The Day I Learnt To Dive
Possibly the silence of being submerged. Possibly the fear of the dark patch in a swimming pool. What lead to the infatuation with the underwater world is uncertain. Maybe the gift of a face mask in Greece and learning to swim chasing fish. I’m not sure but one thing is certain I was hooked.
Every holiday after became me, the youngest child, in the water getting lost for hours to be tracked down by unforgiving sisters and reprimanded. My first SCUBA experience in Rhodes, Greece was a Discover Scuba Dive, it took my obsession up a notch. To be able to stay in this environment for long periods and become part of the wildlife was of a different world.
Being in, on, and around the water has always been a great source of enjoyment in my life. For the next few years fishing took over and throughout this time I’ve often sat on the bank imagining the scene playing out underwater; two naughty kids in a game of dare I can imagine the fish challenging each other ‘take a bigger bite’.
A trip to Tenerife in 2004 was intended to be a ten day trip to escape the grey cold winter of London and catch sum Rays. After a few days of holidaying I found myself drawn by the familiar PADI banner to ask about SCUBA diving. A friendly guy from Holland jumped up from his desk and told me of how easily I could become an Open Water Scuba Diver and that the world was my oyster once certified. I signed up immediately and read the first four chapters that night. The course I found challenging but exciting, diving over sand Eel beds in beautiful clear water became very addictive so I completed a few extra dives after certification.
Once home from the Canary Islands I hit the Web with gusto, PADI dive shops popped up everywhere around me in Southern England so emails flew in abundance. A local dive shop got in touch and the Advanced Diver course was booked. At orientation I realised what I had got into. HELICOPTERS, TANKS, MAN EATING PIKE, (no wait we weren’t supposed to mention that). Stoney Cove in the Midlands, UK, being the venue, this abandoned quarry set up to be a SCUBA divers delight. One of my Favourite courses so far became Peak Performance Buoyancy – popping your upper torso into a sunken helicopter and finning backwards to exit – perfect. I could not thank Alex our instructor enough for making the course really good fun and teaching us how to hover upside down!
The Big Leap.
Being around dive professionals always made me envious of being able to do something so awesome as a job. Australia and the Great Barrier Reef appealed to me and if Going Pro was the goal then it had to be the grandest, most amazing place to make it happen.
So in 2005 with the worlds largest dive bag packed I hopped on a plane to the land of didgeridoos, kangaroos and all things bitey. Rescue Diver course was my next stop, my team and I spent days laying around in coral gardens learning to rescue each other and the occasional Turtle.
This was it, the Divemaster Course. Day one orientation and the list of things to complete amazed me. Gavin my Instructor promised me that they would all come together in time. And looking back it did, Gavin and I worked through the challenges one at a time building my confidence and skills slowly but surely. Working with students learning to dive scared me to pieces to begin with, but learning how to help divers with common issues had me looking for and intercepting problems before they happened. The smiles and gratitude from students was addictive and left me with a huge smile every day. The course flew by and before I knew it I became a PADI Pro.
The next year travelling took over. Diving on the East Coast at Port Macquarie and Julian rock, on the West Coast at Ningaloo reef chasing ‘THE BIG ONE’ whale sharks and the South coast at Albany diving with seals and inspecting sunken whale boats, in Tasmania looking for leafy sea dragons was a photographers dream and is still one of my favourite dives. Osprey Reef lies off the North Eastern coast of Australia is by far the most memorable week of diving I’ve completed so far. We volunteered to work on the dive deck and galley with Mike Ball, a luxury dive boat. The long days were fantastic helping divers all day and diving with almost unlimited visibility and sharks galore. North Horn rightly has a name as one of the Worlds best dive and it was here that the Shark feed commenced. Watching these apex predators tussle and fight to get the freebies on offer had the heart rate pounding.
Photography became a big part of my diving life and I started to look at the underwater world in much greater detail. I found that whatever life threw your way you could find a way to dive. So when a family wedding in Mauritius popped up I needed no second invitation. The diving here was superb, with sweeping fringing reefs and beautiful wrecks. The camera battery took a beating and some of my favourite shots came from these clear waters.
When travelling you just go with the flow and this took me directly to New Zealand. Wellington became home for the next 18 months diving on the South coast of the North Island. A local dive shop became a second home and slowly I worked my way towards Assistant Instructor. The divers here were lucky enough to have a frigate scuttled that year and we dove it weekly. To watch the marine life take possession of the wreck immediately amazed me. With weekly Cray dives and many Open water courses summers were very busy. A visit to the Poor Knights islands a few hours away from Auckland was the jewel in the crown of my time in NZ. The diversity of life in the area kept me wanting more. It was time to move on again.
The next year lead me back to the UK to pack up ready to immigrate to Australia. I found it easy to make trips to some of the worlds best diving spots so The Mediterranean and The Red Sea were next on the hit list. Diving with Shoaling Hammerhead sharks on Daedalus Reef in Ripping currents is something I still dream about to this day.
A new beginning.
Perth became home for the next six months diving at Rottnest Island and assisting on Open Water diver courses, working with students again reignited the urge to get the Grade, I felt the desire to become a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor calling me. After a long road trip with friends Airlie beach in Qld became home and I soon found Whitsunday Diving Academy (WDA) and signed up for the IDC course. The course polished some of my already acquired skills and taught me many more. My confidence developed slowly as being the Instructor instead of watching from the sidelines felt scary to begin with. For the Instructor Exam I chose to tie it in with a holiday in Indonesia, the diving here was amazing and diverse, from shoaling Manta Rays to long drifts in heavy currents with Turtles gliding past. The IE happened in a flash and I felt extremely well prepared, all the many hours of training had given me the confidence and skills to score highly in all areas.
I arrived back at WDA with a twinkle in my eye and a huge smile. After finalising the paperwork I was ready to roll. The learning began. Developing new divers is challenging and fantastically rewarding. Using PADI materials and watching as the pieces comes together make it fun for all involved. Seeing the smiles on divers faces as they master each new skill fills you with pride.
It doesn’t feel like work walking into WDA, every one around you is there to have fun and share stories of fish, wrecks and turtles. We develop non-divers into divers and divers into diving Professionals who can work all around the world with their skills. My career as a PADI Instructor has just begun; diving will be with me for the rest of my life. Its not a career choice it’s a lifestyle choice.