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Women in Diving - Chantal

As PADI 'Women's Dive Day' approaches on July 20th - we thought it would be fun to profile some of the amazing, awesome and inspiring women we have the privilege to take underwater!

Chantal has been diving with us for about 12 years and may win the 'most transformed diver' award for her sheer determination to get back underwater after taking a 'little hiatus' (She'll tell you more about that below!) Nothing gets in this woman's way, and she is now the 'first in/last out/can we book one more day of diving' type of diver! We love having her and her husband Greg on board, and her passion for the underwater world and the sport of diving is contagious!

Name: Chantal

Day Job: Research & Partnerships Manager, Institute for Chemicals and Fuels from Alternative Resources, University of Western Ontario (London, ON, Canada)

Certification Level: Open Water

How many years i’ve been diving: This should be an easy question but ….. I was PADI Open Water certified 11 years ago. Then I took an “Oh my God, what am I doing 70 feet below sea level” hiatus for 4 years. After a 4 year panic attack break, and watching my husband have a wonderful time diving and sharing his phenomenal pictures, I could stand on the sidelines no longer; I did a recertification in 2014 and since then there has been no looking back.

Favorite dive buddy: That would have to be my husband, Greg. I trust him with my life and quite frankly, the poor guy, after 35 years of marriage he keeps putting up me transferring my stresses onto him! On occasion he can be distracted chasing a Sargassum Triggerfish or some such thing, so I would have to say my favourite dive buddy is my husband, with Jayne or Mickey on-hand as occasional back-up.

Do you own your own dive gear? I own 2 dive computers (hey, you never know when one might fail, and yes, I was a Girl Guide), a reg and a BCD.

How often do you dive? Not enough. Not nearly enough. If we are talking diving only and not snorkel, I dive about 9 times per year.

How long have you been a ‘Flamingo Diver Since 2008. After doing my certification in Gilboa Quarry, Ohio, Greg and I went to TCI and on the recommendation of friends, we went out with Flamingo Divers. And that would be it for me for cold-water quarry dives.

My Favorite TCI Dive site is: Ampitheatre, Northwest Point was my first TCI dive site, and it remains my favourite. The wall is spectacular; it is a teaser, giving a hint as to the enormity and diversity of the under-the-sea world. There is always something really cool to see.

My Favorite thing to see on a dive is: Dolphins. Sharks. Eels. Octopus. Blenny. Eagle Rays. Turtles. Schools of chromis. Did I mention, dolphins?

Macro or Big Stuff? Both, but if I had to choose, I’d say big stuff. My eyesight is not improving with age … big stuff I can see!

Top of my marine life bucket list? Whale shark!!

If i had one dive trip to choose anywhere in the world I would go: Well, Turks and Caicos of course, but after that? A fellow Flamingo Diver has inspired me to want to visit the Galapagos Islands.

Favorite thing about the sport of diving: I could write a book …. there’s so much. It’s amazing to see the world below, the diversity, the colours, the personalities of the fish and sea life. However, I would say my absolute favourite thing is “being in the moment”. There is nothing else but me (and my buddy) and the dive. Being focussed on the dive and yet being awestruck and aware of the fantastic world around me; peaceful yet exciting, quiet yet stimulating.

Favorite dive moment to date: One single moment? Are you kidding me? Every dive day has a favourite moment and that’s why I keep coming back. The seahorse was adorable and Jayne’s reaction was hilarious - "who cares about that shark, look a seahorse!”, spotting an octopus for the first time this past February was amazing, just hanging out with 4 sharks circling seemingly as curious about us as we were with them was so cool, playing chicken to a hawksbill turtle who clearly believed he had the right of way, and losing, was entertaining.

What marine life environmental cause is near and dear to your heart? I would like people to stop being so cavalier about the ocean environment. We are destroying an entire ecosystem. I don’tunderstand how anyone who dives and is fortunate enough to directly see the aquatic world could not be concerned about: plastics and other litter killing sea-life, damage being done to reefs both directly and indirectly through pollutants, over-fishing especially for sport, capturing sea mammals for profit etc. Divers are extraordinarily privileged. We experience an environment most people will never directly witness. I would hope that anyone who calls themself a diver would do their best to educate in an effort to mitigate the pace with which humans are destroying the oceans.

Diving is my happy place because: It is peaceful and beautiful. It is my escape from all the big and little things circling around in my mind. As I mentioned earlier, diving allows me to “be in the moment”.

What else can you tell us about your diving journey to date? I have learned that I can overcome my fears. I didn’t learn this on my own. My husband Greg, and the Flamingo Divers themselves, Jayne and Mickey, were the major driving forces to help me conquer my anxiety and get back into a sport I truly love. Their patience and humour were key. I still laugh at the time I returned to diving and climbed onboard Flamingo Spirit. Mickey greeted me with a laugh saying, “Chantal, you cheated death once again!”. Yes, Mickey you are right, I did it!!

There is one other part of diving that I have not directly mentioned, that is very much part of the entire experience that I enjoy. The camaraderie. The banter on the boat. The pantomime dive briefings (ok, that only happened once, and Ken started it - plus hey, we had all been to the site several times….). Learning about the different places, cultures and points of view of fellow divers. The trust: you have to trust the people you are with and they trust you.

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