The world’s first-ever Jr. Dive Master

Becoming the world’s first-ever Jr. Dive Master has been on my radar for a few years, then COVID hit. And if there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that 2020 has been a different year.

Had I been writing this story one year ago, it would not come as a shock to most that I am sitting on an airplane, with my in-flight snacks and a drink typing away on my laptop about my dive vacation in St. Lucia. Yet this year, most people will glare at me with shock in their eyes stating the same thing. I know I took a risk this summer, wandering from my Bermuda home, to St Lucia to join yet another Kids Sea Camp (KSC) dive vacation at Anse Chastanet. I was eager to become the world’s first-ever Jr. Dive Master.

Philippines Kids Sea Camp, family vacations, kids and diving
Holly Wakely, age 4, in Curacao at her very first Kids Sea Camp.

My KSC journey started with Curacao in 2006, at just 4 years old. From then on, I spent each year gallivanting with my diving family around the world and exploring the ocean; I had no grasp then of what I wanted to do when I grew up. Come 2010, my family and I had followed KSC around most of the Caribbean, fueling my parent’s love for scuba diving and keeping my brother and me curious about different destinations and cultures. At this point I was certain I wanted to be a dentist, doctor, or veterinarian, I had very little interest in scuba diving as a career. Dominica, Cayman Islands, Roatan, Bonaire, St. Vincent, back again to Palau, it was in meeting so many inspiring dive professionals that my mindset began to change. I now had an idea of what I wanted to do when I grew up.

2017 was the year I developed a stronger bond with my KSC family, Margo and Tom Peyton (owners of KSC). I was a 15-year-old, Master Scuba diver with 300+ dives. My family had our yearly KSC trip planned to the Galápagos, where we dove on a liveaboard with some of the world’s most amazing creatures. One night at dinner my parents asked me if I was interested in doing any other KSC trips that year, and I responded as any kid would and said yes, I would love to! At the time I hadn’t gathered that they meant I would be going by myself. As a shy kid, sheltered by my extroverted brother, this concept of traveling without my family was a total reach for me. I’m glad I took that opportunity for what I thought would be a lonely KSC week.

Arriving in St. Lucia in 2018, I was full of fear, worst-case scenarios going through my head, only when I saw Margo did this feeling subside. She told me that night I would be part of the team and helping out as a training student for Max Lavinsky and Jacob Schafer who were completing their PADI Dive Master certifications that week. Though I was just acting as a diving student, I was fortunate enough to get to experience the Dive Master program at such a young age, grasping the concepts and training. I realized how much I truly loved scuba diving; my parents weren’t there so I knew it wasn’t their passions it came from within. I had taken a risk and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Fast forward 3 years to 2020, I have traveled all over the world with Margo, Tom, and my KSC family, seeing whale sharks in the Philippines, sunken wrecks in Palau, and gained valuable lessons in all aspects of travel and life. Margo invited me to attend a few dive shows where I was able to speak with people from different sectors of the Scuba industry. This was where I heard about the creation of the PADI Jr. Dive Master program, which would allow divers age 15 to pre-train for the professional side of scuba diving and be able to assist dive professionals. This program launched in 2020, and I was the very first pilot student for PADI. Margo took me back to where it all started for me, St Lucia.

I am now on my way home, certified by Margo Peyton, my KSC mom, as PADI’s first-ever Jr. Dive Master and I couldn’t be more grateful. KSC taught me to look at my life from a different perspective and to follow my heart. I’m taking a gap year this year, to focus on my scuba diving career. By the time you are reading this, I will be back in St. Lucia for KSC Thanksgiving and will be 18 years old and a PADI Dive Master, working on becoming a PADI instructor. So you see, traveling during a worldwide pandemic was a risk I was willing to take. I trust my KSC family to keep me safe and we wear our masks! St. Lucia will always hold a fond place in my heart, its where I found my passion and career path

Story by Holly Wakely, The first-ever Junior Dive Master at Kids Sea Camp Anse Chastanet in St. Lucia with PADI Instructor Margo Peyton.