While the pandemic stalled many people’s ambitions, it hasn’t stopped 12-year-old Tiburon local Avery Fisher from pursuing her goals. In 2020 when she was 10, Fisher decided to learn how to scuba dive, and has now completed 25 open ocean dives for 10 distinct scuba certifications. She’s about to add one more certification to her list — youngest underwater scuba magician in the world (the cards must be strung together to avoid being consumed by fish!) — and will be speaking about her accomplishments at the Innovate for Good conference on April 29 at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Here, we asked her a few questions about her life underwater.
Marin Magazine (MM): What inspired you to get into scuba diving?
Avery Fisher (AF): Two weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown, my father came into my room and said even though the world was spinning off its axis, it was still a precious time, and he asked me how I wanted to spend it. He encouraged me to do something original, or as my family says, be a white turtle. I remembered how much I enjoyed my trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and working with their marine mammal team. Learning to scuba dive seemed like a natural next step and a good way to pass the time.
We quickly discovered Marin Dive Center in San Rafael, a great local resource for diving, and that’s where I got my start. Once I found their retail shop, I asked to purchase every book they had for beginner divers. Two weeks later, I had read all the required Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) material and aced the online exams. After completing the at-home portion of the test, I was introduced to master diver Michael Norreel, my amazing scuba instructor. We trained together in the pool at the Tiburon Peninsula Club (TPC) and in the summer of my 10th birthday a friend and I earned our Open Water Diver certification in Monterey. Since then, I have earned an additional 12 certifications.
(MM): You did a challenging dive at Raccoon Straight with a friend and your dad when you were only 10. Were you nervous?
Avery Fisher (AF): Our home is near Raccoon Straight, which is a shipping channel not known to many divers. Although diving conditions were less than ideal, it didn’t prevent me from earning my Boat Diver certification. My mom and grandparents watched from our deck, and although the water was freezing and visibility was near zero, it was a thrilling dive. The best part was swimming back to our house using only a flimsy rope, a compass and each other to find our way back.
MM: You’ve swum in the shark exhibit at the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39. What’s that like?
Before my first dive, Chris Grace, the aquarium’s lead dive instructor, walked me through every exhibit, carefully pointing out what I could expect to see and feel. It helped ease my nerves, but then he mentioned the animals would appear 20% larger inside the tank, and several of the sharks have poor eyesight, so I should be prepared for them to casually bump into me! I tried to keep it together, but I almost had a meltdown right there in the tunnel.
As I left to prepare for my dive a baby ray swam overhead, and it was smiling. After seeing the smiling ray, I wasn’t scared anymore. When I got into the tank and began my dive, I was greeted by my entire family. They waived and cheered me on. Having my family there meant the world to me.
MM: What are your goals for the future?
I want to continue diving and inspire young divers to follow in my footsteps. Also, because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, I have yet to dive in warm water, so I would love to be able to dive in the clear waters of the Caribbean. My dream is to scuba dive with a blue whale.
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Lotus Abrams has covered everything from beauty to business to tech in her editorial career, but it might be writing about her native Bay Area that inspires her most. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the San Francisco Peninsula, where they enjoy spending time outdoors at the area’s many open spaces protected and preserved by her favorite local nonprofit, the Peninsula Open Space Trust.