Shernice Popo’s Journey To Becoming A Dive Master

Image of Shernice Popo
Image of Shernice Popo
Shernice Popo

PRESS RELEASE – IN the middle of sleep, a chiming sound can be heard in the distance. The chiming gets louder and louder. That chiming is my 5:30 a.m alarm going off. That alarm is the start of my day. Being someone who loves to sleep, waking up at 5:30 took some getting used to. Finally out of bed I pack my bags, have breakfast, and get ready to leave home for 6:30 to get to work for 8:00 a.m.

Once at the dive shop, I put together everything needed for a day of diving. I help with getting the guest their gear and getting the tanks loaded onto the boat. Once everyone has what they need and the water and snacks are on the boat we head to our dive site. Now, let’s go back a little. Before the 5:30 a.m alarms and diving almost every day I had to overcome a few obstacles.

After continuous disappointments with unemployment, I was losing hope that I would ever get a job. I saw my friends getting great jobs, starting families of their own and having their dream jobs, and here I was jobless for years and I felt like my life was going nowhere. In December 2016, I saw a friend of mine post on Facebook that the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association was looking for people who wanted to be trained to become Rescue Divers. I thought to myself why not try it out and see. Being a competitive swimmer I already had a love for being in the water. I sent a message to my friend and told him to put my name down.

It was February 2017 and I still hadn’t heard anything concerning the advertisement. I sent a message to my friend to follow up and he said to me they need at least 8 people and at that time they still hadn’t had the number of people that they were looking for. The feeling of disappointment slowly started creeping in, along with the “what if” questions. Just as I was about to lose hope; I received a call from Donovan Brown in March asking me if I was still interested.

Without hesitation I said yes. That was the moment I finally felt like my life was coming together. I met with Donovan two weeks after that call. This is where he handed me my first of many dive manuals. The Open Water manual was up first. I had to read the entire book and answer a series of questions at the end of each chapter. It was difficult at the time to concentrate on the manual because at the time I was helping my mom care for my baby brother and grandmother.

However, I finished the manual and answered the questions. Then, I was ready to sit the exam. The first time I sat the exam, I was unsuccessful. I was disappointed, however, I didn’t give up. I wrote the exam again and I was successful. After the exam I was ready to dive for the first time. I was so nervous because swimming on the surface is totally different to going underwater.

My first dive was done at Superman’s Flight in Soufriere. Once I was in the water with my scuba gear on, my dive instructor took me to a spot where I could stand to complete three skills under water. I struggled a little with the skills at first, however, I got through the skills successfully. After the skills came the fun but scary part, leaving an area where I could stand and going out to do a dive.

That was the moment I fell in love with diving. I could not believe how peaceful and relaxing being under water was. It was stepping into a whole other world. I got a chance to see how the aquatic life interacted with each other. Then, I thought to myself “ what was I so nervous about?” After that one dive I got to do a second one about 40 minutes later and I just could not get enough. I met with Donovan and Eget a few more times after that to do a skill or two and a few fun dives.

Unfortunately, my diving would come to a grinding halt due to the passing of my grandmother in May. I stopped diving for about a month and all I could think about was getting back in the water to deal with my grandmother’s passing. When I felt emotionally ready, I made a vow to push myself in diving to make up for the month I missed.

Image of Shernice Popo
Shernice Popo

I was determined to keep that vow. I dove every day that the dive shop had dives booked and I completed my in water skills with Eget for my Open Water certification. After I was done with my Open Water, I moved on to my Advanced Open Water certification. This was my second manual to read. This time, I had 5 chapters to read and the questions to answer at the end of those five chapters. After I had read my chapters and answered the questions, I had a series of in water skills to complete in order to get my Advanced Open Water certification.

These skills included a deep dive and using a compass underwater. After completing my Advanced Open Water training, I started questioning whether or not I wanted to stop at Rescue Diving. Both my instructor Eget and Donovan asked me if I saw myself going further than Rescue Diving. I told them I wanted to at least make it to assistant instructor. I was really enjoying the diving. I finally found something I enjoyed doing and I saw myself diving for years to come.

For my Rescue Diver training I got two manuals; the Rescue Diver manual and the Emergency First Response manual. After reading the Rescue Diver’s manual and answering the questions at the end of each chapter; I had open water scenarios to do and an exam to complete. I also had to do my Emergency First Response exam as well. I was successful in both the exams and the open water scenarios. I now had not only the task of getting the required number of dives to start my Dive Master training; I also had to build my experience.

I was faced with many challenges along the way. There was a point in time I wanted to give up especially if I had a bad day. However, instead of letting the challenges get to me I took them as lessons learned. I even had to assist in my first dive incident. Assisting with that incident, made me realize that not only was I stronger than I thought but that I was also capable of so much more. My challenges made me push myself even more which made me grow as a person and as a diver.

When I had the number of dives required to start my Dive Master training, you guessed it another manual to read and questions to answer at the end of each chapter. Aside from reading the manual, I also had to learn how to brief dives and assist with Discover Scuba Divers. I had to lead dives and back up dives. After completing the Dive Master manual and answering the questions I was ready to sit the exam. I was successful in this exam as well. Being a Dive Master comes with a lot of responsibilities; like not only being responsible for my safety but also being responsible for any diver in my care during a dive.

Fast forward to the present, seeing how far I’ve come in such a short space of time has made me so proud of myself. However, I could not have done it without the unwavering support of my loved ones, Eget my instructor and Donovan. They have pushed me and encouraged me to go beyond my limit. It has been an emotional roller coaster, however, I look forward to going further in my diving career. My next goal is becoming an assistant instructor by 2018 and then full-fledged instructor soon after. I look forward to reaching my goals.

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