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Paying it forward

SuuntoDive — 8 September 2023

Last summer underwater explorer Jill Heinerth joined forces with a passionate young diver. That partnership turned out to be transformative for them both.

Text and images by Jill Heinerth

Last summer, I embarked on a transformative journey alongside the passionate young environmental scientist, Kayla Martin. It was a season that left an indelible mark on both our lives, a tale of mentorship, perseverance, and the power of community.

Kayla Martin playing in the sea foam in Les Escoumins.
Kayla Martin playing in the sea foam in Les Escoumins. 


The story began when I seized a unique opportunity to nurture Kayla's burgeoning talent. She was a beacon of potential, and I was determined to foster her growth. Drawing upon the network of organizations that support me, I took a leap of faith and dipped into my personal funds to launch an expedition. This venture was more than just a scientific mission; it was the next step in her career in environmental science and communication.

As we prepared for the adventure that lay ahead, we ventured into local waters, diving to enhance our skills in the cold underwater environments we were about to explore and document. Yet, it didn't take long for me to realize that Kayla needed more reliable gear to navigate these unforgiving waters. In this critical moment, when determination met resourcefulness, Suunto came to our aid by transferring my annual gear support to her. Hollis, recognizing the importance of our mission, provided Kayla with a state-of-the-art sidemount harness, and Fourth Element crafted a snug, protective drysuit to keep her warm in the chilly depths. I passed along essential equipment like a backup computer, undergarments, and various other items she required for our underwater expedition.

A small plane lies in a freshwater quarry in Quebec, one of the first stops on their expedition.
A small plane lies in a freshwater quarry in Quebec, one of the first stops on their expedition.


The result was a remarkable collaboration that transcended the boundaries of our initial project. Our shared dedication to environmental preservation and scientific exploration continues to flourish. Fast forward to the present day, and Kayla has emerged as a trailblazing leader in her field. This year, she is at the helm of an expedition dedicated to surveying an undocumented shipwreck, an endeavor that exemplifies her unwavering commitment to education, conservation, and groundbreaking environmental research.

Our journey serves as a testament to the profound impact that a helping hand and the right tools can have on shaping a promising career. Diving is an expensive passion, and the financial barriers often deter young enthusiasts from pursuing studies that could safeguard our precious planet. This experience has reinforced the belief that if you encounter a young and eager individual in your midst, someone who harbors the potential to be a future leader in their field, consider rallying your community to lend support. When we equip and empower the next generation, the possibilities are limitless, and together, we can shape a brighter future for our world.



Watch now: How Great Lakes Freshwater is Linked to the Ocean




More people have walked on the moon than have been to some of the remote places Jill Heinerth has explored on Earth. Jill Heinerth is a veteran of over thirty years of scientific diving, filming/photography, and exploration. Her expeditions include the first dives inside Antarctica icebergs and record-breaking scientific missions in deep underwater caves worldwide.

Jill’s book INTO THE PLANET – My Life as a Cave Diver has drawn wide acclaim from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and even Oprah magazine. Her children’s book, THE AQUANAUT, has been selected by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library as a part of her inspirational initiative. Jill bought her first Suunto gear in 1988 and still dives with Suunto.

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