Sea Urchins: Creating Future Ocean Lovers

Sea Urchins magazine coverAlmost as inspiring as the oceans and the animals that live within are the people who take action to protect them.

Since learning to scuba dive and pursuing a love of marine conservation, I’ve been lucky enough to meet like-minded people, who stun me with their commitment to making a change.

One girl who’s turned it into her life’s project is Sam Hewitt; she’s created a new diving and oceans magazine for kids, that inspires the next generation to love the ocean enough to want to protect it too.

Sea Urchins is bold, bright and bursting with information on the curious creatures of the sea. And cleverly, Sam has enlisted a few celebrities to give the mag extra endorsement.

Making conservation cool is a key theme, which is helped by splashing stories about Stacey Solomon learning to dive across its pages. The singer and presenter was also there at the launch, held at the London Aquarium. This is what we need – celebs using their status to point a big flashing arrow towards saving our seas.

I’m so excited for the future of this magazine – adults are harder to persuade to change their habits. Tell someone who’s been having cod and chips on a Friday for 30 years that they need to choose alternative fish is a tough task. I know – I’ve done it and they just blink at you like you’ve asked them to wear pants on their head to work.

I reckon most humans don’t like change, but kids aren’t set in their ways and there’s a huge opportunity in that gift. Plus, it’s genuinely interesting. Sea Urchins slyly teaches kids marine biology and it shows how much beautiful sea life there is across the world and at home.

Just as the Olympics are currently ‘inspiring a generation’, so too does this brave little magazine.

The first issue is available in some stores, but you can download it too.

Sam tells me that the App has been downloaded in over 30 different countries by over 3000 people in just 2 weeks.

Here’s where you can get your copy:







Scuba Girl Diaries – first steps to becoming a photojournalist

Here’s the next installment of my journey to becoming a published travel journalist. Mentor Brendan O’Brien had this to say:-

Budding photojournalist, Karli Drinkwater is about to embark on a journey to fulfil her ambition to become a recognised diving photojournalist.

She’s got the drive and enthusiasm, but like many in her situation, she’s not quite sure where to start. Getting your first by-line in any magazine often appears to be an insurmountable hurdle, which is why I’m featuring Karli’s journey on this blog, to show how achievable realising this dream can be.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be providing Karli with some ideas about where to start and in return Karli will provide this blog with a fly on the wall account of her journey.

Well, let’s hope this dream is achievable. Taking Brendan’s tips on board, here’s what I did next…

It’s Friday lunchtime and I’m literally elbowing trainspotters, planespotters and birdspotters out of the way. United in their passion and contentedly divided in their individual fascinations, this motley crew of fanatics could be auditioning for the part of Gollum in Lord of The Rings. Hunched over their respective ‘precious’, the captivated gentlemen revealed their primal side, guarding their territory like wild animals – not even moving for, ahem, a lady.

I was in WHSmith. Clearly British politeness was left at the door here. But I was a woman on a mission, so I ignored the tuts and grunts of one portly fellow with low-resting spectacles as he practically salivated over the sleek lines of a jet plane. The Sun‘s missing out on the latest Page Three sensation I think. I lunged for Diver, knocking rock climbing clowns to the left of me and snowboarding jokers to the right in the process. Clutching the glossy pages and breathing in their new page smell – I LOVE new book smell – I continued on my human ten pin bowling crusade to grab the latest Wanderlust and Lonely Planet. By the time I got to the counter I could finally stop holding my breath.

Now the heart rate’s back to normal and I’ve had a good look through the articles, I’ve got a better understanding of what each publication is all about and the content they go for. As well as getting a little too excited and adding to my ever-growing list of must-see places, my plotting to get a byline in those glossies has stepped up a notch.

Getting stuck into research

Brendan has suggested taking the ‘Serendipities’ route to breaking into the pages of Wanderlust – so I flicked to the back page to see what I have to contend with. The winning submissions that got printed this month have given me an idea of the style the editors must go for: quirky, colourful and witty. I’m thinking of a few of my travel tales that could be suitable for my stab at getting featured. Clearly my diving experiences in Mexico could be turned into a good read – especially since I’m at the beginning of my diving journey and so, hopefully, won’t alienate people who have never dived.

Diver magazine could take a little longer to become a voice of authority in – I’m thinking a few hundred logged dives longer. But there is still a way… Brendan asked how my Advanced Open Water weekend went and unfortunately, not very well was my reply. My dry suit didn’t fit properly and I got drenched in ‘damn son, that’s cold!’ water. Shivering and feeling a little bit down about the whole thing, I decided not to carry on with the rest of the weekend’s dives until I got kit that would fit. “It’s supposed to be fun, so don’t push yourself if you’re not happy,” someone said to me as I sat there feeling sorry for myself and like I’d failed at something I really enjoyed. Being the good dive journalist that Brendan is, he suggested that I could make something out of this experience for Diver.

The Deep Breath column on the back page would be a prime space for this. The current issue has a piece from an instructor about how students are often overweighted and he calls for a reform in dive teaching to produce better and safer novice divers. This would be a great space to write about how many others must have gone through what I did. How many people have experienced something similar and never gone underwater again? I can see how this could happen – it’s only because I’m stubborn and don’t want to give up that I’m going to try again. And at this point I’ll be honest, I’m not overly excited at the prospect. As well as the dry suit not fitting, my BCD was too large and my cylinder kept rolling around. Buoyancy felt totally out of my control, another diver also struggling with the alien new kit kicked my regulator out of my mouth… Nope, my first impression of UK inland diving wasn’t the best. So I’ll be working on crafting something for this page of Diver whilst I read over my AOW manual. Again.

Scuba Girl Diaries – writing about the dream

Scuba diving will take up quite a bit of blog space, because it ticks the box for heart-racing adventure and  you’re also joining me on my journey to becoming an experienced diver – as well as a published dive journalist hopefully. So far I’ve reached the Open Water qualification with global dive body PADI. But more about that in time. I’m currently researching travel and dive publications to pitch to and, with the coaching of my photojournalist mentor Brendan O’Brien, I hope to get my name in those glossies in WHSmith.

So, this is the story so far – as featured on the site ‘Brendiver’s World‘ – and why I’m taking on this particular adventure…

I suppose I’ve always been a bit of an adrenaline-junkie, a thrill-seeker, living for that next moment that will leave me with a stupidly wide grin on my face and a feeling that I’ve just experienced something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It’s why I got into journalism – the rush, the exhilaration, the sense of achievement from ‘pulling it off’ in such a fast paced, frenetic and demanding environment. Ever since I ran my very own radio station at the age of 8 – not as grand as it sounds, I was merely broadcasting to my mates in Mum’s bungalow attic with a ghetto blaster (remember pressing the play and record button at the same time to record your favourite tracks off the top 40??) – I knew a life of excitement was the only way for me.

Since those innocent days I’ve actually become a broadcast journalist and spend my days doing what I once played make-believe over. I’ve secretly whoop-whooped inside when I got shifts at national news channels and I’ve kept my excitement at interviewing Basil Brush for the BBC schtum. Not cool to show you’re in awe of celebrities you know… even those as legendary as Basil. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that the thrill I got from reporting live on location and breaking stories as they happen spilled over to my life outside the newsroom.

Discovering the dream in the Bali Sea

I fell in love with diving in Bali in 2009. My equally adventurous other half had qualified as a diver years before in New Zealand and suggested we go for a jaunt in the Bali Sea (Indonesian: Laut Bali). If I’m being honest, I was up for it, but a tad nervous. A bad experience a few years earlier in the Dominican Republic had me worried that I’d experience the same pain in my ears – thanks to some surly and impatient instructor who wouldn’t wait for me to equalise. But you might have guessed I was pleasantly surprised this time.

That dive trip blew my mind. The instructor was a gem and she made me feel so calm and confident that I felt like I’d been doing this all my life. Being unqualified at that point, we couldn’t go deeper than 12m, but who cared? I saw so much life at 5m and kept looking at my boyfriend with huge happy eyes. I knew then that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. On surfacing the instructor said: “You’re a fish. You belong in the water.”

And so I began the adventure when I got home. I started the PADI Open Water certification and spent my Friday nights in the classroom and the pool, just itching to jump into the practicals.

It was worth the wait. I completed the Open Water certification on the world’s second largest barrier reef – off the Riviera Maya in Mexico. That’s the best ‘exam’ you’ll ever take – I saw lobster, moray eels, angelfish, parrotfish, barracuda, pufferfish, blue tang… a lot of marine life anyway. And brandishing my newly qualified status, we rushed to the dive shop to book some more trips. We were $1000 lighter in total (I’m sick of beans on toast now) but how often are you in Mexico? We just couldn’t miss out on diving a cenote – breathtaking limestone sinkholes where freshwater and saltwater meet at a foggy halocline.

The Chac Mool cenote was my first dive as a qualified Open Water diver. Bit ambitious I suppose, but I thought it’d be rude not to. I know how lucky I was to see this – not just because it was an amazing sight and experience for anybody, but it was unforgettable as far as dive experiences go too. The clear freshwater made you feel like you were flying and navigating your way through the nooks and crannies formed by the rocks was an adventure like no other. Carefully avoiding the stunning formations of stalactites and stalagmites, it took me all my concentration not to let my regulator fall out my mouth I was gawping that much.

The day after, geed up by my other-worldly exploration, we dived the C-56 off the coast of Puerto Morelos – a wreck that had been sunk 8 years previously thanks to a donation from the US Navy. I didn’t think I could keep getting this amazing buzz, but there it was again. Diving had served me up a whole new world once more – and it was dawning on me that it would always be a blast. No wonder veteran divers still chatted like little kids at a theme park – it never stops being a total buzz! Floating through the engine rooms and passing by a fish or two as I tried to maintain as good buoyancy control as I could to squeeze through the doors had me totally hooked.

When I touched down in Gatwick and made the jet-lagged journey back to Leeds I was already plotting. I booked on to the Advanced Open Water course at the next dive club night with the local dive school. Cold quarries would be a bit of a change from tropical, clear waters but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

And that’s where you enter my story. The passion and respect I feel for diving got me thinking – I love writing and do it for a living, so how about I try to write about diving? I want to be able to share my newfound love and hopefully one day, after zillions more dives and pushing the boundaries of adventure, become a respected dive journalist too. The cliché’s true – diving opens the door to a whole new world, one that few have the privilege or pleasure of. It also brings with it a deep reverence for the creatures that live in our waters and a need to help protect them. I know that I’m a changed woman for good because of it. This could be the start of a new career, a new life, a new me.