A 17-year-old with hopes of becoming Cayman’s youngest dive instructor is swimming his way to success.
Jamie Ebanks is a student at the Alternative Education Centre and through his passion for the sea has landed himself a two-year scholarship with Cayman Diving School.
Last week, Ebanks took to the high seas to check out the sunken USS Kittiwake in West Bay waters. He was joined by classmates Kevin Gorzong and Jason Powery, who are also qualified divers, along with principal Evelyn Rockett, Cayman Diving School instructors Renee Knight and Juan Carlos, as well as friend Dave Evans, also a diver.
For Ebanks it was a day of great expectations as he assisted his two friends with putting on their dive suits, sponsored by Alexandra Horner Fund set up by Coutts Cayman Ltd. The water was a choppy, but the teens showed no fear. After suiting up with goggles, flippers and tanks the teens pitched off into the ocean and were joined by dive instructors Carlos and Evans.
In the water, the group went through the motions of checking equipment to make sure everyone was okay for the dive. Then the signal was given and the group descended into Cayman blue and crystal waters.
After a half-hour dive, the group ascended with Ebanks giving the thumbs up and a great big smile as he bobbed to the surface.
“I love diving in Cayman because Cayman has such beautiful water,” he said. “I would really like to go away and experience what it is like to dive in another country which has beautiful waters like the Cayman Islands, but I do not like dark water. If I cannot find a job somewhere with water like Cayman I will be returning very shortly to find a job,” he said
Ebanks likes to dive deep and always has to be reminded by his instructor to come back up. “Sometimes when I go down about 100 feet and I look up I can see an airplane flying overhead, that is how clear our waters are and I love it. It is very quiet down there and the floating feeling is a wonderful sensation, it is like being in the sky with no gravity just floating all the time because you cannot stand up.
“Diving is very nice, but it can also be very dangerous,” Ebanks said when asked about recommending the activity to his friends. “It is a lot of water and if you do not have it in your mind to dive good, you will not dive good, but once you have it in your mind to accomplish it, you can do it.”
Ebanks says he loves the sea and grew up spending time with his father catching fish and diving for lobsters. His favourite dive is going into deep water where he can see the big fish, feel the cool of the ocean and occasionally hear the boats and planes crossing overhead.
Ebanks’ father is also a lover of the sea and as a professional diver has worked with the dolphins. He is also a free-style diver using fins and goggles, and has visited some of Caymans favourite diving holes.
“After some serious talking with Jamie, it was obvious that he wanted a career in diving,” Rocket said. “We decided we had to help him with that goal, he became frustrated with everything else we were encouraging him to do because he just wanted to dive. Since that time he has been in the programme over a year.”
Principal Rockett said he started out with Atlantis Submarine in the tourism industry and did very well in the programme.
“The school contacted Renee Knight at Cayman Diving School and they said yes, they would take him on board and gave him a two-year scholarship. This has changed Jamie’s life in a very positive way,” she said. “He is diving three to four times a week, night dives, advance diving and instructors continue to assist him with his studies. The next thing is the dive instructor course, but unfortunately he cannot do that until he is 18 years of age,” Rocket said. “In the meantime he is getting a lot of experience and learning all the dive sites and getting in the hours he needs to qualify and I am very pleased because he is doing exceptionally well.”
“When Principal Rocket called and said she had a student who was really interested in diving it was perfect for us because we could still continue the volunteer work and assist the community in the process,” Knight said.
According to the Principal Rockett, The Alternative Education Centre is for students who do not make into the mainstream school. “We have to think outside the box constantly to accommodate them and get them a career and make them feel like they are worthwhile citizens.”