Meet the Sheffield marine biologist in the running for Miss Scuba UK title
Shannon Allsop has dived in waters all over the world; from Tenerife and Egypt, to Malaysia, and Fuerteventura.
In the past 15 years, she’s seen incredible sights and fascinating creatures in some of the world’s most beautiful waters. It’s a long way from where she began her scuba adventures – learning in a small pool in Halfway, Sheffield.
“I love the weightless feeling you get when you’re under the water,” says Shannon, who was just eight years old when her dad read in The Star newspaper about a local diving school that was seeking new members for its PADI Seal team.
“I was hooked from the start. Once a month I’d go along and practice diving in the pool, and we’d do fun things like night dives with glow sticks and torches.
“My nan always said I was the easiest kid in the world on holiday, because as long as I had a pool I never needed anything else; I didn't even get out for ice cream!” laughs the 23-year-old, from Aston.
“I ended up qualifying, along with my dad, when I was 11 years old, and then we did our advanced qualification together when I was 12. Since then, I’ve never looked back.”
Today Shannon is just weeks away from graduating from Hull University with a degree in marine biology, and is currently in the running for Miss Scuba UK.
“I’ve always loved animals, and being underwater, so marine biology was an obvious choice to me,” explains Shannon.
“I saw the Miss Scuba UK competition on Facebook last year and decided to enter last minute. I’d never done anything like it before, and wasn't sure how I'd get on, but it was a lot of fun. I ended up coming third in the pageant, and winning the Miss Charity title for the most money raised throughout the competition, about £1,400.”
Miss Scuba UK is an annual pageant which aims to help raise awareness of marine conservation, whilst also working to get more UK women participating in scuba diving.
Shannon adds: “Not everyone who enters the competition has done any scuba diving, the whole point of the pageant is to encourage more women in this country to give it a try for themselves. The ethos is that once they witness the beauty of the underwater world, people will be more inclined to want to help protect it.
“This year I’d love to walk away as Miss Scuba UK. As the only girl previously to have placed in the top three, to be a professional scuba diver, and a marine biologist, I’m hoping I stand a good chance.
“I’d also love to retain my Miss Charity title, and as part of that I’ve committed to taking on 10 challenges over the summer which I’m hoping will raise at least £1,500 for the pageant’s two charities - Deptherapy, and the MND Association.”
Shannon’s challenges include: a 5K run in a wet-suit, sitting in a baked bean paddling pool for two hours, a 24-hour sponsored silence, letting her boyfriend do her make-up for one week, no phone for a week, no swearing for a month, wearing her PJs to work for a week, an ice-bucket challenge, a beach clean and litter pick, and giving up sweet things for a month.
“Last year I just did the 5K run, but this year I really wanted to show my commitment, giving up things that would be hard for me, and taking on some fun and silly challenges.
“I have a massive sweet tooth, so I'm not looking forward to giving up sweet things, and I’ve already started my week of PJs to work, at William Hill where I work part time.
“I'm starting my week without a phone next week, which anyone my age will understand is going to be really difficult, but I have to say the thing I'm most nervous about is the run in a wet-suit, as I know how hot and difficult that’s going to be.”
Shannon plans to be done with all her challenges and fundraising ahead of the pageant on August 16, which is being held this year in Sheffield, at the Royal Victoria Hotel. The Miss Scuba UK winner will go on to represent the UK in the international finals later this year in Malaysia.
“The competition takes place over two days,” explains Shannon.
“There will be a pool session on the first day, for everyone to have a go at diving, followed by a photoshoot.
“The next day is the actual pageant, with a full day of rehearsals, interviews with the judges, and all the different rounds – including of course evening wear, and swimsuits. Finally everyone has to give a speech, about themselves and why they think they’d be the right choice for Miss Scuba UK.
“It’s actually going to be nice for me to go back to the Royal Victoria for the competition; it’ll be familiar territory, as my proms were both held there!”
Shannon is being sponsored in the competition by Owlerton Stadium. She is holding a charity event there this Saturday, which she hopes will raise more money towards her charitable total.
“I'm off to a great start,” she says. “I’ve already raised £1,200 with some charity collections, a raffle, and family and friend donations.
And in the meantime, Shannon still takes every opportunity she can to do the thing that inspired it all - diving.
“My step-mum loves to dive too, so it’s a family pastime now, and we get away to dive together whenever we can.”