In 2021 Holy Wakely became the world’s first certified Junior Divemaster with 540 dives under her belt. Today, she has advanced her certification to full Divemaster, and has logged over 1,122 dives at just 18 years old. Jessica Petty checks in with her about her journey thus far, female representation in diving and what’s in store for her next!
BM: It’s been over a year since The Bermudian interviewed you, and you’ve become an adult since then! What have you been up to?
HW: It’s been a crazy year! After turning 18, I immediately started to get ready for my Dive Instructor course, starting in February. In the short 4 months leading up to February, I upgraded my Jr Dive Master to full Divemaster, did the assistant Instructor course and completed all the necessary learning for the Instructor course, which is a 10-day intensive course with a 2-day examination at the end. I did it in Bonaire because, at the time, Bermuda wasn’t running any courses, which has changed recently. At the time, travel restrictions to Bonaire were extremely tight so it ended up just being myself doing the course with no other applicants, which I did not expect!
BM: You mentioned wanting to take a gap year before furthering your SCUBA education in Australia, is this still the plan? Or what are your future plans looking like?
HW: This is still the plan, we all know it’s been a tough couple of years, especially from the travel perspective. With the world starting to open up on a mass scale again, I’m taking this opportunity to get to Australia and begin my studies. From January until the start of my university in July, I will be traveling the world working as a nomadic scuba instructor covering locations from all over the Caribbean to cold Scotland and hopefully the arctic circle to dive with beluga whales. In the time I have been off from school and not studying, I’ve been filling my time learning things that most universities don’t cover, such as safety on boats and how to teach in a different atmosphere than a classroom. As a Dive Instructor, the ocean is my classroom. Now it’s time to expand that and get a degree doing something I love on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of Australia.
BM: In your first interview with The Bermudian, you had logged over 540 dives – what does that number look like now?
HW: I am currently at an exact number of 1122 dives, doing over 500 in this year alone! These are ranging in depths and times, with my maximum depth of 37 meters (121 feet). Most dives here in Bermuda are in the 12–18-meter range which is where most of the fish life likes to hang out anyway.
BM: How are you taking your love for diving and making a future for yourself?
HW: There is always more to learn, in anything you do in life, and I aim to learn as much as I can in diving in the future. Though currently, I am focused on life as a dive professional, teaching a variety of courses, ranging from first-time divers to training new professionals alongside Mark Wynne, the island’s first course director. Since I first started teaching in early March, I have done over 60 certifications, lots of which are kids ages 10-14. This is my favorite age group to teach and goes perfectly with my job working for Kids Sea Camp in locations around the world. This is my plan for the foreseeable future, working with Kids Sea Camp and getting as much experience as I can with different types of people and diving conditions. I do plan to continue working as a dive professional alongside my university work in Australia.
BM: What is your favourite part about diving in Bermuda?
HW: Hands down the swim-throughs. Many dive sites here have reef structures that result in caves, arches and tunnels, which are large enough for divers to go under and through, popping out of the other end. What makes it incredibly special is the lights that come through the small openings in the top of these tunnels or through the other side, which can be extremely blue and beautiful. Some of the reefs go all the way to the surface and cause the water to break, hence why we call them breakers. From underwater, the sight of the crashing water above you is mesmerizing and something I could watch all day. Bermuda being the wreck capital of the world does make for some pretty great wreck dive sights too, my favourites being the artificially sunk King George dredger on the north shore and the Pelinaion, sunk by hitting the reef in 1939.
BM: You’re a part of the Blue Horizon Diving YouTube series as well, what are you hoping to convey through these videos?
HW: This is something I became a part of by chance, appearing in one of the videos in the middle of last year. It turned out to be a lot of fun being part of the videos and I slowly became a permanent part of the channel. As an instructor couple, Mark and I love to showcase diving around the world, with a specific focus on Bermuda as a lesser-known dive location. There are more divers than you may imagine along the east coast of America, who don’t even think of Bermuda as a dive destination and often find themselves in the Caribbean over and over for dive holidays when we’re just 90 minutes away! Our reach is from all over the world and has gotten a surprising amount of people attracted to the idea of diving in Bermuda. Alongside conveying the diving in Bermuda, we do showcase the life of a dive instructor and plan to make skill demonstration videos in the future, helping out divers looking to further their knowledge or non-divers wanting to start. It’s also a way to save our memories and look back at the incredible opportunities we’ve had and different locations we’ve been able to explore.
BM: What does it mean to you to be a female diver in such a male-dominated field?
HW: Diving was invented in 1943, and since then, it has been a male-dominated industry, with over 60 percent of all divers being male. Something that is special that I get to see firsthand is the change to these statistics. Last summer in Bonaire, just 5 months after my instructor course, a group of my longtime friends and dive buddies also did their instructor course, and it was a fully female group. There are more and more girls getting into diving and understanding that there is no reason for it to be a male-dominated industry. PADI, the leading scuba training organization, has hosted Woman’s Dive Day since 2014, which has massively increased the female presence in the scuba industry. At Dive Bermuda, an incredible influence for females in diving is Marlee, who manages the dive shop. She helped show me that we can do anything that the men can do and that there should be no split between us. Lifting tanks, setting up gear, leading dives, even teaching, is something that anyone can do, regardless of gender. As a female diver and female dive instructor, I aim to inspire young girls who are interested in the underwater world, to get certified and explore it from below.
BM: What do you feel are the opportunities available to you as a young female diver? Either as a career or as a hobby?
HW: The opportunities are plentiful for both work and as a hobby. I’m able to always progress in my diving training by doing further courses and having new and achievable goals. I am currently an IDC Staff instructor which means I can work alongside a course director in helping to certify new instructors. I aim to eventually become one of the few female course directors once I have enough experience and am confident in my teaching abilities. There are also heaps of specialties that I believe are important for me to try and challenge myself with. As a young female diver, I am actually more hirable in locations such as the Maldives, which was a surprise to me originally. It’s so that dive shops can keep their ratios between male and female in an acceptable range. It may not be the most politically correct reason to hire, but it does extend the window of opportunity.
BM: Do you have a message for other young female divers who wish to take on the Divemaster, or scuba diving in general?
HW: I say go for it. It may sound cliche and very 2016 of me, but my favorite saying is YOLO, as in You Only Live Once. Why not do it? The world of scuba diving is incredible, not only the diving in general but also the people you meet and places you can go. For divers looking to participate in their first professional course, the Divemaster programme really opens up a whole new realm of diving, being able to help others and ensure safety in the sport. Even if you never use the divemaster rating actively, the course itself is a great way to make yourself a better, and safer, diver. There is really nothing to lose.