Originally Published @ Scuba Scoop September 25, 2009
“I half-retired from driving,” says Guy Dumas, smiling warmly during a break at a truck stop off Highway 401 on his way back to Montreal.
By that he means he now confines his driving to the six-month period between mid-April and October. He spends the other six months in Southeast Asia, mainly Vietnam, indulging in his passion for scuba.
Guy was introduced to the sport when he moved to the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Magdalen has perhaps the highest percentage of scuba divers of any place in the world. Of its population of 14,000, about 700 are divers. He quickly joined their ranks, taking scuba lessons to become a recreational diver and adding further qualifications until he found himself diving for a living.
He lived there for 18 years, teaching diving and running his own dive shop for 10 of those years. He supplemented his earnings by obtaining a contract with the Canadian and Quebec governments to dive for a scallop farming research project. It involved underwater surveying and “all kinds of experiments.”
They determined the best time of year to collect eggs, the best type of material in which to collect them and moved the eggs from their natural habitat to an area where there were more nutrients. Under those conditions, a scallop would attain the same size in two years as it would in five years in the wild. The work was done in collaboration with the Magdalen Islands’ association of scallop fishermen, which was allowed to sell 20 to 25 per cent of the scallops in the experiment. The others were released back into the wild to continue to grow.
Guy and his brother also had a dive shop in Montreal, but in 1998 they closed both shops. Guy, who had begun his truck driving career in 1973, returned to trucking. But the travel bug – especially to warmer climates where the diving was good – was too great an attraction. He started spending the other half the year in Southeast Asia, first in Thailand and later in Vietnam and Cambodia, quickly finding work as a scuba instructor.
It was in Vietnam that he met his future wife in 2003. They were married the next year. His wife lives in Vietnam year round because he’s be on the road most of the time he’s in Canada, anyway.
Guy has also taught diving in Haiti. Ever the entrepreneur, he recruited students there by paying Haitians who had access to a resort $5 for every student they delivered. It was near Gonave Island, in Haitian waters that Guy and a diving friend met their first large shark. It swam by within five feet of them. “It was so beautiful, all the grace,” says Guy, illustrating the swimming action of the shark with his hands. He estimates that the shark was about four metres long. They weren’t afraid at the moment, but on swimming back to the boat, they caught themselves looking back occasionally to be sure they weren’t being followed by the big predator.
Guy is committed to preserving the aquatic environment. He has trained in surveying reefs in Cambodia, thus qualifying as a volunteer for Reef Check, an organization whose mission is “to protect and rehabilitate reefs worldwide.” This involves surveying the reefs, noting fish of all species, other aquatic life and the health of the reef, and recording it for Reef Check.
In Vietnam, Guy dives at Phu Quoc, an island in the Gulf of Thailand, off the Vietnamese coast. He teaches at the Coco Dive Center, which has operations in both Phu Quoc and Nha Trang.
Guy has taught almost all levels of divers. But when asked one day by a diver how he kept “that flame in your eye,” he said it’s because he never stopped teaching beginners.
That is a reality some people tend to overlook as they advance in their teaching qualifications. Whether you’re teaching someone to dive or fly an airplane, the moment a new student’s face lights up, flushed with first success, the instructor also relives that magic moment from his or her own novice days. It’s an experience that can be recaptured over and over again through students.
As he says goodbye before resuming his trip back to Montreal, Guy Dumas still has that flame in his eyes and friendly smile on his face. Half retirement – diving and driving if you will – seems to be a good fit.
Kathy Dowsett, Owner and operator of