Marcus Kitching - ​Shark feeding in the Bahamas

Q) What are you doing at the moment?
I am a PADI Scuba diving Instructor (MSDT) and a Shark Feeder at Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas in Nassau. Although a qualified diving Instructor I actually started work here, just over two years ago, working in the videography department due to staffing levels.

Q) Why do you do what you do? What motivates you? 
Seeing the smile on a client’s face when they have taken their first breath from a scuba regulator as they realise they can breathe underwater motivates me. The gratitude I receive when they qualify as an Open Water student and the satisfaction and pride I feel when I see them, just days later, on a dive boat as safe, confident divers, as a direct result of my instruction, really does it for me. The shark feeding is something different. You have to be in your zone, mentally, to work with sharks. If you make a mistake with them they will have you, they are ruthless. A good shark feed and some 'one on one' time with a shark in tonic immobility motivates me immensely, not so much the adulation afterwards from the clients who are in ore of what they have just seen. That's why I love my job.

Q) Who is your role model and why?
I have two role models in my life, my uncles Neil and John whom I live with.  John is a barrister and Neil is a property developer in America. They have helped me through some major problems in my life since I left Yarm School, my parents getting divorced and coming to terms with my sexuality to name but a few. I can always talk to them about absolutely anything, without fear of judgement, tainted advice or self-interest. Neil says "I will give you a hug when you want one and a kick up the bottom when you need one!" He's an ex Royal Marine Combat Instructor - so it hurts when I get it wrong! If I turn out to be half the man either of these guys are I will have done pretty well.

Q) What advice would you give current pupils at Yarm School about planning their future?
My advice to current pupils at Yarm School about planning their future is...... it's YOUR future. Just because there is a family business, or genetic career path, doesn't mean it is right for you to go in to it. Make your own footprints in the sand, don't follow others. Make a list of what you want out of life, whether it is job satisfaction, a fancy car or a beach front bar and then make a realistic plan of how you can archive this. Then stick to YOUR plan. Work towards it in some way every day. If you want to be a brain surgeon it's no good excelling at art, if you want to be a plastic surgeon then art may help you.

Advice: read a book called ‘Being Happy’ by Andrew Mathews. ISBN 981-00-0664-0

Q) On reflection, what are your fondest memories of Yarm School?
My fondest memories of Yarm School would be the camaraderie, particularly on the Australia and New Zealand rugby tour in 2008. I am still in touch with a few good friends from school, but the geographical distance between us, and growing up, are natural separators.

Q)  How has your education at Yarm School made an impact on your life?
There is undoubtedly a degree of pride when I tell people I went to Yarm School - there is a kudos about it. I think the school encourages students to think out of the box, expressing themselves as individuals and has admirable ethics when it comes to diversity. It is sound preparation for the real world. I remember always being pulled up about my tie not being fastened at school so I never expected to wear a suit to work, especially a wetsuit!

Q) Can you tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career or life so far?
I was never academically brilliant at school so qualifying as a PADI Instructor has been my greatest accomplishment to date. I trained under Alan Yeung at Calypso Diving to become an Instructor. Alan drove from Newcastle to Yarm three days a week for six months to private tutor me through the course. They were long, long days and not without tears and tantrums, mainly from Alan, but we got through it in the end. I later found out my academic scores in my Instructor exams were in the top 5% of all candidates in the UK for that year. I am sure a few of my ex teachers at Yarm School can remember and relate to the frustration of trying to find a way to get me to apply myself to the syllabus. Now I have that same frustration with some of my students.

Q) In contrast, could you tell us about a time when things didn't go the way you wanted-- like a promotion you wanted and didn't get, or a project that didn't turn out how you had hoped? What gave you the strength to overcome this?
When I arrived in the Bahamas the job I had been promised at Stuart Cove’s had been given to someone else. So all that training to become an Instructor, the upheaval of emigrating abroad and obtaining a residence permit from the Bahamas’ Government seemed to have been in vain. I had to hound the manager for over four months just to get a job, any job, at the dive centre. Eventually, I was offered a position in the photographic department, not that I knew anything about photography, especially photography underwater. I took the job just to get a foot in the door. It took over a year for an instructor position to become available, but through patience, good work ethics and determination to overcome when it all felt very negative, I eventually got the position I trained for. Since then I have also become a Shark Feeder, one of the rarest jobs in the Scuba Diving industry.

Q) What is your typical day like now?
My typical day starts with an alarm call at 6:30am and on the road to work by 7am. It's only a small island, 14 miles long by 7 miles wide, but it has big traffic problems. I normally ride my Ducati Monster, a 21st birthday gift from my uncle, which gets me through traffic ready for an 8 am start and a nine hour shift. I will check the rota to see what I have been allocated for that day. Thursday is a more regular day for shark feeding, other than that it could be anything from teaching a full Open Water course over four days, or a private shark feed for clients, or working on the dock servicing regulators and scuba equipment. The most unusual thing I did recently was working as a stunt double for Thomas Luke Mably and working with Dominic Purcell on an up and coming movie called "Isolation". It involved spending the morning in wardrobe and make up before being 'shot at' and falling in to shark infested waters…. all very Hollywood.

Q) How has living abroad changed you as a person?
It's given me a great tan and very white teeth! My job is quite physical which forces me to stay in shape too. Visitors come from all over the world to dive with me here in our warm, crystal clear turquoise waters so I have had to learn some basic words in many languages, although quite often a smile and some hand signals can suffice. Living abroad has opened my eyes to a bigger world, particularly in respect of diverse cultures and travel. I am only two hours from New York and just 30 minutes from Miami and Fort Lauderdale - I spend as much time as possible in the USA, particularly Wilton Manors in Fort Lauderdale. I love that place, but home is here in the Bahamas.

Q) And finally….What are your hopes for the future?
Because of the stresses on the body that high levels of diving can cause, this level of diving is a young man’s game!  So, I have to look to my own long term plan and make adjustments where necessary. In the meantime, I feel very, very fortunate for the opportunity I have been given and so pleased that I had the good sense to grasp it with both hands.

If you are interested in finding out more about Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas, getting back in touch with Marcus or getting some tips about pursuing a career in this area visit https://www.facebook.com/StuartCoves