Have you always dreamed of owning your only dive centre? Buying a place in an exotic location and taking people out diving every day. Well, just like many other Girls that Scuba Sophie Keningale had the same dream - and managed to make it happen in Gran Canaria just a few years after leaving school! We find out her story here!
Where did your passion for scuba diving begin?
I have always loved nature growing up in the countryside. I loved watching documentaries about the ocean and really wanted to explore the underwater world myself. When I came to Gran Canaria over 3 years ago, I stayed in a hostel where I saw other divers working. I loved their lifestyle, the way they enjoyed their jobs and the way they could always work with happy customers, showing them the beautiful underwater world. So that is when I started to take my diving seriously and decided to work my way up to become a scuba diving instructor.
When did you decide you wanted to have your own dive centre?
I really enjoyed every moment of working as a scuba diving instructor but unfortunately there was not enough work for me and my partner to both continue working there and also pay our bills. That's when we decided to work towards the goal of owning our own diving centre.
How did you start a diving centre with limited money?
The location of our dive centre used to be a pizza factory! It was a complete mess when we first started renting the location so we got the rent a bit cheaper that way. We both got jobs in bars and restaurants which allowed us to buy materials for renovating our diving centre during the day. We renovated the whole centre ourselves to include a reception, shop, wet room, dry room, toilet and (soon to be chill out room.) After many months of this and paying different advisors to get the right paperwork in order we could finally open. We designed every aspect ourselves and every item in the dive centre means something to us. Leagues Ahead Diving in Gran Canaria has now been open officially for one year and a half and are loving every aspect of the job!
What was the hardest part of starting a scuba diving centre?
As with starting any business the first year is always the hardest. The hardest part was gaining all the licenses required to open a scuba diving centre in Gran Canaria. It took a lot of patience, determination and more capital than we had anticipated. Once you took a step forward it felt like you took two steps back.
Also I feel that scuba diving is still at times a male dominated sport so I would often have some comments about being too young or not being able to lift tanks etc, but now i just ignore the comments and get on with the job at hand. I had amazing support from family, friends and my partner and my love for diving and wanting to share my passion kept me going.
What is your favourite part of diving in Gran Canaria?
I love the underwater landscape! The volcanic rock formations of El Cabron make for some pretty impressive arches and swim throughs. We have a huge diversity of marine life also, I would say my favourite has to be the Stingray- I never get bored of seeing them! I also have a huge soft spot for the parrot fish.
Advice for someone who wants to start their own dive centre.
I would tell anyone to go for it! Be prepared to work long hours and get your hands dirty, but it is very rewarding. Patience really is a virtue but when things start falling into place you will see your hard work paying off.