Hi, I’m Sophie, a PADI diving Instructor. After diving for 16 years and teaching for 7 of those, I am finally realizing a personal dream and opening my own dive resort in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.
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As my professional diving career turns a new corner from freelance instructor to being an operator and managing a resort, I cast my mind back to when I discovered diving.
And how the path of my life changed forever during a family holiday when I was 11...
The first time I encountered scuba diving was on holiday in Turkey when I was a year too young to do my Open Water course. My older brother and dad completed it, and I was fascinated watching them. I went out on the boat during their course and snorkelled above them as they went through their skills with the dive instructor.
Diving immediately appealed to me; breathing underwater and being surrounded by the incredible marine world which is usually accessed by a fleeting visit with just a snorkel. I also remember being disgusted whenever they cleared their masks and lots of snot would come out... gross!
But I was still determined to give it a go, start diving and of course follow my big bro in doing whatever he did first!
The following summer another trip to Turkey was planned, where my brother and dad would complete the Advanced Open Water Course. If I was to join them, I had to complete the Open Water course beforehand... in the UK! Ok, it was July and comparatively warm, but I was a twelve year old girl and doing my four qualifying dives off Portland in Dorset seemed a far and chilly cry from the balmy crystal depths of the Mediterranean.
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The theory and pool skills were easy, but I have vivid memories of having to walk what seemed a really long way from the dive center down a jetty, down some steep steps and onto a rib boat whilst fully kitted up wearing a semi-dry wetsuit! The dives were brilliant fun. I must have floated up to the surface a few times, but the Instructor and Divemaster were always quick to catch me and help me out.
I remember feeling happy, excited to learn new skills, and feeling fully confident in the hands of my trainers. Remembering that sensation of security as a probably nervous if determined young girl learning to dive has rubbed off on my teaching as an instructor. I feel that I can offer nervous students a level of compassion which some other instructors might miss out on.
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Overall, I think learning to dive in the UK was brilliant and beneficial in the long term – it really equips you to deal with bad visibility, currents and the cold water. There is so much to see including shipwrecks, amazing marine life, and the dive community is friendly and thriving!
We arrived in Turkey and had a brilliant time on the Advanced course, finally diving alongside my dad and big brother. The course itself is a little more relaxed than the Open Water Course with less theory, no final exam and you can choose some of the elected dives you do, giving you the opportunity to start tailoring the diving you do to your interests and preferred diving environment.
One of my big memories from then was my very first Night Dive, on which I was again totally scared, held my dad’s hand SO TIGHT and also – I am a bit embarrassed to admit it - cried in my mask. And look at me now! I LOVE night diving! I also beat my brother at navigating a square and even a triangle on our Navigation dive, making me feel very smug and pleased.
This is another time I look back on and see how confidence is built and try to translate that into my teaching to look out for potentially nervous divers and build their confidence up so that they can hopefully get as much out of diving as I do.