It all started when Lisa Katayama and I got stuck in Europe when Eyjafjallajökull erupted during the Skoll World Forum in April. Lisa's mom told me to "take care of Lisa" for her and it turned out that it was cheaper for Lisa to escape via Dubai so Lisa joined me on a trip to Dubai from London via Paris to meet up with Lisa's brother Yushi who was meeting me in Dubai for business.
When we were in Dubai, Lisa wanted to try to find something to write about for Boing Boing. I introduced her to Rama who is the connector of many wonderful things and Rama told us an amazing story about Khalil, a 16 year old Palestinian who had lost both legs when his house was bombed in Gaza. They were teaching him to scuba dive. It sounded like a great story so Lisa asked for an interview and I tagged along as the photographer. (Lisa did a nice feature about this for Boing Boing.)
Watching the lesson made me think a lot about learning, empowerment and also reminded me of all of the "discover scuba" resort lessons that I'd taken without actually getting certified. I also found out that two of my best friends in Dubai, Rama and Mahmoud were dive instructors. On my next trip to Dubai, I asked Mahmoud whether he'd be my instructor for my PADI Open Water certification.
We did a crash course and I was able to get certified in July. What struck me about the PADI system was how well it was designed. Although the student clearly has an incentive to learn everything, the lessons were fun, effective and flexible. I was able to do a lot of the work online through a well designed e-learning system. The course was a great combination of video, text, audio, face-to-face learning and practical experience in the pool and the open water. The learning was really fun and the reward system was well designed.
I was hooked.
After I got my PADI Open Water certification I took all of the e-learning that was available online and scheduled diving sessions whenever I was in Dubai. I got my Advanced Open Water certification in August and have been diving whenever I had an extra day anywhere. It was a combination of the fun of learning, the fun of diving, the excuse to be outside and also the ability of the focus to let me switch out of work mode briefly that seemed to be so rewarding. Also, the World of Warcraft-like achievement system added a familiar pattern for me too. ;-)
I quickly learned that, although it was a bit tricky, you could have multiple instructors and could split up the course work.
On my way to LA, I asked my friends on Twitter if anyone knew of a good dive instructor in LA. I got a bunch of responses. @desparoz replied and referred me to Grant W. Grave (@bigblueplanet / LinkedIn) who is sort of like my Yoda now.
Grant helped me get my Enriched Air Diver (nitrox) certification that allows me to dive with higher oxygen ratios to make my dives longer (less nitrogen absorption) and slightly less risk of decompression illness from flying the day after diving. Half of my dives these days are nitrox. I also got my Diving Emergency Management, AED, EFR/CPR/First Aid/Care for Children, Marine Life Injuries, O2 Administration & First Aid, Diving Emergency Specialist, Dry Suit Diver (great for cold weather diving) and Rescue Diver certifications with Grant.
I've just started my Divemaster training which is the first step in the path down the "pro" branch of learning to become an instructor and a leader. What I really find interesting in the teaching about teaching is the focus on being flexible, helping divers learn, continuous and supportive assessments, taking care of safety and being supportive of the learner's self-esteem and safety. If only more schools were so well designed... So far I'm very impressed by PADI as well as the whole diving community and so much of what I'm learning has applications in my venture investing, venture mentoring, open education and other work while at the same time being a great hobby and a new chapter in my exploration of photography.
I'm sorry I haven't blogged about this yet, but I was thinking about what and where to write about this. I've decided that since the diving stuff may end up becoming a bit too detailed for my main blog and is sort of a "fork", I'm setting up a new diving blog and will be posting my diving stuff over there.
If you're you're a diver or interested in becoming or learning more about being a diver, join me there.