Descend Into Your Future: Divers Unlimited

By Michael Lawrence

The nature of the professional side of the dive industry is in a constant state of flux. This applies to the equipment, the techniques of instruction, the expectations of the students and the career direction of the instructor. There is no PADI instructor facility more acutely aware of this than Dave Inman's Divers Unlimited. With 25 years of PADI Instructor Development Courses under its belt, Divers Unlimited knows precisely what it takes for a dive instructor to succeed in this industry.

What are these factors? First and foremost is a sincere dedication to your students, the real desire to share your love of the ocean with them. Second is the ability to assimilate new information and techniques of the industry as they develop. Third is the constant honing of your own skills through ongoing personal and professional instruction, the acquisition of new specialties and the ability to change your methods with the times. Fourth, and perhaps most important, is the ability to market your skills, recruit potential divers, organize classes and complete this instruction to the satisfaction of all concerned.

In order to achieve these goals, the first step is to enroll in the best, most up to date instructor school possible. An aspiring PADI dive instructor could do no better than Divers Unlimited/Underwater Careers International.

South Florida's leader in PADI Instructor Development for 25 years, Divers Unlimited has produced literally thousands of instructors, many of whom make a satisfying full time or part time living at landbased dive shops, island resorts or on live-aboard dive vessels. In addition, Divers Unlimited has two of the most complete retail facilities in the area, runs daily trips to the reefs and wrecks off the Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale/Miami coast and introduces hundreds of new divers to the sport each year. The original Divers Unlimited is in Hollywood, Florida (the midpoint between Miami and Fort Lauderdale). After more than two decades at this location, Dave Inman made the decision to expand his operations and recently opened a second, state of the art facility.

Fifteen minutes due west in the booming development of Pembroke Pines, this new facility, the Divers Unlimited Training Center, fills a 4,500 square foot complex. The 2,000 square foot retail area continues the Divers Unlimited tradition of offering the widest possible selection of dive equipment and associated items. Virtually every line of gear is represented here. In addition, Divers Unlimited Training Center has become the new home to Underwater Careers International, the professional training arm of Divers Unlimited. This facility adjoins the retail shop. In-water classes take place in a large room containing a 20 by 40 foot heated training pool, with depths from three to nine feet, and a modern, digitally controlled compressed air and mixed gas station. This Dave Inman specialty (he has worked extensively with the U.S. Navy among other prominent clients) features a digital gas analysis station to guarantee accuracy. The mixed gas station is designed to provide both nitrox and tri-mix fills. Adjacent to the pool area is the Underwater Careers International campus, a complex of both classrooms and offices.

In the past, the majority of divers seeking to become instructors at Underwater Careers International had their sights set on an overseas resort position, but recently there has been a shift in the objectives of new instructors. Today's students are equally split between the sun and fun resort position and the part or full time career here in the States. Realistically, resort positions offer an attractive lifestyle, but the trade-off is a pay scale frequently lower than that found stateside (it's the pay vs. play syndrome). Obviously, each can be satisfying in its own fashion.

Divers Unlimited recognized this trend long ago and has split the training into a modular approach. Briefly, it allows students to pick their own level of involvement in instructor training, beginning with a PADI instructor rating and extending through master instructor or resort specialist. The following is a brief breakdown of the various modules and levels available. Details of this training and the requirements for each level are beyond the scope of this article. It is best to explore the details by calling Underwater Careers International directly.

You must be a certified PADI open water diver before even considering embarking on the path to instructor. Divers Unlimited/Underwater Careers International does have a special program that can take you from novice to instructor in a surprisingly short period, but there are minimum time requirements for each level. Look at the program as a series of building blocks, each building on the one before to take you up the ladder of success. Step number one is rescue diver, developing essential lifesaving skills and an understanding of dive accident management. Step number two is medic first aid, a further development of the skills one begins in the rescue diver course.

Step number three is the first professional certification, divemaster. Here one learns the ins and outs of daily dive activities, applicable to everything from inland freshwater sites to shore dives to seeing that a dive boat runs smoothly. Following this, it is recommended that prospective instructor candidates take the IDC Prep, a two day course that outlines PADI's expectations and serves as a refresher course prior to the IDC proper. The IDC itself is the most time and energy intensive of all the courses. Expect a full time involvement for the full length of the course. Following this is the instructor exam, administered by examiners from PADI's main office.

The full course, from rescue diver through the IDC, is combined into what Divers Unlimited calls the Triad Program. This full immersion method is possibly the best way to hone your skills and maximize your knowledge. You are likely to go from start to finish with other dedicated individuals, which will let you see how others handle the methods, as well as build upon each others shared experiences.

Those most dedicated will want to go on to the next level, the Gold Instructor Program. This includes medic first aid instructor (allowing you to conduct medic first aid instructor classes), master scuba diver trainer (certification for teaching six specialty classes) and the resort instructor course (familiarizing you with the unique aspects of working at a dive resort). Each segment translates to the bottom line; each means more money when you are finally on the job.

The ultimate value of Divers Unlimited/Underwater Careers International is the wealth of shared experience, learning in the company of seasoned professionals and the career opportunities offered by Divers Unlimited. (In addition to its organized placement service, DU also benefits from a network of graduates now working as instructors, managers and owners throughout the world, men and women who turn to DU when searching for qualified employees.) In addition, you train on the fine reefs and the superb wrecks of South Florida, a tropical environment similar to many working areas of the world. To explore how the program can best fit your needs call Divers Unlimited at (888) 232-7234. The local number is (954) 430-3483; fax (954) 430-2757. You may also write to Divers Unlimited, Underwater Careers International, 10191 Pines Boulevard, Pembroke Pines, FL 33026. Send e-mail to dvr sunlm@bellsouth.net or visit the Web site at www.charternet.com/diversun limited.