Of all of the professional decisions in my life, the best one i ever made was to train to be a freediving instructor.
Ill give you my story first, before we consider yours.
When i left university in 2004 I was all set on a career in the media, i got a good degree and was pretty good at what i had trained in. However, like most graduates found myself temping and doing low level jobs just to make ends meet. After a brief foray in to TV i started working at a prominent London watersports shop, Ocean Leisure, where i ended up working on branding and website development.
Although I was already in to freediving, scuba, surfing etc, this really got me in to the industry and kept my focus on such things.
A few years passed and after a fair bit of coming and going, myself and my wife moved to Cornwall, having made the decision whilst on a relaxing holiday to Egypt (sometimes you just need time to think right?) . We had contacts in Cornwall in the industry which allowed me to get some work whilst making the move.
After less than a year of living in Cornwall, and lots of freediving and spearfishing with friends I realised that I had to follow my passion and see if I could make a go of it. Cornwall is a unique place, Newquay in particular, as it has a culture of self-employment and diverse jobs so the idea of running our own business made a lot of sense, even though it felt crazy.
I then went for it! I completed all of my formal training in a year, spring till spring. It wasn’t easy doing it so fast, and to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend it. That being said, it was well worth it.
This idea was formed in 2009… its now 2017! How time flies! We now have several instructors and run 3 courses a week from May till September.
So, enough about me….
Lets talk about you!
I think the first thing to think about is why you want to be an instructor? There are lots of opportunities in Freediving these days, when i started it was a fledgling industry to be perfectly honest and I had to create my own work. Now, you can actually make some good money just by working for a school.
So do you want to be an instructor to work for yourself or to work freelance for someone else? Do you want to travel with your new job (one of our instructors used to travel with his qualification quite a bit) or do you just like the idea of being the best?
Being a freediving instructor may mean you can quit your job and start a career in the dive industry, it may mean that you get to travel the world doing what you love. It has the potential to open so many doors, probably more than being a scuba instructor these days. Just remember that its a commitment of both time and money to get there.
Once you have decided why you want to be an instructor then you need to know how to get there.
The road to instructor
I teach AIDA courses, for several reasons. The standard of materials are now excellent, they are also free, so we dont have to charge students for course books (something to think about when you plan who to train with). The courses are also ‘relatively tough’, at least the requirements are harder than some of the other agencies. This, in my opinion, puts AIDA students a cut above the rest when it comes to skills and abilities. AIDA also is in control of the vast majority of competitions, and its AIDA ranking that matters to competitive freedivers around the world. Finally AIDA is run by Freedivers for freedivers and only teaches freediving, it is not a massive scuba corporation looking for a slice of the market, like PADI or SSI.
So that all being said, what do you need to do to get there.
There are 4 non professional levels to get through first. Previously called ‘Star’ levels, these are now just referred to as level 1-4.
Level 1 is the foundation level, and can be just conducted in a pool. This is often combined with level 2 (with us at least) as its in level 2 where you start to go deep and add performance requirements.
Level 3 is in my opinion the most fun course, for instructor and student alike! Its where you start to go deeper, up to 30m, and you feel like you are really really freediving now.
Level 4 can be considered as an assistant instructor level. Its the most demanding of the non-professional levels and once complete will allow you to assist an AIDA instructor on courses. You also need to have a first aid qualification to pass the course.
Then, once that’s complete you an enroll on the instructor course! For skilled participants you can get through the 4 levels in about a year. Level 1-2 in the spring, then level 3 at the end of the summer, then level 4 in the winter (somewhere warm and clear!).
What is the instructor course?!
The instructor course takes place over 10 days and is both physically and mentally demanding. This ensures that AIDA instructors are the best in the world.
Here at FreediveUK, we like to split the course up and spread it out. We first get some of the easier performance requirements and the pool requirements out of the way. Then we like you to intern on as many AIDA courses as you can manage. This is where you learn the skills to teach the course. The we take you away somewhere deep, warm and clear to complete the course depth requirements, which is 40m!
That all takes a lot longer than 10 days, but at the end of it you will actually be ready to teach. No zero to hero courses here.
So, if you’ve been thinking about a change in career, or something fun and rewarding to do now and again, then maybe its time to start your own journey to instructor. You never know, it may be the best decision you have made all year!
Dive safe people!
About the author – Ian Donald is an AIDA instructor trainer and author. He has been freediving since 2001 and has been instructing since 2009. He can often be seen on TV programs about freediving and is often called on to talk as a guest lecturer on the subject.