Every now and then we get some special requests. And one of those questions came from Alan who had a dream of becoming a divemaster. However Alan had never seen or been in the ocean. So Alan wanted to go from zero dive experience to becoming a dive hero with a Divemaster certification.
he·ro /ˈhirō,ˈhērō/ - noun - a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
In this blog post , we talk with Alan about his divemaster experience at Rich Coast Diving here in Playas del Coco, Costa Rica.
The PADI divemaster certification is the first professional rating and a very big step for any diver. The PADI Zero-to-Hero program trains students without scuba diving experience on the skills and certifications required to become a professional scuba Dive Master. And Alan Varela with his scientific curiosity, skills as an educator, and naturally welcoming personality worked very hard to become a succesful divemaster.
Alan grew up in Nebraska (USA) - the birthplace of the powdered Kool-Aid juice, hotspot for American football, home to largest gym in the whole country, contains 3 major rivers, has more than 2 dozen natural and man-made lakes, and is top producer of corn in the country.
What Nebraska is not is a haven for scuba diving. In fact, the nearest oceans are more than 2,000 km away, which must have been quite a shift for Alan’s parents who immigrated from Mexico. Like most people who leave their home country, his parents were seeking a better life for their family. They worked hard on a hog farm while their kids enjoyed the calm of living in wide open spaces, swimming in lakes, and enjoying the possibilities of their futures. A future, Alan parents hoped, would be in a professionally respected career that saved him from the physical toll of farm work. Alan’s parents wanted him to be a teacher. Alan wanted to be a scientist, a childhood dream heavily influenced by the endless consumption of “Animal Planet” on TV. It was a conversational clash they’d have as a family until Alan participated in sports and discovered his natural athletic aptitude.
“I totally forgot that I wanted to be a scientist”, Alan says with a reflective smile.
From boxing to baseball to track & field, Alan was consumed more by athletics than animals. He devoted all of his time and energy to excellence and eventually became a 3-time All-American, an honor bestowed on amateur athletes from the United States who are considered to be the best in their sport. And his parents got their wish - Alan became a teacher. Unpredictably, the COVID-19 global pandemic impacted his students, the curricula he taught, and, ultimately, his mental health. Alan was left with a strong desire to make a shift.
“You can come up with every reason not to do something. I wanted to have another professional option for the future.”
That kid in him who watched “Animal Planet” got curious and adult Alan got to researching. The Zero-to-Hero divemaster program was perfect for someone like him who had never swam in the ocean. Programs existed in a variety of countries, including Mexico. Living there for an extended period of time would have been an excellent opportunity to engage with his family’s heritage, but he’d fallen in love with Costa Rica after a school trip and something was calling him there. Once he narrowed the search to Costa Rica and weighed the pros and cons of all the programs in the country. In the end, the Rich Coast Diving divemaster program offered the best best value for his money:
All PADI materials
Career Development Workshops
Unlimited diving during training
5 free PADI specialists
Dive for Life Membership.
Additionally, knowing the high standards of PADI, participating in a program with consistent standards across countries, and training at a 5-star Career Development Center made the program at Rich Coast Diving too good to be true. Being a scuba dive professional could be a next career that would allow him to see more of the world, utilize adaptive skills at both learning and teaching, and keep him in shape (which he has learned is great for his mental health). What more did he need to know? Alan purchased a “Scuba Diving for Dummies” book, his airplane ticket to Costa Rica, and he was set!
Looking back, is there anything he wished he’d done before he began the program? “The time I spent free diving wasn’t useful since the last thing you want to do while scuba diving is hold your breath! I probably should have spent more time practicing treading water and swimming.”
Alan wanted to do the Zero-to-Hero program quickly, but is happy he took the advice of the Celine Monfort, Rich Coast Diving owner, to take the time to complete it in 3 months.
Starting with the Open Water Course certification the continuing education courses progress from Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver, and, finally, Divemaster. The program was perfectly timed for him to eased the transition from swimming in the pool to the open water, from being mentored to mentoring, and from being a customer to being a scuba dive professional. He asked tons of questions so he understood the full scope of his training, something Alan felt was welcomed by the Rich Coast Diving team.
When the time came for Alan to guide guests on snorkel trips, assist with equipment on boat, and deliver instructional briefings about dive sites, he felt beyond prepared (plus, he found a use for his “teacher voice”!). Training culminated with him guiding customers to dive sites like his favorite, Punta Ballena. By then, Alan’s love of chatting with the customers was cemented because the customers he interacted with were extremely friendly. They shared their diving adventures and Alan has kept a running list of places he plans to scuba dive, including Bali and Thailand.
The most unexpected benefit of the program was the relationships he developed with his fellow divemaster candidates from around the world. Living, studying, recreating, and working with people who share a passion and drive to establish a new path toward a future career elicits fast friendships. While this concentrated togetherness with the same people for 3 months may sound daunting to some, it is the part of experience Alan cherishes most. He and his roommates/coworkers/friends tried new restaurants every Wednesday, had BBQ on Fridays, walked on the beach, and photographed sunsets from as many places as they could. To this day, he maintains communication via their WhatsApp group chat and are making plans to visit each other in their respective countries.
Alan’s time in the Zero-to-Hero program at Rich Coast Diving in Costa Rica has been commemorated with a spotted stingray tattoo and a new plan for his future. A career that enables him to travel, scuba dive, and work remotely using his college degree in mathematics are an ideal path while he reaches his goal of 100 dives. After that, he plans to enroll in the Instructor Development Course (IDC), the next step in becoming a scuba Dive Instructor. For now, Alan is dreaming of taking a liveaboard dive trip, making plans for one of his program classmates-turned-friend to visit him in Nebraska, and readjusting his stomach to food in the USA.
What advice would Alan have for anyone considering the Zero-to-Hero program at Rich Coast Diving? “Just be confident. Be ready to work.You will work hard. I didn’t even need a gym membership!”
Want to know more about becoming a divemaster or would you like to sign up. Do no not hessitate to,
Contact Rich Coast Diving
Mrs. Céline Monfort
WhatsApp +506 8610 0914