We asked Steve, one of our brilliant PADI IDC Staff Instructor’s, and Pavel Lavrinovic, who has just become a Dive Master, to chat and share with us a bit of Pavel’s journey on this 6 months Dive Master Program.
Steve: Well Pavel, congratulations on completing your Dive Master Program, but for everybody out there reading this post, can you tell them what started your own journey achieving your Dive Master. Where did it all start?
Pavel: It all started three years ago when I came into Andark, straight after my trip to Cuba, where I enjoyed Scuba Diving. So I wanted to progress.
Steve: Why did you decide to do your Dive Master qualification?
Pavel: I was looking for some work, a job not in the office, basically, and as much as possible, close to extremes. So I was looking for Hiking, Climbing, or Scuba Diving, and I tried all of these, and I enjoyed Scuba Diving the most. It was something that melted my heart. I was where I should be. Cuba was a bit of a strange experience. It was very beautiful but very unsafe. When I came into the UK, I enjoyed the correct systematical way of how things were done here. Very good for my brain, because my brain works systematically.
Steve: So what has your experience been like learning to be a Dive Master with us at Andark?
Pavel: The good part, in the beginning, was who would be my mentor. I met Steve, and I met a couple of other guys. Their experience was important to me. I wanted to work with people who have 10 or 20 years of diving. I really did appreciate all the benefits that I got from Andark. I could come to dive every time I had spare time, come any other day, join any single course I wanted to join. So it was really really great, to begin with. That must have taken me half of the year and it was intensive, which was the good part. It was what I was looking for.
Steve: As part of achieving your Dive Master qualification, you also obtained the PADI Master Scuba Diver rating which only about 5% of all divers actually go on to achieve. It’s often called in PADI circles “Ninja level” of training. So how did you feel about achieving that?
Pavel: I am actually a bit cool about that because it was all systematically. Smart in the way it was showed to me.
Steve: Can you tell us what you enjoyed the most? What was the best thing about the program?
Pavel: I would say, I really do love from my side, I just love being underwater, because I find it a bit extreme, and it feels really cool. I feel like I’m in the place I should be, actually, and another good thing which I got going through the Dive Master is the feeling of being helpful.
I was doing what I was supposed to do and helping people also.
Steve: Your Dive Master Program led you to other career options. So, can you share with us the last couple of days and the two weeks before that, what were you doing?
Pavel: I am interested in all opportunities. I am trying to catch up with everything that the Dive Industry offers. I finished last week my two-weeks course in Inshore Commercial Diving (HSE Scuba) and last week I finished by OPITO safety diver training.
Steve: How did you like that training? Did you enjoy that?
Pavel: Yeah! Plenty of examples, plenty of rescue scenarios that will stick with you, and it gave us plenty of thoughts and practice, and that was good.
Steve: You are training to be a Rescue Diver for what?
Pavel: For the scenario of a helicopter crashing into the water, offshore. Helicopter Underwater Escape Training Safety Diver.
Steve: What are you hoping to do next year? Anything special you want to try?
Pavel: Hum… I would like to start my AI (Assistant Instructor) in June or July. It is quite a short course and then I’ll go for Instructors.
Steve: It’s going to be a hard task when it comes to doing your Instructor Training
Pavel: I hope so. It should be intensive.
Steve: What about Diving? Is there any place in the world you fancy going diving?
Pavel: I fancy going to Mother Russia. I really would like to do Ice Diving, Cave Diving, some Deep Diving probably, and Wreck Diving. All extremes, somehow, attracts me.
If you liked or have any other questions about Pavel’s story, please let us know down in the comments.
I am from Brazil and believe it or not, Scuba Diving is not a popular sport over there. We swim, we snorkel, but that’s it. Of course, some places teach you to dive, but I believe they are still growing, and have a lot of developing to do. To be honest, it never crossed my mind to one day take a course for diving. You know when you are so ignorant about a subject, you don’t have any idea how to start, what to do or that it’s even possible? That was my case.
I did watch many documentaries and TV programmes of activists divers, and biologists going to the middle of the ocean to dive, to see and to study gigantic sharks, rays, whales, and other marine animals. They check their behaviour, how their population are doing, where they go at different times of the year, how global warming is affecting them, and so on.
I’ve also watched movies and TV programmes where people go into a cage to see sharks, but that was never a thing I would do anyway, so I never related to that, and that’s what I thought it was, something that only people who work in the marine field would do.
When I moved to the UK and to Southampton though and started working at Andark, I found out that Scuba Diving was more popular here and pretty much anyone could do it. And then Andy talked about going back to the basics of Scuba Diving on our videos, to educate people like me, that still thinks scuba diving is a distant reality, that you can practice on fancy places, or as a professional. So I had no other thoughts, I had to try it, and of course, I had to do it with my husband so that we could share this amazing experience together.
Now, I want to give you the step by step experience, so you can know what to expect in each phase of the way.
Before the Course – Buying/Booking the Course
First of all, I paid for the course and booked a date for my husband and I, and because I work at the office, I just talked to June. I gave her my personal and card information – something you can do on the website or over the phone – so she could process my payment. We also had to fill out a medical questionnaire to make sure we were fit to dive, if you answer yes to any of the questions, you have to get your doctors approval to let you dive. After I had done this I received my two open water crew packs, one for myself and my husband, both with a Manual, a DVD, a Log Book, and some cards about other specialities and with a code to go online and try a dive computer simulator.
I also received an email with all the details of my course, the dates, what to bring, what I had to do before and during my training and the time that was going to start and finish.
Before the Course – Theory
When I got the manual, I started reading it by myself, but my husband wanted to watch the DVD, so we watched together, and I realised the manual and the DVD have the same information, which I loved because I think it’s much easier to learn.
As we watched the DVD, I must confess I got a little scared. I never knew how serious and technical scuba diving is. Some mistakes you can’t afford to make, lots of equipment you’ve got to remember. So I kept thinking about all the people who love to dive and are passionate about it must be doable and captivating.
After watching all the Chapters and DVDs, we did the Knowledge Reviews, which was great to review what we’ve learned and the things we didn’t fully understand. It also made me more confident and prepared to take the exam on the first day of the course.
PADI OPEN WATER
The PADI Open Water Course is a four-day course, divided into two parts: Referral and Open Water; not counting the studying part. I booked my course for the weekends, so I would take two weekends to finish it. You must know that they are also available during the week, to be done in 4 days in a role, or you can buy just the referral and do the Open Water in a different place. Depending on what you want, you can pick what best fits you.
First Day – Referral Theory
I was so excited that I woke up early in the morning to prepare my bag with everything I knew I had to take. Usually, they start the course by the Theory part, which it was in our case, and because we had a beautiful sunny day, we went to the lake to review everything. It was lovely.
We sat down with our instructor, and we reviewed every exercise. It was great, I asked him the things if they weren’t making sense to me, and he patiently answered everything. After reviewing each Knowledge Review, we took a quiz to practice, and after all, we took the final test, which was a lot like what we had just talked about, so it went smoother than I imagined.
After that, we were supposed to have a lunch break and then start the training in the pool, but my husband had a huge toothache and we had to call it off until he fixed that, which he did in the following week, and we rescheduled the dates.
*There is an admin fee for rescheduling dates.
One day at work, I was telling my colleague Matt, in the shop, that I was taking the Open Water Course and he convinced me to buy the Drysuit Course as well. He said if I were going to dive in the UK, I would probably use a Drysuit, I could do the speciality in the same course, and it was a certification for life. So I thought, you know what, I’m already investing in this course, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to do it again, so I also bought the Drysuit Course to complete them together.
First and Second Day – Referral Pool
On the first day, in the pool, we had a swimming test that made me realise how out of shape I am. It’s a test to make sure we can swim and float, doesn’t mean you need to be a swimmer, but make sure you won’t sink.
After that, we started the real course. A lot like what we’ve watched on the DVDs. Building up the skills to dive safely, I got to experiment what a friend of my had said to me a month earlier. He said paraphrasing, “the PADI Open Water Course (POW) is not like other courses. Most of the courses you go, you leave feeling you didn’t learn much or everything you had to, but in the POW we leave feeling confident we know what to do if something goes wrong”. That’s exactly what I felt right in the beginning, and this is a course that prepares you to deal with a situation if something goes wrong.
In the beginning, was very awkward and wonderful at the same time, because we were doing things we’ve never done before, breathing through a mouthpiece underwater, using lots of equipment, each one for a specific purpose, trying to keep balance, but it was also surprising to see how quickly we evolved.
I loved doing it with my husband and having the same experience together. Laughing at each other when trying to stay still and communicate underwater, helping one another when something was a bit more difficult, and then going back home and talking about everything we felt. We had a lot of fun.
The second day was more straightforward than the first day. Remember when I said about all of this being doable? It is! It seems so complicated when you don’t know anything and what to do, but as you practise, it becomes more and more effortless.
I also need to say that I was so impressed with the instructors we had, Ben and Alex. I thought they were very professional and great teachers.
They explained everything we were going to do on the surface, and then they explained everything again underwater, doing all the signals which it was so lovely, to begin understanding how to talk underwater and being able to see them performing the exercise before we tried. They were also very patient and kind to explain as much as we needed until we understood and got everything right.
We had our last dive with the drysuit, and it felt bizarre, to be honest, But Ben told us that that was normal for the first time because it’s very different from the Wetsuit, but you get used to it, and as more profound, you go, the better it feels.
Third and Fourth Days – Open Water
On our Open Water phase, I felt more confident and relaxed, because I kind of already knew what was going to happen, the people who were taking the course with me and the equipment. We also had terrific instructors with us, Stainton and Tom, once again, very professional and patient, willing to answer any questions and help when needed, and even though the weather changed from sunny to rainy (typically British), I had a fantastic time.
Because we were doing the Drysuit Course with the OW, we’ve only dived with the drysuit at the lake, and I must say that Ben was right. It was so much easier to put on the Drysuit, mainly because we were dry, and it felt way more comfortable. I was so glad we were doing it with the drysuit because it was cold, but to be fair, I don’t know how it was for the people that were doing with their wetsuits.
The Open Water felt more natural than it was in the pool; we repeated everything we were taught in the pool and added some more skills. I think it also felt more like diving because we had more space to swim.
Going from the pool to the training lake was a little daunting for me, I had been told about the visibility in the lake before we arrived at the dive site, obviously it was never going to be as good as the pool. With the limited visibility, at points I almost felt alone but with a quick check to my right I could grab my buddy and then with a quick over my shoulder I could see that our instructor was always right there with us.
Whilst completing my dives, I practiced one of the most important things you need to learn when diving, this was to always remain calm, which I think I did pretty well. A bonus to learning to dive in limited visibility is that if you can dive well in limited visibility, it will certainly make your life a whole lot easier when you get to some exotic locations where the visibility stretches as far as the eye can see.
Another point I’d like to highlight is the lake structure. Up there they have a cafe shop that you can buy food and drinks between the dives. The burgers are delicious and I didn’t even feel guilty about eating it after a dive. They’ve also got big female and male changing room, with toilets and hot water showers, perfect after a cold day in the water.
What can I say? I loved and enjoyed so much my whole experience and all I can say is thank you to all who was part of it. To all the instructors, thank you and congratulations for the great job you’re all doing, for the professionalism and excellence you put on your work. I really admire you all and appreciate what you all do here.
Thank you to all the Andark team who have introduced me to this new world, I always loved to work here, and now I’m also proud.
Now, I can’t wait for the next step. I really want to experience a real dive somewhere here in the UK, probably on a Sunday Dive. I hope you like and find my story helpful, and who knows if someday it’s going to be you?
You’ve decided to go on an amazing holiday overseas for an unforgettable trip and thought about learning to dive there. I’m going to tell you five reasons why you shouldn’t.
Get the most out of it
When you plan a Holiday, you get expectations, you spend money, and you want to relax and enjoy all you can of the place you’re going to and the time you’ll have there. What happens is, the Open Water Scuba Diving – the first official step to Scuba Diving – is a serious and technical course you have to take in order to dive safely in the open seas and it takes 4 practical days to do so, plus the time you have to study the theory before making the actual course. Now, imagine if you take four days out of your holidays just for a course, when you could be actually diving, tanning, drinking or eating.
Learning to Scuba Dive on a Holiday trip won’t allow you to get the most out of the trip and neither the course unless you are spending enough time, and 4 days won’t make any difference for your whole Holiday.
2. Learn in your language and culture
When you go outside your country you can’t be 100% sure, you’re going to have a native English speaker giving the course, which means you can miss some of the talk and details when you could have someone helping who fully understand your doubts, your culture and the specifications of where you live, so you won’t just be able to dive in your Holidays, but also when you get back home.
Here in the UK the water temperature, depth and visibility are different from other places in the world that you might be going for your Holidays, and diving doesn’t have to be an occasional hobby, but a sport you do when you can/want, and someone that understands the weather in the UK can probably understand what you’ll go through, whats the best equipment, and tips, and to be honest, after diving here, you’ll be qualified to dive anywhere, and then, when you go for a Holiday you’ll be more prepared and knowledgeable about what you’re interested in, what you want to explore and discover.
As I said earlier, the Open Water Course it’s the first official course you take to learn diving. There are different places you can go to learn, but it’s imperative to look for a place that is PADI certified, as PADI is one of the safest and recognised curricula in the world and is a certification for life. So, you’ve got to make sure; you are taking this course in a trustworthy place.
Many places and hotels have their own courses, but they are not worldwide certification like PADI, which means you’ll be only certified to dive there, no other place will recognise it.
4. Financial Plan
Instead of getting a surprise spending on your Holiday or an extra spend, you can actually plan your diving course previously to the Holiday and organise your finance to do it first, knowing exactly how much everything costs, if you want to buy something or wait for a most appropriate moment, what you’ll need for the course.
We get many clients that went diving on a Holiday that wasn’t part of the plan and actually paid way more they would if they had done in here because they didn’t know if diving was for them, so they paid an expensive course for the whole family to try diving and then realised that they did like diving, but would take too many days to complete it during their trip, and they end it up doing here, regretting of the one they paid that wasn’t valid for anything and more expensive than ours, and also that they missed their chance to dive into an amazing . So, if you can plan your trip the best way possible and go prepared for almost everything and just worry about enjoying your time, better.
If you don’t know if diving is for you, there are safe and not expansive ways to try it first, before getting into it with all. For example, we have the Try Dive sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays evenings that were made especially for that, with professional and experienced instructors.
Last but not least, you won’t have a pressure to buy and do things you are not ready and prepared for yet. As we know that some places take their students to learn diving in places they are still not comfortable with or ready for. When you take the course, you’ll learn that you are responsible to say no, to say you’re not feeling ok, something is wrong, or that you need something, and learning that in a place that won’t judge you for it, but will respect you, without any pressure, will give you more confidence to say “no” anywhere, if you need.
*”But should I Scuba Dive on my Holiday Trip?”
DEFINITELY! Scuba Dive is so much fun! And if you are going somewhere on the beach, you’ll be seeing just half of the place if you don’t go diving. Scuba Diving is the way to meet the underwater world, which is an entirely different world from what we have, full of creatures. So, it’s totally worth doing it.
If you want to give Scuba Diving a try, you can do a session we call “Try Dive“. The “Try Dive” session, as the name suggests, it’s just a taste of what Scuba Dive is, since pretty much everything you’ll do are things you’ve never done before, it’s an entry-level way, to test it if is for you, not having to invest, until you are sure. You don’t get a certification for this one.
Then, if you do like it and decide to invest in a course, we have the PADI Open Water Course, which is a 4-day course built to develop your knowledge and skills underwater, so you can dive safely. The PADI Open Water is a lifetime certification, recognised worldwide, which means you can dive any place in the world.
If you don’t know us yet, we’re one of the UK’s largest watersport’s retailers specialising in Scuba Diving, Sailing and pretty much all Watersport activities. We are also a PADI Career Development training centre, teaching people to dive from a beginner to becoming professional Instructors.
We sell products, equipment and clothing, and we also have an indoor pool and a purpose built diver training lake facility that allows us to go even further with our client’s needs, making it possible to help them learning, developing skills, and training their abilities on water, for professional or personal purposes such as scuba diving, helicopter escape training and sea survival training.
Offering the necessary products and training to our clients which allows them to get the most comfortable and safe experience possible, so they can be prepared for any situation above or below water, is extremely important to us.
The RYA Sea Survival Course is an essential course for anyone going to the sea this season and wants to learn some Sea Survival training to have a better understanding of how to use the safety equipment on board your boat.
We not only run Sea Survival Courses for sailors, we also run them for those who fly offshore commercially, as a pilot or crew, even within a “short” distance. The sea survival training for pilots is an add-on to our Dunker sessions. (Helicopter Underwater Escape Trainer). This is so the pilot can learn how to use life jackets, get into lift rafts if their aircraft went into the water.
The RYA Sea Survival Course is a one day course and you’ll get to experience first hand the problems of entering an uncooperative liferaft and assisting others while fully kitted out in wet weather gear and a lifejacket. You will also learn about life jackets and how they work, use of flares, EPIRBs and PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons), etc. You can see our Training Manager in the video below explaining it.
*We have the RYA Training Sea Survival Course coming up on the 28th of June, 15th of July and the 19th of July.
For more details and booking, call: 01489 581755 or access the link: Sea Survival Course
We all know that we are now entering to the best and most wanted Season of the year. The sun is out, birds are singing and the water looks more and more attractive. I don’t know about you, but all I want to do is enjoy the most of it, especially on outdoor activities, getting exercise, taking some natural vitamin D (if you know what I mean) and just appreciating the great weather and contact with nature, to be honest.
Now, maybe you already have the whole season planned, dinghy sailing with your friends or scuba diving with your family on Holidays, but maybe you don’t. Maybe you already have great hobbies and activities that you love doing, or maybe you want to start something new but you’re not quite sure what you would like to do. So that’s why I wanted to write something for both of you.
Here at Andark, we don’t only sell diving and water sports equipment, we actually want to give people new experiences and open a whole new world for them, and we do that through our experience of more than 40 years now, also selling great products of the best brands available on the market so people can appreciate their above water or underwater moments, protected, safe and comfortable. Not only that, but we also have Scuba Diving Trainings from beginners to professional, certified by PADI, which means our students are certified for life and are able to scuba dive in any place in the world! Pretty cool, isn’t it?
So I would love to invite you over and introduce you to the watersports and underwater world, but if you are experienced, I know you want the best, and you want it from someone that understands what you’re looking for, so I would like to invite you too. Especially this weekend, we are having a BIG Sale Event at our store, starting on the 18th of May at 9am and ending on the 20th of May at 5pm, and it will be the perfect time to start something new or to buy that thing you’ll need for the season ahead. We have a massive selection of products for Sailing, Scuba Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling, if it is on the water, you name it.
I really hope you come, and I’ll leave a video below for you to see what you can expect.