is very excited to start his Zero to Hero program with us and plans to finish his PADI Open Water Instructor Course with us within a year. It's a lot to do, but he can do it! Tom will progress to his PADI Advanced Open Water Diver on our annual April Scuba splash trip in the Florida Keys.
What are Tom's Plans?
His plans for diving include:
1. Logging as many dives as possible
2. Learning something new every day
3. Becoming a knowledgeable and comfortable diver, so that he may be certified to instruct others in this wonderful sport.
He has always enjoyed swimming and has a fascination with aquatic life and exploration. Diving is a way for him to continue this enjoyment and share the world of diving with others. Tom wants to make diving his career and travel the world teaching and living the dream!
We are looking forward to seeking an intern placement opportunity for Tom either in Bahamas or in Mexico when he is ready, but there is still a lot of work for him to accomplish first!
Watch for Tom at our diving events this summer (Click: Events) , at the annual Florida Scuba Splash, and many more - please encourage him in his efforts! ...it's going to be a GREEEEAAAT year!
Looking to build a scuba career?
You can do it too!
Learn the ins and outs of scuba business management, all while you hone your diving, and eventually, your teaching skills! Make yourself marketable at any PADI dive centre around the world! Make an appointment with Jody: 905-898-5338
By Jill Smith
Sharks are so important to the health of our ocean's eco-system, but their numbers are dropping radically as they are hunted and culled - sometimes for their fins (shark fin soup is very popular in Asia), and sometimes just for hate.
These beautiful animals are misunderstood, so we will be raising awareness for saving our sharks and improving the health of the ocean. Follow us as we do!
I gripped the bars of the cage as it was lowered into the ocean. Sharks swam in jerky, violent movements all around me, circling, and sometimes charging the fully enclosed cage, jarring it with the impact of the collision, causing me to stagger and tighten my hold.
And they continued their incessant circling.
Looking down past my fins through the bottom of the cage, all I could see was darkness that spanned forever and a day. As I looked fearfully into that dark abyss, the most horrifying thing happened; the cable snapped. I heard the crack of the breaking chain, and the screeching of the equipment resettling above, adjusting to the sudden absence of the weight of the cage. Looking up, I could only watch helplessly as the bottom of the boat became smaller and smaller - the cage was sinking slowly into the dark. Engulfing me. Swallowing me alive.
The realization that I would die alone, in the dark, at the bottom of the ocean, suddenly dawned on me - and then I awoke, sweating profusely, my heart beating wildly.
I never, ever forgot that scary dream.
Many years and three kids later, life was for me as it is for hundreds of thousands of other mothers – busy and hectic. I fretted over the nutrient content of my picky-eaters’ meals, lacing their chocolate cake with pureed spinach (truly). I worried over their social development and scheduled more and more play-dates to secure mental health. I meanly sat them down to their homework every night while dinner cooked on the stove, in order to ensure they may grow up to be anything they wanted to be.
And I tried to keep them safe. I baby-proofed the house, and found myself shouting things like, “Get that out of your (Insert: ear, mouth, nostril or, gulp, other)!”, or, “Don’t stick that fork in the electrical socket!”, and as they got a little older, “Put the stick down and get off the roof!” Sometimes I wondered how they would ever reach adulthood alive; their chances seemed slim – they were determined to try every dumb whacky stunt they could think of – and for my part, well, all the plants in my house were dead (my track record for the care of living things wasn’t the greatest).
But families grow older and things change over time. Nowadays, my shouted refrains sound more like, “If I catch you riding your bike without a helmet again, you are grounded, Mister! Now, go pack. We leave for shark diving in the morning.”
And the girl who had shark nightmares as a teenager? Now dreams while wide awake of cage diving with great white sharks, camera in hand, manic look in her eye.
What happened, and who am I?
Well, simply put, my husband Jody opened a scuba diving shop. And that changed everything.
As I helped my husband work on building his business, the kids and I started scuba diving (two of them are grown and left home now), and I became interested in underwater photography.
Then, in the second year of business, Jody invited me to join him on a "business trip" - a scuba diving trip in the Bahamas aboard the Aqua Cat, a luxury live-aboard scuba cruise. This trip included many interesting opportunities to take pictures: colourful reef systems teeming with marine life, deep wall dives, and a drift dive called the “Washing Machine”, where you drift effortlessly without swimming - the current carries and tumbles you along the way. But the highlight of the week? …the coveted shark dive.
I was torn and scared. I still remembered my dream vividly and wondered if it was a sign to stay away from the ocean. I was a relatively new diver, but as the designer that created my husband’s brochures, managed his social media and website, I needed pictures, and we had not been in the scuba business long enough to have collected very many. I wanted them badly. Plus, we had decided I would begin studying and diving to earn my PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification. I would be able to accomplish a lot on this trip.
I lay awake long into the nights, stressing about being torn apart by hungry sharks. Visions of them swimming out of the blue, with their mouths open to chew on my limbs haunted me. I couldn’t believe I agreed to this trip.
I was terrified.
I was excited.
My friends told me I was crazy.
Finally we are in Bahamas, and the waiting is over. We had all enjoyed a morning snack, and were relaxing on the sundeck, when Diego the Divemaster’s voice came over the PA system, “Da Na. Da Na. Danadanadana…” (Read: Jaws shark theme of terror right before the great white ate some unsuspecting soul), and then instructing us to head to the Alfresco deck for the dive briefing. I had almost forgotten I was soon to jump into the water with sharks. Almost.
We gathered for the briefing, signed waivers, and Diego made bad jokes while he explained the rules of the dive, and what we could expect. It was pretty simple. We would enter the water, descend together, and find a place to float around the outside of the Austin shipwreck at the bottom. Once the divers were all in place, Diego would come in, pulling the chum ball (a ball of frozen fish on a line), and anchor it to the centre of the wreck’s deck. Then we would watch the sharks swim in to feed on their Popsicle.
Diego also advised us to be on the lookout for a shark they call Finnigan. Finnigan was a shark presumed to have been captured as a juvenile; his captors had carelessly tossed him back into the ocean to die after hacking off the dorsal fin (prized for making soup broth, especially in Asia). However, he had miraculously survived and grown to be a large healthy male frequenting these waters, and showing up for the feed often.
“Let’s go diving!” Diego called, ending the briefing, and I took some meditative breaths as we headed down to the dive deck. The energy was high - nervous energy amongst those of us that were relatively new to the sport. I was glad I had spent some extra time in the pool before the trip to become familiar with my gear. I had practiced taking my mask off, swimming around without it, putting it back on, clearing it, and taking it off again. I wanted no distractions with my gear, while I was swimming with the sharks.
And now it was time to jump in. My husband laughed as I insisted he get in first, and I followed right behind. I immediately put my face in the water to see what was there - couple of sharks swimming far below, and a shipwreck. They were swimming slowly, and everybody (sharks included) seemed relaxed. I took a couple more calming breaths as my husband asked if I was ready to go down.
Hoo. “Yes. Let’s hope I don’t get eaten and I can join you for lunch.”
I was freaking serious.
We descended slowly, equalizing on the way down. I turned slow circles, looking around me, when Jody tapped my arm. I turned to look where he was pointing, and there was a large shark (well, this is no fish tale, lol - to me it was large, but probably it was only 6-7 feet in length), lazily swimming in our direction. He passed within a few feet, but did not seem threatening; on the contrary, he seemed rather uninterested in us. I floated very still, watching him go by. He looked beautiful, sleek, and graceful. I was in awe.
We finned over to the shipwreck and found our spots on the outside of the railing. We were all in place, and watched as Diego pulled the line toward us with the chum ball suspended from it. Sharks and fishes were swirling around the ball like a slow tornado, coming in for a bite, gliding out to chew, and turning around for another go.
Diego tied the line to the anchor, and I remember being mesmerized by the sight. It was beautiful. Their bodies so perfect. Their movements so graceful. I had tears in my eyes watching this special event - I just couldn’t believe I was there watching them right in front of me. It was one of the most incredible moments of my life.
A large grouper drifted up from a hole in the deck to eat bits of fish that were falling from the chum line, and there were many different kinds of fish swimming around the surface of the deck.
I turned to my left to follow a large shark with my camera as it swam out of the inner circle, and a fellow diver, Grant, started tapping my shoulder and gesticulating madly. As I turned back, another shark was passing directly over my right shoulder. I wasn’t sure what I missed, but it had been very close to me.
I was delighted to see that Finnigan made an appearance for the free lunch, and was even able to snap a picture of him as he came in for the feed.
Once the chum ball was gone, the sharks dispersed somewhat, and many divers swam across the deck looking for shark teeth; they often lose them when they feed. I was lingering at the ship’s railing, when I spotted a large female with a hook stuck in her mouth swimming toward me. I turned to face her, and lifted my camera to take her picture, but as she approached closer and closer, I leaned back and pushed my camera forward, bumping her in the nose with my camera light, and she quickly shot off in another direction. I wondered if I smelled like dinner to her. She was curious.
It was time to ascend, so we slowly made our way up, not without a little regret, and enjoyed watching these animals as we waited our three minute safety stop at 15 feet. We could see the legs of the sous chef and one of the crew, who had jumped in with their masks and snorkels to watch the shark feed from above. As we watched, one of the sharks passed between the swimming girls’ legs. I snapped a shot with my camera, and he cruised peacefully past us, seeming to keep an eye on us as much as we were keeping an eye on him. It is a strange feeling to be seen by an animal that I grew up fearing.
Over lunch, Grant asked me excitedly, “Did you get that shot? That was amazing!” I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about.
“There was a piece of dead fish floating over your shoulder, and a shark came straight toward you with his mouth open to eat it - I thought you would have shot a photo straight down his gullet!”
My heart jumped into my mouth at hearing this, but at the same time, I felt ripped off. “Really? My one shot at National Geographic, and I’m looking the other way!” I wailed.
I saved my picture of the shark with the swimming girls for the slide show on the last night at the Captain’s dinner. One of the girls had not seen the shark swimming so close to her and did not believe it when we told her - until she saw the proof.
And as all adventures do, our wonderful week on this scuba cruise quickly came to a close. I was a little changed. I had accomplished 18 dives (out of 25) over the week and become much more confident in my diving abilities. I had swum with rays, turtles, eels, groupers, and Caribbean reef sharks, and did not get eaten. It had been simply amazing, and as we packed our bags to leave the boat, it felt like I was leaving home.
It has become my favourite dive trip, only now, I am the first to jump in the water with the sharks. Strangely, I can’t seem to get enough. It’s funny where life takes you sometimes, but I count my blessings and adventures every day. All our children are now certified open water divers. Our youngest, Sam, is working on his PADI Advanced Open Water certification. And he LOVES diving with sharks.
So you have fallen in love with scuba diving. You experienced your first breaths underwater, and you worked up the courage to take your mask off in the water and that still didn’t turn you away. You have officially caught the scuba bug and you’re hooked! For a new diver, buying gear is the final step and the act that says “I’m committed to diving my brains out”. However if you are a new diver, it is hard to know what to buy, where to buy it, and what’s good in terms of product and brand.
Most new divers buy in stages. First come the basic necessities (mask, fins, snorkel) , and then when you know you want to be a keen diver, it’s time to put on the big pants and move into the exciting major pieces of life support. This includes a regulator, BCD and dive computer, and if you’re really keen, you can even get yourself a tank. Let’s start with the basics first and move our way down accordingly.
Stage One – The Basics
The Good Old Scuba Mask.
Picking the right scuba mask can sometimes be a hit and miss, so it is important that when you are buying a new mask, make sure you pick the right one for you. Nothing is more annoying than having a leaky mask, and it is probably the number one complaint in terms of scuba pet peeves.
What to look for? The most important factor when picking a mask is to find a watertight seal that fits your individual face. To distinguish if it will be watertight, I recommend doing the sniff and seal test. Grab a mask you like, and without the strap around your head, using only the mask part itself, place it on your face and suck in gently through your nose. Ask yourself, is this mask comfortable? Telltale signs of an ill-fitting mask include a lack of comfort, and the sound of a small amount of air leaking into the mask on your face.
Masks that pass the sniff and seal test are usually a potential keeper. Pay attention to how the mask fits on your forehead and your top lip. In today’s diving world, masks range in volume, shape, colour, polarization, the softness of the silicone, all the way to side windows that add peripheral vision. Take the time to pick the perfect mask for you!
Cost – From $60 to $160
You know “the breathing thing”, “the tube thingo”. These are some funny names that I have heard customers call the snorkel. Snorkels are a growing debate in the diving world, and we get questions all the time, like “Do I really need to wear a silly snorkel if I am scuba diving?” Well, the answer is yes. We use snorkels when diving to conserve air in our tank at the surface. However, I will give you some advice -- when scuba diving, you probably don’t need the fancy dry snorkel.
What to look for? – look for an easy-to-operate attachment between your mask and snorkel, a comfortable mouth piece, a purge value, and something that is light weight. Having a heavier snorkel attached to your mask can be an annoyance, as it can add more drag when moving through the water.
Advice – if you don’t plan on doing a lot of snorkeling, then this is the piece of gear you don’t need to go overboard on. Get something light, simple, and basic that does the job.
Cost - $15 - $75
Unfortunately we were not born with the right anatomy to move through the water like an elegant shark does (bummer). So if we want to play with the fishes, we need a good set of fins to help us keep up.
Just like finding a good mask, fins can be a hit and miss. You really have to pay attention to the comfort, fit and style. A bad or ill-fitting fin can literally make or break your dive experience. Nothing is worse than having a fin fall off at the surface or while diving, or having a fin strap break without a spare.
What to look for? – When trying on fins, look for a snug fit that doesn’t pinch your toes. A simple rule is that if you can’t wiggles your toes, the fins are probably too small. Efficiency of fins is largely determines by their size, stiffness and design. In terms of sizing, a rule of thumb is that the heel should come out of the back of the fin about an inch (open heel fins), or your toes should come out of the front just slightly (full foot fins).
Full Foot or Open Heel? - Full foot fins do not require booties and are recommend for warm water diving. They are essentially a slip on design with the shoe part build it. However, the open heel fin is commonly used in colder weather diving, and booties are necessary to wear them comfortably. The dive bootie also has the added benefit of foot protection and warmth, and provides comfort while walking on uneven ground.
Advice –A good pair of fins can last a long time. Take the time to do your research and try on different types to figure out which one suits you best.
Cost - $65 - $300
Exposure Suit – Wetsuit
Just like the fin situation, we were also not built to withstand long periods of time in the water. Exposure suits insulate against the cooling effect of water, which can rob you of heat 25 times faster than air.
What to look for? – Fit and comfort are the main factors. Wetsuits should fit snugly and you should feel comfortable while wearing them. Pay attention to uncomfortable fitting neck lines or gaps in the armpit, leg and crotch area. If the wetsuit is too big and gaps form, as a result the water will pool in these areas and defeat the suits ability to prevent heat loss. You may have to try on a lot of different sizes or types in order to find the perfect wetsuit that fits your body.
85 Degrees and Above – Swimsuit, 2mm – 1mm Shorty.
80-85 Degrees – 2mm-1mm Shorty or Full.
73-79 Degrees – 3mm -5mm Full.
66- 72 Degrees – 5mm – 7mm Full
50 – 65 Degrees – 7mm Full, Semidry, Dry Suit.
Of course, this is dependent on your personal tolerance level of the cold.
Cost - $70 - $650
The BCD, also called the “BC”, stands for Buoyancy Control Device. It is a vital, complex, and multipurpose piece of equipment, and it is glue that holds everything together.
What does it do? – Everything. It keeps gear in place, lets you carry a tank with minimal effort, helps you float at the surface, and allows you to achieve neutral buoyancy at depth. Imagine diving without one, where would everything go?
What to Look for? – Correct size and fit are important. Look for a BCD that fits you snugly, but doesn’t squeeze you too much when it’s inflated, as it should not restrict your breathing. It also helps when trying on new BCDs to also try them on while wearing your wetsuit. Pay attention to the inflator hose and ask yourself, “Can I operate this easily with one hand?” Also, it is important to test out all the valves, adjustments and straps for accessibility and ease of use. If you take care of you BCD, it will take care of you!
Cost - $300- $800
Now we’re talking, right? These bad boys are the number one most important piece of equipment that you will own. Your regulator is your life line, it’s as simple as that. It allows you to breathe in a foreign environment, and is a complex, high performance piece of equipment.
What does it do? – The regulator converts the high pressure air in your tank to ambient pressure so you can breathe it. A regulator must also deliver air to other places, such as your BCD inflator and alternate second stage.
What to look for? – When buying a regulator, one should look for high performance and comfort. The best regulators can deliver a high volume of air at depth, under heavy exertion, and even at low tank pressures. Some regulators breathe easy, and some don’t. There are regulators more suited for cold water, while some are limited to warm water. Make sure you find out this information before purchasing a regulator, as many people make this mistake. Most of the time when you buy a regulator, you buy the first stage (the part that hooks up to the tank) and second stage (the regulator part/mouthpiece) together. The gauges and octopus (alternate air source) are usually bought separately, but if you’re lucky, all parts of your regulator can come together as a package.
Advice – Do your homework. Researching will help you find the most suitable regulator for your diving needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to take the time you need to read reviews, ask questions and see the equipment in person before you buy it.
Cost - $225 - $1600.
Who likes figuring out the dive tables? Not me! Dive computers are a godsend to us divers who are still confused by all the pressure groups, residual nitrogen times and all those other calculations.
What do they do? – Dive computers constantly monitor your depth and bottom time, and automatically recalculate your no-decompression status to keep you within safe recreational limits. Computers can also monitor your ascent rate and tank pressure, tell you when it’s safe to fly, log your dives, and much more.
What to look for? – You want something that is user friendly. Some computers are easy to use and some are extremely complex. The fancy computer that you spend your rainy day fund on may look nice, but it won’t do any good if you can’t quickly and easily access the basic information you need during a dive at depth. The big question: when it comes to computers, do you want one on your wrist or do you want one on your gauge console?
Advice – Before you buy a fancy new computer, begin with an honest evaluation of your diving needs – do you plan on using mixed gases or decompression diving? Study the features online and compare other computers, then choose the one that fits your diving needs and your budget.
Price - $300 - $1300
Yup, owning your own scuba gear requires a considerable investment, and can be expensive to say the least. However, when properly cared for and maintained, your gear should last as long as you want it.
So there you have it newbies! You are now on your way to buying your first scuba diving equipment from head to toe! It’s important to do your research, ask questions and take the time to figure out which type of gear is right for you. Buying your first set of equipment is very exciting and should be looked at as a great milestone in your diving life! Always remember to support your local dive shops, as we are here to help and answer any questions about any type of gear!
We all have a little crazy diving dream in us right? I know I do, I dream of having my own scuba diving show/documentary where I would show the world the best diving spots, all while being paid to host and travel. I know, a little far-fetched, but a girl can dream right?
Ever thought about making your passion into a career? Imagine throwing away the office life for getting paid to scuba dive all day. Well lucky you, because I have made a list of the coolest scuba diving jobs out there! And ordinary people like you and I can live and make money every day doing what we love! So let’s all dream big together and see what these lucky divers get paid to do!
Who wouldn’t want to dive all day and take photos and videos? Imagine being paid by a big diving magazine like Sport Diver or The Undersea Journal to go to the best diving spots around the world and just take photos? What a dream! A lot of photographers freelance, but the lucky ones get hired as staff photographers for major publications. The Art Career Project states that “aspiring underwater photographers should consider earning a photography degree”. Other avenues include stock photography, selling ones pictures, or even working to take pictures of other divers on resorts or diving operations.
Scientific Research – Underwater Archaeologists
Underwater archaeologists do exactly what their title suggests. Underwater archaeologists carry out research and investigate complex and often unpredictable environments. They study nautical archaeology, as well as historic and prehistoric ships (so cool). Most underwater archaeologists have a masters or doctorate degree in anthropology, and gain experience in a range of disciplines such as oceanography, history, geology and chemistry. These archaeologists generally find employment in academia, state and local governments, and private organizations. What diver wouldn’t want to investigate ship wrecks for a living?
Search & Recovery Diver
I’m sure we have all heard on the good old crime shows “send in the divers”. In Ontario, the team is called the Underwater Search and Recovery Unit (U.S.R.U) through the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). The main focus of the team is to safely carry out underwater search and recovery scenarios to obtain evidence of major crimes (weapons) and recover missing and drowned persons. The team can dive to a depth of 100 ft and use a Side Scan Sonar and/or a remote operated vehicle to get to deeper depths. It is certainly not a job for the faint of heart, but it is an important job nonetheless.
When you think of commercial diving, most think of the massive helmets (still used today). Commercial divers are extremely skilled professionals that often work in very dangerous circumstances, and less than ideal visibility and environments. The different types of commercial diving include offshore (oil and gas industry), inland (inspection/construction of lakes, rivers & dams) and HAZMAT (nuclear power plants, oil spills & toxic salvage). We are lucky enough to live very close to the Seneca College King Campus that offers the Underwater Skills Program for commercial diving.
Diving Instructor/Divemaster Jobs around the World.
Imagine diving every day, teaching others how to scuba dive and living in paradise. I can’t guarantee you will be rich, but you would be living the dream! As a divemaster/instructor, one’s possibilities are endless and can expand all over the world. We’re talking dive shops, resorts, cruise ships, and liveaboards. Just watching new divers swoon over their first breaths underwater and then being able to share the beauty of the ocean and its marine life with them, makes it all worth it.
Jobs you wouldn’t think of…
What about those unusual scuba jobs that nobody thinks of? Let’s start off with my person favourite, the underwater model. Someone has to model that new diving equipment you have been eyeing, right? Another favourite is the golf ball diver. Yup, that’s right! People are employed to dive for lost golf balls all around the world. And who do you think teaches astronauts about what space will be like? Scuba divers are employed by NASA to prepare them for what it’s like in a neutrally buoyant environment.
The Vegas show “O” (acrobats in water) by Cirque du Soleil, hires scuba divers to ensure the safety of the performers while also handing over regulators and escorting them to their next position. And while on the topic of Vegas, large hotels like Mandalay Bay and the Bellagio are known to hire divers to perform maintenance and help clean the very large fountains and marine exhibits. A few other interesting scuba jobs include aquarium cleaning, as well as being a Hollywood stunt diver. So there are a lot of options out there!
What’s your dream scuba job?
Dream Big & Happy Diving