The year was 2003 and my future was looking as bright as a British summer. It was A-Level results day (the final exams before heading to university) and although I wasn’t expecting to get top marks, I certainly wasn’t expecting to get the dregs of the alphabet either. Things hadn’t gone to plan. Not only was I now not going to university, I had failed maths for the third consecutive year. A doctor or vet, I was certainly not going to become.
Fast forward a few years. Still no maths qualification to speak of but I had grown up a little bit. I had spent a bit of time working in the ‘real world’ and felt semi in-charge of my life. After all, I am the captain of my own ship, right? With a new found sense of achievement and lust for a greater life, I buckled down at college part-time and got myself to university. This set in motion a series of events that would shape my life forever.
University offered me something I hadn’t expected – vocational qualifications, work placements and meeting like-minded people. I found myself surrounded by people who loved watersports, mountain climbing, trekking and travel. A far cry from the small minded mentality of the town I’d come from. I felt I would flourish in this environment.
After a stint in France on my first university work placement, I completed my PADI® Open Water Diver course in Barcelona before heading back to the UK. I instantly fell in love with the sport and upon my return to university, I needed to continue the journey! Each student was allocated a bursary to complete vocational qualifications of their choice. For me it was a no brainer – the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course in Chepstow, Wales. From here the path was clear. My second work placement was going to be scuba diving. I didn’t care where or how, but it had to happen.
In September 2007 I was on a plane home from Ibiza after completing a 3 month PADI Divemaster Internship. 3 incredible months learning about the scuba diving industry from the inside, two or three dives a day, organising logistics and dealing with customers. I had been in my element and didn’t want it to end. For risk of sounding cliché, I was living the dream.
2009 found me in classroom in Tenerife revising for the Instructor Examination. This is the part theory, part practical examination that follows directly on from an Instructor Development Course. Why was I revising? Because the fears of the 2003 failure had come back to haunt me. But this time it was different. This time I was doing something I loved; I was applying theory to a relatable topic. In 2003 I couldn’t have told you the difference between algebra and Algeria. Yet here I was on the cusp of becoming a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor revising Boyle’s Law – the relation between the volume and the pressure of gas. I had never been so excited to understand P1V1 = P2V2.
The hard work paid off and I spent the following 7 years working as a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor. When people refer to it as a passport or license to a lifetime of adventure and fun, they certainly aren’t saying it lightly. Because of scuba diving I can speak fluent Spanish and French and have friends all over the world. I have stories to tell at every occasion and memories that will last a lifetime. All things considered, failing Pythagoras Theorem only helped opening Pandora’s Box.