Being a 10-year old shark diver is pretty cool!

I was born in The Cayman Islands. As my dad works in the scuba diving industry, I have had a mask and snorkel strapped to my face most of my life. And never did I think I’d become a shark diver!

In the summer of 2008, I was given the opportunity by my parents to join Kids Sea Camp (KSC) on my home island of Grand Cayman. This is where my love and passion for the underwater world began.

As my parent’s dove with other parents, I started my days learning about marine life. The afternoons were spent playing on the beach with new friends. I love that there also is dedicated family time for us to dive together.

At age 6, I was snorkeling with my dad and KSC owner Margo Peyton at Stingray City and was stung by a jellyfish, causing an allergic reaction. Safety is very important to Margo, and she knew just what to do. She responded quickly to her emergency protocol in place. 

That experience left me with a fear of jellyfish, but Margo helped me overcome that fear. A couple years later at Palau KSC, Dad and I snorkeled Jellyfish Lake with millions of jellyfish that did not sting. I’m so glad that I shook that fear.

I became a PADI OW diver in Micronesia. My dad, Fraser Purdon, is a Tec instructor, and I knew he’d been waiting for that day my whole life. He was so very proud of me. I was a little scared on that dive because there were lots of reef sharks in the water.  Margo said I would be safe, and my dad said I didn’t have to do the dive, but I plucked up the courage and jumped in right behind my dad. I am so glad that I did; being a10-year-old shark diver was pretty cool.

Learning about and diving with sharks eliminated fears, and I learned how important it is to protect them. Traveling with my parents have taught me so much about the world.

I learned about diving pressure by cracking eggs underwater. Did you know they stay together and you can even bat them around unless a fish eats the yolk?

I have developed courage, confidence, and knowledge as a diver, and I try to inspire others that are just starting out. I dove with mantas that are 10 times my size, big sharks like bull sharks, white tips, and black tips, and I have even been face-to-face with tiger sharks and survived!

I think my parents’ favorite KSC week was Anse Chastanet, St. Lucia. Our room was on the top of the mountain with amazing views of the Pitons, and it had one wall open to the ocean. I loved St. Lucia because that’s where I experienced my first night dive.  It was fun seeing all the marine life that you don’t see during the day, like basket stars, octopus, lobster, and giant crabs.

I meet children from around the world through KSC and have learned to be more environmentally conscious. So many in the world have so little, but we have so much and take it for granted. You learn that when you travel and experience the local culture.

Each year, I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. Scuba diving has been a big part of my family’s life. (I even used diving as my science project — and got second place at the county level.)

Mum isn’t as big a diver as Dad and I, but we enjoy diving together at KSC.  We have become good friends with Margo and Tom Peyton, as my family hosts some of the weeks too. I get to welcome everyone and assist dad with the Sealife photo weeks. 

Margo is my KSC mum; she treats all of us that way.  After all, it is Kids Sea Camp.

From helping me put my first set of ScubaPro gear together to holding my hand in strong currents, she always makes me feel safe.

Tom is the Zen diver. He calms everything down by saying “There is only kung fu,” as he does wax on, wax off hand motions. He makes everyone laugh.

I earned my PADI Rescue Diver and Master Dive certification this year. Tom and Margo have already offered me a job, so I know becoming a PADI divemaster is on the way.Diving is not my whole life, but it certainly has become the foundation for family fun. It’s not often you publicly get to say thank you parents, but thank you Mum and Dad.

I love my Kids Sea Camp life!

By Sophie Purdon age 16