Meet the Team: Course Director Charles Kiss

If you have ever taken a course here at Dixie Divers, there is no way you finished it without hearing about or meeting PADI Course Director, Charles Kiss.

Charles has been with us since 2013 and he is an invaluable asset to our staff.

With over 18 years of experience under his belt, more than 7000 logged dives, and reaching the highest attainable position of the PADI Professional ranks, Charles has managed to accomplish many feats.

Not to mention, Charles is also a rebreather instructor, technical diving instructor, and has a 100% pass rate for students that take the IDC course with him.

It’s safe to say we’re very grateful to have Charles part of our team!

Key Takeaways:
  • Charles stumbled upon scuba later in his life
  • He earned a majority of his instructor certifications abroad
  • Charles taught scuba in Las Vegas before moving to South Florida
  • He has a 100% student pass rate for the PADI IDC course
  • Charles has been diving all over the world, but loves to return home to dive in South Florida

Early Career

Charles began his diving experience by becoming PADI Open Water certified in 1985.

It was by chance he stumbled upon scuba diving through one of his former employees.

After becoming a certified diver and falling in love with the sport, Charles started considering post-retirement job prospects, looking for a fun way to still earn a living while feeding his ambitions.

In 2005, Charles ventured to Thailand where he became a PADI Open Water Instructor. He spent a month in Thailand working and raking in the certifications.

In fact, the Course Director in Thailand at the time had told Charles that he broke a personal record of his, completing 10 specialties with the same instructor.

Continuing His Passion

Charles’ passion and ambition for diving was uncontainable.

He quickly realized he did not want to limit his instruction abilities to open water students and started on the path to Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT), as he didn’t really see any colleagues around him that held this title.

Being MSDT, in addition to teaching open water through Divemaster, they are able to teach a variety of specialty courses, expanding their range.

After becoming a MSDT, he started to realize just how many instructors did in fact hold this designation.

This inspired Charles to strive for PADI Staff instructor, embracing his love for teaching others how to teach scuba, while expanding his knowledge of diving.

Again, Charles began to realize there were more MSDT instructors out there than he thought, only fueling his eagerness.

Charles began to set his sights on the highest level of achievement within the PADI organization and scuba diving world as a whole, Course Director.

The Journey to Course Director

As a Course Director, you join an exclusive group of scuba instructors that have to go through a rigorous selection process to prove they have the experience and the caliber to earn this noble title.

In order to reach this level, the instructor must apply to the Course Director Training Course (CDTC). To apply for the course, the instructor must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT)
  • Be an EFR (Emergency First Responder) Instructor
  • Be certified as a PADI IDC Staff instructor with the updated and revised curriculum
  • Must have at least 250 logged dives
  • Experience working at a PADI dive center or resort
  • Complete the PADI System, Standards and Procedures Examination with a score of 85% or higher at an IE by registering with PADI, within one year of the CDTC application due date
  • Complete the Diving Theory Examination with a score of 83% or higher in each of the five topics (Physics, Physiology, RDP, Equipment and Skills & Environment), within one year of the CDTC application due date
  • Have presented a prescriptive knowledge development presentation with a score of 4.0 or higher at an IE by registering with PADI, within one year of the CDTC application due date

    Clearly, the Course Director status is not for the underachiever. It takes a certain level of ambition, dedication, and persistence to reach the highest level of professional scuba diving.

    Once Charles earned his PADI Course Director status, he left Thailand to return to the U.S. and begin teaching.

    He started his instructor journey in Lake Mead, located in Las Vegas, Nevada - quite a different experience from diving in South Florida.

    Lake Mead is a popular dive destination for those who live out west in landlocked states, an oasis in the desert.

    Below the surface, silt can get churned up so badly, the visibility is virtually non-existent.

    Charles would teach students carefully. In order to keep an eye on their students, a sophisticated bucket system was placed on the bottom of the lake.

    There were two buckets filled with cement, with a wire in between them, with a line from the surface leading to these buckets so the students were always on the line.

    Once situated on the bottom, Charles would evaluate each student by sitting less than a foot from their face, so he could see them do the skills.

    Like we said, worlds apart from the conditions in South Florida.

    Did we mention that the temperature in Lake Mead can dip below 45 degrees Fahrenheit?

    So to top it off, he and the students are wearing 7mm wetsuits, hoods, boots, and gloves while navigating the silty, foot of visibility afforded by Lake Mead.

    Choosing the Tropics

    Around 2012, Charles and his wife had decided they had enough of the desert and set their sights on Florida.

    One day when exploring South Florida, Charles stumbled upon a dive shop on Federal Highway in Deerfield Beach.

    He stopped in and spoke right to the owner at the time and the rest is history. They hit it off and Charles found the next dive shop he would partner with.

    In 2013, Charles started working avidly with Dixie Divers, teaching all types of courses from Open Water through Rescue and Divemaster, but his true love was the Instructor Development Course (IDC).

    A Passion Within a Passion

    Charles loves to teach the PADI IDC course, simply because he enjoys the rigor and instilling his years of experience into the next generation of instructors.

    He is known for his 100% pass rate - this means anyone who has taken PADI IDC with Charles has gone on to successfully become PADI Open Water Instructor, which is the status given to new instructors.

    To make sure you’re following along, once you complete PADI Rescue, you have the option of obtaining your PADI Master Diver status, a list of dive criteria to meet and an application sent into PADI.

    Or you can become a PADI Divemaster, the first level in the PADI Professional series. Charles loves teaching Divemasters and transforming them into instructors.

    If you’re on the boat or around the shop, the chances of finding an instructor who was taught by Charles is incredibly high.

    He has helped shape and mold our staff from 2013 on.

    If you’re at all wondering what it takes to be an instructor and excel in the PADI IDC course, feel free to talk to Charles.

    Guarantee his first question to you will be, “why do you want to become an instructor?”

    The hallmark of a wise Course Director.

    Fun Facts About Charles

    When Charles isn’t teaching a course, he loves to indulge in the various hobbies within scuba.


    He is an avid spearo, bringing in the big fish that make you wonder, “how did he do it?”

    He also loves rebreather diving.

    As a big destination diver, Charles has been all over the world to the most beautiful dive sites all over Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

    Even though he’s been diving all over the world, he always comes back to his eternal love, diving in South Florida.

    You can mostly find Charles in the pool, on the Lady Go Diver, or upstairs in the classroom - don’t be afraid to ask him a question or pick his brain!

    Let us know if you’ve met or taken courses with Charles in the comments below!

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