That First Impression

By Ryan Vickers


As a child growing up, I was fascinated with scuba diving. At times, I wanted to do it more than anything else. I read books about it from the library, watched both fiction and non-fiction programs on television, and rented (and then subsequently bought) the video cassette of one specific Cousteau documentary.


You might imagine my surprise in my early adulthood when I was working at a school about twenty years ago, and I heard through colleagues that someone was setting up a scuba course. Having experienced some bumps in the road along the way in trying to get certified over many years – including obstacles like the perception of my water skills by some and the fact that I lived in a small town with no scuba businesses – I was happy that I finally would get the chance to discover the underwater world.

However, my first and subsequent impressions of when I was a student in my open water course weren’t the greatest. Here I was, ready to finally accomplish a “bucket list” item, and it seemed that, strangely, they didn’t want me too much (or my very dispensable income).

Let’s look at those specific and subsequent impressions, shall we?


We will start with time. The shop was rushing the other course members and me to get things done. As a certified diving establishment, whether you’re an independent instructor or a fully tricked-out scuba store, it’s ideal to have your students be part of a well-paced course. What you don’t want to do is to go at a breakneck speed, which was the case in my course.


Secondly, the amount of time between our confined (pool) sessions and our open water sessions was within the required time – but not by much. I took the time to arrange to book a “refresher” pool session with the shop, which they seemed to do everything to make sure it didn’t happen. Don’t fall into the same rut they did; if your students want an extra pool session, make that happen. Remember that the refresher is billable!


Continuing to the later part of the course, our open water dives (number one and two) were nothing short of a fiasco; the DM went underwater, plowed into a rock and then declared we weren’t diving. I guess it was good that we didn’t even get wet that day? Furthermore, when we tried again a week later, I ripped the mouthpiece grip off my regulator underwater, and my instructor seemed oblivious.


Following the course, trying to do anything further with the establishment seemed fruitless. I was someone with a dispensable income, and the shop didn’t want anything to do with me. I had dreamed of diving my entire life, and now that I was licensed to do it, I was back to square one. Please don’t fall into this trap; remember that once students have completed their open water course, the time to get them involved (through additional courses, scuba club dives, etc.) is never too quick!


Finally, trying to get the certification cards was like pulling teeth. Only when I mentioned that certain group members had moved out of the country were they “released.” Thankfully, with many agencies now allowing options of digital cards, this is not likely to happen to anyone nowadays, but this does bring up the point that it is not wise for you to put up roadblocks when it comes to paperwork with your students! Make sure to make any logistics as painless as possible!


Having been involved as a professional level diver since 2007, I’ve seen the errors of the ways of the store that ran my open water course and have vowed never to repeat them! Remember, if you treat divers, regardless of their level, with respect and aim to assist them, you will have a customer base that is eager to return to your business time after time!


Remember – if you have any questions about this or any other publication you have read in our magazine or our social media posts – just reach out. We are ScubaBiz.Help, where our mission is in our name!

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