As a diver you are weightless and can move in all directions. You approach the freedom of a bird as you move in three dimensions in a fluid environment. It's a beautiful thing, diving into the cool crisp water and then just sort of being able to pull your body through the water and the water opening up for you.
Gus Woltmann considers himself to be, “the luckiest man on earth.” His profession as a dive instructor may seem in itself a fascinating job, but Gus considers himself lucky for a different reason.
Sitting in Gus’s luscious garden in Punaauia, Tahiti, it’s not a stretch to believe that he could indeed…be the luckiest man in the world. Palm trees swaying peacefully in the breeze, we dangle our feet in Gus’s swimming pool and sip fresh tropical drinks.
Tahiti has not always been Gus’s home however. His childhood was spent in a location very different from this tropical paradise. Spending his formative years in the bustling city of Paris, France, as a young man Gus was always craving something different.
After a family vacation to the Caribbean where Gus learned to scuba dive he knew what that something different he was craving was. Setting his heart on becoming a professional diver, he acquired his PADI license and started seeking out destinations where his new career choice could take him.
“I found out about Tahiti by accident. I was visiting a friend’s flat and she had a series of beautiful prints hanging on her living room wall. They where the works of Paul Gauguin. Images of naked women lounging blissfully on beaches, of course drew me in and I asked her about the prints. She went on to tell me the story of Gauguin travelling to Tahiti and a little bit about the island itself. I was in love at the very moment with the idea of the place. I knew where I was going to go.”
As I sit poolside at Gus’s gorgeous house, in his dazzling garden I am glad he made the choice to come here too.
Tahiti is the largest island of French Polynesia, with a population just over 178,000 people. The islands are comprised of serene beaches, tall green mountains and lush tropical jungles. Surrounding the island of course, are massive expanses of coral reef and crystal blue lagoons. The variety of sea life and beauty of the reefs have long made Tahiti a diver’s dream location.
Gus has been exploring and showing off the secrets below the ocean for fourteen years now, and I ask him his current perspective on his work.
“My friends tell me that I’m supposed to start hating my job after hearing the same question over and over again. Certification requirements, questions about decompression, how long does the tank last… You know what? I haven’t gotten tired of hearing the question about proper regulators or what have you. I haven’t gotten tired of the questions about what types of insurance that they should get. I haven’t even gotten tired of answering the questions about what masks they should use. It’s easy to stay pretty relaxed here and nothing gets on my nerves anymore.”
He continues to explain to me that diving is truly a special experience and he is thrilled he gets to introduce people to it, in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
First time divers or seasoned divers for that matter, are in for a treat when they take the plunge into the blue of Tahiti. Sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, multiple species of shark, and an innumerable amount of colorful fish and stunning coral are just some of things divers can expect to see in the waters of Tahiti.
Above the sea, the island is filled with amazing sites as well. Black sand beaches are a thrilling and unique sight along with the majestic green mountains that spot the horizon.
Having never scuba dived myself before, I ask Gus what exactly does his job entail.
“I teach my clients the basics of using scuba and snorkels safely. People learn to do it through classes and taking practice dives in deep pools. It doesn’t take long to get the basics if you can follow simple instructions. I want to be able to show the new divers what they can expect in the safest possible setting. The sooner they get into the water and trust that the tank will let them breathe, the more excited they’ll start to become about actually going out for a dive.”
Sipping our cool drinks, Gus’s calm demeanor makes him an easy person to trust and I can see how tourists feel comfortable placing their lives in his hands. Being a local to Tahiti as well, adds a huge benefit to Gus’s career in that he has inside knowledge about dive spots and particular facts that only a local would know. He enjoys being able to share his knowledge of Tahiti with new divers and travelers alike.
Gus continues to tell me about what it is like being a dive instructor and what he finds most gratifying about the job.
“The fact that they’ll come to me after a year or two and tell me that I was the one who taught them all of those great skills. I may not remember them clearly during the busy tourist season, but then they say something specific that reminds me of the class and it all comes flooding back to me. I may have only taught them a little bit, but they got the beginning from me. That’s where they got the bug. And then I get to hear their stories about Te Maruata or Garuae Pass soon, and they can’t help but thank me for the experience. That’s the nicest part I think.”
Seeing the coral reefs, watching schools of fish, or discovering new lagoons, being able to share all of the wonders of the ocean with people for the first time, does truly seem like one of the best jobs around.It’s very rare in these times that young people go out and follow their dreams. Taking risks is not something we are encouraged to do. Those who embark on chancy adventures are motivated from something special within. Being in paradise and enjoying the company of Gus Woltmann , it’s so comforting to know that there are still people that feel like they can make there dreams come true.