PADI Women’s Dive Day: interview with Jilly Healey

2016 PADI Women’s Dive Day is coming up!

With numerous events hosted around the world, the goal is to get as many women as possible, at every level, diving on the same day in order to build awareness and interest for the sport. While the focus is on women, all are encouraged to get involved. It’s a great opportunity to get the women, friends, and family members in your life together for a fun day of diving!

In anticipation of the event on 16th of July 2016, we are interviewing several women who are inspirational to divers and non-divers alike.

Find here below the third in a series of interviews with Jilly Healey – PADI Course Director at Ocean College in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

j1Why/How did you become a PADI Diver?

In 1998 I came on a holiday to Egypt to visit my mum who had already been here awhile. She was working and wanted to find something for me to do so I wouldn’t be bored. She told me I was going to learn to scuba dive, I said no thanks as I just wanted to relax on the beach, I was in the process of selling my bar in the UK and was tired. Mum told me she had paid for the course for my Christmas present so I felt guilty and off I went.

I am not sure I fell in love with diving straight away but I did fall in love with my instructor, he was so passionate about diving that it was impossible not to love it too so I soon fell in love with it also. I left Sharm El Sheikh with my PADI Advanced course completed. I came back 2 months later after selling my bar and started my PADI Rescue then PADI Divemaster course. I am now a PADI Course Director

b (3)What does PADI mean to you?

I think regardless of the organisation if you have a good instructor you will have a good course, but as an instructor I believe PADI offers me the tools and the backup to be a better instructor. The tools PADI have given us are professional and allow me to pass my passion of diving on to my students and change their lives the way my Instructor changed mine.

I have a few ex students who are now good friends that when I think about how their life has changed because of PADI it reminds me of the saying that PADI has that we are in the  “Transformation Business”. One lady in particular when I met her was so quiet, self conscious, so afraid of getting anything wrong that she was a really difficult student to teach, she is now one of the best Instructors I know, she is out going and the life and soul of any social setting  – diving did that to her.

So “What does PADI mean to me?” – it changed mine and so many other peoples lives for the better.

b (2)What does it mean to you to be a female diver?

I do not think of myself as a “female diver“– I am just a diver. I have never been one to not do something because I am female, my Dad said I should have been the boy in the family, but to come to Egypt and work as a female in 1999 there were not so many of us. I had to prove I was strong enough to do the job in the same way the boys could especially in a very male orientated country such as Egypt. But due to the training I was given during my Divemaster course by my instructor and because of the structure of the PADI Divemaster course it set me on a strong path to show I could do it.

One of my favourite compliments was by another member of staff who spoke with the crew of a safari boat who were worried that they were about to get a female safari guide on their boat for the first time and were afraid I wouldn’t be able to tie mooring lines at the SS Thistlegorm. “She is as strong in the water as 100 men, she will tie your lines”

I am so proud to be a diver I tell anyone who sits long enough near me all about it– don’t sit next to me on a plane unless you want to hear all about it.

I wish more women would dive, as it doesn’t matter if you are male or female when you are underwater.

IMG_2546What is your dream dive?

Put me in a swimming pool and I am happy as long as I am in scuba gear, but there are a few places I would love to go. Galapagos, Buenos Aires to name a few. I am not yet bored with Sharm El Sheikh though even after 17 years of working in diving here. Every dive is different, you never know what might turn up whether it be a nudi branch, pipefish, manta, turtle or shark I love it all.

Best moment in diving?

There are so many but for different reasons – the day I became an instructor, the day one of my open water students became an instructor, the day I became a CD (I cried and laughed all at the same time) every time I help a student get over a problem that they were ready to pack the course in and then they pass the course and become a diver and then come back to dive again and again.

But the main thing that pops to mind is when I started diving, my instructor told me I had to make a list of 3 things that I wanted to see in Sharm El Sheikh. I chose a Ghost Pipe Fish, Whale Shark and Hammerhead Shark. The Hammerhead was my first on my birthday as well. Then the Ghost Pipe fish. Then I waited and waited, 10 years of diving everyday and 6000 dives or so later I saw my first whale shark – I was on the dive boat having just finished a dive – I jumped in with mask, fins and snorkel – all anyone could hear out of my snorkel was me crying my heart out and saying “ you are so beautiful I waited 10 years to see you”

The only problem now is that list has been checked but the list got longer – Manatees, Mola Mola, Blue Glaucus Atlanticus, Seals and much more.

zWhat are your plans for WDD this year? As a PADI Instructor, do you have any suggestions for divers for PADI Women’s Dive Day 2016?

My plans are to dive, any place anywhere – it doesn’t matter as long as I get wet.

Suggestions for divers – do the same go get wet and dive you won’t be sorry, a diving day is a great day.

What do you feel are the most important challenges and opportunities facing women in diving?

I don’t think there needs to be challenges for women in diving, so many women icons have paved the way for us now, the challenge should be with yourself. Always challenge yourself to do the next thing, if you don’t you will miss out on a wonderful world.

As for opportunities for women – the world is your oyster, diving opens up so many careers other than being an instructor – marine biology, marine architecture, journalism, photography, film making, marine education and the list goes on.

Clean Up 002How can we get more women in the water and involved in the dive community?

Change the way we advertise diving, show real women diving – not the models exiting the water with perfect make up on. Show that real women are divers. I understand that its aesthetically pleasing to have a beautiful bikini clad young lady to use for advertising but its not real. It seems that most of the women I teach are wives and girlfriends of divers; to me this means we are not reaching other women.

IMG_1196So many women believe they cant carry the equipment, that it would be too heavy – I am 5 ft 2 inches and a technical diver and cave diver I have carried 4 tanks on land, 6 tanks underwater, I dive with 10 years olds that can carry their own tank.

Lets show women of all ages that diving is possible and this can be done though advertising.

Tips to women thinking about a career in diving?

Do it, what’s stopping you. But before you quit your job, you should know that although I love it and wouldn’t give it up for the world a diving career isn’t all fun and excitement. We work with so many different personalities and you need to be able to cope with that and many different circumstances – each day brings something new which is one of the reasons you don’t get bored as a PADI Scuba Instructor. You need to be patient, flexible and smile – you have other people’s life’s dreams in your hands.

If you think you can do that then do it, you wont regret it – the experiences, the memories and the friends you will make will be the best.

IMG_1041Thanks Jilly ….and keep up the good work!

How to Participate
If you’re a diver who is interested in participating in a Women’s Dive Day event, please contact your local PADI Dive Center or Resort to see if it’s holding an event — and encourage it to get involved if it’s not already. Otherwise, you can find an event or get more information at padi.com/women-dive.

If you’re a PADI Professional interested in hosting a dive or event, contact your PADI Regional Manager!