James Thomson is a man who’s traveled the world, dived in Malaysia, skied in Switzerland, and generally enjoyed life to the fullest. If that isn’t irritating enough, he is still living the dream in the Cayman Islands, getting paid to do what he loves – diving. After reading this, you may be heading to Pirate Divers to become an instructor yourself, so you can “go Shaggy.”
What’s Hot: Where were you born?
James Thomson: London, UK, but I grew up in Gloucestershire.
WH: Where does the nickname “Shaggy” come from?
JT: I got a very bad haircut from my Mum when I was 10 years old, going to school [laughs]. I got bullied from the beginning, and from then on the name stuck.
WH: Where did you attend university?
JT: I went to Queen Mary University of London to study Marine Biology. Actually, I started studying Pharmacology, but after my first experience diving, I changed the degree subject.
WH: So did you get into a diving job after you left school?
JT: Actually, no. I went into a sales job, then I did a ski season in the winter, came back, did another ski season, and finally went on a two-week holiday to Egypt. After that I never looked back.
WH: So did you get your certifications in Egypt?
JT: No, I was a divemaster by then. I first tried diving in Australia, and immediately got hooked, so the summer afterwards I went to Malaysia to get my certifications up to divemaster.
WH: Sounds like you’re quite well traveled.
JT: Yes, well for about five or six years I was spending summers in Egypt diving, and teaching skiing in Switzerland, then I worked in the Cook Islands for six months… At one stage I even set up a company in Egypt.
WH: What brought you to the Cayman Islands?
JT: A friend of mine. I had taught him to dive in Egypt up to his divemaster cert, and he ended up staying and working for a while. After that he headed to Grand Cayman, and told me to come down here. I fell in love with the place right away.
WH: And how long have you been with Pirate Divers?
JT: I got to Cayman in 2012, and I’ve been with them for nine months. I really like it, because the company focuses on training, particularly divemaster training, and internships. I’ve always got people that I’m teaching.
WH: Do you think you’ll stick with diving for the foreseeable future?
JT: Yes. I’ve made a choice to not go back to skiing any more [laughs]. I want to stay here; I really like it. For me to be in a place for two years straight is pretty rare.
WH: What is it that you love about diving? Freedom, mobility, weightlessness. I just love it. I ate noodles all the time just to be able to dive for months. My advice is to really enjoy what you’re doing, and I really do.