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How did Hayley become a PADI Divemaster with Bucket List Diver?

a person wearing sunglasses and sitting in a swimming pool

Where does my passion for the ocean come from?

I know you won’t be surprised to read this, but I’ve always loved the sea. Something about its open space and rhythm puts the world in perspective for me. I grew up in Safety Bay, Western Australia where a typical weekend would see Mum and Dad take the four of us kids down to Malibu beach to tire us out with boogie boards. If it was a nice day, we’d take turns to use the mask and snorkel with Dad and finish up with fish and chips on the sand throwing sand balls at each other.

One of my favourite memories is when Dad pointed out my first Sea Horse. It was like nothing I had ever seen before and it seemed to be examining me at the same time, slowly moving from weed to weed with its monkey tail. On the same day, my brother saw his first octopus and the story goes that he was out of there so fast he almost walked on water.

When I was 18, I moved to Darwin for about 5 years working in hospitality and quickly fell in love with the spectacular untouched coast and fusion of cultures at the weekly beach markets. Eating street food at sunset on the beach, I would see so many hermit crabs scurry across the sand that I had to check for them and move a couple before I sat down. Sometimes the air would get thick and in an instant, I’d be saturated from a monsoonal downpour so heavy the traffic would stop and kids would grab whatever they could find to use as a surfboard and ride the creeks that, a minute ago, were footpaths.

Exploring the natural gorges and water holes with the thrill of seeing bumpy crocodile foreheads watching from the waterline is something I’ll never forget. One trip I was lucky enough to see tiny metallic gold tree frogs living in the pandanus trees, they were as small as a little fingernail, huddling together where the tree collected water to form a secret frog sized pool.

My family and my heart were back in WA. After moving back, at first I missed the connection to nature that Darwin had offered me. I found it again camping North and South in WA whenever possible with friends. I still love nothing more than a swag on the beach with good company for a weekend away from the hassle.

What was my first dive experience?

I made new friends, including Rhiain, Jesse and Duffy. Rhiain had done her dive masters and they regularly went out scuba diving. I would snorkel and watch on while they got to take their time soaking in all of the amazing underwater world, frustrated that I could only glimpse what they described.

One Christmas, Duffy organised for my friend Jesse to do her Open Water course with Kate and Antoni. She was telling me about it and saying she wished she had someone else to do it with. That was all the encouragement I needed. It was the best decision I ever made.

Antoni had the patience of a saint teaching us how to dive. I remember putting my gear on the tank backward more than once and losing a weight pocket. After the training dives were done, Kate and Antoni took us out for a fabulous double dive to the Lena wreck just out of Bunbury and it was spectacular. I could fly! and I could be face to face with the fish! There was so much life and a colourful world that from the surface I would never have guessed was there. Remembering gliding over the edge of a ship and slowly cruising down to this day still makes me smile. I can’t wait to go back this year.

From then on, I have dived nearly every week, often four times a week. I hired gear and have tried to convert as many friends as possible. As soon as I could I bought my own gear and continued training.
Rhiain and I would shore dive once a week and I completed Advanced training with Kate and Antoni focusing on deep, navigation, buoyancy, nitrox and night diving. I’ve helped at clean-up dives and Rhiain tells me I would dive in a puddle if I could. 

The Bucket List Rescue Diver course came next. I wanted to learn how to be safer and what to do when things went wrong. I learned so much and was completely exhausted afterward, but really satisfied. I felt like I could contribute to the safety of my buddies and prevent possible problems. I surprised myself with what I was capable of.

Advanced Nitrox and Decompression theory was fun. I enjoyed learning to use stages and twins with a wing. My earlier training had set me up well for when we learned about planning technical diving because the Open Water and Advanced courses had given me an awareness of concepts like calculating air consumption and decompression models.

In 2018 I found myself with notice of redundancy from my office job and to my delight and surprise, Kate and Antoni gave me the opportunity to help out on the boat and eventually guide snorkelling groups. It was and is such an incredible feeling being able to spend time doing what I love and sharing it with other people.

With time on my hands looking for work, I approached Bucket list about the possibility of doing my Dive Masters. I had been wanting to do it for a while, in December 2018 Kate gave me the news that I could start my Dive Master training in January 2019!!!!! I was so excited. I would have the opportunity to qualify for work doing what I love.

The summer of 2019 was a blur of study, skills and so many dives. Sea Lion, Sharks, Whales, Dolphin, set up, pack up, cleaning. Eat, sleep, dive, repeat. Every dive I learned something new, discovered a new place or found a new creature I could not have dreamt up. Kate was incredible at motivating us while keeping it fun.

I met so many people and one of my favourites is Mel who was doing her DM Training at the same time, we learnt and suffered the tests and trials together. I’m constantly blown away by her photography. 

Where from here?

Diving has taken me to Tulamben, Nusa Penida, Komodo, Albany, Rottnest island, Carnac island and more. I hope to get to the Great Barrier Reef in 2020. Mexico and New Zealand are also high in my Bucket List. I love the people I meet and the positivity this whole lifestyle has brought me.

Diving is part of me now and hopefully for a very long time to come. I wish I had started sooner, I can’t wait for more adventures! I plan to spend some time as a DM and continue to master my skills and then who knows, maybe more specialties and instructor development?

See you in the Sea!