Szilvia Gogh is a PADI Course Director and breast cancer survivor. She is also a three-time National Champion Lifeguard in her home country of Hungary and has worked as a dive center managing-director, scuba instructor, camp counselor, travel agent, billboard model, photo-journalist and Hollywood stuntwoman. She’s led conservation projects for Project AWARE® and other shark-saver organizations and designs jewelry for her own jewelry company, Gogh Jewelry Design. She also created and curates Miss-Scuba.com, a popular online resource for female divers. Read on to discover more about this extraordinary woman with a true zest for life, whose accomplishments are a testament to the nearly unlimited opportunities a career in scuba can bring.
“Every time I told my relatives that I was going on a scuba adventure, they would say, “Why not just stay home and watch the Jacques Cousteau movies? It’s far less dangerous!” But I was never one who wanted to live my dreams through somebody else’s movies. I wanted to make my own movies, see my own sharks and dive my own shipwrecks. I guess I was always pretty hard-headed: I knew what I wanted to do – and I did it!” – Szilvia Gogh
When did you start diving?
I started diving when I was twelve or thirteen years old. I grew up in Budapest, Hungary which is a landlocked country. Since we didn’t have an ocean filled with pretty fishes, we came up with diving games to entertain ourselves, and I participated in a sport called orienteering diving. The goal of this sport is to find pre-determined objects in low-visibility lakes using a compass and a distance counting device – kind of like a treasure hunt.
I soon joined a dive club and spent every summer holiday by a lake. We’d dive morning, noon or night – at every opportunity. The military gave us the equipment and we didn’t have to pay for training or participating in competitions, but we had to take care of our own equipment; were in charge of painting our tanks and servicing our regulators and wetsuits. From this, I learned a lot about discipline and the necessity of following rules.
Can you tell us about your first ocean dive?
Hungary was a communist country, and we were not allowed to travel anywhere except Mother Russia and East, so I never saw the ocean as a child. After the Berlin Wall fell, our dive club went to a Greek Island, Corfu, for a week-long dive trip. That was the first time I saw the ocean; right then and there, I decided I would live in a place where there is no winter, and where there are palm trees, sunshine and an ocean to dive in!
Then, I experienced my first ocean dive. We dropped down into beautiful, crystal-clear water with almost unlimited visibility. We saw sharks, turtles and octopus… When I came back from that dive, I knew I wanted to be a dive instructor! However, other people considered it a hobby and were often skeptical when I told them I was going to make a living out of this thing that I loved. Every time they told me that I couldn’t do it, I just looked at them and said, “You just watch me.”
How did you make it happen – becoming a scuba instructor?
I was about 20 years old, in college, and decided to join a friend for the summer in Malta, where I visited a local dive center! I didn’t have any money, but I was already a Rescue Diver with lifeguard experience, so I volunteered to intern there while working toward my PADI Divemaster rating. I have never worked harder in my life than I did that summer! But I met people from all over the world, learned a lot and became a Divemaster… and I was never happier in my life!
I went back to college, and finished up with a major in Marketing Management. During my final year, I returned to Malta to get my PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor rating. After I graduated, the dive center offered me a job. So, I went to work in Malta as a PADI Instructor.
Eventually, I met a guy and moved to England with him, but the relationship didn’t work out. I decided I needed to go somewhere with palm trees, sunshine and the ocean. I brought out my globe, spun it, and decided wherever finger landed, that’s where I would go. My finger stopped on Thailand. I did the weather check; the season was just starting there – so that’s where I went!
Eventually, you moved to Los Angeles and became a PADI Course Director?
Yes, I am now PADI Course Director! Since I started teaching diving, I have certified more than 1300 divers from Open Water Divers through PADI Pro ratings. I eventually moved to Los Angeles, where I trained divers for the Los Angeles Police, Sheriff and Fire Departments and served as an instructor trainer for the LAPD Search and Rescue team.
You also have experience as a Hollywood stuntwoman?
Since 2005, I’ve been a safety diver and stunt double in both movies and television series, including an underwater double for Drew Barrymore in Big Miracle and Dina Meyer’s stunt double in Piranha 3D. I also worked on Dexter, Desperate Housewives, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I spent time in front of the camera as an adventure show host and worked behind the scenes to train stuntmen, stuntwomen and stunt coordinators in safe diving practices.
I appeared in TV programs, on billboards and in magazines in Europe, Canada, Asia and the USA to encourage female divers to take the professional path – to become PADI Instructors. In 2013, I was the face of a Nissan worldwide campaign promoting lifestyles of adventure.
Please tell us about your website, Miss-Scuba.com
Miss Scuba is an online site that brings women together from all over the world who share enthusiasm for diving and travel. Women can join in our group travel expeditions to explore the most exotic places and dive at the most exciting destinations, and then share their experiences on the Miss Scuba site. With a database of 6000 women from 20 different countries, Miss-Scuba.com is also a great resource for women to get information about diving and dive destinations and learn about the latest dive gear. The Miss Scuba culture celebrates free will, untamed souls and rebellion against mediocrity – and answers the yearning for adventure and excitement in life. Ultimately, it’s about female empowerment.
What was your inspiration for starting Miss Scuba?
In the 90s, when I became a dive instructor, the industry was very much a male-oriented business – and female dive gear was usually pink. I hated the pink gear and I wanted to find a way for adventure-loving women to get involved in diving, share their experiences with other women and girls and find dive gear they could love!
I also want to empower women, because I know that diving is empowering. Once you become a scuba diver, you open up your horizons – not just to the other 70% of the planet—but also to other cultures, other people and new experiences.
You’ve taken continuing education courses that broadened your own horizons and brought you employment in a variety of fields. Can you tell us about that?
Travel has always been one of my passions, so in 2004 earned a Travel Agent degree, which enabled me to host more than 20 international “female friendly” or “female only” trips for divers of all certification levels. I also combined my marketing background and travel training to produce promotional multi-platform marketing packages (which included video, articles for print and photography) promoting travel and scuba diving adventures for Antarctica, Egypt, the Sudan and South Africa.
In 2006, I earned a photojournalist certification, which gave me opportunities to write numerous dive travel, dive safety and diver education articles for PADI, DAN (Divers Alert Network) and numerous other international travel, fitness and lifestyle magazines.
What does My PADI mean to you?
My PADI is my springboard. It’s because of PADI that I’m a scuba instructor, that I am a stunt woman, that I started my own jewelry line, that I founded Miss Scuba and I got to travel the world. And now, I travel with my husband, Hilaire, who I met through diving; we have a two-year-old son, Enzo, and we all live the dive life and the dream together – because of my PADI.
To hear more about the inspirational and extraordinary life of Szilvia Gogh, visit the My PADI site.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Szilvia is breast cancer survivor.
She shares her story and how you can support loved-ones with cancer.