How I discovered diving
How a girl from nothern Australia ended up becoming a scuba diver, technical diver, cave diver, diving instructor and manager of the only dive centre on Tablas Island, Philippines.
I prefer to spend my time with divers, preparing for dives, conducting dives and at the end of the day talking about diving and all its related topics over a beer or two. When in the company of non-divers my mind continually drifts to diving, my bookshelf is filled with diving books, I wear diving related clothes and accessories… yeah, I am a tec diving nerd and I love it.
That’s really all you need to know about me, but if you’re interested in finding out how I got here then read on.
I was born on the coast of Queensland, Australia and went down three different career paths trying to find something I would be happy to do for the rest of my life, before I discovered diving and later became addicted to the tec side.
My first job in high school was with a well know fast food restaurant and it took me five years and a management role within the company to realise it just wasn’t for me.
Next stop was the Australian Army because I was looking for something challenging. I can assure you countless days spent living in the bush, eating ration packs, being deployed overseas on a peacekeeping mission and many, many hours being pushed beyond my physical limits was definitely challenging. In the end though I realised it was another path not meant for me; I kept looking.
Thinking that money would be the answer I got a job with a major mining company, working in a coal mine. My days involved 12.5 hours of work, living in a 3 x 2 m room (commonly called a dog box), with just enough time in between to eat a very ordinary mess hall meal, and sleep. Not much of a life and the financial reward could only make it worth it for a limited time.
Three years of this taught me probably the most important lesson of my life so far; that having a life that you enjoy living is what matters in the end. You can have a nice apartment, filled with nice things, drive a nice new car but what is the point if you’re not happy?
It was during this time that I first learnt to dive in the well-know Whitsunday Islands in Australia. I was quickly hooked and every vacation I took from then on revolved around diving. I visited many places including Vanuatu, Fiji and Papua New Guinea to dive their waters and had a great time doing it.
However, it was exactly these vacations that eventually opened my eyes to the fact that I did not enjoy my life. Why have a life that you need to take a vacation from? Why not just live a life that you don't feel the need to escape from?
So I took a leap, packed all my belongings, minus one back pack, into storage, quit my job, sold my car and took off to travel through Asia. And that’s where it gets interesting.
A new life
First stop: Phuket, Thailand.
I landed in Phuket late in the evening and took a room close to the airport. The next day I took a taxi to the share house where I planned to stay for a week or two and explore the island. Within an hour of arriving one of the girls staying at the same house had invited me to tag along to a beach boot camp where she introduced me to Tiina Hartikainen, the Office Manager for First Buddy Divers. The rest, as they say, is history... but let me elaborate.
That day I booked a couple of recreational dives with an instructor from First Buddy. He just happened to be an avid tec diver and his passion for the tec side caught my attention and stirred my curiosity. Before two weeks had passed I was booked in with Pekka Hartikainen to complete my first tec courses, TDI Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Procedures and the addiction had begun. Little did I know at the time that it was the beginning of a whole new life, career and family.
Over the next four months I did course after course with Pekka, all the way up to Advanced Trimix and Full Cave, the peak of which was my deepest dive to date; 100 m in the Song Hong cave system. I left a cookie there at 100 m with my name on it and the statement 'because I can'. I think that fairly well sums up why I love the challenge of technical diving.
During this period my free time was spent with Tiina and Pekka, either helping out in the dive shop or just hanging out with their group of Finnish friends and they became like family to me. It was also during this time that Pekka and Tiina heard about the opportunity to open a dive centre on Tablas Island in the Philippines. There was no dive centre on the island and the diving is just world class, what more could you ask for.
It was the realisation of a hope that I wasn't even fully aware that I had when they asked me if I would like to help them open a new dive centre there. I jumped at the chance; live in an island paradise, go diving for a living, what's not to love about it?
So, here I am. Store Manager of First Buddy Tablas. Going through all the trials and tribulations of starting a new business. But when I look at the view of the beach from my office (where I am sitting right now), when I know that I get to go diving tomorrow, even if it is 'work', I cannot complain.
I may now be a poor scuba instructor but I'm happy and doing what I love; all the money in the world can't buy that.