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My name is Javier Cantellops and I have loved the water since I was born. I have just recently become an Open Water Scuba Instructor. I have also just landed an amazing job on the paradise island of Maui. This is the story of how I became an Open Water Instructor, the path I took to get to live my dreams, and my perspective on what it takes to do it. My journey was not your average one, that is for sure, but the outcome was nevertheless standard. Meaning if you want it, it can be yours.

I started my diving career as a free diver, free diving wherever I've lived.

I've explored the reefs of the Big Island, been spearfishing in Costa Rica and had always gone scuba diving with my friends along the way just for fun. I'd never had any classes, just always knew what to do and most importantly what not to do (i.e. don't hold your breath on scuba). That was pretty much all I knew.

After a wild and successful business venture in Costa Rica, and becoming absolutely hooked on diving, I decided, after long thought, that diving was what I wanted to do so we sold the business. I was 32 years old at the time and my son was three and I decided to make a change. So we moved back to the states and staged out of South Carolina, my "hometown", trying to figure out exactly what it was that I was going to do. I had just the barest ideas of what I wanted life to be about. I wanted to be in the water, I wanted to share my passion, I wanted to help people find excitement, I wanted to be an instructor...

but how was I going to accomplish this?

And then I found my answer. Once again, it was not the normal path, but the one I was blessed to take. I found Discovery Diving Co. and Instructor College in Beaufort, NC that would accept my GI Bill. They have a program designed to take you from the ground up (from open water diver to full blown instructor). No experience needed...but the experience I did have would aid me on this long road. Although it was a preset path, it was not an easy one to take. I lived in SC and the school was in the outer banks, six hours away. I decided to gamble it all. I got a place, paid double rent for two months, and moved the whole family up to Atlantic Beach, NC, where I worked part time and attended school every single weekend.

This was a fairly intense program, OLD SCHOOL style. Full blown lectures for every class, full internship during your off time, working inside of the shop, shadowing classes, taking gear classes, maintenance classes, tank inspection certifications, diving all the time and of course learning all the lectures, gas laws, dive physiology, and dive table lectures.

Complete, Immersive Dive Training

This is the goal of Discovery Diving: complete, immersive, and thorough. This was not your quick eLearning style of training. Every weekend was a new class, with the week before used to read the prescribed book or books all along the way. All lectures had to be written out, all gas laws and formulas were given to us on day one and expected to be learned. It was pretty intense for a newbie, let alone being expected to master this within a year! But needless to say, by the end of the program we were all primed and ready, but on our own now!

Diving in North Carolina is Intense!

NC diving isn't all 100 foot viz days. Our shore training was within 30 feet but in an inlet that is notorious for serious current and poor visibility. Tying in the dive flag was my favorite challenge. You could run into massive stingrays at the anchor point, and of course simply finding the anchor point and fighting the current to hold on to the dive buoy 30 feet up was a challenge. Knot tying was crucial!

All boat dives were two to three hours out, twenty plus miles, all wrecks, all fairly deep, the shallowest being 60 feet. This part of NC is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic and it definitely deserves the name. For my scuba diving education, I grew up diving some of the world's greatest recreational wrecks, ones that I have read about in numerous magazines. The Caribsea, the Papoose, the Aeolus, the U352!!!

These are all incredible wrecks with amazing marine life. I have dived with over 300 sand tigers on more occasions then I can remember. I always saw sand bar sharks, white tips, groupers, amberjacks, barracudas. And on every dive, we were always looking for the Great White that we knew was always nearby, but I never did get a glimpse. It's a diver's dream to see so many large fish and spectacular wrecks.

But diving in NC isn't all fun and games, especially if you are in an instructor college and wintertime sets in. The water went from 74 degrees to a chilly 52. And although most recreational people were not diving, we certainly were. During our rescue class, I could see my breath, and my divemaster month was brutally cold. And the IDC (Instructor Development Course) was tough to get through simply because of the temperature.

But all that being said, it made me an incredible diver, a confident leader, and an experienced instructor with a wealth of knowledge. Having multiple instructors taught me a lot about teaching techniques and patience. I gained a vast amount of wisdom in a short period of time. In the end, I took my Instructor Exams in Vero Beach, Florida and can proudly say that I smoked all the exams. I was highly prepared, had the knowledge and skills not only to pass, but to ace all the sections. Although I was stressed about completing it, in the end, it was a breeze for me.

My training prepared me to succeed during the Instructor Exams

Now there is no doubt that I was a very confident and comfortable diver before starting this journey, so that gave me a huge leg up. I spent my youth and adult life at sea so I definitely did not enter with fear. I had spent more time underwater, on one breath, than most people spend with tanks, but many of my buddies in the program had never ever dived and they came out of the program as competent, confident, and knowledgeable. It was a true testament to the program and training. So I owe a great deal to Discovery Diving, for preparing me for my future.

All throughout the program people would ask me, "Javier what do you want to do with your certification?" I always answered confidently, slightly perplexed at the question, "I want to be a dive instructor! I am going to move to an exotic locale with my family and pursue my dream of diving in incredible water and sharing my love of the underwater world."

I knew I wanted to teach!

This always got a smile and nod but almost always people just took it as a pipe dream and said good luck. But I knew all along what I wanted to do. You see, many of the people who were instructors or graduated the program really did not pursue an exotic career, or even a career at all. Many stayed close to home and some just had the certification and worked on a voluntary basis. Some just dove for fun. I always knew that I wanted to teach, that I wanted to pursue the dream.

So as I got closer to completing my Divemaster, (before becoming an instructor), after numerous certifications, classes, lectures, training and shadowing, I began to put my resume together.

I told myself I would not send my resume out until I had my Divemaster credentials in my hand with an IDC date set. And that is exactly what I did. When Debby Boyce, the owner of Discovery Diving, handed me my Divemaster certification packet, I almost immediately started sending out my resume, with the explanation that I was about to complete my IDC and had an IE date set. I went on PADI's job board and started looking for jobs in places I would like to live, I knew could be suitable for my wife and son, and were first and foremost hiring instructors.
Date of Posting: 07 October 2018
Posted By: Javier Cantellops

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