Interview: Marissa Eckert

Technical, CCR, Cave Instructor/ Store Owner

Marissa Eckert. Photo: Pam Wooten

What induced you want to become a diver? A I was on vacation in the Maldives and I did a Discover Scuba. When I got out of the water I said I want to be a scuba instructor! I knew that moment that I want to get share that experience with as many people as is practicable. That was 10 years ago.

Did you have any mentors? A One of the first people to genuinely help me, and allow me to sit in on her classes, was Jill Heinerth. For that, I will always be so thankful. It was so rewarding to learn from such a strong, independent girl in the industry.

How did diving change your life? A Diving is my ENTIRE life. From the moment I took my first breaths underwater, my entire living was changed. When I was introduced to Florida and the caves, I sold everything I had and drove what I could fit in my tiny vehicle to Florida and started a new life, determined to become a cave instructor.

What is it about cave diving? A I love the technical challenge and the exploration of the unknown. The world is such a loud place but in the caves itas so quiet and peaceful. There are so few places left untouched but I feel like caves are one of them. I find nothing more rewarding then being able to show people the caves for the first time.

Who is your go-to dive buddy? A James Draker, my boyfriend and business partner. Heas the best underwater model ever. Heas always reading my intellect and helping me big time with lighting.A I also know heall yank me out of a pit if I get stuck and heall follow me into all the tiny wiggly places I find so much fun.

Why open your own store? A Frankly, James wanted to open the store more than I did, but Iam really glad we did. We just really wanted to have a nice class room space to sit down with students and do academics, a place to set up gear, and we didnat want to have to drive to five different stores merely to find a double-ender.

Whatas challenged you as a store proprietor? A The cave diving community can be quite cruel. Because of the small space we opened weave been told we arenat welcome at many of the other local shops because we are competition. I donat feel like we are competition; we tried to be different, sell and stock different things. I think there is enough business to go around, and we can all be successful. I wish we could all work together for the good of the community. After all, “were all” here because of our love for the caves.

Whatas the secret to a successful store? A Being competitive, being responsive, having inventory, and only having good communication. People know they can message me day or night and Iall respond immediately. They know that if I say Iam going to send something out I do it immediately. Communication is so important.A We didnat want to carry a million different product lines either. We merely wanted to carry the gear we dive and the gear we truly believe in. We wanted to have a clean environment that is organized and well stocked with unique things that no one else carries.

What gets you excited as an instructor? A Nothing compares to the look on someoneas face when you help them take their first breath underwater, or their first glimpse into a cave.A Itas so rewarding to get to be the person that gets to share that with them. There is no greater feeling in the world.

Most memorable marine living encounter? A There is not usually a lot of marine living in the caves, but I also enjoy ocean diving very much. I was recently in Truk Lagoon diving a wreck as the sunlight was going down. Being on a rebreather and having no bubbles there were sharks cruising around me, and eagle rays, I remember the sharks cruising thru large bait balls and then right past me. A rebreather has mainly been a tool for me for cave diving, but itas an astounding tool for ocean diving, as well.

What is your favourite dive site? A The most so lovely caves in the world are the crystal caves in the Bahamas. There are formations there that are like nothing else in the world. Itas perfectly breathtaking.

Where would you are willing to dive but havenat? A I want to dive everywhere! I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to the world. Every place I travel, I fall in love with it. Right now at the top of my list is probably Socorro. Iad also like to do some ours, and some caves in France and Budapest.

Whatas the craziest thing youave considered? A The caves in Mexico were once dry. Swimming thru them and assuring animal remains, pottery, and human remains is truly amazing.A I like to imagine how the cave was when it was once dry. What was that person doing there? How did they die? Itas so surreal.

What does diving mean to you? A To me diving has always been an escape. When I dive, every worry in the world goes away.

Favourite dive snack ? A My one student, Andrew Johnston, always has these astounding cookies with him. I had another student who always had frozen Reeseas.

Favourite diving movie? A Thatas tough because almost all cases are so inaccurate …. one of my favorite lines is from Sanctum , aWhat could possibly go wrong, diving in caves? a A There is a Netflix movie called Last Breath that is intestine wrenching, had me opposing back tears, and was really moving.

Proudest diving moment or achievement? A My biggest achievement is being able to never have to work a day in my life, because I get to spend every day doing something that I genuinely love.

Whatas next for you? A I simply want to continue to travel, continue to introduce people to the amazing world of cave diving, and I would love the opportunity to do more with my underwater photography.A

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