A REAL LIFE MERMAID

ALISON COOK – ANDARK AQUANAUTS INSTRUCTOR

TURNING A PASSION FOR SCUBA INTO A FUN JOB!

“My athletic prowess consists of being able to float and sink. And that’s it really! Even when I was a little kid I could dive in the deep end for pennies. My dad taught me to snorkel in the 70’s but it wasn’t until I was 28 (1994) that I learnt to dive with Hampstead BSAC. Inland dive site, Gildenburgh Water was my first dive, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Being able to ‘fly’ around in 3 dimensions up the stairs of a double decker bus was just surreal! I was hooked.

I upgraded to a drysuit after a year or so and would do about 50 club dives a year anywhere from Scillies – (seals and soft corals) to the wrecks of Scapa. Can’t say I was there for the history so much as the carpets of stripy pouting silhouetted in the gaps in the hulls. It was so theatrical! 3 years later I was a BSAC instructor and shared the girly love as much as I could.

The BSAC was still quite laddish back in the day and even in my pink and purple drysuit I wanted to be one of the boys. We’d climb over rocks and up lifeboat ramp-ways just to get to dive sites. I dived Dungeness 40 metres in near zero vis and did a 50m dive just to say I could. Nowadays its all about being warm, the people I dive with and capturing some memories to draw for the log book.

I moved to Hampshire and had 10 years of just being a mum and only holiday diving. It wasn’t until the kids were old enough to do a scuba party at Andark that I finally rehydrated. I was hooked again and persuaded cross over to PADI Instructor and have been running the Aquanauts Andark’s own kid’s course for 9-12 year olds at the weekends for the last decade. It’s all in the pool, we’ve done a wreck dive, Halloween night dive with spooky spiders and an Eco dive where the kids learn about how they can make a difference with simple underwater teaching aids.

Fave kit: Still love my tribal ‘Funky Fins’ 25 years on, but close second is my Beuchat snorkel. It’s all one piece, squishy, no bits to lose (KISS!) & it does the job admirably.

My bucket list: Diving with sea otters, I know they are protected but I love a kelp dive so hopefully I’d spot one passing by and diving Mexican Cenotes. The light in some of those caverns is AWESOME. Free diving definitely need to get that under my belt. And the Red Sea always a big draw. Took my baby 4 month old son on a live aboard 22 years ago, and I’m heading there next week for the 5th time.”

Top 10 highlights.

Ice diving in Tignes lake while on a skiing holiday

Finding fake pieces of 8 in the Scillies (victim of a practical joke!)

Being a scuba mermaid in a shopping centre fishtank

Diving on Roman Ruins in Naples with my 12 year old daughter

Diving with a basking shark the size of a bus on a Red Sea drop off

Sinking down through the Blue Hole in Gozo

Gin clear Salcombe dive with dogfish and kelp

Bio luminescence on a night dive in Turkey

Mantas in the Maldives

Diving with seals in Lundy

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

When not underwater Alison is a free lance illustrator under the brand name @PingSweetie and a Graphic Designer at Marwell Zoo.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………