My Recreational Diving Story
I have been diving for such a long part of my life that I often forget what an usual place it is for a human to be. Underwater. The fact that Jack Cousteaux managed to pioneer the exploration of a whole new world, and just like in science fiction, we are now easily capable of creating equipment allowing us to breathe bellow the surface is astounding. A human being with our hairless, almost clumsy body managed to harness the power of our minds to create a portal into the distant world. The alien landscapes of forgotten creatures and ruling currents.
My obsession with weightlessness began somewhere in early 2006, when I found myself on a try dive off the sandy beaches of southern France. I do not remember much about this school trip, however the 10 minutes I spent on my first ever dive never left my memory. The first sip of air I had while completely submerged was exhilarating and my excitement only grew when the instructor currently tasked at introducing me to the water pulled out an octopus as if out of thin air. The clever creature sat in the palms of it’s hands quietly and seemed to look up at me. I stretched my hand out to touch it at which it’s body convulsed propelling it through the water in a graceful manner. That was the moment where everything really started for me.
“I want to give people Octopus”
The Open Water Course
Just two years later I had managed to convince my mother to take me for this years summer holiday trip to the magical land of down under, where Steve Irwin’s show had long advertised incredible nature. I wanted to learn to dive on the Great Barrier Reef, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. I was extremely lucky that my mum agreed and off we went to Cairns and to a dive shop. I remember clearly that I was the youngest one there by around 10 years, a mere 13 years old, but with enough enthusiasm to study the materials better than any adult and passing my PADI Open Water with a near perfect score. I do remember I did struggle completing the 10 minute water treading exercise.
The next three days passed in a blur as I did my first ever proper dives on a three day liveaboard on the Great Barrier Reef with Pro Dive Cairns. For any of you who have not done a liveaboard, it’s quite easy to share the general schedule over those three days.
Eat. Sleep. Dive. Repeat
For 22/24 hours a day you would be doing one of the above actions, and the remaining two hours of free time were usually dedicated to sleep as well. I saw my first parrot fish, my first turtle, my first reef shark and eagerly learned about anything and all I could. I remember my first night dive with just my buddy ended up with one of our cameras going out and agonizing over the decision of swimming back to the boat on the sea floor, or ascending and swimming on the surface. While the theory clearly dictates the latter is the proper measures in such a situation. The knowledge of the several sharks circling around us, even if they were harmless White Tip Reef Sharks, terrified me.
Over the next few years, diving was put on a bit of a hold, but even so, every winter in Europe me and my family would head over to Egypt to take advantage of the proximity and beauty of the Red Sea. I did not return to Australia until 2010.
The Advanced Open Water Course
In 2010 I had already decided that I would graduate high school and go into studying Physics and that I would move to Australia where I would fulfil my life long dream of giving people Octopus. I was lucky enough for another 3 day live board with Pro Dive Cairns, where I completed my Advancec Open Water diving course and simultaneously met one of my greatest mentors and inspirations in my diving journey. Gary was only four years my senior, 20 to my 16, and was leading groups of divers through their courses and snorkelling. I was amazed to see how close my future could be and how everyone listened raptly to his briefings and advice. His teaching style is what I used as one of the examples for my own growth as a divemaster and Instructor, and he has remained a mentor for many years. From him I learned everything from effective communication, staying calm around customers, relaxed yet firm teaching style and an expanded love for the ocean.
The Great Barrier Reef was just as mesmerising, however I had began to notice larger sections of reef which appeared dead. It was covered in brown and green algae, while many areas had large stretches of broken and dead coral piled up in mounds. I figured that this must be simply from being older and noticing my surroundings more. The three day liveaboards allow you up to 11 dives, quickly doubling my diving experience and knowledge about the under water world. I still remember the adventure night dive in which we had to swim 10 kick cycles into the darkness, and then use our compasses to return to our original location. After around 6 kick cycles I ran face first into a shark.
Screamed. Which just resuted in a big gush of bubbles.
Swam back panicly towards Gary and the group, and signalled that there was no way I was going back into the dark alone. It’s funny to think that now I look forward to every shark encounter!
The continuation of that holiday brought me to visit several universities in Australia, where I fell head over heels for Brisbane’s University of Queensland. I clearly remember being at South Bank thinking : This is where I am going to be in two years. Sure enough, it became my goal and I went about doing everything I could to make it a reality.
Moving To Australia
My 18th birthday and came and passed, and a mere two weeks later I set off on the biggest adventure of my life. My father escorted me to Brisbane, giving me some additional kg of luggage and a few supporting words and set up before leaving me on the other side of the world. One of the very first things we did when driving around Brisbane, was going to sign up to the University dive club : Unidive, which I had previously researched thoroughly online. Unidive boasted over 300 members and weekly cheap trips, along with cheaper : cost value courses.
The Rescue Course
Sure enough just a month of so passed and I already found myself with another PADI course book, in a Marine Biology professor’s house learning all about diving and rescuing with 9 other students. This course introduced me to one of my best friends to this day, and someone I continued onto the Instructor course with me and became a dear colleague. Robyn travels the world now, teaching people how to dive and has over 14 countries and a 1000 dives under her belt.
Chris and Doug put the 10 of us through our paces with 4 long theory sessions, and a weekend away on Stradbroke Island to test our knowledge. I still have post traumatic stress from people yelling “Pizza!” during any part of the day, to simulate an emergency situation. I can honestly say that this gruelling training set me on the path to success and confidence in any diving situation from that point on. I definitely have always held myself to very high standards based on all the instruction I had achieved so far.