Joanna Mikutowicz – Dive Instructor/ Dive Shop Owner

Joanna Mikutowics, paintiing the town pink and putting her Divetech employees first in a year that has been tough on destinaion diving. Photo: Tony Land

How long have you been diving?
23 years now. I was certified in 1997.

What made you want to become a diver?
I have always loved being on and in the water but it was originally my dad who convinced me to take my Open Water Course when we were on vacation in Grand Cayman. By the end of my first day of class I knew I wanted to be a scuba diving Instructor when I grew up.

Most memorable marine life encounter?
A dive in Oahu, Hawaii, when a humpback whale swam by underwater. We had not been there to dive with humpbacks nor had we been looking for them, it just naturally happened. The whale decided itself to come check us out. 

How did diving change your life?
It has led me to so many different countries to visit and different places to live that I otherwise never would have been to. And in those places, I have met the most amazing people that are a huge part of my life today. 

What does diving mean to you?
It brings me peace and comfort as soon as my head goes underwater. It is a social activity that I enjoy with my family and my friends, something I can share and teach to other people, and it brings me together with people I may otherwise have never met. I learn something new everyday about the underwater environment and how important it is. It is my career. 

How did you end up owning one of Grand Cayman’s most respected dive stores?
I have been working in the dive industry since 2005 and I am one of those people that always needs to be learning and achieving something new. I spent the first 10 years working, teaching, and taking courses to learn as much as I could and gain as much experience as I could. While I was working at Divetech as an employee it came to my attention that the previous owners were looking to retire. Owning my own dive business was always on my ‘list’ and I knew so much about Divetech and Grand Cayman already it just seemed to be the perfect fit and a good next step/challenge for me to take on. 

“Divetech will adapt to whatever the new normal will be and we will move forward in that capacity. My plans for my end goal with Divetech have not changed, they may just be delayed a bit. Divetech might be different for a couple of years but it will not be any less awesome.”

Your branding has got a lot of attention…
The colour pink just makes me happy, so why not spread that pinkness everywhere?! When I initially painted my boats pink it was a mix of shock and awe from others, and quickly turned into a feeling of “this is pretty cool”. It’s been received very well. The initial naysayers have changed their tune, Divetech customers love it, and people in general always ask about it. It generates interest and grabs people’s attention. A friend of mine was recently at a bar in the Philippines and when asked where she was from she responded “Grand Cayman,” to which the person responded, “Oh yes, the place with the pink boats.” 

COVID has taken its toll on travel, so what has been your approach to 2020?
It’s been no different than my approach to everything else in life, I make a decision of what I want the outcome to be and then I make it happen. Grand Cayman is in a tough spot at the moment because as I type this our borders are still closed and we have no set date of reopening. Obviously, tourism is the life blood of this business. I have not gotten rid of any staff due to COVID and they have all continued to receive their full salary, even when we were in lockdown for 90 days. My staff make Divetech. They have had my back every single day since they started working at Divetech and there was no way I was going to turn my back on them when they needed me most. Most of them would not have been able to get home once the airport closed, and for some of them Cayman is their home. They won’t be getting a job anywhere else in the industry at the moment. I made the decision to support them through all of this because I want them here at the end of this to help me continue to offer the level of amazingness that Divetech always has, which comes from them! 

How important is tech and rebreather diving moving forward?
It’s important for Divetech because it’s a little niche we offer that a lot of other companies on island do not. Cayman has 20+ dive businesses but what is cool is each one has something unique to offer that the others don’t, tech and rebreather diving is one of ours. It’s also really cool to be able to explore the reef amd wrecks down past 150 feet (45m). Personally, I still have so much to learn and so many other courses to take with tech and rebreather diving so it’s something for me to work towards. 

“Don’t ever stop learning. Whether that means taking more dive courses, reading more books, diving new places, diving the same place over and over again looking for different critters to identify, watching documentaries, or trying new gear.”

Who is your go-to dive buddy?
Anyone that is as enthusiastic about going on a dive as I am!

What is your favourite dive site?
Princess Penny’s Pinnacle on the North Wall of Grand Cayman.

Favourite dive snack?
Cheetos… well they are just my favourite snack all the time 🙂 

Favourite diving movie?
Finding Nemo.

Proudest diving moment or achievement?
Earning my PADI Course Director.

Favourite piece of equipment?
My pink fins!

Craziest thing you’ve seen underwater?
I always find it crazy to watch things interact underwater. Like a trumpet fish and a boxfish hunting together, or fish that change colours to communicate with each other, watching a yellowhead jawfish dig out its home one mouthful of sand at a time, or watching coral spawn. Everything underwater is just so fascinating to me. 

What’s next for you?
To come out of this pandemic and build Divetech back up to where we were, to continue to be a positive influence on the diving community, and be a good role model for women forging ahead in whatever profession they are in. 

The post DIVER interview: Joanna Mikutowicz appeared first on DIVER magazine.

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