July heralds the 4th International PADI Women’s Dive Day – a perfect opportunity to showcase some of our amazing female operators in the Christmas Island dive industry. Our first feature operator is Sandra Yoshida – Sandy – who, along with her husband Hiro, manage ExtraDivers Christmas Island. Sandy and Hiro made dive headlines worldwide when in 2013 they tied the knot underwater in the world’s deepest underwater wedding, 130 metres below the surface in a cave.
The following piece was written by Sandy’s friend and colleague in the diving industry, Anna Gaidar.
Sandra Yoshida, Sandy – one of the greatest colleagues of mine I’m proud and honored to know! An honest, cheerful and devoted to the profession person, a true friend and a beautiful women. A real living diving encyclopedia, a Professional full of incredible theoretical and practical knowledge.
Sandy is PADI IDC Staff Instructor, tecnichal diving instructor, rebreather diver, cave diver and a real underwater explorer. In September 2013 together with her husband Sandy set an official world record – The Deepest Underwater wedding in the cave on the depth of 130 meters!
“My first dive ever was when I was 12. Parents took the family on holiday to Jamaica and we got treated to a try dive. I remember the experience as one of the coolest things ever, especially with the noise of the bubbles, looking up at the surface of the water above my head, and the sensation of floating in out space.
Unfortunately, never got to dive again until the age of 24 in 2005 in Thailand. I’d wish it was more glamorous than a pushy Thai sales rep, but in the end the result was the same – I fell in love with the feeling of floating underwater in 4 dimensions. My holiday in Thailand ended with the Open Water course and I dove up to the last hour I could before flying back to Taiwan where I lived at that time.
I took up some dives in Taiwan, made another trip over to Vietnam for diving and ended up leaving my job in Taiwan for doing further dive training in Vietnam. By 2007, I had completed dive master course and was signed up to do my instructor course the same year. Since that time, I’ve been working full time in the industry around various locations.
There was no plan for it to become my job, it more or less just captured me and before I knew it “dive instructor” was being stamped into my work visas. My prior work in Taiwan was teaching English, which I found rewarding and pleasurable, so teaching another discipline felt fairly natural. It also wasn’t only just the teaching that made it enjoyable, it was the experience of coming together with total strangers from around the world and seeing something remarkable together. The job also allowed me to continue travelling to places that I wanted to get to, but didn’t have the money to go to as a tourist. I was hooked by this point to living in remote, natural places that offered challenges with language, culture and the physical world. I could be outdoors on a daily basis, go underwater, get paid and move around from time to time as I pleased. Why not have the job?
I started with recreational diving in 2005, began CCR diving in 2009, broadened my knowledge of diving with technical and cave diving in 2010, continued with both and by 2012 was a technical instructor and still actively teaching up to instructor level as IDC Staff Instructor, began diving to extreme depths by 2013, and was diving a few different models of rebreathers by 2014. Alongside this I’ve developed skills in centre management, deepened my knowledge of dive medicine with training as a hyperbaric chamber operator and dive medic, obtained my commercial boat license and picked up a few equipment service technician certificates as well. I’ve looked for job opportunities that offered me a range, teaching, business & management, technical diving, diversity in customers and courses, etc.
If you were to ask what I love…. I love planning the dives that take me somewhere very few have explored. Be it a cave, a virgin reef, deep wall, or blue water drop. Everything from the first concept of where do we dive, what equipment do we use, what gas mixture, runtimes and deco schedule, contingency plans, surface support, equipment modifications, on-site logistics, and executing a dive with precision are all things that ‘turn me on’ in diving”.
After working in several countries like Vietnam, Maldives, Mozambique, Thailand, Indonesia, being anything from dive instructor, base leader, dive guide, tec instructor to boat captain, I’m currently working for Extra Divers on Christmas Island, Western Australia.
My husband and I set up the dive operation for Extra Divers beginning in Aug 2016 and trying to grow the business and tourism in general on the island. The island drew us here because of its sheer drop-offs, numerous and barley explored cave systems, and pristine nature. Fish life is incredible, with countless endemic hybrid species and decent population of pelagic fish, as well as very healthy coral reefs. It’s the first island we’ve lived on in a long time that has a bit of elevation (390m highest point) and can’t be traversed in a couple hour’s time. After 2 years of gruelling set-up and work, we’ve now got our rebreathers back in the water and ready to begin exploration of the twilight zone. We’ve also got our side mount gear at hand to plan which caves may be penetrated along the coast.
On top of the full-time job of base management and diving, I’m also working for the first time as a mom. This has brought tons of new demands/challenges of working underwater. I began my work here purely as a boat captain with my 10-day old son as my first mate. I could successfully drive and breast-feed at the same time. Right now my plan is to stay here on Christmas Island to grow a family, continue diving and prepare for proper exploration of the island underwater. Eventually looking forward to having my first dive with my son.
Anna Gaidar and Sandy Yoshida