A dream comes true at uShaka Sea World

  • May 08, 2013 | Wayne Sumpton – assistant operations manager

Director of uShaka Sea World Tony McEwan, the Department of Labour's Nozi Mophoto, and uShaka assistant operations manager Wayne Sumpton

Being a water baby and growing up surfing, swimming and free diving, it seemed logical to enrol for an open-water recreational dive course. I took my first breath on scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) at Kings Park swimming pool in 2003.

It was the most profound experience of my life! For an avid breath-hold diver to be sitting at the bottom of a 5m pool for longer than two minutes without having to rush back up to the surface to take a new breath of air was extremely exhilarating!

At that moment, experiencing that feeling – and appreciating it with all my fellow dive buddies on the course – for the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to create and share this feeling with everybody – I wanted to train people to dive.

After doing a few more advanced recreational courses I realised that I needed to qualify as a commercial diver to embark on my new career. Commercial diving courses are costly, so I started saving every penny I earned until I could afford to complete the training and become a commercial diver. 

The novelty of diving in dirty harbour water and under ships was great for a few years, but the appeal gradually wore off. When the opportunity to work at uShaka Sea World presented itself, I gratefully accepted the challenge. 

After a few years working as a service diver in the Aquarium, I was afforded the opportunity of qualifying as a dive supervisor and securing a position managing the uShaka Sea World dive team.

With the dream of training people to dive still in mind, I saw an opportunity to fulfil it by reinstating the Sea World dive school. Sea World once had a commercial diving school, which was closed after the Department of Labour discontinued the Limited Scope Diving Course in 2002.

Optimistically I started the long process of re-establishing Sea World as a registered dive school. Drafts of the Training Standards and Codes of Practice were circulated throughout the aquarium industry and the Department of Labour. After five years, with the help of Tony McEwan, director of uShaka Sea World, and Michael Farquar, curator of the Two Oceans Aquarium, the Two Oceans Aquarium ran its first Class VI Dive Course.

In April 2013 it was uShaka Sea World's turn. With the assistance of Bridget Thompson, owner of Sea Dog Commercial Dive School, and Nozi Maphoto from the Department of Labour, uShaka Sea World attained accreditation from the Department of Labour as a Class VI Commercial Diving School.

Finally, after five years my dream is being realised. I have been registered with the Department of Labour as a diving instructor, and through uShaka Sea World I'll be able to recreate that experience I once had and share it by training other divers. They too will be able to marvel at the amazing marine creatures that live along the South African coastline.

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