Blaize Harth used to get his kicks out on the water — now he gets them under it.
Eight months into his job as a diving instructor on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, the former Raglan Surfing Academy student is having a blast.
“It’s amazing,” the 21 year old surfer from Whale Bay says of the undersea world he now explores with tourists just about every day. Together they marvel at the abundant fish and coral life which makes up the 2300 kilometre-long ecosystem.
“Everything [underwater] overwhelms you,” he says.
Each working day Blaize travels an hour from the Cairns flat he shares with five others –including his old mate Zac Hunwick who’s also from the bay — to board the 20-metre catamaran ‘Ocean Freedom’, which takes up to 75 tourists at a time out to what is the world’s largest coral reef.
As one of three or four instructors aboard, Blaize takes introductory scuba divers for their first dive ever and says it’s a rewarding experience. “I get to see a lot of happiness,” he told the Chronicle recently on a rare day off.
He’s part of a 12-strong crew which includes deckhands, a coxman who heads a complimentary glass-bottom boat tour operating in tandem with the daylong dive tour, a mechanic and a “hostie” who runs the food and drinks bar on board.
Both young and old, he reckons, go either snorkelling or scuba diving in this tropical island paradise. A man around 70 for instance recently had his first dive, says Blaize, “but we mainly cater to the 20-somethings”.
There are also whole families, he adds, especially at this time of year with the summer holidays. Anyone including children under five can snorkel but divers need to be at least 14.
Blaize completed dive training up to instructor level the year after he left Raglan Area School. He was inspired to do so by a young graduate from Dive Zone Whitianga, Ashe Lambert, who talked to the surfing academy students about diving as a career option.
Not long after graduating from Dive Zone himself — and wanting to get on with the big OE — Blaize headed to Cairns with “no job, no nothing, just a bit of money” but managed to land this first diving instructor position through an ad and a “good contact”.
“It’s a very nice lifestyle, and Cairns is a beautiful place,” says the larger-than-life Blaize, whose mass of sun-bleached curls — seen escaping from beneath his cap on his Facebook page — has grown back after he had his head shaved seven months ago in a fundraiser for the Leukaemia Foundation.
Blaize is in awe of the humpback whales he sees from ‘Ocean Freedom’ as they frolic in the waves on their annual migration from the Antarctic to the warmer waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
But he’s sobered too by the well-documented changes to the reef. “The coral is slowly, slowly getting bleached; it’s losing colour,” he says.
The changes are a result not only of global warming, he explains, but also of tourism – the fuel and oil from boats, and litter from human activity in a once-pristine environment.
Blaize sees himself continuing his current lifestyle for a while but had his appetite whetted for more adventures on a recent two-week New Year’s trip to Bali with Zac and two other Raglanders they met up with there.
“Cairns is a really good place to start travelling,” he’s decided.
Zac — who’s also trained as a diving instructor — wants to travel too and is set on snowboarding in Japan. Meantime he’s working hard as a prep cook in a couple of Cairns’ cafes, having done a similar job not so long ago at Vinnies/Valentes in Raglan.