My journey to PADI OWSI and beyond

owsiHonest, I never intended to ever be a PADI OWSI (Open Water Scuba Instructor). I was happy and content to be making loans and playing golf and not really into the thought of basically changing my career and life to be Scuba Joe.  So how did I get here?

Well, it started with when I met Donna. See we made this deal, I would get certified to dive and she would learn to play golf.  Sounded like an easy plan and would give us to different hobbies to enjoy.  Then sometime in 2004 she decided that she was ready to become an instructor. Me? I was happy taking two trips a year and doing 20 or so dives and then playing some golf. Then in early 2005 after she passed her instructor exam the thought popped into her head that I should at least become a dive con/assistant instructor so I could help her with her classes and maybe it could be something we could do as part time work at retirement. I firmly dug in my fins and said I wasn’t really interested in that.  Then in 2007, my fins came out of the sand and I began my training.  After all, I was tagging along and going to the crater and helping out any way.

Back in 2003 on a Windjammer after a day of diving in Bonaire, we were sitting with some new friends and munching on a bag of fries from Whataburger, laughing and joking about being retired and “working” at a dive shop on some island.  My friends it wasn’t anything other than people sitting around and having a little fun.  But 4 years later, here I am starting my training on the way to OWSI. Then later that year (2007) the owner of the shop was in a horrible accident, Donna became the lead instructor and I her trusty second.  Donna even mentioned to the owner’s wife that if they decided to ever sell the shop she would be interested in purchasing the business.

storesideSometime in the summer of 2008, the phone rang. That phone call changed everything.  The shop was officially for sale and would we like to buy it? To make a long story as short as I can and to keep this post under 10,000 words, we officially took over on December 1, 2008.  We had 2 instructors and 1 assistant (me).  Shortly, after that Anthony finished his assistant instructor rating.  But, Donna was doing all the classes and with her job at the state requiring her to travel and teach almost constantly, we need to add a few more instructors to the team.

About a year or so later, PADI walked in the door and well made an offer that we could not turn down.  If we would switch from our current training agency to become a 5 Star PADI dive center, they would bring me and 2 others to OWSI. Again, I really had no desire to take on OWSI, but in order to help grow the shop and help Donna with the teaching load we walked through the door that PADI had opened for us.

What started out as a fun conversation in 2003 off the Island of Bonaire has become a self fulfilling dream of sorts. Maybe someday I will find myself updating this post from some tropical island and wonder how I got there.

lift bag

4 Things I have learned from my Scuba students

Hurray! I have been an  scuba instructor for exactly one year now. Let’s celebrate and look back at the life-lessons I have learned from my scuba students in the past year (and hope they learned at least as much from me).

People will always come up with ways to surprise you.

Even when you think you’ve seen it all and are prepared for every possible scenario, one of your students will come up with something that just leaves you thinking “what…the…hell..??” Like my first Open Water student who decided that the best way to remove and replace her weight belt underwater was to pull it off over her head. Wait. What? Yes, over her head. Why you would do that? No idea.

scuba diver

Everyone feels stupid when they are learning something new.

Trust me, everyone makes silly little mistakes when they are learning something new, and pretty much everyone will feel at least a little bit stupid.

You are no exception. Whether you’re the student that puts the alternate air source upside down in his mouth, or the student that just doesn’t get the dive planning tables, or the one that keeps forgetting the steps of the buddy check, be assured: you’re not the first, nor will you be the last.

It’s ok. Especially with something so unnatural as diving (people are still not made to breathe underwater), it takes some time to get used to the new environment and all the things you have to pay attention to. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Even more so: embrace them! Learn from them! Laugh about your stupidity. Trust me: we have probably seen worse.

Typically, the students who feel worse about their performance are usually the best, so you should probably only worry if you think you are doing everything absolutely perfect.

Do something because YOU want to, not to please someone else.

Some things in life just need to be done. Like washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, and filing your tax return forms. Not because you necessarily want to, but just because you have to. Right?

Diving is not one of these things.

We get a lot of couples or small groups here that want to do their course together. Usually you’re able to tell from minute one that it is only one of them that is really excited about diving and that the other one is just joining to, you know, not to ruin the holiday or something.

This is a really bad reason to start diving.

It usually works out alright. Sometimes the person that was a little hesitant ends up loving diving anyway, but usually you know right from the beginning that they will probably never dive again. Such a shame! I mean, diving is not a cheap hobby, so why waste all that sweet money and time on something you knew you wouldn’t enjoy from the start, just because your S/O pressed you into it?

People are great at overcoming fears

Most people have (or had) some fears about the ocean. After all, it’s not a natural environment for us mouth-breathing human beings, it’s full of things you couldn’t even imagine in your worst nightmares and unpredictable as fuck. And then there’s scuba diving, where you rely on equipment in an essentially hostile (although incredibly beautiful and fascinating) environment.

It’s very normal to have some reservations about all this. Or in some cases, be terrified.

Almost every student has this voice in a little corner in their brain that whispers “what if…?”

But almost everyone manages to quiet that voice, overcome their fears and enjoy diving. when you think about it, this is truly impressive. It can also be a great confidence-boost in other areas of your live. “Well, if I manage to get over my fear of sharks, then surely I can get over the fear of asking for a raise?”

So thank you, my dear students. You are all wonderful inspiring and fear-kicking people! Rosien


I have borrowed this post with permission from Rosien, you can follow her here

Fun and Different Scuba Jobs

With our PADI “Go Pro Night” happening in the shop tomorrow (OCT 8) I thought we should look at some fun and different scuba jobs.  Maybe these scuba jobs aren’t “professional” in the PADI sense, but they are still professional careers.

 fun scuba jobsLast week, I shared on our face book page the career of a PADI course director as a Hollywood stunt person, but how about working in show business in Las Vegas on the Cirque du Soleil show.

Some of the fun scuba jobs that I came across as I researched this little post. Lego Land is looking for Aquarist.  Many Aquariums around the world are looking for divers, from regular cleaning and maintenance to working and caring for the animals. I didn’t even know that Cabela’s has an aquarium and is in need of divers.

Of course this list of scuba jobs, doesn’t even include the commercial side of the scuba world.  Underwater welders and divers to work on the oil rigs out in the gulf.  I think I read there are over 3000 rigs just in the gulf.

What about public safety divers and working with law enforcement.  Or even with marine biologist as research assistants.  That is the beautiful thing about scuba jobs, you just never know when and where you will find one. ok

My Scuba Journey by John Burkey

Spring 2006, somewhere off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  The strong smell of diesel fumes mixed with sea water was surprising. The boat rocking over the waves was too.  The pounding in my chest with anxiety and trepidation was both startling and totally unanticipated.  This was my first certified dive.  Mr. Confidence scared of the water?go pro

The water has always been one of my dearest friends.  I do not have a memory of when I was taught to swim, but the old joke goes that my brother and I had just learned to walk the week before. My memories of my entire life were surrounded by my profound love for water.  Whether it was getting up before dawn for swim practice, jumping off cliffs and riding waves in the large irrigation canals that wove their way through the valley I grew up in, or swimming in various lakes and oceans throughout my life, the water has always been home. (Well there may have been a slight set back when my dad took us to the movie Jaws).  I always knew I would eventually become certified as a Scuba diver.  Heck my parents were certified in the early 1970’s and did their open water check out in the Rifle gap in Western Colorado.  The timing just never seemed right; life just kept getting in the way.  It was not until a cousin of mine was getting married in Mexico that we seized upon the opportunity. So my brother and I, accompanied by our significant others, took the plunge and became certified divers.  That very first moment in the pool I knew I had found my passion.

On the flight back from Mexico from our first diving trip I began to try to figure out how I could get back into the ocean.  My only tropicaldeep and lasting regret was that I waited so long to become certified.  My fear that I had experienced that first day on that diesel smoke-filled boat had evaporated instantaneously the moment I was greeted by the ocean floor.  This was nature at her very finest; an environment of constant change and incredibly varied beauty.  My moment of fear was forever replaced.

It seems now as I look back that it was almost the very next day that we were at the local scuba shop looking at new gear and trying to figure out how we could expand our knowledge.  Our evenings were spent discussing our next trips, our next training, and our next adventure.    I looked at the world with a new found wonder and joy that I thought not possible.

My wife Jessica and I wanted to be the best divers we could.  Becoming Master divers was the next logical step in our development.  I was happy and content knowing that my skills had grown and my comfort levels were improved.  I thought I had reached my goal of what I wanted to do, I thought I had reached the apex of what I wanted to accomplish.  Boy, I could not have been more wrong.

Frankly, when we were asked to come to the PADI Go Pro night, I was not even sure what it was.  By that time we were spending a significant amount of time at Joe’s Scuba Shack anyway and rarely missed an announced get-together. I knew I wanted to see our friends, share some stories, and just be around people who shared our passion.  But within seconds of hearing the presentation I knew.  I knew that my life would again be changed in the most unexpected way possible.  Be altered in a way that surprised me to my very core.  I would become an Open Water Scuba Instructor.

Since that night at the Scuba Shack, our lives have been transformed so unexpectedly.  Our immersion into the PADI system has been fantastic.  The training, knowledge-gathering, and fulfillment of the requirements to reach the stage we are now in has been an absolute blast.  It is now with nervous anticipation that we prepare for the Instructors Examination.

These simple yet profound decisions have given us opportunities and possibilities I never thought probable or possible.  Soon we scuba johnwill have the ability to open hearts and minds to the great hidden wonders of the water. To be able to change others as we were changed making our lives so much more rewarding.


PADI “Go Pro” Night is October 8th

instructor's creedAs I was looking for a fresh take on our upcoming PADI  “Go Pro” night, I came across the PADI blueprint in the 3rd quarter issue of The Undersea Journal, which in turn led me to these post about other scuba careers  and that reminded me of the July issue of Dive Training Magazine. I have shared a few of these on our facebook page and they all have one thing in common and that is the need for more training. The minimum most of these lucky divers suggested was PADI Rescue Diver and Divemaster.

But do you need to “Go Pro” to land one of these fun jobs as a movie stunt diver or working say in Vegas or even with Astronauts? No, but as you read through all the stories from these people, attending a PADI “Go Pro” night and becoming a PADI professional diver sure didn’t hurt them in their new careers. Are there fun jobs where you can dive without being a PADI professional? Sure, I remember helping one of our new divers a few years ago land a job traveling and cleaning and installing glass in aquariums.

Attending a  PADI “Go Pro” night and becoming a PADI professional diver opens up many more windows of opportunity for you to find a job in the islands and ditch the grind of the cube farm called your office. At this moment there are over 450 jobs posted on


the PADI pro site from sales associates to help run a retail dive center to dive masters with mechanic skills to Instructor couples to run a small resort. As many of you know Instructor Jeff is in Vietnam right now living his diver dream. His started out at a “Go Pro” night as a way to just be a better diver. I am sure many of you have seen Jessica’s article about her scuba adventure or my post about living the living the instructor’s creed . The are many reasons to attend a PADI “Go Pro” night and each one is as individual as you and I.

By combining your passion and love for diving with the knowledge and skills of becoming a PADI professional and add in your other skills in retail or mechanics or the culinary arts, by taking the first step in attending our PADI “Go Pro” night on Oct 8 you can take the first step in ditching your grind and living your dream.scuba joe

My scuba journey by Tim Young

My fascination with the aquatic world started at a very young age, I spent many years living in states like Hawaii, Florida and California.  I learned to swim at the age of 4 and ever since have had a passion for the water.  That passion led to learning to Timsnorkel, navigate and operate large boats and learning to fish on the oceans even before my teenage years.  Most of my life I was fascinated with scuba diving and always told myself that I would learn to dive someday.

For years I put off learning to dive and found many excuses as to why it wasn’t the right time to get certified.  It was either too expensive, I didn’t have the time for the class or I lived somewhere that I couldn’t go diving even if I did know how.  Finally in 2006, while living in Colorado, I decided that it was time to get certified and stop making excuses, so three friends and I signed up for a YMCA Open Water Diver class.  It was all I had thought it ever would be and more, from the moment of my first dive in the pool, my life was changed.  I found myself planning vacations in more exotic locations for longer periods of time and letting go of my workaholic nature.  For many years I enjoyed diving as an Open Water Diver and had many exciting dives and saw fascinating things. Then one year I went to a resort that separated out the divers based on certification level, Open Water Divers were limited to 60’ or less and more advanced divers were allowed to dive to deeper depths.  When we returned from a dive I heard about all the things the other divers had seen and wished I had seen some of that stuff too.  As soon as I had the chance I enrolled in the Advanced Open Water class.  In Jan. of 2012, while taking that advanced class, I got to see the looks on the faces of the newly certified Open Water divers and hear the excitement in their voices, I thought to myself “wow, that is amazing, I want to share my passion for diving with people and help pass that same feeling on to other new divers”.  After getting back home I approached Donna and Joe at Joe’s Scuba Shack and told them that I wanted to be an instructor.  After many discussions and planning sessions we figured out a plan of action that would meet my goals and fit into the shop schedules.

Over the next 10 months I set my determination to work, Rescue Diver Class, Divemaster class, Assistant Instructor, Instructor Development Course, 4 specialty courses and the Instructor Examination.  Finally in November of 2012 my newly realized dream came true: I passed the Instructor Examination.  After many months of studying, practicing and torturing some very dedicated instructors, I came away with a new passion and understanding for diving.  The friendships and relationships I was blessed to make along that journey also brought about a change in my diving mindset.  One of my instructors had told me after my Rescue Diver class that I now would look at diving and other divers in a different way, and I did. That change happened again after my Divemaster course and now, after obtaining my Instructor rating, that change happened again and was even more pronounced.  I now find myself not just wanting to help other divers be safer divers, but to be more knowledgeable divers.  I have caught myself on a few dives gravitating towards some of the obviously more inexperienced divers, with the intent of helping them become more confident as well as the opportunity to pass on some of my knowledge.  By no means do I look at my journey as even remotely close to the end, I enthusiastically look at it as still being fairly close to the beginning.OWSI Tim


My journey to PADI OWSI by Jeff Morehouse

jeff PADI OWSI30 days in Vietnam? How in my scuba journey did that happen? As with most that become PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors (PADI OWSI) it began innocently enough with a Discover Scuba Diving while on a vacation in the British Virgin Islands.  That was just so much fun that I got certified to dive. From there diving started creeping into everything I wanted to do and after a few trips to Mexico, I was an Advanced Open Water Diver. But diving only 6 to 12 times a year just wasn’t enough for me, so I started adding specialty classes as a way to improve my skills, but they also got me diving more and watching others teaching scuba interested me.  So, I decided to volunteer to do things at Scuba Joe’s just so I could hang out at the dive shop.

Becoming a PADI OWSI was sort of on my radar to do, when the time was right, but then something happened that changed my life and waiting for “the right time” was over.  Do what you dream of before it is too late to do it! So, I began my Dive Master training with the goal of seeing the world and leading dives. After completing Dive Master, I soon realized that what I really wanted was to be a PADI OWSI.  After some soul searching and talking to friends I decided to go for it and started my path to PADI  OWSI. First becoming an assistant instructor and then the IDC, the most interesting and challenging week or 2 weeks that you will ever spend with some new friends.

Do you remember in the PADI Open Water diver video, the saying “meet people, go places and do things”? Well, I took that to heart and made it one of my little goals. So, after getting my PADI OWSI I started looking for opportunities in places I had never been nor even thought I would go, sending out emails from the listings on the PADI Pro site and then it happened, a response from Rainbow Divers in Vietnam. The next day everything went into storage and off I set.

Since that day, I have meet and made some new and amazing friends. Even the toughest day is still incredible. A few weeks ago I went to lunch and got lost on my way back and wound up in a residential area. You know what they do on their day off? The same thing everyone does, I could have been in Glenwood Springs that Sunday afternoon.  Kids in the street, people washing their scooters.  Similarities bring a common bond and we can all share in the fun.

jm padi owsiI have been lucky enough to go diving 12 days in a row, teaching diving as a PADI OWSI.  Turning fear into courage, opening hearts and minds to the wonders of the world and helping to change a life for the better.

I will leave you with this and as a newer PADI OWSI, I hope I never forget this dive as I recall my first dive. As we come to the surface after our first dive my student yells out “THAT WAS $%#^%$ AWESOME!” how long before we can go again? I smiled and laughed and told him it would be 45 minutes before we could as I like to think “go home again”.  Do you remember your first dive?  As a PADI OWSI you will help people make those memories special.  In the PADI Instructor manual there is a saying, “from what we get we make a living, from what we give we make a life” and as a PADI OWSI I get to see it every day.


Living the instructor’s creed

instructor's creedLast week Jessica wrote a great post about her scuba adventure on her way to becoming a PADI scuba instructor and just how true the instructor’s creed is to all of us.  We have been able to watch her grow from “unsure” to “confident”. I think she spoke well on how she has become an important part in the transformation that students undergo as they are begging their own scuba adventure and how she is already starting to live the instructor’s creed.

As we prepare for our next PADI “GO PRO” night, which is scheduled for October 8 at 6 pm, I think this is a good time to look at the instructor’s creed once again.

AS an Open Water Scuba Instructor I have the opportunity to see

  • Fear change to courage
  • Faint of heart  change to courage
  • Timidity change to courage

As an Open Water Scuba Instructor, I can

  • Open hearts and minds to the hidden beauty of nature’s creation and our obligation to protect it
  • Foster self esteem in another person
  • Teach the value of character and integrity
  • Transform another human being and change a life for the better

Jessica-Martinez-BurkeyIf we go back and read Jessica’s post you can see the instructor’s creed at work in her adventure.  We see it almost on a monthly basis in our Open Water classes and I saw it again on Monday at Colorado Mesa University as this semester’s students took their first breathes under water.  Yesterday, was these same students “field trip” to the shop so they can see and touch all the different types of gear, but what made the “field trip” so fun was the questions they had about becoming an instructor or maybe an underwater welder or even public safety diving.

You can see the instructor’s creed at work and all we have to do is show them how to breathe underwater.

Mark your calendar for our next PADI “Go Pro” Night and begin your journey to living the instructor’s creed.ok


My Scuba Adventure by Jessica Martinez-Burkey

TurtleWhat got me interested in Scuba? I really don’t like to answer that question. I am a Colorado girl born and raised. I ski and snowboard and we live nowhere near an Ocean. I am a mountain girl. The truth is – it was my husband John’s idea to get scuba certified and I really did not have much interest in it at all. I began my scuba adventure trying to do something that I knew my husband loved and I, frankly, could not have cared less about. My confession: I really only got certified to spend more time with him doing something that I knew he enjoyed.

After I got certified I spent the first several dives afraid to take my eyes off of the Divemaster who was leading our dive. My eyes were glued to the Divemaster’s fins. Imagine my surprise when I finally relaxed and looked around – what I found was a whole other world! I was still on this planet, but I felt like I had been entirely transported. When I looked around I saw the most amazing and beautiful DonnaWalllandscapes with hills and caves and swaying plant life; so many vibrant colors and entire ecosystems of fish and marine life. This, I realized, is a part of the same planet, but it is a separate world and I am a mere visitor. I felt awe and wonder at this strange and beautiful underwater environment and I could not wait to explore, but I was also a little fearful and tentative.

Once I relaxed I began to enjoy scuba so much that I always wanted to be in the water exploring. I wanted to see everything! It did not take long for me to realize I needed to work on my skills. I was a guest in this beautiful underwater world and I needed to stop being so clumsy with my fins. I also needed to improve my buoyancy so that I could more easily explore without disturbing or damaging their beautiful home. Learning more about the basics like how to conserve air so that I could have more bottom time, (relax) and ways I could continue diving if my dive computer stopped working, (dive tables) was imperative. John and I decided to start furthering our education and working on our skills so we took classes with the goal of becoming Master Scuba Divers. It was a lot of work, but well worth it when we finally reached our goal and became Master Scuba Divers! My newfound knowledge and skills completely enhanced my dive experience. Diving became so enjoyable to me that I wanted to share it with others. I did not realize how much I wanted to be a part of the journey of others until my husband and I went to a PADI Pro Night at Joe’s Scuba Shack.

We initially went to the PADI “Go Pro” Night because it was a Scuba Party where we could talk about diving with our Scuba friends. Little did we realize a light would turn on in our heads that night and we would connect the dots – John and I could do what we love and help introduce others to have this same amazing and life changing experience through Scuba! That very night we had a plan. We would immediately get to work on our Divemaster certifications. John knew that night he wanted to continue on and become an Open Water Scuba Instructor. I, however, was not sure if I wanted to move past Divemaster. I knew a Divemaster certification would enable me to lead dives with certified divers and also assist a Scuba Instructor with students. My main goal at that time was to get the additional Divemaster certification so that I could introduce people to scuba by conducting Discover Scuba sessions. I began to really enjoy helping the instructors with their students. I became an important part of something new and exciting for the students. It was a surprisingly fulfilling experience for me when I saw fear become accomplishment as students gained confidence.Crab

We had so much fun completing our Divemaster certification with Donna and Joe and working with the Assistant Instructor candidates as well as helping students to have fun and learn new skills that I decided I wanted to move on to the next stage – Assistant Instructor. It was a challenge completing our Assistant Instructor certification and I gained a whole new level of respect for PADI and their complete emphasis on safety through exemplary student training – lead by example and by not deviating from the well-designed PADI system of learning. I thought Assistant Instructor would be my final certification. Who was I kidding? Well, apparently I was only kidding myself because I am very proud to say that I am now an Assistant Instructor. It did not take me long to realize there is no way I am stopping before I become an Open Water Scuba Instructor!

My scuba journey is only just beginning and there is nothing I find more exciting and fulfilling than helping others discover their own scuba adventures.


Why become an Open Water Scuba Instructor

CNCC scubaYesterday, I posted to our facebook page the opening lines of the Open Water Scuba Instructors creed. I want to post it here today as a reminder to all of our instructors and to those that are thinking about becoming an open water scuba instructor



As a scuba instructor, I have the opportunity to see:

  • Fear change to courage
  • Faint-heartedness converted into accomplishment
  • Timidity transformed into confidence

As a scuba instructor, I can:

  • Open hearts and minds to the hidden beauty of nature’s creation and our obligation to protect it
  • Foster self-esteem in another person
  • Teach the value of character and integrity
  • Transform another human being and change a life for the better and forever

I have seen this many times and again I saw it this weekend with 2 of my students.  I am like a proud parent in how far they have come. Sometimes we as instructors know what fear our student has.  Sometimes, as in the case of one of our students we have no clue as to their fears since they don’t or are not comfortable sharing until that card comes in and they have it in their hand.

I recall one time when I handed a student his open water card and he had tears in his eyes.  I didn’t think much about it until we got an email, thanking us for working with him and explaining that this macho man had lost someone close to him in a recent lake drowning.

Or the group of 4 men as they watched me so intently as I worked with a Discover Scuba Diving class one evening at the local pool. This group of guys had lost 2 family members to drowning and they consider themselves to be non-swimmers.

Yes, as an Open Water Scuba Instructor I have seen fear become courage. I have seen the pride that students have when they receive that card.  I have seen parents respond to their child becoming open water divers with pride and joy and overcome their own fears and timidness.

I have seen the amazement on the faces of people when they return from their first ocean dives.

And yes, I have seen and lived the transformation as I myself have been transformed by the sport and life of scuba. You see my friends, I was once that timid and scared person and now I am an open water scuba instructor.