You’re no stranger to travel and adventure, tell us about some of your favourite places to go
Oh man, it’s probably a bit cliché to say it’s the places I haven’t been yet that I’m most excited about isin’t it?! I spend a lot of time in Singapore and love how it unfolds a little more for me every time I visit – it’s still not a chore heading up there for work. Heading back to NZ and buggering off into the mountains is something I love to do, bumbling around some of the less dense parts of the south pacific is another – where ever there are interesting people, food, history, and water for me to dive in I generally pop it on the ‘favorite’ list.
What are your favourite sports participation wise
I dive religiously most weekends, box during the week for fitness and sanity, love snowboarding in the winter back in NZ and have recently taken up wakeboarding!
You’re from Wellington – you must have done a bit of snowboarding (and a little surfing)?
The Windy Capital! I grew up in Wellington spending most of my childhood years there, but home is a little alpine town called Lake Tekapo which sits right in the middle of the southern alps and is a huge glacial lake. The alpine connecting meant learning to snowboard pretty young, and I kept it up every couple of winters when we could afford to go to the mountains as a family, or I’d saved enough paper run money to take myself.
I did try surfing in Wellington briefly – but I believe in the philosophy of failing quickly, didn’t want to freeze to death, and picking up a water sport that didn’t mean getting hit in the head with a fin every time I bailed, which coincidently was every time I tried surfing!
When/how did you get into diving?
Funny story. My house mate when I first got in to aviation was a dear friend of mine who worked overseas in some pretty challenging environments in high stress situations. On one occasion, he’d had a pretty tricky kind of week, and told me he was going diving and wanted a buddy. I was a little surprised when he elaborated that he was in fact an instructor, and could teach me – we’ve since shared many memorable dives together.
At the time I was terrified of sharks, deep water, the ocean – you’d have been lucky to get a snorkel on me, let alone SCUBA equipment in the cold, dark, New Zealand waters. Nevertheless, my mate persisted and encouraged me to let him teach me the open water class – eventually taking the course under his instruction and beginning a whole new love affair with the ocean.
You seem very passionate about sharks, when did you first see one in the water
The only kind of shark I’m not in to is the kind that comes on a plate. Yeah, you could say I’m passionate about sharks.
My first encounter with a shark was at Shelly Beach in Sydney – a spectacular and very easy shore dive famous for its super divable conditions and diverse ecology. I’d just moved to Sydney and looking to make the most of my new dive cert booked a guided shore dive with the local shop in Manly. It was a clear, crisp mid-winter day when we kitted up and swam out along the left reef towards the sand channels between the kelp and a large rocky outcrop known as Fairy Bower. About half way our dive guide – Rosie, rolled over a gave us the signal for shark (putting your hand on your head to make a dorsal fin) and pointed to blue of the open water on our right. Not one, but several juvenile Dusky Whaler sharks were cruising about us – plucking up the courage to get a little closer to this gaggle of bubble blowing mammals that clearly didn’t belong in the ocean, before spooking (they’re very shy for a species that can grow to over 3.5m long) and taking off back in the big blue. Couldn’t have asked for a better ‘first time’ so to speak.
What are your favourite diving locations (and what’s on your wish list)?
Oh man. Ok. Australia – Port Stephens and South West Rocks in the winter for sheer diversity of life, degrees of dive complexity, sharks, whales and dolphins all at once and only sharing the dive site or boat with a handful of other hardy (read foolish) souls who know the goodness of NSW water in the winter. For warm water diving I had some spectacular dives on the northern most part of the Great Sea Reef in Fiji – it’s a pain in the butt to get to (a trip that involves several small aeroplane flights, 4x4s and a boat) but I’d go back in an instant. Vanuatu for a high density of wrecks and tropical marine life in recreational dive limits is another one.
Wish list – Chuuk Lagoon for some big ship wrecks, the Yucutan Peninsular for some caves, The Galapagos for pretty much everything that’s awesome in our ocean, and the Poor Knights in NZ.
What’s the scariest shark encounter you’ve had
Believe it or not, it was this weekend. I’d taken my friend up to Port Stephens to get out of dodge for the weekend and had heard the conditions were spectacular. We arrived late Friday afternoon in time for high tide, and I was keen to go for a night dive which is an amazing way to experience the same dive in a totally different way. I geared up, and although my buddy could dive she hadn’t been since doing the course and the current was strong, the night dark, and I wasn’t confident taking her without doing some pool dives and ocean dives during the day in shallow water to get her comfortable again. I joined a couple of other guys, we swam out in to the ink of the ocean and had one of the most outrageously good night dives I have ever had – gin clear water, the fish were out in force, and the current carried us all the way up to the far reef and then gently dropped us off at the exit an hour later. I’ll remember it until I’m dust.
Sadly, this was not an omen for the rest of the weekend.
I should preface this by saying the area we were diving in is a known nursery for big sharks – especially in the winter. So there’s an excepted level of risk – but we were inside the harbor and in many dives around Port Stephens I had never seen anything I wasn’t expecting to. In fact, what’s more concerning than seeing a shark when you’re not expecting to is not seeing a shark when you’re sure they’re there. No sharks in a sharky part of the ocean is a bad thing and I get more and more concerned at the scarcity of these spectacular animals in habitats that should support them.
Anyway, I digress.
Sunday rolls around and Kate is ready to get in the ocean. We excitedly gear up, and I’m looking at the site thinking “crap, that 15 meter viz I was bragging about is now 2 – if that”. The ocean that was as clear as glass two days earlier has turned to a muddy, whipped up, angry cauldron of salt water that looked like something you might drink if you wanted to vomit up the antichrist. Nevertheless, we were committed so dropped down to a ledge at six meters and did some quick drills so make sure Kate was cosy before I led the way to another ledge at 12 meters which has a gorgeous wall and is home to a vibrant and diverse array of marine life.
Kate reaches the ledge – she’s just on the edge of my visibility and turns back to face me, kneeling in the sand. I can see what looks like a very large, round fish behind her – but the visibility was so horrendous I couldn’t make out what it was. I soon did though… The animal was facing us, and what I could see what the forward profile of a large white shark which revealed its identity when it turned to its right and slipped out in to the green/brown/now color of my britches water. It was unmistakable, it was very close, it was very large, it was time for us to get a wriggle on out of there!
I didn’t want Kate to panic, so indicated I wanted her to follow me closely and made way for an area with dense and tall kelp, sticking very close to the bottom and away from the ledges. It was a quick swim, but we stayed on the bottom the whole way back to the exit – I’ve heard the worst thing you can do is be on the surface when the animal might struggle to identify you and may come in for an investigatory love nibble, leaving with an arm or a leg.
Kate noted we made a hasty retreat and I didn’t seem too thrilled so pressed me to come clean on why we’d bailed so early. I came clean on the shark encounter and she responded with an ‘Awesome! I’m telling everyone I dived with a shark today”, sharing with her we were in real peril all I got back was a ‘no we were not!’ if it was hungry we’d have known about it. She’ll dive again and become an ocean hero with that attitude, and although I was still struggling to get my heart beat under control I was also thrilled to have shared this experience that had clearly sparked a passion in my friend I hope brings her as much happiness and marvelous adventures as it has me.
How does your passion for adventure play into your work
I’d hate to be my own manager for one…
I suppose having an appetite for risk has been helpful, as well as being curious, playful and quite competitive. I like to share my passion and enthusiasm with other people, and want to inspire them to create stories of their own to share.
I didn’t get to travel overseas a lot when I was young, in fact I didn’t discover how much I loved exploring the great wide world (and specifically oceans) until I was in my mid twenties. I felt like I missed out and something I get to do with the Scoot team is make the world a more accessible place for people who want to get out there and explore. For me it’s the adventure that gets me out the door, but whatever it is that inspires you I want to be a part of something that helps people realise their own travel ambitions.
You’re part of a new breed of young executives, with a youthful take on business – tell us a bit about your career path & philosophy
Look, the truth is that no one that’s found success got it easy. The same way generations before me worked their butts off, got educated and battled their way to the top is the same way it’s done now – so just because I’m young doesn’t mean I don’t have to pay the same dues everyone else had to that came before me.
Transparently I dropped out of school when I was 16 to play rock and roll, which was awesome although ill-fated in the end. I went back to school a few years later because I had great ideas – but couldn’t articulate myself in a sensible way or one in which anyone would take me seriously which I found very frustrating. That was a great move, and opened me up to ongoing learning and education which I continue to this day. Soon after finishing school for the 2nd time my buddy and I opened a bar, skipped paying a lawyer to read the contract because it was expense and closed six weeks later on a technicality. We were broke, jobless, unemployable, and despite the disaster I found myself in – it was ok. I saw it was an opportunity to start new, reset, relearn, and try another path.
I took a job as a ramp agent at Auckland Airport, on a rotating roster, for just north of minimum wage. The job was cleaning planes, loading/unloading bags, pumping LAV fluid in to a poo truck, and if you were experienced and trained you could tow the planes around and operate some of the equipment. It was rough, the boys were rough, but they welcomed this scrawny little city kid in to the team and I started to learn how much I liked being in airports and around aircraft. I had a great mentor back then who started teaching me about airside (the tarmac side of the airport) operations, and I eventually moved in to charter operations, handling New Zealand Airforce aircraft, commercial operations and finally helicopters in Sydney. I had always been a good salesman, and had held various sales jobs throughout my youth, so I wound up doing sales for a helicopter operation before moving on to an ecommerce company looking after wholesale travel which is now one of the largest online marketplaces in the world.
My philosophy is about embracing your peripheral vison. it’s easy to be so focused on yourself, or a task, or a measure of success, or a job, or whatever – that you loose an awareness of everything that’s going on around you and what opportunities might come with them if you’re receptive to it. Embrace failure as an essential part of success, be kind, listen and act with your head as much as your heart, be aware, be nimble, act with conviction and appreciate everyone around you is living a life as rich and as complex as your own.
You’re obviously well travelled, especially around Asia / Pacific – do you have any lesser known spots/tips for the young traveler
Hit the smaller/less packed south pacific islands – Vanuatu in the off season, Samoa and Tonga are all spectacular. If you’re passing through Singapore, PLEASE spend more than a day there and get the hell out of the city. The hawker centres, wake park down by the lagoon, shopping, dive bars off East Coast Road, and melting pot of cultures really do make it an awesome place to hang out. You can do it in a weekend and it doesn’t have to be expensive – despite what many people would tell you.