Following your Passion- A Diver’s Journey to Becoming a Professional Diver

I did not grow up near the beach, but I have numerous fond memories of my family spending happy times playing in the sand or jumping the ocean waves.  Most of these times were in Florida, visiting my grandparents who lived on the east coast.   I remember building sand castles and having my older brother do what older brothers do….ruin it unexpectedly with a bucket full of water!  Despite those typical sibling tricks, we loved being together at the beach and so I grew up connecting the ocean to happiness, love, and pure joy.  So it is not a wonder that as time went on I ended up in love with the sport of SCUBA diving.

Many years later, I decided it was time to learn how to dive.   I immediately recruited two friends to take a class with me at a local dive shop.  I completed that course and a month later went on a dive trip to Cozumel with my friends.   One of my favorite quotes is from Jacques Cousteau.  He said, “Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives have been changed, to discard the old, embrace the new, and run headlong down an immutable course. It happened to me . . . on that summer’s day, when my eyes were opened to the sea.”.  Well, that summer’s day in Cozumel, when I first peered into the ocean and could see clear (and I mean CLEAR!) down to 80 feet, I was changed forever….hooked and connected to the sea for the rest of my life.  I knew, right then, that I was going to become a dive instructor.  I knew I had to make this a part of my life.  

I was living in Austin, TX at the time and, as fate would have it, so was Ralph Erickson, one of the co-founders of PADI.  To learn from the man who co-founded the largest SCUBA certification agency in the world is a gift that I will never be able to express enough thanks to the universe for.  He and his wife Karen  were the most gracious, caring and knowledgeable instructors.  They instilled in me a level of service to our students that I still have to this day. 

My journey to become a  SCUBA Instructor culminated on September 5, 1995 when I completed the PADI two day Instructor Exam (IE).  I’ve had many awesome opportunities as a dive professional including working at SCUBA Park on Lake Travis outside of Austin, being hired as an on-staff instructor for three dive shops, spending an AMAZING summer in the Florida Keys working as a SCUBA instructor for the Boy Scouts High Adventure Sea Base in Islamorada, teaching at-risk youth and juvenile offenders to SCUBA dive for eight years with AMIkids, coordinating and leading many group dive trips including the Flower Gardens (TX), Florida Keys Coral Restoration dives, Cayman Islands, Cozumel, and Cuba, taught numerous SCUBA youth camps, and now feel honored to serve as a Dive Instructor for Sea Experience.

There is much more to my journey then I can fit here.  But suffice it to say, that I know my passion and it is not just the ocean, it is not just diving…it is teaching others how to dive.  Does it cost a lot to become an instructor?  Yes.  Will you make it rich?  No.  Well…not financially anyway.  In all other ways…heck yes!!  The feeling of taking another human being and introducing them to this world underwater…not giving them the courage to do it, but oftentimes showing them they had the courage to begin with to do something they never imagined they could do.  There are no words.  Life as a SCUBA Instructor/Dive Professional rewards you in ways you won’t expect.  If you’ve dreamed of following your bliss, don’t delay.  I promise you will not regret it!

READY TO TAKE YOUR NEXT STEP? TRY ONE OF SEA EXPERIENCE’S PROFESSIONAL DIVER PROGRAMS

VETERANS PROGRAM
TOTAL IMMERSION PROGRAM (TIP)

DIVEMASTER
INSTRUCTOR DEVELOPMENT COURSE (IDC)

(story by Suzanna Sharkey, PADI IDC Staff Instructor with Sea Experience)

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