Don Kinney: SDI Instructor Trainer Ambassador

Hi, I’m Don Kinney. I’m honored to be a part of the SDI Instructor Ambassador Program. I first got certified in 1985 and have gained knowledge in recreational. Technical and public safety diving. I’m from Washington state where I own Hoodsport’N Dive. Due to my exposure to cylinders I also own a company called Cylinder Training Services which develops safety programs and designs custom tools used by governments and corporations that help ensure the safe handling, inspection, use and filling of high pressure cylinders.

What was the first dive you did and how did it influence you to start a career in the diving industry?

My first dive was a quarry in Colorado. It was cold fresh water with an old Willys jeep at 25′. You could not see anything, it was cold and not the best diving environment. But the excitement of not knowing what was ahead of you, and seeing that silhouette of an old vehicle was exciting. When I became a police officer and realized I could get paid to find vehicles in cold dark places, I was hooked.

What do you believe is the most important trait of a professional educator and why?

Listening to your student. Instructors take a lot of classes and hopefully have a wide range of experience. For some instructors that makes them the expert, and they know what they are doing. Having a skill but not being able to communicate is a detriment. This can get in the way of how the student learns, or what they are trying to accomplish. A professional educator will listen to their student, learn their strengths and weaknesses, and teach to the students’ skill and knowledge. Being able to take your experience and work with a student to enhance their knowledge makes for an excellent professional educator

What is your favorite SDI class to teach and why?

Solo Diver. I enjoy giving the diver the confidence to dive alone. Anytime we are diving we need to be self aware. Divers generally have buddies, or other members of the dive boat around them. However, to rely on those others in an emergency may not be the best solution. The solo course reminds the diver that they have the skills and abilities to solve problems on their own. A confident diver makes the best buddy.

What is a bucket list dive you still have?

Anywhere that the average diver does not go. I would love to dive the arctic, or a high lake, where very few divers have ventured. I get a lot more excited when the briefing includes ” we don’t know what to expect.”

What is one bit of advice you would give to a perspective Instructor candidate about to embark on becoming an SDI Instructor?

Take your time becoming an instructor. Gets some personal experience under your belt, and not just certification cards. Some of the best divers I know hold one or two cards, but dive on a regular basis. An instructor candidate must also have patience and the ability to adapt in a moments notice. You can spend days or weeks planning a class, and within the first two minutes the plan will change. Adapt and don’t get frustrated.