Red Sail Sports has hired 18-year-old local resident Lej Batiste as the newest member of its professional dive staff. He is the first Caymanian to complete his divemaster certification through the company’s dive training program since Red Sail Sports began offering dive services in Grand Cayman 30 years ago. Batiste joined Red Sail Sports as an intern with the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC) work experience programme, and quickly established himself as an enthusiastic employee, an avid diver and a young man with a plan for the future.
“I made my first dive in the summer of 2015 and have been hooked ever since,” said Batiste. “As a Caymanian, I would like to have a career in the dive industry on the environmental side. I am planning to study marine science, and I would like to one day work with the Department of the Environment (DOE).”
When he first started, Batiste worked with Red Sail Sports two days a week, unpaid, around his school schedule, but he frequently asked to work on Saturdays, also unpaid. When the work experience placement ended, Batiste asked for, and got, a temporary summer job. The summer job soon became a full-time offer and his dive training continued. Red Sail Sports dive staff embraced the enthusiastic student and his training became a team effort, although Serena Evans signed off on his certifications.
“Lej has a fantastic work ethic and our staff members are happy to have him on the boats because he’s helpful and very keen to learn,” she said. “He’s also great with the customers.”
Penny McDowall, a frequent guest on the Red Sail Sports boats, agrees. “Lej is definitely an asset as a divemaster, such a good young man, very conscientious about the customers. He’s eager to learn and always polite, and he is not afraid to try something on the boat,” she said. “He’s always asking me if I have brought cookies (which I do!) with a cheeky grin on his face.”
Red Sail Sports Dive Manager Clive Webb says the young Caymanian is fitting right in. “Due to his work ethic on the dive boats during his work experience, he started getting a well-deserved share of the tips as well.”
Lej Batiste is making plans to continue his career path with his scuba experience. He started his education in marine biology through a summer program with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) in Little Cayman and Grand Cayman. Lej was one of 11 Caymanian students awarded scholarships to study sea ecology during the summer of 2015.
“We spent a week on Little Cayman at their headquarters, as well as much time in the waters of Grand Cayman,” he said. “I learned about coral planting and regeneration; about the invasive lionfish and culling programmes, as well as practical skills such as putting in moorings,” he said.
Lej Batiste is an example of what Cayman dive industry leaders would love to see more of, young Caymanians involved and passionate about diving and the precious natural resources of their home. Red Sail Sports Operations Manager Rod McDowall says the company’s commitment to community education and conservation programs has consistently led them to support work experiences for young Caymanians like Lej.
“You have to be prepared to put in the hard work early to get your dive qualifications, but after that, all kinds of careers open up — from Dive Instructor to Boat Captain, Underwater Photography and much more,” said McDowall. “Lej has that work ethic and desire to succeed, and the hard work doesn’t seem so hard when you enjoy what you are doing so much. We’ll be here to support Lej as he moves ahead in his career.”
The 18-year-old plans to return to college full time in September to study marine conservation. And he encourages others to take a look at the dive industry, for fun or for a career path.
“Try it! There are so many opportunities all over the island to do a try dive. 71% of the world is underwater and 99% of people never get to experience it,” he points out. “I would like other Caymanians, my age and younger, to learn about their marine heritage and protect it for the future.
About Red Sail Sports
Red Sail Sports, a member of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association is a leading resort based dive and watersports operator. Since 1987 it has been setting the standard on Grand Cayman by providing the highest level of guest services. On Seven Mile Beach Red Sail Sports operates locations at the Westin Resort, the Marriott Resort, and the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman. At remote East End the company has a watersports shop at Morritt’s Tortuga Club. On North Side Red Sail Sports offers watersports activities at the Rum Point Club. The company offers several dive packages through its affiliation with island hoteliers.