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Friday, July 15, 2016

The Unicorn - PADI International Womens Dive Day

"Let's go my unicorn" he said as we loaded up the rest of the dive gear into the courtesy shuttle.  It was parked just outside the dive shop in Fajardo, Puerto Rico on a perfect sunny day in February.  After an early morning and long day spent on the boat, with some great dives at sites around the Spanish Virgin Islands, the nickname still made me laugh.  

Why was the dive master calling me a unicorn?  Well, the story goes something like this, (and I just had to share it in honor of PADI Womens Dive Day tomorrow, Saturday July 16th).   

Photo Credit Diving Me Crazy
It is pretty rare for a 20 something female to walk onto a dive shop or onto a dive boat ready and excited to dive.  Not with her family, not because her boyfriend dragged her along.  On her own, with a full log book and bin full of gear because diving is a passion of hers and hers alone.   Every time I walk into a dive shop alone after scheduling a trip, I get the same look from the 50 something dive master or instructor.  You are here alone? to dive? and you have your own gear and how many dives under your belt?  Madeira, Azores, Puerto Rico and Utah, each expression, uncertainty and questioning when I walk into a dive shop was exactly the same.  

 It is even rarer when a 20 something female walking into a dive shop alone is confident, actually dives regularly (and in mucky cold water) and can jump in the water in a foreign place with a foreign group, and really represent themselves in a professional and experienced manner under the waterline.  And okay, by the time I flash a big smile and throw in a little charm, we can add in the fact that diving with attractive 20 somethings in bikinis is far more fun than watching an overweight 60-year-old guy squeeze into a wetsuit.  And so, a 20 something attractive young woman who can actually dive shows up on your dive trip...... according to the dive master she is as rare as a unicorn.  

And so the nickname "the unicorn" was born.  

That day, and all the others when men gave me the same weird expression really makes me analyze women in the world of diving.  Let's face it, the world of scuba diving is mostly a men's sport. In 2013 the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) reported its population of certified divers as 66 percent male and 34 percent female, and males represent 64 percent of insured DAN members Alert Diver

Not only is it dominated by men, but it almost always feels like it is dominated by men over 50.  There have been many times I have shown up to be one of just a few (or the only) women diving. According to DAN membership data from 2000 to 2006, the average age of male members was 44, the average age of female members was 42, and the average age of both sexes increased significantly over the four-year period.  Alert Diver   

If you are new to the sport or trying to get into it, this isn't the most welcoming vibe and trying to find other women to dive with can be a challenge.   While there is nothing wrong with middle aged men gearing up to go diving, it can create a pretty intimidating atmosphere. 

There are also many other factors that really prevent women (especially young women) from getting certified.  The class is long and is not cheap, the gear is very expensive, and a lot of it is just so darn heavy.  These factors combined seem to really put off the sport to many women, especially young women. 

One of the reasons I kept diving after my certification was because I found an awesome group of people I could dive with.   I met this group of amazing divers through my dive shop, and even met a few awesome women who dive (and we even have young women under 30).  Having a meetup every Wednesday where we get together and dive with every experience level (dive masters to newly certified) is an ideal environment, especially for anyone just starting. 
 I constantly joke that if it wasn't for this awesome group, I probably would have never dove again after my certification. The support, practice and friendships I have made through this group are key in my success and enjoyment as a diver.   

I am happy to report that while the numbers of women in the sport of diving are still much lower than men, they are starting to rise.  And yes, young people are saving up and are starting to move in the movement of spending your money on experiences like awesome dive trips instead of material things.  The shift won't be overnight, but all we can do, especially us young lady divers, is to encourage other women to enter the sport.  Encourage young women that although the weight is heavy, and the gear is expensive, and you will most likely be the only one in a bikini.....the rewards of time spent among the fish is worth it.  

In honor of Women's Dive Day tomorrow I hope to encourage more young ladies to get out there and dive.  Find your local PADI shop, and if you are certified, join your local dive group.  Happy Women's Dive Day and you know where to find me tomorrow.  

Happy Diving, 


1 comment :

  1. Represent the attractive, smart, diving women Katie! Woot woot! - Alicia @


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