Duncan Heuer Scuba Diving & Underwater Photographer Interview

February 13, 2017 by Laura Gomez



Name: Duncan Heuer

Age: 36
DOB: 5 July 1980

Favorite Book: Welcome to the Monkey House – Kurt Vonnegut
Favorite Movie: Naked (1993) – Mike Leigh
Favorite Food: Kangaroo and roast veggie salad with halloumi.

How did you get into diving?
I was taught by two amazingly passionate dive instructors, Peter Forster who is a super relaxed but very competent instructor and Paul Cannings, whom I still dive with regularly. Paul is an intriguing scientist who goes out of his way to make sure that every encounter with nature is both rewarding and educational. He is the shark whisperer. I’ve seen him herd them underwater! He also insisted on teaching me my navigation skills in mud so I’d learn the skills and not simply pass the test.

Why do you do scuba dive?
It amazed me to discover that sea creatures share similar feelings to us. The more time we spend with them the more we recognise a sense of communal bonding amongst them, curiosity, apprehension, fear, greed, stupidity, playfulness and so on. They have friends, family and neighbours. They have arguments, fights and they share, protect and they have mutually beneficial relationships. The more I learn the more I want to discover and share with other people. That’s why I take photographs, to show people a world that many take for granted.

Who has been the greatest inspiration in your life today?
Wow, hard one. So many people motivate me. My parents and their strong value system; my brother because his example has taught me to focus (room for improvement on this one!); all my friends because they are all passionate, interesting people who introduce me to new ways of seeing the world. I couldn’t pick one, I’m surrounded by inspiration.

Were you always interested in photography?
No, and I don’t think I’m all that good at it either. But I’m super keen to show others what I’m experiencing and this has motivated me to try and improve, which looking back to when I started, I think it has.

Could you give some tips for those interested in learning to dive?
Start with a good teacher, they are easy to spot – they excited to share knowledge and you will bounce off their energy. Don’t be afraid to get in there are experience it. Your holidays will never be the same again.

What do you think you would want to be if you weren’t a diver?
It would be water related for sure. I also surf, free dive, playing underwater hockey, wakeboard, bath, shower … haha

Describe your best experience diving?
Myself and my girlfriend spend a lot of time exploring underwater, often on our own. These times are the best, sharing a hobby with someone you love is great… especially when its impossible to talk while doing it! LOL

What has been your biggest challenge in your life?
Finding time for all my interests. I simply don’t understand bored people. How severe is your lack of imagination if you are bored!?

What countries have you dived in and which would you say is the best dive site?
I have visited Indonesia a number of times. Komodo, Nusa Lembongan, Lombok, the Gili’s, Tulamben were all epic. Other countries include the Philippines and Vietnam. Obviously Australia where I live is great and unique is so many respects. The Barrier Reef was pretty special. But the best I would say to date was Sipadan (off Malaysian Borneo).

Have you had any close encounters with sharks?
Yes, LOTS!! Seeing sharks always gets the adrenalin flowing. They such majestic animals, but they are mostly a bit shy when they see divers. You have to be really calm to get them to approach you. Very misunderstood creatures and extremely vital that we protect them. They have survived almost unchanged for 450 million years. They hold the key to life on earth. Without them the balance in the oceans will be upset and we depend on them far more than most people realise.

How long have you been diving? And an underwater photographer? I have been diving for 5 years now. I bought an underwater camera about a year after starting to dive. I was amazed to discover how many people had only dived in tropical locations while on holiday, yet they lived on a coastline and had not realised that in their own backyard exists a rich playground of spectacular diversity. So I started a Facebook page and Instagram account called “aussie bubbles” to share my experiences with people who perhaps didn’t realise just how accessible these wonders are. Being able to share this with people is very rewarding.

What was the defining moment that made you want to become a scuba diver? Growing up in South Africa and watching a TV series as a kid called “Sea Hunt” (probably a terrible show by today’s standards) made me dream of being able to dive. But I prioritized other hobbies until the opportunity virtually thrust itself upon me in 2012 when a friend asked me to join her in Indonesia for a dive trip.

How do you get ready for a dive trip? Myself and my girlfriend (Charlie) have a ritual that goes something like this: She is usually first up out of bed and has our dive kit ready in the lounge with a fruit smoothie waiting for me. We do a quick swell/wind/tide check. I load the car and drive to the dive site while she interprets that frustrating blue dot on google maps that can never follow the correct route. After our dive we return home via the dive shop to refill our tanks. Since diving can be time consuming and exhausting, we are usually a bit dehydrated and fatigued by the time we get home. To avoid taking out any frustrations out on each other we split chores. I do kit wash while she prepares espresso martinis. We then reconvene on our rooftop over-looking Bondi Beach, sipping cocktails and editing our dive photos. (She’s an amazing photographer too.)

Where is the last place you travelled? I visited the UK, Portugal and Qatar over Dec/Jan.

What is the happiest or funniest moment you’ve shared with anyone SCUBA Diving? One Sunday myself and a mate who is an exceptionally compentant diver decided to dive in South Bondi (at the beginning of the famous and crowded Bondi to Coogee walk) without checking surf conditions. We found parking a few streets back, we put all our gear on and walked down to the entry point – a long flat rock ledge. It was only upon arrival that we noticed big waves crashing over the ledge and hence rendering the dive site a bit tricky and dangerous. In order to make a safe entry, timing the set waves was very important. I managed to get lucky and scramble off the rock ledge during a break in the sets and swim into deeper water. My mate who followed seconds behind me was not so fortunate. When he jumped into the water a wave came, picked him up and deposited him back on the rock shelf about five meters from the edge of the rocks. Now picture this: he was sprawled face down, fully kitted up, tank, mask and all on a rock shelf a few yards from the water’s edge (like a diver but just not in water). For some unknown reason he decided the best course of action was to try crawling on his belly towards the water in full view of a cliff full of people. He looked like he was trying to swim on rocks. Funniest thing I’ve ever seen diving!

What do you think about technical diving? Recreational diving allows you to dive to a depth of 30-40 meters (depending on cert levels.) For me this is more than enough to have an awesome experience. While I would love to learn the skills required to go deeper, the cost involved, the risks to factor in and the additional planning required is off-putting. If I lived in an area where there were amazing ship-wrecks beyond 40 meters then I would invest in the training and equipment. However beyond a depth of 20 meters you start to lose colour and things begin to appear a greeny/blue and darker. The best diving is often shallower where you get plenty sunlight filtering through and rich colour.

Walk me through a day in your life. I work 9-5 during the week but myself and Charlie often get up early and dive in the mornings before work or sometimes do a night dive after we leave the office. When we not diving we go for runs on the beach, drink wine with our housemates, host dinners with mates, surf, spearfish, play underwater hockey, catch up on reading for our nerdy monthly book club, plan our next holiday or chill on the rooftop with friends and our eternally-on-diet but gorgeously fat cat called Tiger.

Where do you feel most like yourself? I’m generally a happy individual and I try see the funny side of most situations.I guess I’m happiest in the ocean but I’m also comfortable skipping about on two feet.

You photographed some incredible animals, everything from whales and dolphins to sharks and mantas to yellowfin tuna and bait balls. What has been your favorite wildlife encounter so far? Words won’t do this justice but I’ll try. Imagine coming up to five meters below the surface to do the usual three-minute safety stop after one of the most eventful dives in Sipadan (Malaysia) where we had seen such an amazing diverse array of sea life, in pristine waters. We got surrounded by a tornado of barracuda and reef sharks hunting in and out of the school of fish… it was simply mind blowing to just be present.

What goes through your mind when you’re in deep below the surface of the ocean?
The best way to describe it is very tranquil and surreal. It’s a bit like yoga and meditation but a feast for the senses and an awe of appreciation for how incredible the world is.

Who are the sportsmen or sportswoman’s you admire the most?
The ones that enjoy themselves but also give back to the world. Rob Stewart (free diver / tech diver) who unfortunately passed away two weeks ago was such an individual. He devoted his life to ocean conservation and died while completing Sharkwater: Extinction.

Where’s your next dive trip?
Fiji, to dive with tiger and bull sharks in August.

How would your friends describe you?
Well you might have to ask them, but likely something like forgetful, passionate, fun … but I guess they’d have to say that one! Haha

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