Beneath the Sea 2014 Recap
Within a week of arriving back in New York, I was already leaving its borders once again. But this time, I wasn’t going far — just popping across state lines into New Jersey for a weekend at Beneath the Sea, the biggest consumer dive show in the US. I’ve attended the show twice before, as a wide-eyed scuba enthusiast in 2011 and as a Women Diver’s Hall of Fame grant recipient in 2012. This time, I was honored to be asked to speak to the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame brunch, and to help man their booth on the showroom floor.
As a diving enthusiast I love slowly strolling the showroom floor, daydreaming about the beautiful dive destinations being promoted, seeing what new innovations the gear manufacturers have come up with, dropping my jaw over the crazy camera deals and chatting to other scuba addicts along the way. As usual I dropped my business card in every contest I could find, fingers crossed for a week away on a liveaboard somewhere exotic (there better be a defibrillator nearby if I ever win one of the Arenui giveaways — it’s basically in the top slot of my bucket list).
My favorite part of BTS is the seminars. It’s always a challenge deciding which to attend as there are up to eight running simultaneously. This year I made it to Adventures of the Exosuit by Jean-Michel Cousteau. It is always exciting to see a member of the Cousteau family speak and he had a great quip about reporters who ask him what he’s hoping to get out of his next expedition. “If I knew, I wouldn’t be going!” was clever and the response of a true explorer.
The next seminar I caught was Fifty Years of Teaching Scuba: What Has Been Gained and Lost by Walt “Butch” Hendrick. I assumed this would be a constructive look at some of the issues in the diving industry and an inspiring look at how we can turn them around. Hilariously, it was pretty much a solid hour-long rant about the industry is doomed and there’s no hope for any of us. I wish I had a photo of the looks on everyone’s faces when it was over. The guys has an opinion and he’s not afraid to share it — I give him points for that!
My favorite seminar of the weekend was A Better Business Model for Scuba Professionals by Dave Ochs. His presentation about how he makes a six figure living as an independent dive guide in Palm Beach, Florida was inspiring to me on so many levels. While I don’t know if I will ever own a dive business, I too happen to work in an industry where it’s basically assumed that you’ll always be earning just above the poverty line. I loved hearing — and seeing, through an extremely detailed and clear example — the story of someone refusing to accept that and finding a way to earn and fair and abundant living doing the work they love. I found this session so enlightening I’m hoping to do a full post about it in the future.
Sunday, I made my way to two final seminars, both with a creative lean. The first was Underwater Photographic Creativity by John Ares, which helped me think about how I define my style, sold me on the idea of diving with a shot list, and inspired me to take more time to study the work of others in order to improve my own. The second was Underwater Photography Made Easy by Annie Crawley. Annie is somewhat of a mentor to me and I look forward to her talks every year. She is an amazing woman and watch this space — I’m hoping to talk her into an Alex in Wanderland interview soon!
I was pretty bummed to miss Rob Stewart’s talk (he’s the director of Shark Water and is coming out with a new film soon) but duty called — it was my turn to work the Women Divers Hall of Fame booth. Though it was towards the end of the show and things were quieting down, I loved chatting about scholarship opportunities to some of the young divers who stopped by and get to know the other ladies at the booth a bit better.
But the big event of the weekend for me was the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame Sunday brunch. The morning is made up of a fabulous spread of breakfast treats (free-flowing mimosas included!), a silent auction of ocean-related items, the induction of the new Women Divers Hall of Fame members, and the awarding of the 2014 training grants and scholarships. When Bonnie Toth, who personally underwrote my grant and has been a wonderful support to me, asked me to speak at the event, I couldn’t imagine what someone like me could have to say to such a group. It’s easy to be intimidated in a room full of accomplished scientists, artists, educators and pioneers and it’s not the first time I’ve found myself wondering how I could possibly fit in to the mix. The Women Diver’s Hall of Fame is made up of women who have done so much for the diving industry — will I ever make a contribution significant enough to join their ranks? What difference can I make?
And then I thought about the steady stream of comments and emails I receive from readers thanking me for inspiring them to try diving for the first time, and I know that this is my role — using this blog as a platform to spread excitement about diving and interest in conservation is my contribution to the diving community.
I am not much of a public speaker and I was a ball of nerves leading up to my talk — I seriously Googled Toastmasters meetings as soon as I got home that night. But stage fright aside, my presentation was aimed at updating the WDHOF on how their grant had affected my life and to give a few words of encouragement and advice to the new scholarship winners. I told the story of how I went from a terrified Open Water student to dumpster diving for dive gear to being taken under the wing of the WDHOF and becoming a PADI divemaster. My takeaway message to the scholarship winners was an old classic — don’t let anything slow you down from living the life you want to live and achieving the things you want to achieve. I know from the emails I receive that diving is often intimidating even to those who take a keen interest in it. But you can make diving a part of your life. Find a way or make one.
That goes for all of your reading this right now too — take a look at the diving grants and scholarships on offer around the world! There are diving scholarships available from the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame, from the Beneath the Sea Foundation, from Boston Sea Rovers, and from the World Underwater Scholarship Society — and I’m sure many more.
To the Women Divers Hall of Fame, congratulations on your ten year anniversary! How can I ever thank this group enough for what they’ve done for me? I also want to congratulate Bonnie Toth, who as I mentioned before personally underwrote my 2012 grant, for winning Diver of the Year for Service. She is an inspiration and I can only hope to someday be such an active and respected member of the diving community, supporting some dippy young diver the was she’s supported me. The weekend humbled me and inspired me to try to find new ways to be a generous and involved member of the diving community in this coming year.
Many thanks as always to Women Diver’s Hall of Fame community, and here’s to another great year at Beneath the Sea!
Funny small world–through my job in destination marketing I work with Annie Crawley, and when I met her we were talking about traveling and diving and I totally thought of your blog! 🙂 Between the two of you I am definitely interested in learning to dive!
Annie is the best! I am officially jealous that you get paid to hang with her 🙂
If you’re ever in the Seattle area you should check out the water sports camp she runs–it’s amazing! It’s called Sunset Bay Beach Camp — https://www.sunsetbaywharf.com/Pages/default.aspx
My list of reasons to visit Seattle keeps growing 🙂
It sounds like an inspirational weekend! I’ve only been diving once. I was 18, in the Cayman Islands, and it was INCREDIBLE! Now when I travel I always consider diving as something that’s out of my budget. But reading your blog makes me realize that you can be a budget traveler AND a diver. Plus I’d never thought about the fact that there are actually scholarships out there! Anyway, congrats on your speech. And I’m crossing my fingers that you win one of those contests 😉
Ha thanks for the finger crossing! But YES you can be a budget traveler and diver (dumpster diving for dive gear here, hello! :)) Have you heard of Blackbeard’s Liveaboard? Check my archives — I really highly recommend them to divers on limited funds.
That’s awesome you went dumpster diving for dive gear! Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll definitely check it out 🙂
Yup, my first BCD was rescued from the trash heap 🙂 And the one I’m sporting now admittedly isn’t much better…
Alex, We loved having you at the WDHOF Brunch and you reminded us of what it was like way back when the rest of us were starting our own journeys. You have to start somewhere and that’s the great part, the journey. Knowing that you want to give back along the way is something that most people never figure out, so I applaud you for having that goal some early! Hope you keep coming back to see us and sharing with us. We’ll be there to support you along the way. Bobbie, WDHOF class of 2000
Thank you so much Bobbie! I truly appreciate your words of encouragement and hope to be back at another WDHOF event soon. In the meantime I’m hoping to launch a new series here on the blog about accomplished women divers to serve as an inspiration to those just starting out.
I’m sure you’re an excellent speaker! The best ones are great storytellers, and you’ve got that part down. I, too, am still mildly terrified of public speaking, even though I do it regularly now. The nerves generally subside within minutes of taking the podium, but the lead-up in the weeks before has my stomach in knots!
And I still feel sick for a few days after wondering how I’ve done 🙁 I think I just need more practice. I get the sweats/shakes/voice cracking going on. No bueno!
Aw, I love this post! It’s such a great thing to be able to look at something that has greatly influenced you and your life, and then see the ways in which you’ve been able to pass it on to others. Even though I don’t really have the diving bug (yet?), reading this blog has definitely encouraged me to step up my travel AND my blog game(s), and I heartily thank you for that! I also just bought the Canon Powershot S100 on your rec from your monthly round up, and can’t wait to bring that to more places where I’d normally only bring my iPhone. So, see? You do inspire people! 🙂
Thanks Maddy 🙂 That is so lovely to hear. Hope you’ll love the s100 as much as I do!
Well, that is just the best!! Look at you speaking at the WDHOF brunch – go Alex! This whole event looks amazing and I wish I could have gone… if you win that Arenui liveaboard you gotta hook me up, I ogle the ad in Scuba Diver magazine every single month 🙂 I also am looking forward to hearing about Mr. Six Figure man, since we’ve been having some convos on Roatan lately about how the dive instructors are too poor to eat but the hotel managers and marketing staff have enough money go to on Indonesian holidays and liveaboards in the Maldives. Um, remember when I make sure 8-10 people don’t die every day? That’s kind of an important job and should be paid accordingly!
Ha! Indeed. Yeah I’m going to get in touch with him and see if he’d be interested in doing a modified presentation here that I think would apply not just to dive instructors but to all professionals who are expected to starve in order to do what they love. It’s cray!
Didn’t know that there was a diving summit, and that is was such a big deal. May have to attend BTS next year if I’m close to where it is being held!
This one is always held in Secaucus, New Jersey! There’s also DEMA which is much bigger and more professionally and that one bounces between Las Vegas and Orlando, but that one is unfortunately industry only. Check your area, you might be surprised to see one in your area!
Alex, you did great speaking at the brunch…did not look nervous at all! And thanks for putting the word out about the WDHOF scholarships and dive grants in your blog…we are very proud of our program and want everyone to know about it!
Darlene Iskra, WDHOF class of 2008
WDHOF Scholarship committee co-chair
Thanks for the words of encouragement, Darlene 🙂 I had the same experience at a wedding I just spoke at. I was a wreck and thought it went terribly but afterwards several strangers told me it was their favorite speech of the night. Just shows how much scarier it is behind that microphone!
What a great event, and congratulations on being asked to speak! You certainly inspired me to start diving, I just did my very first discovery dive in Thailand last month (I saw a pregnant seahorse!), and I’m hoping to go and get my PADI at some stage soon. Thank you for all your wonderful posts about the other world under the sea, I never would have considered diving before I started reading your blog 🙂
Aw, that is so lovely to hear, Erin! Thank you and kudos to you for getting underwater! You’ll never regret taking your Open Water, it’s a fabulous course.
LOL, we were sitting on our little junky boat in between Rinca Island and West Flores when the Arenui sailed up and dropped anchor (was a bit like that schoolyard lunch moment, where they’re the kid with the delicious cakes whilst we munch on a lettuce sandwich).
It must be said however, all the people on board did look pretty pretentious!
Amazing looking vessel though!
Ha, well I would put up with their snobbery for a chance to sleep in one of those stunning cabins 🙂 I would be so excited just to see it, lucky you!
How interesting to hear that there are scholarships to be had to assist you in completing a diving course. Wish I knew where to look to help my daughter. She has just worked for the last year to earn enough money to see her through her divemaster course on Koh Tao.
She should apply for assistance with her instructor course, Janice! There really are some fabulous resources out there.
It’s so good to see that there is such a huge event for the divers and dive industry and that you are involved in that.
I really love when you write about diving in the blog, it’s a good inspiration.
In my last vacation I followed your steps and went diving in Bali and Gili T. i remembered a lot of your posts when I was there. thank you a lot!
I’m so happy to hear that about Indonesia, Carla! It’s a beautiful place for sure. And I might soon be attending an even bigger dive show in Las Vegas… fingers crossed!