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Earlier this year, Bobbie Renfro (also known as the “Bikini Biologist” in social media circles), completed her PADI IDC at Subway Watersports on Roatan. Her insights and experiences during her time on Roatan helped her complete the PADI Instructor Examination in March. Here is “the Bikini Biologist’s” inside look at her experience. 

Are you interested in taking your SCUBA diving to a professional level?

For many people this step up the dive-training ladder will open up a world of new job and travel opportunities. For me in particular, I needed to become a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) instructor to help further my career in marine biology. I started looking at Dive Master (DM) programs in my home state of Texas, but I found that dive shops had rather undefined answers to the question, “How much money and how much time will my DM internship require?” Because of this, I started looking at internship programs in the Caribbean that had set timeframes and total costs for training.

I chose Subway Watersports on the island of Roatán, Honduras. They require an application for admittance into their program, as spots per month are limited. Once admitted for my DM, I was able to sign up for back-to-back programs to complete my Dive Master internship and Instructor Development Course (IDC). PADI holds frequent Instructor Examinations on Roatán making it fairly easy to find an IDC that fits your schedule.

My experience working with Subway Watersports was phenomenal. The shop has two locations, a main shop at Turquoise Bay Resort on the north side of the island and a second shop on the south side of the island. Their level of access to dive sites around the island allowed me to dive the north, west and south sides of the island as well as one daytrip to a small, rarely-visited caye off the east end of the island. Interns I’ve met from other DM programs did not get to dive the same wide variety of sites. Between all those great dives, the shop does keep you working hard carrying tanks, learning dive theory or practicing skills pretty much sun up to sun down six days a week. Even with all the time spent working at the shop, our intern group still jumped at chances to come in on our days off when Subway would schedule us exciting extras like shark dives and dives on the Odyssey wreck.

The staff really felt like family while I was there. Everyone for the most part speaks English, but they were encouraging when I wanted to practice my Spanish. The shop manager Daren Ebanks goes above and beyond to keep staff, interns and hotel guests happy even in the face of inevitable diving dilemmas like bad weather. Daren and your instructors will prioritize your timeline to make sure that you meet all the requirements to complete your DM or IDC in the planned timespan of your program. Subway Watersports employs a large staff of local dive masters and boat captains, but also has quite a diverse faculty of dive instructors for their internship program. My DM instructors were Liam Shearer from New Zealand and Arturo Corvino from Argentina. I was beyond impressed with their extensive backgrounds in dive instruction. The PADI educational system is largely based on learning through experience, whether it’s your own dive experiences or those of others. Having two instructors with very different cultural and diving backgrounds is a huge bonus when studying under the PADI system. Liam and Arturo kept us laughing and engage while maintaining the importance of taking our training seriously.

After completing my DM, I transitioned to the IDC program led by PADI Course Director Phillip Hetherington and IDC Staff Instructor Kendal Larson. I do not believe I could have found two better people than Phil and Kendal to show me how to be a successful PADI Professional. Fair warning, PADI IDC entails some exhausting days of back-to-back lectures on physics, physiology, dive theory, PADI standards… the list goes on. This is professional level education and the workload reflects the extent of knowledge and expertise needed to be a successful dive instructor. Phil and Kendal managed to keep a room full of tired divers engaged and learning even through the stickiest of physics problems.
Two weeks flew by as they prepared us for the Instructor Examination with pool skills demonstrations, classroom lectures and open water sessions. After four years of college and two years of graduate school I have taken a lot of exams, but I have never felt more prepared for a test than I was for the PADI Instructor Exam thanks to the level of quality SCUBA instruction that Phil and Kendal instilled in our IDC cohort.

I am now a PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer (Phil made time for us to get in five specialty course certifications). My decision to train with Subway Watersports has already paid off. Since they were able to conduct my DM internship and IDC in such a timely and efficient manner I was able to accept an offer for the job of a lifetime instructing university marine science and diving courses this summer for Sea|mester, a college study abroad program affiliated with University of South Florida. I strongly encourage you to consider Subway Watersports for your dive professional training.

If you have any further questions about my experiences with Subway Watersports or becoming a PADI Professional please email me at [email protected]

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