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Interview with Olaf, Excursion Manager and New SDI Ambassador

If you have visited any of our dive centers in the Riviera Maya, you most likely know Olaf. He has been working as Dressel Excursion Manager for many years and, without a doubt, he is one of our most loved Diving Instructors by our guests.

In addition to being a great scuba diving professional, he is also an amazing marine photographer and videographer, with over 60K followers on Instagram. Every week, he delights our eyes with incredible images from the depth of the sea, but also from the air, since he is also an excellent drone operator.

As if that was not enough, he has recently been named an ambassador for the prestigious scuba diving certification agency SDI. Fully deserved! For this reason, we decided to visit him in Playa del Carmen, to congratulate him in person and to have a little chat with him. We invite you to learn more about this great professional and above all, a great person, who is Olaf.

·        At what age did you start diving? 

I was 33 years old when I started my open water course. But my first dive was a discover scuba dive when I was 29. I’ve seen so many extraordinary things and still can’t believe how blessed I am to do this amazing activity.

·       What is the most incredible dive you ever did?

That is a really difficult question for a diver. I’ve had so many fantastic moments scuba diving, and it would be very hard to choose just one. But there is actually one I will never forget. Fakarava in French Polynesia. It was a shark dive called: the wall of sharks. It is absolutely breathtaking.

·       At what point did you realize you wanted to be a Dive Instructor?

I fell in love with scuba diving after my first dive, and whenever I had the chance to dive, I took it. I realized it when I was in my last season of my American Football career. Actually, my brother Peter gave me the idea to be a Dive Instructor. Water was always my element.

·       Where and with whom did you do your IDC?

So, when I took my decision to be a Dive Instructor, I researched a lot on the internet, and I found the webpage of Dressel Divers. They have many dive shops in different locations in the Caribbean. So, I have to say Dressel Divers was my first choice, they offered a really good program for non-instructors. That made my decision very easy, and I moved to Mexico, where I did my IDC.  I want to thank Javier Ibran for that opportunity. Muchas Gracias

·       What qualities do you think a Dive Instructor needs to be successful?

I think your job is to be a leader. The students you will have are looking to you for your guidance. Everything you will say to them, they soak up like a sponge. You need to be someone who does well under pressure. Remaining calm and controlled during any stressful situation is essential to becoming a great Dive Instructor. As a Dive Instructor, you must be super comfortable in the water. If not, the students will feel what you project to them. But most of all, you need to be patient.

·       If someone asked you why they should take up scuba diving, what would you tell them? 

You will experience a whole different world, the colors you will see, the different kinds of marine life, and just being out in nature. It is basically like flying underwater. Scuba diving will give you all of this and so much more. When you are underwater, you are experiencing your life in a moment in a sense of out of space. This moment will change your life, and you can take it back with you into your everyday world. Scuba diving will change your life. It changed mine.

·       How long have you been in Dressel Divers?

I have been with Dressel Divers now for almost 13 years. I am grateful for those years. And I hope I can get some more years with Dressel Divers.

·       Why did you choose to work with this company in particular?

Before the recruiter called me about this opportunity, I must admit that I didn’t know much about Dressel Divers. I’ve done some research in preparation for the call, and I need to say that I was impressed by the work of Dressel Divers and their vision for the future. I think the main reason was the opportunities to grow within Dressel Divers as a Dive Instructor.

·       Which Dressel Divers dive center would you like to go next if the opportunity arises?

I am really happy here in Playa del Carmen, Mexico with all the dive possibilities. I don’t think I would change Mexico to any other location. But if I had to choose, it’s probably the Dominican Republic.

I decide to work with Dressel because I was impressed by the work and their vision for the future

·       Why would you recommend Dressel Divers to other Dive Instructors?

Dressel Divers are a great workplace for instructors because they like to invest in the training and development of their staff and Dive Instructors. What I really like about Dressel Divers is that they encourage employees to participate in various career development and skill development programs. You have well-trained, capable, and really helpful employees here in the dive centers. What other reasons do you need?

·       What is your most memorable moment with students?

Over the years, I made a lot of beautiful memories with my students and divers. But there is one in specific that I can’t forget, and I will always remember. When I Certified a kid with Tourette syndrome. This was something really special for me. Great kid.

·      Do they stay in touch with you via Social Media?

Most of my students and divers follow me on my Instagram or Facebook accounts. I think this is the best way to keep in touch, no matter which part of the world you are in at the moment, social media makes it easy. And it is so awesome to see which places they visit for their dive trips. Or they just ask me about scuba diving in general. I am always there for them to answer their questions.

·       What are your other hobbies? What do you do on your day off in Playa del Carmen? I hear you fly drones!!! Tell us about that, please

Well after work I like to go to the gym. Carrying the tanks and scuba gear is heavy, so I need to stay in shape. I work out every day, except Sundays. Sundays are my day off, and I practice my drone skills. I have had this drone for a year now, and I love it. It gives you a completely different perspective of the ocean and its marine life. But it’s not that easy, so every Sunday I fly my drone and follow turtles or sharks at the surface with my drone.

·      What is your best Trip Advisor review?

By ctpturnaround

“Safety First and lots of fun

First time cenote diving. Went with Olaf out of Barcelo. It was such a good experience that I actually canceled going to Chitzen Itza the following day and did a second day of diving with Olaf. You have to be very good with your buoyancy control and air management because Olaf will go as slow as possible. It takes skill to sustain neutral position for so long. One dive was well over an hour. When divers in our group had problems equalizing or other groups caused drama, Olaf was excellent at communicating just the right placement of each diver in very tight quarters. Cenote diving requires complete confidence and certainty. It is better to go with Olaf and eliminate the risk factors.”

.       Apart from Scuba diving, what would you strongly recommend dive center guests do or see in this area? 

Swimming with the whale sharks in Isla Mujeres is an experience of a lifetime, and for me, a must-do when you’re visiting the Riviera Maya region. In Isla Mujeres, Mexico, you have the world’s largest gathering of whale sharks. Being in the water with the world’s biggest fish is absolutely breathtaking.

.       We know you are an avid underwater videographer and photographer. What triggered the passion?

Well, I guess my job as a Dive Instructor. I always wanted to show my family (especially my mother) the work I do here. When I started taking underwater videos and photos, I was really surprised that it looked so good. To get better I taught myself everything about video and photography.

The king of the ocean, the shark, is my absolute favorite animal

.       What are your favorite animals to photograph?

There is a lot of sea life I love. It’s a difficult question for me. But I have to say that the king of the ocean, the shark, is my absolute favorite animal.

.       Which animals are more difficult to photograph or spot?

Most of the animals are difficult to photograph. It’s an animal. You really can’t predict the behavior. That’s the cool thing in underwater video or photography. You have to wait and learn. The most important thing is not to bother it while you try to make your photos. They have to accept your company, this is when you get the best pictures. Macro is really hard sometimes. It’s a long procedure and it takes more time. Macro is all the tiny little ocean animals. Like nudibranchs. It’s a lot of fun to look for macro animals but also really difficult to find.

.       What is your favorite Social Media platform to share your work with?

So far, I use my Instagram account the most. But I recently started with YouTube, where I make longer videos and in the future scuba videos about my dives and diving trips. You can say mainly Instagram and YouTube

.       If you had to choose, which would you prefer, a photo or a video?

I do prefer making videos. Creating video content takes more time and effort than creating picture-based posts. Don’t understand me wrong here. The pictures are nice too, but by making a video, you can really show more details of the habitat, behavior, and life of the animal. You can connect with the environment.

.       What is your photo or video that you are most proud of?

White shark trip to Guadalupe in Baja California

.       As the Excursions Manager, which of the Dressel tours would you recommend most for a photographer?

It really depends on the season. After all those years doing the excursions with Dressel Divers, I would recommend two excursions for photographers.
Cozumel is for divers with its beautiful reef and amazing sea life. The second biggest reef in the world is a must-do when you are here in the Riviera Maya. And if you come between June and the middle of September, the whale shark tour. Mexico is the best place to swim with these gentle giants. You see, I can’t make a decision. Because both excursions are incredible.

.       Can you give us some photography advice like:

Is underwater photography difficult?

For me, underwater photography is one of the most difficult and complex photography there is. Taking your camera beneath the ocean shows you an entirely new world, and it’s incredibly challenging to get great photos if you use a Semi-Pro or Pro camera.

What are the challenges to photographing underwater?

Underwater, you have several challenges like moisture, currents, shy animals, hard-to-find animals, quick and mobile animals, and sometimes visibility. And then don’t forget you are underwater so you need to check your air, because you easily forget it sometimes, you are so focused on your subjects. The depth, time, and equalization. But as an SDI solo diver, you can learn all of it during the course. Because I like to dive by myself. If you have a buddy, you need also to check on him or her.

Taking your camera beneath the ocean shows you an entirely new world

Any underwater photography equipment advice?

To start underwater, I recommend an action camera like the GoPro or DJI action camera, they are all waterproof. Dont waste your money on cheap copies. Get a good video light with a wide angle. Video light makes a big difference. And last but not least, a good tray, so you can mount everything on it.

Are there any other tips?

Practice practice and practice. Before you think about taking videos or pictures, make sure you have good buoyancy. Protecting the reef and sealife should be your main concern.

.      Last but not least, now you are an  @sdidivers Ambassador. Congratulations!!! How did that happen? What does it involve?

Thank you so much.

Dressel divers recently associated with SDI International, apart from also being PADI, and I have to say I am really happy about it.

After crossing over to SDI, they introduced themselves to us in a meeting. I felt really welcome, and I like the way they think about their instructors, the way of teaching, and the environment.

SDI International was looking in their Social Media for Ambassadors to represent them in the dive community and local communities. I thought I could help them through my passion and influence, to engage and inspire others to start and dive with SDI.  It is a good way to give something back and show them my appreciation. As an Ambassador, I will create social media posts for SDI, as well helping to advertise their products and services. What I am really excited about is writing blogs about diving and marine life. So check out the Dressel Divers and SDI homepage to read one of my blogs in the future.