My name is Carrie Younkin and I am a Divemaster who’s been scuba diving for about 15 years. My passion for all things ocean-related started as far back as I can remember which naturally led to my college career in marine biology. Although I didn’t start diving until several years after college, I fortunately happened to be living on the beautiful island of Mau’i. After enjoying the islands for 4 years, I traveled to, lived in (and of course, dove!) many places all over the world. About 2 ½ years ago, I landed back in Hawai’i (this time on the island of O’ahu) where I started working as a Divemaster and Sales Associate for a local dive shop. I always say even a crappy day underwater is better than a good day on land, so I figured what wouldn’t be better than to work where I can get paid to dive!
So for the last 2 ½ years, I’ve been working for Honolulu Scuba Company/Island Divers. The shop I primarily work at is Honolulu Scuba Company in Kaka’ako and we run our boats out of Kewalo Harbor, just down the street. Three boats reside there and we have two boats behind our sister shop, Island Divers, which is located in Hawaii Kai. We also have one boat on the west side located in Waianae Harbor as well as military base shops on Hickam and Schofield Barracks.
In ‘normal life’, we are a pretty busy operation with all of the shops open daily for retail sales, rentals, equipment servicing, bookings and classes as well as the boats operating numerous charters. Although we have a large number of locals that give us their business, our main customer base are tourists. Many people who want to vacation here want to enjoy the beautiful waters of Hawai’i, either by trying SCUBA for the first time, getting certified, advancing their certifications or just fun diving!
But in ‘not-so normal life’, we had to close all of our shops and boat operations in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it has been crazy ever since. We were able to open up ‘by appointment only’ for a bit here and there for retail, tank fills, rentals, and equipment services, but boat operations remained at a standstill. Once we were finally able to run some of our boat charters, cases started going back up, so we were completely shut down once again after a short period of time. All of this has been quite difficult on my company and the dive industry as a whole, especially in Hawai’i with tourism being a major part of the economy on top of a lot of this happening over the summer months-one of our busiest times of the year. Since the last ‘re-opening’ in September, we have been able to keep our doors open for (somewhat) regular business hours as well as run our boats at 25% capacity.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there were layoffs forcing a lot of my co-workers to leave the island while myself and others stayed and tried to keep on top of things and stay updated, even though trying to understand all the changes on a daily/weekly basis was very tough and often confusing. We’ve been constantly changing our methods and procedures as to what is recommended by the CDC as well as our local government by not only wearing a mask in the store and on the boats (until you’re about to get in the water, of course!), but also only allowing small numbers in the shops at a time. We also have been using Steramine (a safe, nontoxic disinfectant) on all gear that any person has touched, tried on or used as well as constantly using sanitizing wipes and spray throughout the day.
We are now in Tier 2 (of 4) in Hawai’i and we are hoping to somehow have the cases stay low while tourism and our economy can boom again, although I’m not sure how all of this can happen at once.. I am optimistic that our economy WILL bounce back and businesses like scuba diving companies will thrive once again, but unfortunately this is hard to do without the majority of our main customers. Unfortunately, we may just have to get through the 2020 holidays-our other busiest time of year-how things are now in order to get back to ‘normal’ life. I just hope that it won’t be too long before tourists can once again enjoy the amazingness of what I’m grateful to call my backyard, the magnificent Pacific Ocean.