I am old enough to remember diving pioneers like Jacques Cousteau and have been lucky enough to dive in some amazing places during my diving career, from quarries in England, Stunning reefs in Egypt, with Whale Sharks and Manta Rays in Thailand. Mating Leopard Sharks in Malaysia and just about everything you can imagine in the clear tropical waters of the Philippines.
There are many reasons people come to diving, some learn to dive young and others like myself learn at an older age. When I was young I loved to watch the amazing undersea adventures of Jacques Cousteau. I would even play scuba diving in the bath, complete with mask snorkel and fins. What a sight that must have been !
I was always around water, from six years old I lived most weekends on a boat together with a couple of annual boating vacations. I enjoyed swimming, snorkelling and the sea but never got around to trying out diving even though it had held that fascination for many years. I would go on vacations and often a local dive school would offer try out scuba in the hotel pool, but for some reason I would always make an excuse not to try it, I had heard about equalising and think maybe I have a cold, I felt my ear on the flight there, or would plan to do something else instead. I’m not really sure why, I’m very competitive by nature and maybe subconsciously I feared not being able to breath underwater in front of others.
On vacation in Egypt I was taking a snorkel boat trip, something I had done many times before in what I now know are some of the worlds best diving locations. I’m in the water and I see divers below looking at something. It frustrated the hell out of me that I couldn’t see what they were looking at. On the way back to my hotel I was telling my partner and she suggested I should book a dive at the hotel, yes maybe I replied and that was that.
Back in the hotel we had to visit the reception for something unrelated and I hear my partner asking about booking diving for the next day. Intermediately I went on the defensive I need to back out mode, Err I don’t know err its maybe expensive err what if we want to do something else – too late it was booked and I had finally run out of excuses.
So the next day I’m in the middle of the ocean on a boat wearing all this heavy equipment and lead weights on a belt and they tell me to jump in to the water, ididn’t feel much like Jacques Cousteau at this point “Cr**p I’m going to sink”, saying to myself as they pushed me to the edge. I had zero practice and virtually no instruction,with the exception of being shown two signals,’OK’ and the ‘Problem’ which was explained as this signal means calm down. So with a little nudge I was in the water, but I didn’t sink as I’d expected. instead the Instructor let the air out of my BCD and we started to descend slowly down the line. I remember to this day, it wasn’t the corals or the wonderful fish that fascinated me, or the clear water, it was how I was hearing myself breath and thinking how you stop breathing to swallow,everything was so intensely apparent, I would never normally think about how I breath as a land dwelling animal,
So moving on, I liked the experience so much it triggered a change in my life of avalanche proportions, this first dive was followed by three more Discover Scuba Dives over the next 24 hours, Wednesday and Thursday On the Friday evening I flew home to the UK, Saturday morning I signed up to an open water course and within a year I was a PADI instructor in Thailand.
Its not always been the easiest way to make a living, in some places I earned reasonably well, in others just enough to survive, I’ve had a few experiences that were not my favourite times in life, but I also had some wonderful times met many wonderful people and made some great friends. I now own my own dive school, and I still like to go fun diving for myself from time to time.
After more than 3000 dives I’m still in awe of what lies beneath the surface and how marine life comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors, and lives in all kinds of different environments, adapting to them perfectly. You can dive a site hundreds of times and still see something new and, sometimes, unexpected, I often wander back to those times watching Jacques Cousteau, who would have though back then I would become a professional diver and have the privilege to get paid for what I love to do.
My friends and acquaintances sometimes say I’m lucky to live on a beautiful tropical island doing what I do,and I guess I was lucky to realise this is what I wanted to do, but actually anyone can do it, you just have to make the choice, sign up to a course and make it happen.