February 22, 2020

A remarkable scuba diving journey

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#1 TruemiddlecenterpadSouthern Cross Club Guest says dive instructor helped change her life

Scuba Diving can change your life.  Just ask long-time Southern Cross Club guest Paula Brazier who reached an important milestone in her scuba training this March when she earned her Master Scuba Diver rating in Little Cayman.

To attain the highest non-professional level in diving, Brazier had to complete five specialty courses and log at least 50 dives − quite an accomplishment for any certified diver, but for the woman who was once afraid to put her face in the water, it is a testament to her determination and the skill of her instructor Mike Schouten.

This is her story.

#2 1TruemiddlecenterpadFrom The Cayman Bottom Times

Little Cayman, Cayman Islands (August 7, 2013) Long-time Southern Cross Club guest Paula Brazier reached an important milestone in her scuba training this March when she earned her Master Scuba Diver rating in Little Cayman. To attain the highest non-professional level in diving, Brazier had to complete five specialty courses and log at least 50 dives − quite an accomplishment for any certified diver, but for the woman who was once afraid to put her face in the water, it is a testament to her determination and the skill of her instructor Mike Schouten.

“Mike changed my mind about trying to dive,” she says. “I had tried many years before, when I first met Paul my husband, #3 Truemiddlecenterpadbut I was absolutely terrified.” After a near drowning experience as a child, Paula developed a pathological fear of water, so she was content to tag along with her husband on the dive boat, but she stayed on board. The Braziers have been regulars at the Southern Cross Club since they married here nine years ago, so they have gotten to know the staff well, especially the dive team.

“Whilst sunbathing one afternoon, Mike came and asked me to go to the pool with him and reluctantly I agreed −he had a scuba kit waiting,” she recalls. “I managed to get into the pool and over the next couple of days, Mike convinced me that I could dive.”

When the confident instructor and the nervous student went out for her first boat dive, things didn’t go well. Paula says she was scared to take a giant stride off the boat, so she ended up doing a back roll. Once in the sea, fear kicked in and she frantically tried to claw her way back on the boat.   “Mike calmly came up beside me and said ‘I think you may find the ladder easier,’” she laughs. “That’s how Mike is – with every situation, I tried to run away, but he made me smile. Although after the first dive, I think he has the scars still, from me holding onto his hand so tightly!”

#4 Truemiddlecenterpad“She was very nervous on the first dive, but one thing Paula had was motivation, she really wanted to do it,” says Schouten. “Slowly she started watching the fish, and once the fish had her attention, she got distracted and relaxed.”

What started out as stressful dive experience, ended up being enough of an incentive for Paula Brazier who decided to go for it despite her fears. She completed her Open Water Certification in March 2008, added Advanced Diver, Nitrox and Rescue Diver courses in March 2010.  Last year she completed courses in Peak Performance Bouyancy, Underwater Photographer and Fish Behavior. With a Fish Identification course this March she attained her Master Scuba Diver rank.

Schouten says teaching scuba often requires patience, but the rewards are great when you are introducing people to the undersea world. “Get them back in the water again and it gets easier because the student knows what to expect from the first dive,” he says. “You also talk to them about their fears: what makes you uncomfortable? Is it water in the mask? Are there problems with equipment? These can be fixed.”

#5 TruemiddlecenterpadSchouten’s patience and gentle, but firm, instruction worked with Paula Brazier. Since getting certified, she has logged 266 dives and now says going on holiday that doesn’t include diving, is not an option. How does she feel about diving now?

“I absolutely love it! Sharing this time with Paul is so special and I am at my happiest, finding him things to photograph,” she says. “Mike taught me to watch and wait, to look at the reef and see beyond the obvious. He has the most amazing vision and he has instilled in me a similar approach to my diving.”

Paul Brazier, an experienced and well-traveled diver, couldn’t be happier about his wife’s transformation.  “I never thought we’d even get her in the water,” he says. “It is wonderful to finally have Paula in the water as my “buddy” and to be able to share the experience together.”

Both credit Mike Schouten, who as an experienced and skilled dive instructor, knew just what to do and how to do it. “Mike is the most patient, kind person I have ever met,” says Paula. “He never gave up encouraging me to achieve my goal, even when I tried to give up, and I did try a few times. Every challenge he met with kindness and humor. He taught me to be the best diver I could be.”#6 Truemiddlecenterpad

Michael Schouten, originally from the Netherlands, has been an instructor at the Southern Cross Club for 7 years. He has been teaching scuba since 1994 and estimates he has taught between 800 – 900 people, including Paul Brazier, in an unusual coincidence. Mike Schouten taught Brazier a Divemaster course in Egypt years before they reconnected, quite unexpectedly, on the dive boat in Little Cayman.

“I like working with students, seeing their amazement at being underwater, weightless and going up to a turtle getting face to face with them,” he says of a job he still enjoys after almost 20 years. “As divemasters we are watching people literally changing their lives when they start diving.”

#7 TruemiddlecenterpadGoing to his “office” every day keeps Mike Schouten interested too because there is always something new to see on Little Cayman’s beautiful walls and coral gardens teeming with marine life.  What is the best part of his job?  “Being able to do what I like to do and I like to dive,” he says. And does he feel lucky?  “Yea, I would say so.”

About the Southern Cross Club

The casually sophisticated Southern Cross Club Fish & Dive Resort is Little Cayman’s original resort. It features 12 beachfront bungalows complete with a top-rated, professional in-house diving and fishing operation. A unique blend of rusticity and elegance the resort is often described as “Barefoot Luxury”.  Guests can expect friendly and diligent service, delicious food, inviting rooms with breath-taking views and a comfortable dive boat ― a few of the things that bring them back year after year.  The resort’s beach-based location also provides flats fisherman with access to Bonefish and Permit just minutes away.  For reservations or more information contact the Southern Cross Club at 1 (800) 899-CLUB (2582), e-mail [email protected] or visit www.southerncrossclub.com.

PHOTO: #1 A relaxed and confident diver enjoying Bloody Bay Wall on Little Cayman, Paul Brazier credits her instructor Mike Schouten for her success.

#2 Paula Brazier on the dive boat preparing to make her first ocean dive with instructor Mike Schouten.

#3 Paula Brazier and instructor Mike Schouten’s on her first dive.

#4 Paula Brazier and Mike Schouten working on a navigation course at the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman.

#5 Paula Brazier receiving her certification from Mike Schouten at the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman.

#6  Master Scuba Diver Paula Brazier enjoying some bottom time in Little Cayman.

#7 Paula and Paul Brazier toast to great times at the Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman.

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