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Inspiring Women Divers #7 Lauren Sparks


women divers
Laureen at the office

Lauren Sparks - Founder of Indo Ocean Project

Originally from Canada, Lauren founded Indo Ocean Project in 2017 combining her passion for teaching diving and marine research. Her background is in biology and theatre with a focus on marine policy and its effects on megafauna and fisheries-targeted species. With over 15 years in the diving industry, she is also the co-founder of dive centres and other marine conservation NGOs. She is a passionate underwater photographer and freediver.

When did you start diving?

I started diving in 2007. I was backpacking around Australia, I found myself cleaning a hostel above a dive centre in Byron Bay. I became friends with the team and in exchange for work, I completed my open water course and started helping in their daily dive activities. I spent the remaining 10 months of my VISA completing my training up to dive master and guiding some incredible shark dives.


What made you want to become a diver or dive pro?

I wanted to be a marine biologist for as long as I can remember. From my very first dive, I knew I wanted to work in the dive industry.


You never forget your first breaths beneath the surface. The waves were high, and the storm was kicking overhead, and I was terrified. Once I was 1m under the surface, the chaos that was brewing only meters above my head no longer existed. Then entered the sharks! On my very first dive, I came face to face with around 10 grey nurse sharks. My life was changed irrevocably. Since that moment I have dedicated my life to exploring the oceans, teaching others about ethical ocean experiences, and doing everything I can to be in, on, or around the ocean.


15 years later and nothing has changed… Except maybe my confidence, and my camera equipment.


female diver girls that scuba
Lauren in her happy place

What is your best/most memorable dive?


Some are memorable because of the marine life you see, the people you shared the dive with or the adventure it was just to get there. Some are memorable because they were just downright crazy… ask me again in a few months and I might have a different answer…  


Recently, I went to Coron in the Philippines with my friend Helene. The place is known for its WWII wrecks. One we dived was the 'Irako'. Our guide said this was a “DDD Dive” which means Deep, Dark, and Dangerous. It was the first time in years I got those butterflies in the pre-dive briefing… Everything sounded so exciting. We descended into dark, turbid waters, entering the wreck from the top (at 45m) and descending deeper and deeper into the bowels of the ship. The blackness inside is complete and you only have minutes in the closed areas considering both bottom time and the silt disruption. As a marine biologist whose recreational diving typically gravitates towards shallow, biodiverse sites, finding profound enjoyment in this experience felt like stumbling upon an entirely new and captivating realm in my backyard.


Most gratifying course you took or taught


This must be Indo Ocean Project’s Divemaster and Research Diver internship. It is basically an amalgamation of 3 people's life knowledge to create something truly innovative. I founded Indo Ocean Project in 2017 to create a platform for aspiring ocean professionals to gain internationally recognized certifications in professional diving whilst learning and contributing to marine research and conservation. In collaboration with extremely talented and knowledgeable partners, we have worked to build an award-winning curriculum. Over the last 6 years, this organization has expanded to offer divemaster courses in 3 locations in Indonesia and has had many positive impacts. It is more than just a course; it is a community of ocean warriors.


5 qualities of a great dive pro

1.     Empathy:

Scuba diving is scary and totally unnatural. Humans are not supposed to breathe underwater. Don’t forget your first dive and put yourself in your students’ shoes.

2.     Patience:

Everyone learns differently, allow your students to figure it out in a safe and controlled environment and repeat repeat repeat! Never show frustration that a student can’t master a skill, this is the most discouraging and will never give you results. If you need to spend an entire WEEK in the pool to get your student to enjoy their dive safely, you do it. 

3.     Spatial awareness:

You need to have one eye in the back of your head scoping out potential hazards to help navigate your students away from them. Making sure you are constantly aware of potential risks while creating a safe and inclusive place for your students to learn and explore is the critical role of any dive professional

4.     Customer service/sales:

Selling is a key part of the dive industry and a useful skill to have, partnered with being able to deliver the experience you are selling will make you a hot ticket employee at any dive operation.

5.     Humility:

Leave your ego at the door, please! This is hard, as the industry is full of big ego macho divers… but diving is easy, you just need to go down and swim around, anyone can learn. Overconfidence is one of the leading factors in diving accidents. Stay safe, stay humble.


Diving is both a passion… and a business. We are in the business of fun, if your students or guests aren’t having fun then you are doing it wrong! At the end of the day, if diving guests don’t like diving, then we are all out of a job…


Do you think women are different divers than men and why?

No, I think divers are divers, and that is one of the beautiful things about it all. I could give you stereotypes like, women divers are more cautious, or men like more extreme dives, but that simply isn’t true. The ocean doesn’t care what gender or pronouns you have. It is an inclusive activity and often bridges social divides and brings people together from all walks of life to share a common interest. It’s incredibly beautiful. 

Well, except one thing is statically true… women tend to breathe less air.


One piece of advice for someone starting diving

Go at your own pace. You are learning something new so forgive yourself and try again. Search around for the right shop and meet your instructor. Talk to them about your hesitations and pick the right dive school.


Diving is easy, and once you have it down this whole new world opens to you. Have fun!

indo ocean project conservation
During Covid, IndoOcean project put together a coral planting initiative which successfully planted 10 thousand corals and provided training and income to locals.

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