Alex Campbell has always been more at home in the water than on land.
“It’s peaceful being in the water – it’s quite relaxing,” the Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil said.
Alex (17) has been involved in water sports since she was a child and, when family friend Steve Ley took her spearfishing, it opened her eyes to a whole new experience – diving.
She quickly fell in love with it, took a Dive Otago discover scuba diving course in January, and researched her options to continue while at school.
Through the marine academy, Alex can complete courses as part of her gateway school period, but at her own cost.
For the past nine months, she travelled to Dunedin every Friday to take part in Professional Association of Diving Instructors courses consisting of open water diver, advanced open water and rescue diver.
She has also trained in first aid, and in emergency oxygen.
The experience has been invaluable as she went to Wellers Rock, Aramoana, Moeraki and dived around ship wrecks.
“It’s been really interesting.”
Rescue diving was physically demanding, and her class practised scenarios with panicked and tired divers, and was surprised how quickly people could lose their oxygen under water.
She described night-time diving as a challenging experience, especially “when you’re in a group and you lose someone”.
Alongside being in the water, Alex completed several hours of online work for the courses each night and during lockdown, there was a hefty workload.
“They gave us online stuff to complete so we when we came back we wouldn’t be far behind.”
Being the only person outside of Dunedin in the course made it a big commitment, but in the end it was all worth it, she said.
“It’s made me a lot more confident in the sea.
“I’ve loved meeting new people, making new friends, learning about everything and anything, and also the fitness side of it – the strength you get from diving.”
While she would have to wait until the end of next year, when she turned 18, to complete a masters diving course, she was determined to do so.