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Coming full circle into the world of diving

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From passion to profit, here's a diving instructor who turned his hobby into a business.

Jason Ng picked up swimming soon after he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

When he was 7, his parents made him go for swimming classes to "tire" him out, so that he won't be too disruptive at home. The avid swimmer loved the water so much that he became a diving instructor when he turned 22.

Youth.SG caught up with Jason to find out what drew him to pick up the water sport.


Jason is one of the few Singaporean course directors qualified to train other instructors. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHERILYN CHONG

Who: Jason Ng, 26
Occupation: Diving instructor 
Studied: Bachelor of business administration from the National University of Singapore (NUS) 

Tell us more about yourself! 

I like extreme sports, such as skydiving and free diving, which is diving without a tank. I'm still a novice at that but I'm working at four minutes underwater now. 

I also have a Grade 8 in piano and I used to conduct a choir when I was studying in NUS. 

How and why did you become a diving instructor?  

It was a "might as well" kind of thing. When I was on an exchange in Europe during university, I decided to optimise my time and learn something. 

I first took the dive master course when I was in Canada during my overseas internship, and later did the diving instructor course when I was in Phuket.


Jason (middle) with other candidates taking the instructor examination in Phuket, Thailand. 
PHOTO CREDIT: JASON NG
  

Initially, I thought of being a diving instructor as a retirement plan. It wasn't supposed to make money for me, [I did it] entirely out of interest and passion.

Subsequently, I taught many friends and have now taught close to 300 students. I knew I couldn't do it freelance, so I decided to start up my own dive centre, The Dive Ship

Could you describe a typical day at work? 

I teach theory classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights with pool sessions on Wednesday nights. 

I would also have to prepare equipment with various sizes for my students, make bookings for the swimming pool, and prepare for diving trips to Tioman Island where we usually dive. 

Jason also prepares diving equipment, including oxygen tanks, lifejackets, weights and diving fins, for his students. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHERILYN CHONG
 

A dive trip usually takes two days and one night, so I have to fully commit to it!  

On top of pool training, Jason (with red tube) trains experienced diving instructors in open water. 
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHERILYN CHONG 

How has the diving industry changed? 

Older companies are more traditional. They usually showcase their equipment and sell them [in physical stores]. I focus on e-commerce when I sell equipment, as I think people tend to head online to purchase items.  

More people are on social media too, so I use Facebook and Instagram to create awareness about our focus on conservations by encouraging participation of underwater beach clean-ups. 

What is one thing you like about your job?  

I like talking and interacting with people, which enables me to change the mentality people may have about diving. Diving is dangerous and sometimes people don't follow the standards. It has many risks, which is why I am extra cautious about it.  

Jason (in red T-shirt) has five years of experience as a diving instructor. 
PHOTO CREDIT: JASON NG 

As a new generation course director, I also feel responsible in steering environmental change. When I head for a dive, I always carry a small bag to pick up rubbish that I see, such as straws, cans, bottles and even helmets. 

Jason collecting litter at the reefs of Tioman Island during a conservation project in 2016. 
PHOTO CREDIT: JASON NG 

I feel that it is one of my greatest joys to inform people that picking up trash during their dives can help make a small difference.  

What are some challenges you've faced?  

Definitely credibility, because of my age. Even though I started at a younger age, my social circle still belongs to those around my age group and it's more difficult to find connections with the older age group. 

So, what motivates you in your work? 

When my students come up to me and tell me that they enjoy diving, it is very inspiring. Some of my students become instructors, who will then inspire others to dive as well, just like a chain reaction. 

Educational requirements: You don't need a diploma to be a diving instructor. However, a basic understanding of English is advantageous.

Qualities needed: You need to be service-orientated, be able to work independently and have the drive to teach.

Salary range: Depending on the number of students you get, you can earn between $2,000 to $5,000 a month.

Working hours: You can expect to work on weekday nights from 6.30pm to 10.30pm, and on weekends from 6am to 6pm.

Career prospects: An open water diving instructor can advance to other specialties, such as a master instructor and a course director.

 BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/SHERILYN CHONG