The world's best job

Scuba instructors love the job, not the pay.

By DOV PREMINGER
July 9, 2010 16:48
4 minute read.
Scuba diving

311_scuba diving. (photo credit: Courtesy)

‘The best job in the world” is a subjective topic at best, but one job that may fit the bill in many people’s minds is scuba diving instructor.

To find out, I spoke with several scuba diving instructors at Aqua Sport, Eilat, the oldest dive center in Israel.

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Moran Moreno, dive instructor and dive master there for over two years, answered the question in the affirmative.

“Yes,” she said. “It’s the most fantastic, satisfying, relaxing job in the world.”

Ran Franco, another instructor at Aqua Sport, agreed, albeit with a caveat. “This is the best job in the world, except for one thing,” he said. “The pay.”

Franco said dive instructors’ pay has been the same since the early ‘90s. He gets about NIS 50 per regular dive.

Instructors at Aqua Sport may work from eight or nine o’clock in the morning until six or seven at night. The amount of work varies.

“Some days I’ll only do three dives,” said Franco. “Some days, six or seven. My personal record is 12 or 13 dives in one day.”

Besides the pay, Franco also laments what he feels is a lack of respect for the profession.

“I train people to dive for a week, and during this time I’m responsible for their lives. Yet I get paid less than a windsurfing instructor. It’s unbelievable,” he said.

The more idyllic a job, the more people are willing to do it, for less money.

Scuba diving has greatly increased in popularity, and there is a flood of willing instructors. With so many available workers, dive resorts don’t have to pay much, and work their instructors hard.

However, Shay Karni, another Aqua Sport instructor, said that in the summer months, the pay can be quite high.

“In June, July and August, the peak season, you can make NIS 9,000-10,000 per month,” he said. Karni added that the highs are inevitably followed by the winter lows, where an instructor might get paid NIS 2,000-3,000 per month.

Karni also agreed that his job is the best in Israel, although one has to really like diving to do it.

But there’s a serious side to the work as well. “We have legal responsibility for every diver who goes into the water with us,” Moreno said.

“It’s not like teaching surfing,” she added. “Being a dive instructor is fun – we look carefree, like beach bums – but we’re actually very responsible and serious about what we do.”

Every dive instructor must occasionally encounter difficult situations in the water. In his three years as a diving instructor, Ran Franco has seen his share.

“The way to solve any problem, underwater or otherwise, is to stop, think and act,” he advised. But underwater, not everyone is so cool under fire.

Franco recalls diving with a father and son, to a depth of nearly 30 meters, when the father began to panic.

“He kept telling me to watch his son, watch his son. But he was taking huge breaths. He suddenly bolted for the surface. I had to decide what to do – if I let him go up, the way he was breathing, his lungs would explode.”

When ascending from the deep, the air in the lungs decompresses, and if divers aren’t continuously breathing out, their lungs can pop.

“I grabbed him, held him down,” said Franco. “I started punching him in the stomach, getting the air out. Just kept punching him, punching him, until he was breathing. We started to ascend slowly then, and everything turned out okay.”

The father was so grateful he gave Franco gifts worth over NIS 2,000.

Franco has also had his own troubles under water, although he always deals with them in a calm manner. Once his O-Ring – the tiny, but crucial bit of rubber that seals the Scuba tank’s valve, broke at a depth of 40 meters underwater. Air started leaking out of the tank fast.

“The air could have all been gone within 10 seconds,” said Franco. “But I reached behind me, shut off the tank valve. I took air from my buddy’s regulator, and we ascended to the surface.”

Over and above any other qualities, diving instructors need to be calm in difficult situations.

“I am responsible for the lives of the people I’m leading,” Franco explained. “And when someone panics, if you panic too, you just make it worse. If I keep calm, he will be calm, and things will be fine.”

Franco has confidence in his ability to maintain calm in difficult situations.

“There’s an old diving instructor joke,” he said. “What’s the difference between God and a diving instructor? God doesn’t think he’s a diving instructor."


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