What is the image of scuba diving today? Looking at campaigns recruiting the younger generation it reminds me of an old guy putting on “hip” clothes and trying to act like he’s young again with the end result being the people not really wanting to be affiliated with him.
Like many sports, and thanks to the “Old Guys’ Club”, diving has historically been gender-biased, reeking of machismo and exclusivity. This attitude towards the sport, which may have been generated by the old school navy origins of diving, still has some surprising remnants existing in what I would consider a pretty progressive and forward thinking society. For example, have you ever been around scuba divers and heard (like I have) them use such expressions as “Be a Man”, “Don’t be a pussy”, “Put Your Big Girl Panties On”, or for example, the heading used in the Men’s Health magazine article on scuba diving (if anyone can find a link to this article that would be so appreciated) and promoted at the PADI Member Forum 2014 in Victoria, BC, Canada by PADI Canada Regional Manger Randy Giles on January 22nd, 2014: [the diving industry is] “A Man’s World”? I’ve even heard of DEMA shows where female employees weren’t invited and male employees were given cash for strip shows and lap dances.
No wonder the dive industry’s style department has only recently been pushed to the forefront. Female scuba divers’ only option has been to push through and fit their lovely bodies into dive suits that made them look like men, so that they could do the sport they loved. I imagine a scuba diver back then who expressed any interest in style or fashion (male or female) would have been castrated…Sylvia Earle remains every water woman’s hero for the incredible contributions she has done to ocean research in addition to have survived through all of that nonsense!
Now, that’s definitely not to say all scuba divers are like that – quite the contrary. Today things are changing as equipment manufacturers are starting to recognize that females make up a larger percentage of the diving industry (34% in 2012 according to the PADI Worldwide Corporate Statistics for 2007-2012). Industry leaders are beginning to create gear and marketing campaigns specifically for women.
However, as a female scuba diver, I feel the scuba dive industry has missed their mark in identifying what I really want.
The items on offer are totally unappealing and even lingering on (dare I say it??) sexist. Simply adding the colour pink or swirls and flowers feels condescending and doesn’t reflect my personality and style. Why aren’t there still any other options? I wonder if I’m alone in my opinions on this one.
Is this image of an unstylish, gender-biased dive industry all just in my head? Looking back at my career as a professional dive instructor serving recreational divers in hotels, on charter yachts, in dive shops, and in private lessons, here’s what I’ve observed about people who dive.
First and foremost, all scuba divers are incredibly passionate about the underwater world. I’ve taught diving to fantastically excited Arab women in private women-only swimming pools in Dubai, enjoyed underwater adventures with determined male and female divers in their 80s, and communicated emphatically with non-English speaking Italians about the most amazing dive we had just done together. The passion and enthusiasm in scuba divers is evident, not to mention contagious!
Divers are wildly (or sometimes timidly) adventurous. They are curious people who enjoy feeling the thrill of exposing themselves to a vastly different environment. Many love swimming out to the deep blue to hover in the water column without the bottom or surface in sight and be humbled by the great space that exists down there. Others are fascinated by the enormous number of animals both large and small to be seen and the excitement of chance encounters that render the diver feeling like they’ve just won the ultimate jackpot. Whether they’re diving the same lake or reef each time, or they’re traveling to the far corners of the world, desire to explore is a common thread among all.
Divers are social people. Dive shops are always a hub of activity and function as a place to gather and to talk diving (which divers LOVE to do!). Oftentimes, small bars and cafes will pop up inside a dive shop as divers enjoy a cup of coffee before their first dive of the day, and then of course the “post-dive beer alongside log book signing” is almost a mandatory part of scuba diving. Dive professionals become immediate friends, ready to provide a valuable source of information, and usually some of the coolest people on the planet.
So, if divers are passionate, adventurous, and social – how is it that the scuba diving market is just so damn lame?
Some of you may know that I’ve been working on a business idea for a women’s wetsuit, researching the market and paying particular attention to the scuba diver persona along with his/her lifestyle. What I’ve noticed is a huge disconnect in how they are represented by diving brands around the world.
The dive industry really started to gain momentum in the 1970s, cultivated primarily by men. It was defined BY them and designed specifically FOR them and as decades went on, these pioneers of scuba diving aged, leaving old guys with big beer bellies, a legacy of dated attitudes, a misrepresentation of who scuba divers really are, and an overall dowdy image of the sport. This may be a bold move, but I’d like to make a request and purposefully exclude all the overweight, out-of-shape and out-of-date scuba diving population who’ve come to dominate the scene.
I’d like to invite all those active, fun, and healthy individuals (both male and female) who have a thirst and yearning for living a life less ordinary to fulfill my dream of re-inventing the image of scuba diving.
My goal is to give a voice to all scuba divers from around the world of all ages, genders, and various cultural and economic backgrounds on this topic in order to determine the following hypotheses with solid concrete evidence:
1. There is an un-represented population of scuba divers.
2. It is possible to re-invent the image of scuba diving, showing who we are and inviting future generations of fit, healthy, confident scuba divers into our sport.
I want to hear from you – women, men, young, old, beginner and expert! Please let me know what you think about the image of scuba diving today and if you feel you are being accurately represented. Just drop me a personal email via DiveWithMia.com/ContactMia
or leave a message on Facebook.com/DiveWithMia
. Your feedback and that of your scuba diving friends is absolutely invaluable, so please share widely.
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