In this series, the 2015 Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge winners share the secrets to their success. Read on to see how PADI IDC Staff Instructor Sofie Oernstedt turned a trip to Utila, Honduras, into a lifetime pursuing a new passion – teaching diving!
- Describe your inspiration to become a diver.
I would say my true inspiration came from reading online about marine life and then wanting to experience a whole new world – their world.
- Tell me about your decision to become a PADI Professional. What or who inspired you?
When I completed the PADI Open Water Diver course on a small island in the Caribbean called Utila (Honduras), there was no doubt in my mind, I was in love with diving! I went straight on to complete the Advanced Open Water course. The vibe on the island and the people I met there led me to feel as though I was in the right environment, so I decided to stay and continue my diving adventure. That was the beginning on my new life!
- How do you think you’ve changed personally and professionally as you’ve moved up the ranks from Open Water Diver to Elite Instructor?
I’ve grown as a person as I’ve learned from working with people of different nationalities. I’ve also learned a great deal about dive theory, fish behavior, the reef and the ocean environment and enjoy passing on my knowledge to the individuals I work with and teach.
- What do you consider your greatest achievement in your diving career?
My biggest achievement is working at my current job at PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Center Underwater Vision in Utila, where I’ve had the opportunity to grow as a PADI professional by teaching everything from Discover Scuba Diving experiences through PADI Rescue Diver courses. I also teach various PADI specialty courses and serve as a mentor to PADI Divemasters.
- What is your next goal related to scuba diving?
My goal for 2016 is to become a PADI Master Instructor.
- Everyone has a certain style of teaching. When you’re teaching someone to dive, what do you put the most emphasis on?
I emphasize the need to create good dive habits from the beginning. It is also very important that my students feel safe in the water and that they come out of a course a better diver and more knowledgeable than when they went in – and that they have fun too!
- Did you have to overcome any fears, challenges or obstacles to get where you are now with your diving career?
My biggest challenge was the first time I had to take off my mask, but thanks to my very passionate PADI Instructor, I did it!
- Tell me what you enjoy most about teaching people to dive.
Every single course gives me something different, but seeing student divers emerge from their first dive smiling about the world they have just discovered is absolutely amazing. I also love sharing my knowledge of marine life and my passion for the reef.
- Describe some of the encounters you have had along the way that inspire you to keep teaching.
I recently met two Danish girls who were thinking of taking PADI Open Water Diver course, but had some reservation due to the language barrier. I told them “in Danish” I would be their instructor. They decided to give it a try. At the end of the first day, one of the girls told me she wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue, but we sat down and talked it through and she decided to continue. Both of them completed the course. That same evening, they came to me give me a little homemade present and a big hug and thanked me for encouraging them complete with the course — because they ended up having the time of their lives!
That is what makes teaching worth doing and makes me love every minute of every day in the water.
- What does diving give you that nothing else does?
Diving gives me a peace nothing else does. No matter what time of day it is or how my day has been, diving always puts a smile on my face!
- How has diving changed your life?
It changed my life in so many ways. Before I came to Utila, I had an apartment and a job I enjoyed, and I was trying to figure out where to go to university. My plan was to travel to see the world and then come back start my “adult” life, but diving opened my eyes to a different way of life. It made me realize that there are so many options, including many away from “home”. I decided to stay on Utila and follow my dreams — and haven’t regretted once! The combination of diving and living on this island surrounded by amazing people puts a smile on my face every time I go to work. Seeing the world and doing what you love – what could be better than that?
- Do you believe that you change others’ lives through diving?
Yes, people travel here at different ages and for different reasons, yet they all seem to enjoy hearing my story about how I ended up as a dive instructor living on Utila. I think it makes them entertain possibilities they may never have thought about before.
- Describe in a few sentences how you would convince a non-diver about why they should learn to dive?
I ask them if they have ever been snorkeling before, if so, did they like it? Then I talk about the option of experiencing the reef and the marine life on a closer encounter, and explain the different options they’ll find in diving and discuss options for getting them into a course.
- Walk me though your most memorable dive experience.
On one dive in Mozambique off the east coat of Africa, we went down to about 20 M and suddenly there were 8 Manta Rays around us! They followed us the entire dive. Then, we got back to the boat and saw two Humpback whales!
- What does ‘My PADI’ mean to you?
My PADI offers me the means to track my personal goals for growth. It provides the tools that I need to conduct classes and to stay current.