A PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer™ and Master Freediver Instructor, Liz Parkinson uses her affinity for the aquatic realm and her love of freediving to advocate for ocean conservation and shark protection – and to inspire women around the world to do the same. We interviewed Liz to find out what being a PADI AmbassaDiver means to her and how she plans to use this new role to share her passion for the ocean and champion the causes she cares about.
1. What does being a PADI AmbassaDiver mean to you?
As a PADI AmbassaDiver, I believe I will have more opportunities to funnel the passion I have for the ocean into teaching those who want to learn about it while motivating them to participate in ocean conservation projects. PADI is a leader in ocean awareness because PADI members ask questions and raise issues about the challenges facing our blue planet. I am proud to be a PADI AmbassaDiver – an ambassador for the very best in diving.
2. How do you incorporate conservation into your role as an instructor at your dive shop?
Offering courses that build awareness of preservation of our marine habitats is an important part of working at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas. As an instructor, I carry the conservation message by encouraging my student divers to continue their education with distinctive specialty courses specifically designed expand their knowledge of conservation, including Shark and Sea Turtle Awareness, Coral Nursery / Restoration and Invasive Lion Fish Tracker.
The Bahamas has been a Shark Sanctuary since 2012, and with a large part of the country protected under the National Trusts Marine and Wildlife Park. I am proud to work in a country that recognizes the need for environmental focus – under the banner of a company that gives it its full support!
3. How do you act as an ambassador for the ocean as a PADI Professional and exhibit leadership and role model qualities in conservation at Stuart Cove’s?
I am a firm believer in leading by example. To me, being an AmbassaDiver is something you do constantly, whether or not you have an audience. It is an everyday job. Working at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas makes this easier than it sounds! As the Manager for Underwater Film Production at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas, I bring together project leaders and facilitate events that promote our ocean environment to the world. I work closely with our Fin Photo Department both in front of and behind the camera, creating images and video that grab the public’s attention and compel them to care about conservation on a personal level. Stuart Cove’s non-profit, ‘Save the Sharks, Save the Seas’, incorporates all the work we do with sharks and encapsulates the efforts the company makes to inform and educate our guests about this vital apex predator.
I also participate in several non-profit organizations geared towards marine conservation. This year, I’m volunteering as the team captain for Project AWARE Foundation’s 2016 TCS New York City Marathon — and the Chicago Marathon, too. I’m supporting teams of runners who will raise awareness and funds for shark protection through Project AWARE. It is inspiring to see people who aren’t even divers raise money for an animal that they have only seen on television – and have been fed false, negative information about, too!
4. Describe some of the encounters you have had along the way that inspire you to keep teaching.
Throughout my PADI career I have been diving and taught diving in many places around the world. Each experience has molded me into the instructor I am today. However, once in a while you encounter an animal or meet someone that reminds you why you do what you do. These moments seem to come when you need them most.
My favorite students are kids. Not just because they are seldom afraid and rarely hold back, but because of the things they say and questions they ask. One little girl told me that the reason she wanted to learn to dive was so that she would know what it felt like to fly. Swimming out over the edge of a wall into the deep blue ocean has never been the same for me since. Another example was a little guy who came to the Bahamas with his mum to finish he last few certification dives. She stayed on the boat because she didn’t dive. Once we had finished his course, she brought him back several times so he could just go diving. On every dive, he took along a small digital camera, a slate and a fish ID card. He took a picture of every fish and crustacean we spotted, he followed that up with identifying it and writing it down. Then, during each surface interval, he sat with his mum and when through every picture, describing in detail everything he saw. He told me the reason he did it was so that she could see how cool diving was — and maybe she would not be so scared to try it.
5. What does diving give you that nothing else does?
Diving gives me the opportunity to live the dive life – and to live an adventure that inspires me.
6. How has diving changed your life?
I have always been a water person. I competed as an international swimmer from an early age, right through High School and University. I guess in some ways it was a natural progressions that my life path took me towards diving. I had never planned to work in diving at a professional level, but have always gone through life making it up as I went along — so perhaps the best things in life are not planned. Through diving, I’ve opportunities to meet people and get involved with projects that make a difference. I use my diving career to branch off and participate in conservation causes that I am proud of. Diving has become an unexpected part of me. Now I use what I love as a platform to encourage others and to share a beauty we all need to experience.
7. What do you consider your greatest achievement in your diving career?
It is hard to pinpoint a single moment or event as my greatest achievement. However, PADI recently invited me to be on the panel of advisors developing the new PADI Freediver program. I was honored to have this opportunity — to use my time and expertise to give back in such a fundamental way. The team collaborated over several months to develop a program that I am truly excited about; I hope that it will help people to become better divers and explore new ways to take part in our underwater world.
8. What does “My PADI” mean to you?
My PADI means that I am able to live my life as an adventure. It is the way that I interact with animals in the ocean and share the passion I have for them with people from all over the world. PADI has given me the opportunity to be a part of an amazing program that changed my life; it has taken me in directions that I had never planned and in some ways thought impossible. It is my passport, my adventure, my life, and my story.