By Sarah Richard
The founder of the world’s largest all-female scuba diving community explains why more women should consider the sport.
As the gap between male and female scuba divers’ tightens—with 32% of the diving industry now made up of female divers, instructors, photographers, conservationists and even those who catalogue shipwrecks—it has been amazing to see women come together as an ever-expanding community of underwater lovers.
My passion-project-turned-business, Girls That Scuba, is the world’s largest community for women passionate about scuba diving. I started it in 2016 to inspire more women to consider the sport when working as a Divemaster (and the only female staff member) on a liveaboard in Micronesia.
Now our global community is 700,000 strong, with experienced scuba instructors and full-time ocean activists through to the courageous, the curious and those who have never even put on a scuba mask.
We can attribute increasing female interest in scuba to numerous factors. First and foremost, scuba diving is empowering. Not only does diving push you out of your comfort zone (for most of us, it takes a certain amount of courage to face the fear of breathing under the water!), but there is still the aspect of breaking through the proverbial ‘boys club’ mentality.
Only recently have brands started making diving equipment specifically for women and wetsuits bigger than a size 12. Shocking when you consider that the average UK female is a size 16.
Feeling comfortable with body size and shape is just one of the challenges that women have to face when getting underwater, which is part of the reason I created Girls That Scuba – to offer space for women to come together to discuss obstacles to being a female in a male-dominated industry.
Another benefit to diving is that it takes us to beautiful, sun-kissed corners of the world, where you can find idyllic beaches and islands surrounded by crystal clear waters just begging to be explored (check out this expert guide to the best underwater cameras).
And if you are among the many solo female travellers “wanderlusting” their way around the globe, coming together as part of the diving community is a fantastic way to find like-minded friends to travel with.
Scuba diving certainly takes travellers off the beaten path and, over time, will influence the types of trips you take. For example, wellness travellers looking for luxury will love the diving opportunities in the Maldives. At the same time, those newer to the sport might see a dedicated scuba trip as a perfect opportunity to learn.
Every year, Girls That Scuba runs dive holidays to the Red Sea Jordan, a favourite among newer divers as there is a balance between land and underwater excursions, and the sites we dive at are accessible to all levels. Equipment is taken care of, meaning guests can relax and enjoy the ride.
More experienced divers will likely take themselves off to Flores, Komodo Island or Raja Ampat – all in the lesser trodden paths of Indonesia – and those with specialist skills will love diving with sharks in Costa Rica or cave diving in the cenotes of Mexico. In short, scuba presents wannabe mermaids with an inspiring lifelong bucket list of incredible destinations you’ll be itching to tick off.
Another aspect is the environmental benefit. It’s impossible not to want to make a difference once you’ve experienced the connection scuba diving gives you to the ocean. Being surrounded by marine life has made me, along with many of the other women in our conscious community, make much better daily decisions that support the future of our seas.
For example, the awareness of the consequences of single-use plastic is heightened when physically collecting plastic from the water so it can be recycled or disposed of properly.
What’s more, should you take your diving experience to the Advanced Open Water level or beyond, then you can further your qualifications by booking ecology-focused courses, like Coral Propagation, where you can give back to the ocean by “planting” new reefs or Megafauna Weeks where you can learn how to support the ecology for gentle giants such as whale sharks and manta rays.
Finally, there are also incredible health benefits associated with diving. While you might enjoy the sensation of feeling weightless as you move through the water during a dive, due to the resistance, your muscles work harder than they do out of water. The more you dive and swim, the more your muscles lengthen, build strength and develop endurance and flexibility.
Steady, regular breathing is essential when diving to conserve and optimize your air consumption. This inevitably has a positive impact on your parasympathetic nervous system, reducing heart rate and calming the mind. As mentioned, most dive destinations tend to be warmer parts of the world with it a healthy dose of sunshine – which can only do great things for your body, mind and soul.
Whether you’re brand new to diving and are in need of advice, looking for fellow females to dive with, hoping to take your skillset from a recreational diver to studying the likes of biodiversity, or planning the trip of a lifetime by joining a dedicated diving retreat, I’d encourage you to join women making waves in the industry at Girls That Scuba.
All photos credit Girls That Scuba / identified photographer