Climbing the PADI ladder, one level at a time
Reaching the level of PADI IDC Staff Instructor is something that many dive instructors dream about but only a few achieve. Gorgeous Ellie arrived on Gili Trawangan 18 months ago with the goal of becoming a PADI Divemaster. In a relatively short amount of time, she progressed through the ranks and became not only a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor, but also a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and a PADI IDC Staff Instructor. She now works at Blue Marlin Dive, our sister company on Gili Trawangan.
Tell us about yourself, Ellie.
I’m 24 years old and I come from Surrey, England. I work as an instructor and bookings manager (office bitch!) at Blue Marlin Dive on Gili Trawangan. I studied Philosophy at Oxford Brookes University but during the course, it soon became clear I wanted to do something more grounded in reality.
When did you become interested in diving?
I was 15 years old and on holiday in Turkey with my family. My Mum really wanted to a try dive and I was completely against the idea. I simply didn’t want to do it, but I was persuaded to go on the boat with my Mum for moral support.
When we arrived at the dive site, the dive instructor stuck a regulator in my mouth and held my head under the water. I obviously had no buoyancy device, no weight belt and no fins. Despite the initial shock, I thought it was fun. Strange but cool!
The following week, I signed up for a PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience. I did skills in the pool and this was followed by an open water dive. I loved it! A year later, I did another DSD in Sardinia and then two years later I did my PADI Open Water Diver course.
How did you take your diving education further?
On my gap year before university, I enrolled on a marine conservation project in Fiji. It was there that I completed my PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course. I was really impressed with the diving there – there was a lot more marine life to see than in Europe.
I also appreciated the warmer water and took the decision to dive in a bikini. But I realised it wasn’t very comfortable. Soon I invested in a rash vest and by the end of my stay, I had upgraded to a full 5mm wetsuit because we were diving so much, despite the fact that the water temperature was 25 degrees!
Where did you do your PADI Rescue Diver course?
I completed my PADI Rescue Diver course in Taba, Egypt. Of all the courses I’ve taken, it was by far the most challenging. Not least because my buddy was a rather large Egyptian guy. Bringing him to the surface using the BCD for controlled positive buoyancy was just about manageable. But trying to tow him and exit him from the water onto the diving platform on the boat was an impossible task. He weighed at least twice as much as I did. I was exhausted at the end of it.
However, I did notice how much more comfortable and confident the course made me. Since then, on fun dives, I’m always aware of the other divers, not just on the dive, but before and afterwards as well.
What brought you to the Gili islands?
After finishing my University degree, all my friends were talking about going to work in London. Honestly, it was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to see some more of the world. So I decided to take six months out before looking for a proper job. The more I thought about it, the more the idea of working as a PADI Divemaster or Instructor on a tropical island seemed appealing.
I was friends from Sean from Sunken Dreams. Sean is a regular on the island as he used to work here and now he organizes diving holidays from the UK. I asked for his advice about where to do my PADI Divemaster course. His suggestions included Mozambique, Honduras, Dominica, Malta and Gili Trawangan.
I chose Indonesia because it had been on the wish list since some friends of mine who had visited on a surfing trip had raved about it.
How did you find your PADI Divemaster course at Blue Marlin Dive?
So much fun! I took four weeks to complete it which, as Divemaster courses go, is actually quite a short time. I was able to assist on lots of courses because it was quite a busy time of the year from the dive centre.
I remember being amazed at the diversity of marine life here. It was by far the best diving I’d ever done.
When did you do your PADI IDC?
I only had a week between finishing my Divemaster course and starting the Instructor Development Course. I took the opportunity to work on my tan with my head buried in the PADI Instructor Manual and the PADI Guide to Teaching.
Did you find the PADI IDC difficult?
The classroom presentations were challenging but fun. It was the first time I had needed to stand and present to people, so admittedly I was quite nervous. But the group size was small – there was only myself and one other candidate.
James was hilarious. He couldn’t read the board because he didn’t have his glasses with him. So he sat there in his prescription mask! I couldn’t stop laughing at him.
Did you find the PADI Instructor Examination tough?
Actually no. The Course Director prepares you really well and is far tougher during the IDC. In that way, the IE was a breeze.
We went to Sanur in Bali and had by far the most challenging diving conditions I’d ever experienced. There was awful visibility and ripping currents and huge waves. The second group had to delay until the conditions got better later in the afternoon.
But again, it was a good confidence booster, because I realized if I can teach skills in those conditions, I can teach anywhere!
And then you got a job at Blue Marlin Dive! Well done!
Blue Marlin Dive took me on as an overflow instructor, so I got the chance to teach in between helping out in the shop. I was really pleased to be able to work straight away. My first course was a one person Open Water Diver course, and bizarrely enough, she was called Ellie as well. I must have done a good job because she returned six months later to do her Advanced Open Water course.
When did you become a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer?
I did the MSDT prep directly after the Instructor Examination. I can teach Deep, Enriched Air, Drift, Search and Recovery, Night, Digital Underwater Photography and Emergency Oxygen Provider. It’s good to be able to teach a wide variety of courses – it stops you from getting bored.
How did the PADI IDC Staff Instructor course go?
After about a year of teaching, I decided to do my PADI IDC Staff Instructor course. I did it the traditional way of assisting on an entire PADI IDC. I found it a good refreshment of what you get taught during the IDC. It also showed me I knew more than I thought I did and that I could pass on knowledge and experience to new IDC candidates. It was fantastic seeing the transformation from Divemaster to new Instructor.
What are your plans for the future?
As much as I love the Gili islands and life is certainly amazing here, I would like to get some more teaching experience around Asia. I want to see new things and experience different dive sites.
Ultimately, I’d like to manage a dive centre and perhaps become a PADI Course Director. Whatever happens, I’ll always work in the diving industry. It beats that office job in London, any day of the week…
If you’re interested in becoming a PADI professional or continuing your education, please contact us.