Few months ago, a local newspaper, inside ‘Common People’ section, dedicate a back cover to Judith de la Rosa
Diving instructor. They call her Lady Shark because she moves underwater with the shark’s elegance and gentleness. She left a comfortable life to follow her heart. Judith de la Rosa was born in Barcelona in 1971. Her heart told her to move to Maldives, an atoll paradise in the Indian Ocean. Among hammerhead sharks and swaying manta rays she is immensely happy.
Judith: I owned a fashion store in Sabadell and, in summer, I rented a bar in a party city near Barcelona. I lived with my boyfriend in an urban development. I had an organized life.
Interviewer: Now comes the “but…”
Judith: I have dived since I was 20, a passion inherited from my dad. I had dived in Portinatx and in Ibiza, where we owned a house, but in 1998 I dived in the Red Sea and I loved it. I thought ‘what a beautiful job it must be, being a diving instructor. The following year I went to Maldives on a cruise with a German guide and I saw lots of sharks and manta rays. When I surfaced I was crying. And I cried during the whole trip back.
Interviewer: It was your place in the world.
Judith: Yes. I remember going in my shop and thinking ‘But what am I doing here?’ For a year I thought about the idea of leaving. Everybody thought I was crazy except for my father, who told me: ‘Do what your heart tells you to do’. So I closed the shop, I broke up with my boyfriend and I bought a ticket to Maldives. I have always thought that it’s better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t.
Interviewer: And you just left, like that?
Judith: I wrote to that German guide asking him to give me a chance, telling him that I was not a diving instructor and I didn’t speak English, but that I would learn. He answered he could not pay me, but he invited me in for a month. I spent three months like this…
Interviewer: You must be brave.
Judith: The first months were not easy. I was scared and insecure. I could not communicate, I was bossed around… But when I jumped into the water I forgot what happened on board. Then I came back to Spain to work in a friend’s yacht and, while I was sailing from Menorca to Mallorca, my father died…
Interviewer: Was it expected?
Judith: No. Dad was a doctor and worked in Ghana for five years, two of them in the rainforest. He got malaria 16 times and this had after-effects… What comforts me is thinking he left feeling proud because he had a daughter who was doing something he could not have done.
Interviewer: What happened after that shock?
Judith: I did the course to become an instructor and the German guide called me. I went back to Maldives, they were paying peanuts, until an important tour operator knew I was there. They offered me to work for six months in Maldives and for five months in the Red Sea. I kept on doing this for the three following years of my life. Now I have my own business, Submaldives. We are five partners and have three rented boats. Each one of us deals with a different kind of market.
Interviewer: Do you live on a boat?
Judith: Yes. It is a floating hotel, 39m long and with a 10 meter beam. My room in the boat is my home. I spend about three hours a day under water and, at the end of the day, I usually swim for one more hour around the reefs. It is really relaxing and it strengthens my muscles, tired of the weight of the oxygen bottles.
Interviewer: I am sure you have scales.
Judith: (Laughing) No. But customers from Singapore and Hong Kong call me Lady Shark. They say my movements under water are similar.
Interviewer: You love those creatures, don’t you?
Judith: I am mad about them! Sharks have not evolved in 400 million years. They finish with overpopulations, with weak and ill animals. They are hydrodynamic. They have perfect and smooth buoyancy. By the way, can I add something else?
Judith: Spain is the second country in the world in shark fin commerce. The EU gives advantages as it means a lot of money. I want the future generations to see what I have seen.
Interviewer: Wonderful things.
Judith: Absolutely wonderful! The sea is an environment which makes me see life in a different way. The way you dive is the reflection of your life on earth. Panic under water means death. I must keep a cool head because I am responsible for many people.
Interviewer: Have you never been scared while diving?
Judith: Scary moments always come from the customers lack of experience. I once lost sight of a customer and he dove below the 40 meters depth allowed in leisure diving. I found him 72 meters below, I took his oxygen bottle, dragged him upwards and when we were 30 meters deep he reacted. When his wife got pregnant, she told me if the baby was a girl they would name her Judith. Though finally a boy was born!