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The Best Customer EVER!

Posted: Jul 16, 2009

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For those of you that don’t know, my unofficial name is Sister Mary Katherine. I am NOT a sister by any means, but this is what happens when you have a super Catholic name such as mine. Anyway, so part of my job is to wash gear. Gear is typically turned in by 4pm by most folks (they are just DONE diving for the day at that point). We don’t harass visitors about this, but instructors that come in and rent gear on a regular basis definitely know that we greatly appreciate it when gear is turned in before 5pm. We close at 6pm. For me, this means not only do I have gear to do at the end of the day (which gear typically takes about 2 hours), but also about 45 minutes of “other “ closing items I need to take care of. Our gear, depending on the piece, is washed in different cleaners. So for instance, if someone were to turn in a reg set and a wetsuit – I would have to fill the sink twice in two separate cleaners and would have to clean those pieces individually.

Today, one of our favorite customers/instructors Paul Crossman came in at 5:20pm with 4 buckets of gear containing about 4 sets total. I asked Paul if he was aware of MY policy, which is (as an instructor here on Maui) if you come in after 5pm you owe the “Gear Bitch” 1 beer per set. I feel this is a very good deal. After jokingly telling Paul about my new smack down policy, he was such a sweetie and went out and purchased a 12 pack of one of my favorite beers (Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA). He is now my favorite customer :) Thanks Paul, you rock!!!

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A Good Day at Work

Posted: Jul 9, 2009

describe the image People choose to try SCUBA diving for many reasons. Sometimes, it’s been a dream since childhood, sometimes it’s just something fun to try on vacation instead of snorkeling. But every once in a while as an instructor, you meet someone who wants to dive in order to confront their fears.

That makes for both the most difficult and most rewarding days on the job.

Cheri was afraid of the water, and wasn’t shy about telling us. I knew she had a lot of trouble feeling comfortable near the water, never mind under it, but I also knew she had already done one underwater session with another instructor (my co-worker, Charlie) and that meant she wanted to dive. So on a nice, calm day and in a one-on-one situation, down to Ulua beach we went.

As I was assembling the gear, I spoke with Cheri about her first experience. My first question to a repeat diver tends to be “What sort of exciting and cool things did you see?” As it turns out, it took Cheri so long to feel comfortable on that first dive, she didn’t get to see much…a goat fish was about it. I immediately told her we were going to do better today—I wanted to show her the reef, so she’d know what she was working towards.

After we’d assembled the gear and gotten down to the waters edge, we did our pre-dive safety check and headed on in. Out to about 6 feet of water, set the flag, and we were ready for our descent. Or, rather I was ready—Cheri was nervous. Of course, everyone is nervous the first few times…as instructors we all remember what that’s like. I could see that Cheri’s breathing was a bit fast and a bit shallow, and that her shoulders were tense. A little bit of time just floating, and a few long, slow breaths to calm everything down, and we were ready.

Regulators in…
Hoses up…
Ready to equalize on the way down…
Descent…and down to sandy bottom we go.

We got down there, and I signaled to Cheri to relax and breathe…which she did, for almost 10 seconds before signaling “up. up. up. “ Okay, up to the surface we go—that’s the advantage of being in just a few feet of water to start things off. When we got to the surface, Cheri said:

“I’ll be fine down there—it’s just that initial feeling I have trouble with!”

(Ah, yes—I sometimes feel like that should be an official part of the training course, with capitol letters and everything: That Initial Feeling. It’s almost like it’s unnatural to breathe underwater….)

I’d seen this before.

“Cheri,” I said “It’ll be hard to get by that Initial Feeling if we keep coming to the surface…then you just have to deal with the Initial Feeling all over again. (laughter) This time, when we go down, when you get that Feeling, instead of heading to the surface, what I want you to do is just concentrate on breathing long and slow in, then long and slow out. Keep doing that, and keep looking at me, until that Feeling goes away, ok?”

“Ok”.

Take two, and down we go! This time, success with step 1—we stayed down. So far so good. Now, the usual next step on an intro dive is to do a few simple skills—clearing the regulator of water, recovering the reg when it comes out of your mouth, and clearing your mask of a small amount of water. We talked about it quickly under water:

(Hand signal) “OK?”
(Hand signal back) “OK”
(Demonstrate first skill—remove reg, replace, clear, hand signal) “Ok, your turn”
(Hand signal) “up. up.”

Whoops! Not quite ready for skills yet! But there is a plan “B”—I pulled out my slate and wrote:

“Let’s not go up just yet---want to swim for just a tiny bit?”

(Hand signal) “Ok”

See, I knew Cheri wanted to dive, and I knew she’d get comfortable….sometimes all it takes is a little time to adapt, and something to distract your attention from how odd it all feels at first. So I took my frightened but determined student by the hand…and I must admit I played a trick on her. We did swim for a little bit. And a little bit further. And then made it over to the reef. After the first few butterfly fish, the tight, tight grip on my hand relaxed just a little bit. By the time we got to 15 feet deep and were surrounded by Hawaiian sergeants, coronet fish, and Moorish idols, I’m pretty sure Cheri had forgotten we were only swimming for “a little bit”. And at 20’ (our maximum allowed depth for the dive, since we hadn’t done skills) when a nice big Green sea turtle paid us a visit, I saw Cheri’s eyes light up behind her mask and a hint of a smile appear around her reg.

(Almost there….)

So back around the reef we went, got back to about 10 feet of water, and Cheri seemed MUCH more comfortable. I signaled to go up to the surface so we could talk, and a soon as we got there…

“Oh my god that was so much fun I’ve never seen a turtle swimming like that that was great how cool…”

(Okay that’s better, and she wants to dive so…)

“Want to go down and try some skills now, maybe dive a bit more, we’ve got some air left….?”

“Sure!”

Down we go…no problems on descent….reg out, and clear, good! Toss reg away and recover…good! Clear mask….1st try, good! We headed off to the reef again…but this time she wasn’t holding my hand.

Mission accomplished.

I spoke with Cheri a few days ago, and now she’s planning on becoming a certified diver.

That, my friends, is a good day at work.

Jim Petruzzi

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Jay Does a PADI Video

Posted: Jun 12, 2009

Every day at the “office” is an adventure…

When Rachel asked if I would be interested in being involved in an upcoming PADI video shoot I had to think all of a few seconds before saying “sure, sounds like fun”. She didn’t really know what the video was for or what it involved. All I knew was that I was to show up at the Grand Wailea scuba pool with gear in hand.

Upon arrival I met the crew, which consisted of 2 cameramen, a sound operator, director and production assistant. There were also 3 others that were to be “talent”, which was the category I fell into. We were told the video was going to be used in IDC’s (Instructor Development Courses) all over the world and that we would be role playing - alternating between instructor, divemaster and student.

In the first scenario I was the instructor teaching regulator recovery and replace to Open Water students. The catch was I was supposed to leave some things out of my briefing. Well, when your Rescue and Divemaster courses were taught by Paul, and your Instructor Class taught by Teri, you don’t leave things out J. I really had to try hard not to do it right !

The students watching the video than have to pick up on what I was doing wrong. The day consisted of participating in these types of scenarios, both in the ocean and the pool. We wrapped around 2:30pm and as we were all very hungry headed to Eskimo Candy for some Fish ‘n Chips. All in all a very fun day !

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IDC Stories...by Teri

Posted: Jun 5, 2009

As I prepared this posting, I began to realize how much the IDCs mirror our personal lives whether we are the students or the teachers (or in my case, usually both as I am always learning in these courses). For those of you who are not familiar with the process, for the IDC Candidate, the IDC and the two-day Instructor Exam (IE) are the culmination of much commitment and hard work, as well as extensive time and monetary investment. Most Candidates must schedule time off from their work and families to attend. Along with other prerequisites, to be accepted into this intensive two-week program the Candidate must prove their professionalism by achieving the highly-respected level of Divemaster.

Because the IE occurs only on specific dates and in specific places each year, the IDC is scheduled to happen right before the IE, so the Candidates are fresh and properly prepared for the Exam. Consequently, the Course Director and staff, nor the Candidates have much wiggle room to fulfill the many standards which must take place during the IDC before the IE. Most of these standards are associated with learning how to teach knowledge development, confined water and open water. Many times our personal lives must be put on hold. Bad water conditions, other weather issues, illness, and personal problems must be held at bay.

The first major problem I remember was having a bout with kidney stones right before an IDC. My physician gave me Vicodin to relieve the pain. Fortunately, another wonderful Course Director, Eddie Maiwa, was there to help with the water work, but four years later the Candidates from that IDC still comment about the fun they had while I was under the influence.

The next event was when my beloved husband, Jim died suddenly. This sad moment in life occurred just a couple of weeks before a scheduled IDC. Thank goodness for Paul who was a Staff Instructor at the time. I am not sure how he got us all through it, but he managed beautifully.

None of us will forget the IDC when the power went out for two-three days and the shop was flooded. We ended up using scooter batteries to hook up electricity in the shop. However, the flooding caused problems with the classroom carpet and we moved the IDC into one of our student’s hotel room!

We had another bout with Mother Nature during a different IDC. I had vacationed on a live-aboard at the Saccorro Islands off Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. Afterward I had planned to visit family and friends in San Francisco. Once there, the weather turned nasty all up and down the West Coast. My flight home was cancelled which meant we could not start the IDC on time!

During a recent IDC I became very ill with a severe upper respiratory infection. Many people, including Paul, Jim, Kris, and Chaz, came together to make sure the Candidates received exemplary training.

I have been writing about the tribulations of teaching the IDCs, however, the joys are innumerable. Describing the thrill of seeing Candidates fulfill their dreams by becoming PADI Instructors is beyond words. Most of my personal tribulations have been minor compared to the pressure, doubts, and hardships these people have overcome to reach this outstanding achievement. Some have had family illness or accidents enter their lives during IDCs. Others have had financial and homeless hardships which they overcame.

As a PADI Course Director, I am so proud to be invited to be a part of the lives of these committed and professional divers. I look forward to meeting many more of them in IDCs to come. Whether Mother Nature, illness, accidents, or economic difficulties try to intervene, I have no doubt that they will succeed. It will be interesting to see what the future unfolds.

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Introducing Katherine!

Posted: May 19, 2009

I now have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone that works in retail!!!! Who knew?? I went from wearing suits and working a desk job to schlepping tanks and cleaning gear – but I’m very proud to be Maui Dream’s new Gear Bitch and just general shop bitch!!! In every industry, you have to start somewhere :) It’s amazing how the shop will sometimes be sooooo quiet then BAM! There are 4,000 people in the shop and your head is spinning!! Once everyone is taken care of you kind of just look around, see that 2 hours has gone by and are wondering what the heck just happened! I’m soaking it up like a sponge and am enjoying getting the inside scoop on one of the biggest passions of my life!!

Aloha, Katherine

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Roatan, Baby!

Posted: May 14, 2009

I'll keep this one short since it will be impossible to write about this trip without the whole thing sounding like a BRAG session! One of the best things about my job is getting to lead group travel with other divers (read: adventurous people!).

People who know us know that we have a long love of Fiji, but we do guide trips to other places every now and then, including places in the Atlantic. Eleven of us met in Roatan last week coming from Maui, California, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, and Texas!

We arrived in Roatan right at the beginning of the swine flu stuff going on and were greeted by officials in face masks - what a way to be welcomed!describe the image

Before we knew it, we were at Anthony's Key Resort enjoying welcome cocktails and getting our room assignments, and gleefully chatting about when we'd get to meet the resident dolphins and start our underwater adventures.

My personal highlights were diving with the dolphins (duh!), and hearing that Don C. was having a great time and wants to do this more often (he can be a tough cookie!).

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Teri's and Rachel's Excellent Adventure...in Tacoma!

Posted: Apr 29, 2009

Okay, last Friday night we took the red eye to Seattle to attend the Northwest Dive & Travel Expo in Tacoma.

Before I get too into this, let me just say that we flew Delta non-stop from Maui and that our tickets were only $347 - awesome!! Northwest divers should take advantage of this new route since they are running it on a trial basis and then reevaluating in September. The service was excellent.

After experiencing lots of "rough air" on the way (when did they start calling it that?) and arriving at 5:45 AM, we were beat but knew we'd have to get to work at our booth soon. The fabulous Hotel Murano let us check in early (bless the girl from Lanai who was working the front desk) and we were able to sleep for exactly an hour.

As we approached the convention center, we saw long lines around the building. Though we could dream that those were all divers waiting in line for hours to get into the show, we knew it wouldn't be. We were right. America's Got Talent auditions were also being held at the convention center all weekend - too funny.

Anyway, our day started on a high note when, as we entered the convention center, we heard our names being hollered and were greeted with hugs from longtime customers (friends!) Cliff and Joan. WOW!!

We spent the next eight hours meeting lots and lots of people and have to say, Northwest Divers ROCK! We got to visit with several divers we see regularly here in Maui and meet new divers, many of whom took the time to share their adventurous stories of diving in the Puget Sound. Next year, we will make sure we have enough time to get a dive in while we're there.

After the show closed for the day at 6, we headed back to the host hotel to enjoy the film festival and the diver's social - good fun! Maybe a little too much fun, in fact, but we did manage to enjoy our second day too.

I would have to say that the most fun part of each day was drawing and contacting the prize winners. People were soooooo excited and appreciative, even humoring us by jumping up and down at our request :-). We partnered with Hawaiian Rafting Adventures out of Lahaina to give away a guided shore dive, a scooter dive, a night dive, a Molokini trip aboard the Maui Diamond II and a Lanai trip with Hawaiian Rafting.

Well, I could go on and on, but in the interest of time, I'll stop now and just post this one with a couple of photos. Thanks to all the NW divers who welcomed us in Tacoma. We hope to see you here in Maui!

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A day in the life of...

Posted: Apr 23, 2009

We are so lucky! "Lucky we live Maui", lucky we get to do what we love for a living!

That said, folks are always asking us what life is like here on Maui, what it's like to be a dive instructor, and all sorts of other more personal questions. Well, here's our spot to ramble on and share some of our thoughts on diving, working at the shop, and life in general with you all. You can expect to hear from all of us here, but I get to start, so here goes.

Today, Earth Day, we did an underwater clean-up on the Maui Diamond II. Just so you know, when we do these things, the boat crew and the team leaders from Maui Dreams all donate our time - none of us are "on the clock" for these events. Yep, these activities are truely for the love of diving, the planet, and for our fellow divers who come along to help us with the clean-up efforts.

So back to today. I and my fellow "E Team" (E stands for Exemplary, by the way!) members managed to "pre-board" the boat. It was a riot. Let me just say that we're not competitive or anything, oooooh no! But, there is a little rivalry between team leaders and their teams to see which group will recover the most lines and weights during these underwater clean-ups and who the topside crew says did the best in terms of how neatly divided the stuff we sent up was. I hate to admit that for the first time ever, the E Team did not come in first place. Not to worry though, we are SURE that Paul's team cheated. No doubt about it :-)

During these underwater clean-ups, we typically work in groups of five. We have one person on the surface to catch the lift bags full of trash and transport stuff to the boat and four people underwater finding, freeing and separating the trash before sending it to the surface. I have to admit that this sounded pretty mundane to me before I participated in a clean-up, but now I am addicted - it is FUN!!!

As an added benefit today, John Wilson was along to take video which he tells us will be featured on tonight's Channel 4 News!

By the way, since this is the first post and since it is mine, I feel totally fine about mentioning names. Thank you to fellow E Team members Tau Over, Bobby Baker, Katherine Jordan, and Mike Elam. Oooooookay, and thank you to EVERYONE else who joined us this afternoon. And Paul? We will get you next time and reclaim our title!!

Aloha, Rachel

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