Hi! I’m Jon Rusho and I’m a PADI Diver.
How did I become a PADI Diver? Simple–during my first year in college, my friend Kent said “Let’s take SCUBA.” and not knowing quite what would happen, said “OK!” That was back in 1990 with the University of Utah Scuba Program. We had a lot of fun in that Open Water diver course. Initially, I was torn–a bit apprehensive about doing it while psyched that I was doing something I’d only seen in movies (James Bond Thunderball, Sea Hunt and lots of 1950’s B-films).
Three months after becoming a certified diver, I went on a 3-day live-aboard dive trip off San Clemente Island, California with my buddy Kent. What a rush! The trip had been organized by the staff of the University of Utah Scuba Program. I completed my Advanced Open Water Diver certification on that trip. That was over Spring Break and I’d already signed up to take Rescue Diver the following quarter.
Rescue Diver–wow! That was a lot of work and a whole lot of fun. Kent and I were both in that class, too. We learned a lot about self rescue and how to prevent problems, as well as how to solve problems. It really helped my critical thinking skills and overall awareness as a diver.
I had to wait a while before taking the Divemaster course (again with the University of Utah Scuba Program), as it was only offered once a year. Divemaster was pretty intense; we were learning dive theory that Instructors had to know. Physics, Physiology, Equipment, Dive Environment, etc. Looking back on it, this was probably the course that really had me excited because we got into the nuts & bolts of diving. As part of the Divemaster course, I also picked up a copy of the PADI Instructor Manual. From my own experience, this is something I suggest all Divemasters have. As a Divemaster, you can not only supervise certified divers but you can also help train new divers. The PADI Instructor Manual gave me the same set of tools and reference my instructors have and I think that made me a better assistant.
One thing that I read about in the PADI Instructor Manual was about the Master Scuba Diver rating. It wasn’t as high-profile as it is now, which is unfortunate. After completing Divemaster I began to pester my instructors about Master Scuba Diver. Master Scuba Diver is a rating denotes that you’ve completed courses through Rescue Diver and five(5) Specialty Diver courses. Why would I want to take it? Because I was interested in several specialty areas of diving: photo, night, equipment, deep and boat diving. I also wanted to be a better diver (probably a common thing over the next 15+ years). So more courses. Since they weren’t part of the normal University curriculum, I made special arrangements with my instructors and was able to complete the courses on a trip to the Bahamas. Now, here was something new to me: taking a scuba course that didn’t take 9 weeks.
What was next? I knew I’d be heading off to graduate school soon, so I pushed my instructors a bit harder to take me through the Assistant Instructor course. They started to teach me how to teach. Now, I was hooked. I thought assistanting as a divemaster was pretty cool. Now, I was presenting to a class of new divers. Wow! I couldn’t wait to find an Instructor Development Course(IDC) and become a PADI Instructor. Unfortunately, that’d be another couple of years away.
After getting settled in graduate school and trying to find scuba courses I could assist with in the interim, I finally tracked down a PADI IDC that I could attend. So I arranged for some time away from school and drove to Chicago where I spent 7 days in an IDC. I learned a lot more about teaching and how people learn. Then, we learned something very valuable–how to treat Scuba as a business. It would be great if we could teach and offer Scuba for free, but the reality is the world doesn’t work that way. PADI provided us the tools we needed to make our diving businesses work. I found out later that many other agencies only focus on the teaching side of Scuba and not the business side. While teaching is very important, if you don’t know how to run a business you can lose your money.
After the PADI IDC, I attended a PADI Instructor Examination(IE). There, I had to show to an examiner trained by PADI that I knew how to teach in the classroom, teach skills in confined water and conduct Open Water training dives. I also had to show that I understood all of the dive theory I’d learned during Divemaster. Yes, it was a bit stressful; it was also very rewarding. I proved not just to the examiner but also to myself that I knew what I was doing.
Back to grad school… Now, I had to find a place to teach. There were two local scuba shops. I started working for one, ending up as the manager. During that time, I also earned some Specialty Instructor Ratings. I found out, the hard way, that I would have been better off taking Instructor-level training from a Course Director rather than trying to learn it on my own. It seemed to make more sense, because I had some of the diving experience needed and thought I knew what I was doing. I probably would have saved myself a lot of extra effort and time had I just taken the training from a Course Director.
After finishing graduate school, I took a job with the University of Utah Chemistry Department (my field of study in grad school) as a systems administrator. I also started teaching Scuba at the U. It was a different experience from being on my own. I was team teaching with experienced instructors. Yet another thing I suggest to all instructors. Having that extra support and extra experience is invaluable. After a couple of years, I took some time off. I was getting burned out on just teaching Open Water Scuba. I also left the U to go play in the dotcom world. I conducted a few small scuba classes, but not a lot. I found it was more fun to have a small group of divers than really large (e.g., University-style) classes. I could also spend more time with each diver.
After a few years, I decided that I wanted to become a Master Instructor. To earn that rating, I needed to first become an IDC (Instructor Development Course) Staff Instructor. So, I had to find a PADI Course Director that was conducting an IDC so I could earn my IDC Staff rating. I eventually teamed up with Jay Barth and earned my IDC Staff rating. Just like getting hooked on teaching when I earned my PADI Assistant Instructor rating, I was now hooked on teaching new instructors. Somewhere about this time, I also got to know my PADI Regional Manager a lot better: Barry Dunford. I’d met Barry at several PADI Member Forums, but never really talked to him. Barry is awesome! I had (and still have) tons of questions. Barry always had an answer or could direct me to someone else at PADI that could. At this point, I think I recouped all of my PADI member dues and then some. Barry provided a lot of support; I mentioned that I was working on my Master Instructor rating and that I was hooked on teaching instructors. Now I ran into a bit of a problem–I needed to certify some of my own Assistant Instructors to get to my Master Instructor rating, or I needed to staff a couple of IDCs. With Barry’s advice and support, I ended up staffing three IDCs with three different course directors. During that first IDC as a staff member, I knew my next step was Course Director.
At DEMA, I sat down with Alan Jan, the supervisor of Instructor Development at PADI. Alan pulled up my file and we discussed what I’d need to do to rank better on my CDTC application. The CDTC is probably the only time I’ve ever seen PADI be in any way competititve. All of the applications are ranked against eachother. I knew I was weak in some areas and Alan suggested ways to improve before sending in my CDTC application.
Now the race was on. I had to certify divers to a variety of levels, gain lots of experience, and finish my Master Instructor rating so I could apply for the PADI Course Director Training Course (CDTC) to be held in July of 2008. As I’ve mentioned to a few people at PADI, I think I spent more time working on my CDTC application and stressing over it than I did to get into graduate school. I pestered Barry Dunford, Alan Jan and several dozen other people at PADI with questions. Not only did they answer and advise, they were also all incredibly supportive. I was blown away.
That feeling of being blown away was trivial compared to what happened when I was accepted to the CDTC. I vacillated between OMG! and Cool! for quite a while. The good thing is that PADI provided a lot of eLearning for us to complete before the course, so I had something to do rather than stress over what I imagined could happen. Then I got to the CDTC and was blown away again. I’d been warned about playing mindgames with myself, stressing over how the next guy was better than I was or whether I really belonged in the course. On the first day, we toured the PADI office and I finally got to meet all of the people I’d been bugging. During that tour, Dave Walls, one of the training consultants I’d talked to several times, told us that he had had similar feelings. The night before the CDTC started I had dinner with several candidates and Martin Ainsworth, a Course Director from the UK. I’d met Martin and his wife Sharon at DEMA the previous fall. Sharon was also a CDTC candidate. Martin told us all that we’d already done the hard part–getting there in the first place. It was hard to swallow. He also told us to try to have fun. Between the advice from Martin and Dave, I tried to have fun. A couple of days into the CDTC, it dawned on me who I was with–36 other Master Instructors from around the world that had all worked like mad to get there. Wow. In the end, though, we’re all instructors. We all share our love of the underwater world with new and experienced divers. I probably learned as much from my peers as I did from the PADI Staff. Mind you, two weeks with PADI Staff members that I’d seen in videos, read their names on the copyright page of hundreds of PADI manuals and read their articles in the Undersea Journal, was pretty awesome.
You can learn about some of my classmates on their own websites. Peter Letts of Abyss Scuba, Dave Valaika of Indian Valley Scuba, Bruce Sawyer of Aquarius Dive Shop and TJ Staples of Ocean Frontiers just to name a few.
So…now you know a bit more about me. I’m a PADI Diver, Instructor and Course Director. And I’m not done with my education (probably never will be)–I’m planning on taking the DAN Instructor Trainer Workshop this fall so I can train instructors how to teach DAN Diving safety courses.
Update I completed the DAN Instructor Trainer Workshop at DEMA in fall 2008. I can now train new DAN Instructors. And, Scott Smith, who was integral during the training dubbed me “Shoe Boy.” (see below)
One is of my PADI Chuck’s the other is me underwater at San Clemente Island. Yes, I do wear mis-matched Converse high-tops. This set has the PADI logo on them (there is another pair, quite similar in my closet). One of the Course Directors I staffed with, Kelly Rockwood, called me the PADI Zealot. “PADI Zealot” is a title I wear happily. PADI programs and PADI instructors have changed my life. I’ve visited the underwater world and seen things most people won’t. They’ve instilled a love of the natural environment and a passion for having fun underwater. How can I not be the PADI Zealot? The question now is, are you ready for some serious adventure and a lot of fun? If so, give me a call or send me an email!