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After breaking world records and training movie stars, B.C. free diver becomes police dispatcher

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Courtenay, B.C. -

For as long as Mandy-Rae Krack can recall, the water has inspired wonder.

“I was a water baby!” Mandy-Rae recalls before showing photos of herself as a baby in a pool and as a child wearing flippers and a snorkel by a lake. “I absolutely loved being underwater.”

While she made the most of living in nowhere-near-the-ocean Alberta by competing in synchronized swimming competitions, it was the discovery of a book about scuba diving in her high school library that proved to be a life-changer.

“There you go,” Mandy-Rae recalls thinking. “I’m going to be a dive instructor!”

So, after graduating, Mandy-Rae saved up enough money to by her own scuba equipment, drove out to the West Coast and became a certified instructor. Later, she was introduced to free diving.

“It just clicked,” Mandy-Rae appreciated the possibilities of diving unencumbered by oxygen tanks. “Animals approach you more readily and the world opened up.”

While she relished being able to swim effortlessly alongside humpback whales (with the photos to prove it), Mandy-Rae also realized she could dive deeper than anyone else she knew.

Thanks to a competitive spirit, strong work ethic, and innate talent, Mandy-Rae ended up setting more than a dozen national records and seven world records, including free-diving down 136 meters — deeper than the height of a 43-storey building.

“And you’re like, ‘Wow! I’m at world record depth,’” Mandy-Rae recalls with a laugh. “And then you’re like, ‘OK! I've got to get up!’ And you snap back to reality and start making your way back-up (to the surface) because you’re only halfway there.”

Mandy-Rae’s accomplishments under the sea led her to train Olympic athletes, special ops, and iconic golfers (Tiger Woods).

She was also featured on the Oprah Winfrey show after working with magician David Blaine, and played a pivotal role in the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove."

The list of movie stars she’s worked with includes Tom Cruise, who was taught how to hold his breath underwater for six minutes to film a scene for "Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation."

“(Tom Cruise) was a very nice guy,” Mandy-Rae says before snapping her fingers. “He picks up stuff like that. Amazing student.”

But after taking time to focus on raising her daughter, Mandy-Rae sold her business and found herself looking for a new career during the pandemic.

“It was frightening trying to get back into the job market,” Mandy-Rae recalls.

Though she had many transferable skills after running her business, employers seemed reluctant to hire a 47-year-old without a diploma, until Mandy-Rae happened upon an online posting for a job that required the sort of skills you can’t teach that she had — stepping up and staying calm during dangerous situations.

“They could see what I could bring to the table and not dock me for being old,” Mandy-Rae says. She was hired to be a 9-1-1 police dispatcher.

After working as a dispatcher for a few years now, Mandy-Rae says it's proving to be just as exciting, challenging, and satisfying as being a diver.

“Teaching free diving was opening somebody up to the possibilities of what they achieve,” Mandy-Rae says. “(Being a dispatcher) I could also make a significant impact in someone’s life by bettering the outcome of a situation.”

And whether you're training to be the world's best or striving to make your community safer, Mandy-Rae says the key is to "dive deep."

“If you have a thought and you want to try something, go full into it and it can happen,” Mandy-Rae smiles. 

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