Miranda Bowman is a PADI and SSI instructor and a TDI Full Cave Diver. Her passion for diving stems from her love of sharks and a fascination with underwater cave systems. She is currently based in Malta and has worked previously in Mexico.
Please tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada! My father had never learned to swim and was adamant that my brother and I start swimming lessons at 6 months old. I was blowing bubbles in the pool before I could walk! For as long as I can remember, the water has been my happy place. When I was about 10 years old I found out that you could get paid to be underwater and I then made it my mission to become a professional diver. I started saving every dollar I could for dive and travel. At the moment I am living in Malta and working as a diving instructor!
When did you become ‘hooked’ on diving?
I left Canada at 17 to start traveling on my own and moved to New Zealand to work as an outdoor education leader at an international school. I was so close to the Great Barrier Reef and decided that this would be where I would finally complete my open water course.
On the first day of my course, I told my instructor that I would hopefully be in his shoes shortly. After my first day of pool training, I knew that breathing underwater was my calling. I went straight on to complete my advanced and rescue courses in Mexico where I would also end up doing a divemaster internship. I completed my PADI IDC and examinations and began working in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
What is involved in becoming a technical and full cave diver?
I started my technical diving journey with the intention to dive in the Mexican cave systems. After diving in the famous cenotes around Playa Del Carmen and Tulum I knew that I needed to do more and go further. I didn’t think a ton about technical diving until I decided that I would pursue becoming a full cave diver.
I tech dive at the moment exclusively with a sidemount configuration but I intend to become well versed with twins/doubles as well. My journey began with a recreational sidemount course, followed by technical sidemount and eventually advanced nitrox and decompression procedures. After a lot of training and preparation, I headed back to Mexico to do my cavern, intro to cave, and full cave courses.
Describe your experience as a female diver in a typically male dominated industry.
The biggest thing that I face on a daily basis is people of any gender telling me not to lift my own tanks as “the guys will do it for you”. I constantly have people insisting that I will hurt myself handling my own gear and carrying my own cylinders. With that said, I have not faced any gender-based bias (that I know of) at the professional level. Both the men and women that I am lucky enough to work with and have trained with, understand that at this level of diving, every diver needs to be capable of handling oneself underwater and on the surface, including the heavy lifting.
I have been lucky enough to have many female tech divers to train alongside and learn from. I genuinely believe that seeing is believing and I know that the more women we see tech diving and teaching technical diving courses, the more female divers we will have being eager to get into tech diving as well.
What advice would you give to young females who are looking into tech and cave diving?
Go for it! Learning to tech dive is a slow process but it is incredibly rewarding. We cannot let gender norms and a typically male-dominated industry get in the way of pursuing what we love. Taking it slow and seeking out the best training possible is the best way to become a well rounded and safe technical diver. You cannot rush anything in diving be it technical or recreational!
There are plenty of incredible women in the tech diving industry and by reaching out to these wonderful individuals, I have made lifelong friends and have received invaluable advice and recommendations.
What are some challenges you have had to overcome as a diver?
There have been many challenges along the way with a big one being financial. Technical diving is extremely costly not just with the gear but also with the training. With that said I also do my best to invest in gear that keeps me as safe as possible and will last me as long as possible. Diving becomes much more costly if you are constantly repairing or replacing your equipment.
The same goes for who I train with, I would prefer to invest more in the top of the line training with instructors that I respect and trust fully. Another challenge would be finding the balance between diving for fun and for work. I truly enjoy every single day teaching diving and guiding experienced divers but I also try to find the time to train for myself as much as possible on days or evenings off.
What has been the most rewarding in your journey as a diver?
For me, learning from other divers and meeting like-minded people is always the biggest reward in diving. Training with Nat Gibb from Under the Jungle and learning from one of my role models in the industry was, and I’m sure, always will be one of the greatest rewards in my diving career. Nat is not only an accomplished cave explorer and instructor but she is also an incredibly humble and down to earth human. Spending countless hours in the jungle with her and her team, I have learned more than I could ever imagine about cave and technical diving.
What are some risks that are involved with technical and cave diving?
The risks of technical diving and cave diving are immense. The most obvious risk in tech and cave diving is the inability to ascend to the surface directly, be it an overhead environment or mandatory decompression stops.
Read More: What is Decompression Sickness?
Diver safety relies entirely on complete and total awareness, team work and relentless practice of all emergency procedures. Proper preparation, safety checks and implementing all necessary procedures with regards to gas analysis and calculations, decompression procedures and careful navigation, can prevent your death.
As soon as your mind wanders outside of the cave and you are no longer completely mentally present, the dive should be aborted. The acceptance of these risks is a very personal decision. For myself I cannot imagine a life without diving and I chose to accept these risks.
Have you had any dangerous situations, or ‘close-calls’ as a diver? What did you learn from it?
I have not had any ‘close calls’ myself in technical diving but as anyone who dives every day, I have had to deal with equipment failure underwater and various other expected issues. I try and learn from every dive, whether it’s something I could have prevented while still on the surface with closer attention to detail or something that I could have been better prepared for underwater.
Diving alongside buddies or teammates that you trust and know very well underwater also plays a big part in safety and effective problem solving.
Describe your most memorable experience on a dive.
There are so many to choose from! With regards to cave diving definitely the last dive of my full cave course with Nat Gibb in the cenotes. We visited Sistema Tortugas, a cave I had not yet dove. The surface was bright green from various microbes blooming in combination with tannic acid and the entrance looked like nothing more than a small, green pond in the middle of the jungle.
Comparing this entry to the incredibly decorative and intricate cave system is one of my favourite memories. It’s hard to imagine what lies beneath until you are there. (unfortunately I have no footage from inside). This day was particularly memorable as completing my full cave course was something I’d been dreaming about for many years. The dive was executed very well and I was thrilled to have experienced such a dive and course with someone I had looked up to for so long.
What are your future goals as a diver?
My immediate goals are becoming a TDI advanced nitrox and decompression procedures instructor. I also plan to become a Trimix diver in the near future. There are several incredible historical wrecks around Malta that are between 55 and 100m and before leaving this wonderful country I would like to explore these wrecks. In the future I also would love to learn more about cave exploration and assist on various exploration projects in Mexico.
Check out Miranda’s informative guide to diving in Malta and some of her favorite wrecks!
Follow Miranda’s journey of becoming a technical diving instructor and her daily adventures on her Instagram, and let us know if you have a question for her in the comments below!