Thumbing through the pages of a global diving magazine recently, the influence of females within the sport was obvious. Glamorous models sporting heated under garments, pink fins, purple masks, multi coloured computers, BCDs and wetsuits designed for the female shape were just a sample of the adverts. There was even news on the latest Miss SCUBA International finalists! A clear shift within the industry towards females has occurred over the past decade and dive gear manufacturers have jumped on the band wagon, hook, line and sinker. Clearly there is money to be made from attracting female divers!
It seems that the shift from the macho image of diving to a softer side, a side that is perhaps more attractive to females, is working. PADI statistics now show that approximately 50% of entry level dive courses are completed by females and my experience as a PADI instructor would not be too far from a 50/50 split either. Even a review of the DiveBuzz Facebook page reveals that females account for almost 50% of our fans.
Where are all the dive girls?
So girls are certainly learning to dive and, like it or loathe it, they are clearly buying pink gear like it’s (pardon the pun) going out of fashion! But in the words of Lara Bingle, where the hell are they? I ask this off the back of a typical weekend for me, a weekend of course spent in the water. The dive boat yesterday was packed, packed full of men! At our local shore dive today, the beach was similarly packed, packed full of male divers. Arguably, the conditions today were not the best. Un-seasonally cool and blowing 25 knots but as I say, the boys were still there in hoards! My observation about the lack of girls actually getting out there is validated by data from DEMA who calculate that “active” divers are predominantly male (86% male in fact).
So why is this? What is it about the sport that, despite clearly being attractive to ladies, is not holding their attention? I do not know the answer to this, if I did I would undoubtedly be a rich woman! I can, however, draw on my own experiences as a female diver, particularly in the formative years as a diver and share some insights.
Like so many, I learnt to dive whilst holidaying in the tropics: warm water, easy diving, no currents, great viz, bikini clad with hardly any weight required. How could you not enjoy that? Unlike many divers however, I wanted to bring my new found skill home with me. For those in the know, diving in temperate water is a whole different game to diving in the tropics! Often challenging conditions, with low viz, big swells, strong currents and cold water. As an inexperienced diver, switching from tropical to temperate diving proved to be a real challenge. I recall sitting on boats in driving rain, battling sea sickness, descending down anchor chains violently jerking up and down, surge, physically shaking with the cold, blue lips, cheap Cuppa soups on surface intervals, an unreasonable the fear of sharks, the list goes on. My diving experiences in the early days were certainly not always glorious, definitely not glamorous and seldom not even enjoyable. I kept at it though, and this is the important bit. I plugged away and came through the other side and diving has now changed my life, irreversibly. But how did I achieve this?
I have a very vivid memory during my early diving experiences of waiting for the dive boat one morning. I was the only female amongst a crowd of typical dive blokes. Big, macho guys, clad head to toe in black neoprene, big knives strapped to their legs, big dive computers, twin tanks, big camera rigs and so on. Whilst I am sure they were not intentionally ignoring me, I felt like an outsider as they played with their toys, applied Vasoline to their beards and spoke in what seemed to be a foreign language to me, the lingo of SCUBA. I suppose, even for me, this was a little intimidating. I say, even for me, as for those that know me, I am a very confident, independent and competitive individual, and used to working in a male dominated environment.
Escaping your inner princess
Whilst I was a little intimidated by this, it did not deter me. And here perhaps, is the key to success for all those female divers out there. Perseverance. Like so many things in life, it’s all about attitude. Knowledge will get you close, but attitude will get you through the bad times, keep you coming back until you are skilled enough to enjoy every dive be it in good, bad or indifferent conditions. In my humble opinion (and I can say this as a female!), I believe that when the going gets tough, females are more likely to drop out than our male counterparts. Now before I get shot down by the feminists amongst you, really, we are no different to males. Yes indeed, females are not as physically strong as males, but underwater, we are all equal; weightlessness and buoyancy makes strength irrelevant. So controversially, in the infamous words of my IDC Course Director, perhaps it is time for all the wannabe female divers to apply some lotion, the lotion is called “toughen the f#@$ up!” Persevere to come through difficult conditions to be a more confident, better diver. You will not regret it and, after all, you only get out of life what you put into it.
I know quite a few experienced female divers. Come rain or shine, they are out there. Aside from sharing a passion for all things SCUBA, I would argue that the experienced, active female divers within our sport also share something else. They are all strong, confident women, they are independent, they have attitude! Diving attracts females into the sport with the lure of exploration, weightlessness, adventure and, perhaps these days, pink masks and fins! The sport is, however, a serious sport. It is gear intensive, cumbersome out of the water, can be expensive and it wrecks your hair! For the true women of diving, however, this is a small price to pay for the rewards that the underwater world offers. So what are all you ladies waiting for? Override your inner princess, get a bit the attitude and get out there time and time again. I promise you, it will be worth it!
Top tips for dive girls!
To get you through the other side, here are J9′s top 10 tips for SCUBA diver girls.
- Treat yourself to a pedicure but hold off on the manicure, you are wasting your money! They won’t last longer than one dive!
- Do you have long hair? Get a mask tamer for your mask. Keep a bottle of conditioner in your dive bag so that when you return from your dive you can rub a small amount through your locks to make them easy to comb through and knot free.
- Wear sufficient thermal protection – yes, I believe, girls do get colder than boys! So plan for this by wearing the right fitting and correct gear for the conditions. Get your own wetsuit that fits well, wear an additional layer, such as a Sharkskin, underneath. And if temperate water diving, splash out on a dry suit!
- Buy your own dive gear, and when you do, buy girl specific gear. BCDs and wetsuits that are specifically designed for the female shape will be a much better fit. For some reason, manufacturers seem to think that all girls love pink, but you can find pink-free alternatives if you prefer!
- Buy a dive tub and a trolley. Dive gear is heavy and cumbersome to transport around, so invest in a foldaway trolley to lug it to and from the dive boat or dive site. A trolley with a plastic dive tub secured with a bungey cord is very effective.
- Get a weight integrated BCD. Because girls have hips, weight belts loaded with lead are uncomfortable, so invest in a BCD where you can load the majority of your weights into the quick release pouches to enhance your comfort. If you are a temperate water diver and require more weight than the BCD manufacturer recommends to be used in the pouches, you can still use a weight belt in addition to the pouches. This additional belt will obviously have a lot less weight loaded on than just a weight belt alone, and hence, will still be a lot more comfortable solution.
- Get fit, get strong. Strong is the new skinny! So getting strong via weight training will not only help to make you look great in your bikini, but will also help in carrying your tanks, weights and accessories. Remember though, there will always be lots of big hairy blokes around more than willing to help a diving damsel in distress!
- Recognise your strengths. We can always beat the boys on air consumption so get competitive!
- Don’t wear make up. Even the best waterproof mascara will smudge when you take your mask off. Keep in mind that when your dive buddies see you in a non-diving environment with hair brushed and make-up on, they’ll think you are really hot!
- Get wet, again and again: dive, dive, dive. Passion can be man or woman-made! We were not all diving naturals but with perseverance, you’ll get there. And when you do, it will provide some of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of your life, and the challenges along the way will fade into insignificance.
Are you a dive girl? Do you have any tips for other female divers finding their way in the sport? Do any boys have any tips for the dive girls out there? Share them below in the comments.