My diving history, how it all got started

Kerry Mckenzie

Born in New Zealand in 1957, in a small farming town of Feilding.

My father was an engineer, and a bee keeper in his spare time and loved the outdoors. Every moment of his spare time spent in the country around his bee hives which when in their peak were one hundred and sixty strong. As a child I would go with him at every opportunity and it was out there in the country that I developed my love of nature.

We used to go fishing in Lake Taupo, this is a volcanic crater lake formed many millions of years ago and is 26 miles long by 23 miles wide. It was here that my first real underwater encounters began. I was a late beginner when it came to swimming and thankfully my father came to the rescue by teaching me to swim in a rather unorthodox manner. By tying a rope around my waist supported me while I practiced the strokes and in a very short while without even knowing it he had let the rope go and I was off.

My father had the uncanny knack of being able to make anything he saw and liked. This was anything from garden tools to boats and he built four boats during my younger years. I remember as a kid watching him build the first one in his spare time, out in what used to be our garage.

My introduction to water was sealed, and by 1972 had my first introduction to  scuba diving when a school friend asked me if I would be interested in joining up with the Mako Scuba Diving Club in Palmerston North. Her father was a member and would dive also with some friends of my fathers so I was eager to become part of this group.

I believe the club is still going today and dive regularly.

The club would hold a training night once a month at the Lido swimming complex, this was a new pool and the only one heated in our region.

Keen to learn and with no training agencies around at the time or means of certification most clubs did their own training and this was quite simple.

To be able to submerge and remove mask fins and snorkel, surface take a breathe, dive down and replace your equipment. To be able to swim 6 lengths of a standard Olympic pool non stop and to be able to swim one length of the same pool towing a person. Once you could demonstrate what was considered basic water skills then you could move on to scuba training. First to be familiar with your equipment, this was very interesting on its own as in New Zealand at the time the only regulators being brought into the country were Dacor. These were imported by a company called Sportsways in Auckland and so you could imagine the only regulators you would see were Dacor. If anyone had a different regulator it usually meant that they had imported it themselves, or brought it into the country when on an overseas trip.

As I remember most of the club members on a club night at the Lido swimming complex would gather round to see what new wonders were incorporated into this unknown brand of regulator, remember back in 1972 in a small farming community this was cutting edge stuff ;-))

I was lucky enough for some of my fathers engineering skills to have rubbed off on me and I too became an engineer beginning my working life as a Fitter & Turner then later on was involved in plant maintenance and mechanical engineering.

I also had a deep interest in electronics and became involved in Amateur radio, an interest that I still have today. Following my interest in electronics, some of my projects involved mains power (240voltsAC) which I was not qualified to touch. So back to school I went to getting a diploma in electrical engineering followed by a electricians license. Having these skills has meant that I have always been lucky enough to find work where ever I go.

In 1978 I lived and traveled throughout the west coast of the USA for 6 months before returning to New Zealand however I was not happy as the traveling had made me restless and I could not settle, hard as I tried to shake it off. In April 1985 I traveled to Sydney Australia and traveled up the coast to see what Oz had to offer. After spending just 3 days in Townsville North Queensland I decided that this was the place to be, Sun Reef beautiful Islands off the coast and still a very small town by world standards what more could you want for?

I moved to Australia permanently in September 1985 and almost immediately began a refresher course to learn how to dive in tropical conditions.

Once my head was under the water on the Great Barrier Reef ....well you can guess the rest!

Tubby with his converted Dolphin