owners looking for?

Dive Center Needs

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Diving is ever-evolving, as it now competes with countless other “extreme” sports in the leisure tourism market. Diving has responded by diversifying its menu, offering new practices like sidemount, technical and countless other distinctive specialties. Dive centers also compete with each other in each region in the hope that they too will stand out above the rest. Targeting niche markets is a great way to increase turnover, diversifying again and again as the market changes from year to year.

“Staff are the most vital element of any dive operation.”

Without staff we are dead in the water. Without you we cannot function. It is very well to stock your shelves with the best gear, state-of-the-art tech and offer every specialty under the sun – but if you do not have the support of the right staff then you are going to have problems.

When I look for dive center staff I look for six things:

#1 Training

When did you become an instructor/divemaster? What can you teach?

#2 Experience

This is a tricky one. Which is the better choice – the seasoned instructor or the newly qualified OWSI? Both have their benefits. Both have their drawbacks.

On one hand, a seasoned instructor who can teach 10 specialties is an awesome asset for the dive center, but how set in their ways are they? Can they teach each program and course with equal enthusiasm? Can they gel themselves into the team to become part of a well-oiled machine when the season kicks into full swing? In my experience the main advantage of hiring an instructor with experience is that they know how to get the methods of each PADI component in to an actual time schedule that is workable for the dive center.

DSC00740 copyThe newly certified instructor on the other hand, who is fresh off their IDC and has not yet worked in a dive center, is yours to mold. They have no experience, but sometimes this is a benefit as they have yet to pick up any bad habits. They are still in “learning mode” and absorb every molecule of information. The main advantage of hiring a “newbie” is that they are the most up to date instructor on the market. Latest IDC = Latest standards. Thanks to the IE they have very recently had these standards drilled in to them, repeatedly…

#3 Languages

Cyprus is a holiday destination with visitors from all walks of life. Learning and listening is much more comfortable for a guest if it is in their mother tongue, or at least one they understand. For this reason my main motivating factor when looking for staff is to fill this need. The more languages that you can teach in, the better. I worked for one dive center who paid their instructors an extra 50 dollars a week for every additional language that they spoke outside of English. That was pretty cool.

#4 Personality

IreEng06_0810The diving lifestyle is a dynamic one, full of energy and passion. I need my team to be full of it. Full of infectious enthusiasm that will keep our guests coming back again and again, year after year. Smiling is a uniform in my book, and there is no such thing as a bad day. I need to feel this energy. It needs to be oozing out of you. I love my job, and I want like-minded people around me. A good dive team bounces off each other, and we become a family, fast. You can have all the training in the world, but it is of no use to me or my dive center if you cannot smile.

#5 Local Knowledge

It is common sense that it takes a little time to learn a new dive site, and new staff require an orientation just like the rest of us. It is valuable to hire someone who is at least familiar with the sites where we take our customers as time is, after all, money. It is not essential however. A good divemaster or instructor should have a good sense of direction, a good memory of dive routes and therefore would be able to pick things up quickly – but prior knowledge is definitely a bonus.

#6 What can you do that I cannot?

As a team we each have our strengths and weaknesses. Together we are stronger. I will often hire someone who can teach specialties that I cannot, or have some other additional skill that will help the dive center as a whole. We never stop learning, and each addition to the team will bring something to the table, and we will learn from each other.

How do I evaluate prospective team members?

Step 1: Facebook

shutterstock_204633139Today, privacy is a luxury that has to be guarded vigilantly. The first thing I do when I receive an application is to cut and paste the applicants name straight into the Facebook search bar. You would be surprised how few people know how to use their privacy settings effectively. Public posts of drunken behavior, inappropriate material and not-politically-correct attitudes are not going to impress a prospective employer…..so pay close attention to this when looking for your dream diving position. What I do love to see on Facebook is an applicant’s enthusiasm for diving. Lots of smiles in dive gear repetitively posted shows a history of passion. That’s a good thing.

Step 2: CV

Your CV is your first contact with your potential employer. First impressions count. I like applications that also include a cover letter telling me a little bit about themselves before getting down to the sterile format of the conventional CV. Include a photograph too – after all, if you get the job you will become part of a family, and I like to see you as soon as possible. Ensure that your CV is in a format that is easy on the eye and above all, keep it brief and relevant. I do not want to have to search for information or read over 1000 words on why you like pickles. You also do not have to include every last job that you have ever had – your diving experience and training is what I am interested in, so that is what you should focus on. Include a reference if possible, and don’t forget the (correct!) contact details.

Step 3: Skype interview

If I like the look of your CV I will want to meet you. Face to face is ideal, but this is rarely possible, so Skype is a good alternative. I want to see the energy. I want to see the smiles. I do not want to see you in your underwear, in a bedroom that looks like scientists could find the missing link to human kind somewhere among your piles of dirty laundry. Impressions are very important, so be clean, on time and make sure your internet connection is not having any problems. You can be the happiest, most experienced candidate in the pile – but if I struggle to hear a whole sentence without the beeps and squeaks of a bad connection it will be hard for me to judge your character.

So what now?

PADI University Program Channel Islands Shoot March 24-29, 2007I think above all the right job for you as an instructor or divemaster is out there, you just have to find it. There is a dive center who is waiting for what you can bring to their mix. I think the best bit of advice I can give you above all is to be upfront with everything. Don’t oversell yourself and be honest. Don’t pad out your CV. Get as much experience as you can and be as flexible as possible. Let your personality show in your application – diving is high in people skills and even higher in passion, it is not a normal job and we hate the mundane…so don’t be afraid to shine.

Don’t be afraid of rejection either. Apply, apply, and apply!

“If a dive center does not accept you it does not mean that you are unsuccessful, it means that your journey to achieving your dream job is simply not over.”

They were just looking for something else and it is not an attack on your personality so don’t take it personally or let it get you down! Diversify your skills, take an instructor specialty course that is less common, or learn a new language. Get your PADI Course Director or student to write you a current testimonial – everything helps.

Who knows, I may even hire you at Scuba Monkey!


Looking for your dream scuba job? Check out the PADI Pros’ Site today for the latest dive industry vacancies – find them in the Classifieds Employment Board section.

PADI Online Business Service #2 – Employment Board

Go_Pro_CAY07_1136_TS_KingWorld_LGAre you looking for a dream career in the diving industry? If so, then make sure you regularly visit the Employment Board located on the PADI Pros’ Site (one of the fantastic benefits available to renewed PADI Members).

The Employment Board is located within the ‘Classifieds’ section on the PADI Pros’ Site and lists details of the latest openings around the world – from dive guiding and teaching positions through to administration, boat captaining, equipment maintenance and more. There’s also a section where you can find opportunities to buy or sell existing Dive Center businesses, resorts or boats.

Within the Employment board, you can even add your own advertisement offering your services as a PADI Professional to others in the diving industry, or check out what the latest career openings are in your local PADI Regional Headquarter office.

The PADI Pros’ Site offers a range of excellent benefits in addition to providing access to the latest job vacancies within the diving industry. Don’t miss the chance to get your dream job – make sure you’re renewed for 2015 and checking the Employment Board regularly for the latest additions!


Win With PADI…

PADI is committed to the growth and prosperity of the scuba diving industry. Whether it’s through preserving the ocean we explore or creating innovative ways to teach the sport, PADI’s main focus is its members. PADI develops, maintains and supplies our industry with the most advanced dive training materials found worldwide.

Specifically, the PADI Retail and Resort Association provides its members with techniques and solutions to staying competitive and successful in today’s marketplace. As a member of the PADI Retail and Resort Association you benefit from more than just the prestige of the PADI brand. You also get a comprehensive suite of benefits guaranteed to drive more divers through your doors.

Find out more in the PADI Retailer and Resort Association Benefits Guide – click here to download.

Together We’re #1 In Diving!

Guest Blogger: Introducing Alexandra Dimitriou

Alexandra Dimitriou selfieAlexandra Dimitriou is a dive center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner at Scuba Monkey Ltd and will be writing a series of guest blogs for PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa.

So, how did she get where she is today? Where does she want to go tomorrow? We caught up with Alexandra Dimitriou for the low-down…..

How did I become who I am today?

I am a “BBC” – a British Born Cypriot, but I grew up in Cyprus. I was lucky enough to have a childhood full of sea, sun and schooling. I could swim before I could walk and scuba diving was always going to be my future. My father was a scuba instructor for the British Sub Aqua Club and he was crazy about diving (he still is). He had a tiny compressor in our garage, and he painstakingly filled the tanks for his friends, as well as himself, all week in preparation for the weekend. The noise from this little machine used to drive my mother crazy, it took hours to fill just a few tanks, and the not-so low hum of this air pumping miracle became the soundtrack to my childhood.

I was always a strong swimmer and I can’t remember ever being chased around with water wings or other buoyancy aids by my mother. My father taught my brother David and I how to snorkel early so we could follow his bubbles while him and his group were diving. We would follow their bubbles as long as we could and often our jaws would ache from stretching our mouths wide enough to accommodate the mouthpiece (no kids’ sizes back then). We would help him and his friends get ready, and those moments were what I lived for every summer.

Under the BSAC umbrella, we were unable to become divers until we were 15 years old. I couldn’t wait that long. I just couldn’t. My father was good friends with a local PADI Instructor and he took me to his Dive Center in the Golden Coast Hotel one summer.Costas was my hero after that day. He put me through the PADI Open Water Diver course after I spent the summer helping them with anything that they would allow me to: coffee, floor sweeping, wetsuit washing – anything! I was twelve years old when I became a scuba diver. It was a milestone that has dictated my life ever since.

Catching the “SCUBA-bug”

I “worked” at the dive center every summer after that. I was rewarded every year with a new course and my enthusiasm grew exponentially. I was living in the UK by this time, for education, but I would return home every six weeks. I went diving whenever I could, but I did not put a toe in the colder British waters until I went to university in Plymouth. I graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in oceanography in 2003. My favourite modules were the underwater surveying ones. My diving experience secured me a spot on a work experience trip to Mexico, where we were counting sea lion pups for 3 weeks while camping in the desert. I still remember how these beautiful creatures moved underwater. Sea lion pups would often play “chicken” with you – swimming with a scary speed on what looked like a collision course before turning at the last possible second. They were training how to hunt. They were having fun. I was terrified for the first week, but by the time I was finished didn’t want to go home. Ever.

From Scuba Enthusiast to Scuba Professional

Alexandra DimitriouI did not become a PADI Divemaster until 2005 as I went sailing for a year after I graduated. I remember thinking that I wanted to take the first step on the professional ladder in dive conditions that were far from perfect. Plymouth waters were cold, and dry suits made me feel like an astronaut, but I loved it. My father thought I was crazy, but I assured him that I wanted to have more experience in low-visibility waters to prepare me for less than ideal conditions when working in regions outside of the Mediterranean.

I worked as a Divemaster in Ayia Napa Cyprus over the summer of 2005 with Lucky Divers. I received no payment, instead working in exchange for training in the form of the end of season PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC). I was one of 25 candidates, a huge group by today’s standards. We worked hard, we learned and we practiced until we were ready for the PADI Instructor Exam (IE) in October 2005. We were having fun, more fun than I have ever had. The Course Director and 7 IDC staff members definitely put us through our paces, often drilling us so hard that I remember dreaming about positive reinforcements, mask clearing and worries about failing to hover in front of the examiner. My worries were unfounded, just as I was assured of, and I became a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor on Halloween, 2005. It was life changing.

The freedom of being an instructor

As an instructor I could now travel freely, funding myself while on the move without the need to go home and recharge the bank account. I worked in Cyprus, Thailand, Australia and Mexico; exploring each region in detail, unrestricted by time. I settled into every walk of life. I met people from every corner of the globe. It broke my heart to move on most times, but wanderlust is often strong within diving instructors and I was no exception. I must have done something right, however, as I have students who follow me to whereever I am when they want to take their next course.

Taking the Leap from Instructor to Dive Center Owner

I decided to become a dive center owner in 2011. I flew to Dusseldorf, Germany and went to Boot – the Disneyland for divers. I fell in love at Boot – with the L&W 450es compressor! I started choosing my dream equipment. I started visualizing my dream location. Everything was going well. We chose the hotel and had meetings for tour operator contracts set up for the spring of 2011.

I worked one more season as an employee in Cyprus in the summer of 2011, ever watching for the ideal location for my own school. I found it. I rented it. I found a concept coordinator who made my dreams an affordable reality. I gathered quotes for equipment. I formulated my profit and loss spreadsheets. I bought my beloved compressor. I gave it a name and Scuba Monkey Ltd opened its doors in May 2013. It was a proud moment.

Where I am now

We overcame the obstacles that any start-up business encounters. The move from instructor to dive center owner has been a steep learning curve, but I love it. It challenges me every single day and I cannot see my love of diving ever becoming mundane. I am hugely involved in all sides of the business and do most of the diving myself. Yes, I could delegate the water work to my team, but where is the fun in that? If I don’t dive at least once a day I become miserable. I was addicted to scuba from the first inhalation and I will continue as long as I am able. If I ever hang up my fins for good I will shut my doors forever. I will never get tired of it. Diving is my life and always will be.

Plans for the Future: Where do I want to go tomorrow?

Scuba MonkeyMy dream for tomorrow is growth: Growth for myself as a diver by learning new disciplines like sidemount, and growth for my business by offering an ever expanding menu of possibilities. I’m am extremely excited about the new digital learning options that PADI have been developing and releasing recently. The PADI Open Water Touch is a beautiful thing. You will fall in love with learning all over again with the first fluid finger swipe across your tablet, and the planet will thank you for choosing this paper-free alternative.

My five year plan for Scuba Monkey is to keep offering quality, not quantity….and growing slowly until I reach the criteria I need to qualify for all-desirable PADI 5* Status. I know I will get there, and if your dream is like mine – to open your own center – then you will too!