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

Getting high with Altitude Diving

Altitude diving

Living in landlocked Colorado at almost 5000 feet we are experts in altitude diving, since if we dive locally at all we are definitely diving at altitude.

Student: But Scuba Joe isn’t diving well just diving?

Scuba Joe:  Sure diving is diving, but the dive tables and all decompression theory is all based on being at sea level.  Do you remember from the first chapter in your PADI open water class the discussion about pressure, volume and density?   Let us start with pressure, at sea level we are under 1 full atmosphere of pressure, that is from space to sea level equals 1 atmosphere. Now, in altitude diving we are under less pressure. Think about it this way, as we drive (ascend) to our destination (surface) we are off gassing, because at sea level we are consider to be balanced in our nitrogen levels. So as we “ascend” nitrogen is coming out of solution, much like on a dive in the Caribbean.

Student: But isn’t water in altitude diving affected also?

Scuba Joe: Not really, water is water and is about 800 times denser than air. Think about it this way, that slab on concrete you fell on the other day is just as dense at altitude as it is at sea level.

Student: Ouch

diver at lakeScuba Joe: (laughs) yes Ouch! So we understand that our body is under less pressure in altitude diving and that water isn’t affected at all. What this means to us in planning our altitude diving day is that we must plan our dives as they are deeper than our actually depth, because our body will be absorbing nitrogen at a faster pace than at sea level, for example on our advanced open water deep dive this weekend at the crater our dive to 66 feet is the equal to over 90 feet.  Add to this that as we ascend from our dive that we well are off gassing faster also, so we will need to ascend at a slower rate.

Student: How do we plan for altitude diving?

Scuba Joe: We can follow special dive tables or even better set our computers for our altitude.

scuba joe