Saturday, 12 November 2011

Unique and Interesting

Another one from the magazine archives...

Over the past few months teaching Recreational and Technical courses in Port Douglas, Queensland I have had the privilege of meeting, diving with and teaching some very interesting and unique people. All of whom have attributed to making fun teaching practices. Certain of these students have managed to stand out among the many

This all started for me in Port Douglas when I was teaching a young man from the USA and it was during his first open water dive that I realised that this was going to be a good and fun few months of training.

Jeff arrived in Port Douglas as an industrial designer with a desire to explore the underwater realms and obtain a greater understanding of the techniques, equipment, training and configurations as a sort of 'study' if you will and perhaps at the end of the programme to investigate opportunities in new dive gear manufacture and design.

It’s always daunting for an Instructor to meet their students for the first time, as it is undoubtedly for them to meet us. Will they like me? Do they like South Africans? Can they swim? Will we have a wet suit to fit them or will they prove disruptive or inhibit learning. These are but a few of the thoughts that inevitably run through one’s mind. Perhaps just as daunting for the student diver is meeting someone for the first time that they essentially entrust their well being in for the course duration.

In the case of Jeff, he arrived determined and confident of achieving the maximum he could from the courses he had enrolled in, with the ultimate aim of achieving Dive Master Certification. 

After spending a summer free diving and spear fishing at home in the US he was ready to experience the realm of SCUBA and extended bottom times in the weightless environment I 'call my office.'

It was Jeff’s readiness to learn and adapt during the weeks of study and learning skills that made his courses fun and with seeming ease for both student and instructor.

This is but one example and I find that the more people I teach the more I recognise the same look of determination in all students and an ambition to achieve the maximum during their course and to depart with newly acquired skills and knowledge on how to use these skills that they previously thought unattainable. Whether open water training dives, rescue scenarios or outward drifts these are often as new to me as to students but with the increasing reality of global awareness the willingness to use their knowledge and experience is achieved from our days together.


Living in the relaxed atmosphere of North Queensland allows me to spend more time with student divers to share knowledge, skills and my passion for the ocean thus feeling confident that there is a new diver in the world’s oceans with the same philosophies and safe dive practices that were instilled in me at a young age and which I still practice today.

Teaching for me is as much about learning from student divers as they hopefully learn from me during our time together.

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
Jacques Yves Cousteau

When I approached Jeff to write about his side of the story he responded with the following text.

Jeff Deuchler writes:

In retrospect, I took an incredible gamble travelling 8,000 miles to learn about diving. That being said, Port Douglas was where I discovered diving in 2007. Not a single day had passed without thoughts of this place and the reef. Somehow inside, I knew there were answers to be found here in Australia.

Sure, I'd seen my father’s old Jet Fins, mesh “grab bag” and dive knife in the garage, but never considered diving as a real possibility. After all, in the Pacific Northwest Mountains water is frozen for four months of the year.

Having spent countless days being happy in the water and less satisfied on land, the realisation came to combine my two passions; the water and design. My industrial design career was filled by housewares and scented oil dispensers, I needed more and diving was just that. Once my goal became clear, nothing seemed outside the realm of consideration. It seemed my daydreams of Australia were about to become real. 

Mark Miller and Tech Dive Academy were there to aid me in my quest for diving. After some back and forth emails, with copious amounts of research on my end, the decision was made to leave my life for a year and come to Port to study. The date of my arrival was a day I'll never forget, with my old “spearo” bag in tow I was introduced to Mark Miller and who I'd come to know as a mentor and friend; Ross Anderson.

I was to be the first student Ross had taken from nothing through Dive Master, what I now understand was a significant opportunity. Having the benefit of working together every day, I tried to absorb every bit of knowledge Ross had gained over his years of experience. My first day of open water training only served to reinforce my gut-feeling that this adventure was the right choice. On dive two, of my Open Water, Ross and I dived with Minke whales; a first for both Ross and obviously myself. The other divers on the boat enviously said; “quit diving now while you're on top.” Some weeks later, a picture by Chris Hamilton made the Port Douglas Gazette, featuring a Minke, Ross, and myself suspended weightless in the deep blue.

Considering such a start, I was driven unlike anything I'd ever done before. Every day was an adventure, new techniques, new philosophies and new experiences. After completion of my Dive Master course, I began working as a Dive Master on the very boat I trained on. The experience provided another level of understanding of the industry and what diving was. Every day, I found myself instilling the same practices and advice in my certified divers as were instilled in me during my training. I was able to see improvements from the first dive of the day to the last, many thanked me for it. I believe now true education offers memorable experiences for all involved, the student and the teacher. Had Ross not possessed his passion and devotion to absolute mastery of his craft, I wouldn't have become the diver I am today. 

As my return to the States draws nearer, I see value in becoming an Instructor and believe my education was transformative to say the least.

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