Written by Laura Kazimierska
Technical diving is long known to be a male-dominated sport, in many places it often still is, but times are changing. I’ve come across a lot of questions from female divers asking how I managed to overcome that gender seclusion in technical diving.
“Growing up” as a diver on the Gilis, I never felt discriminated against as a woman in a technical community, but I am aware that this is quite unusual. Passion for the sport grew naturally amongst my fellow divers and instructors (both female and male) and therefore we could learn from each other while gaining further experience.
Nonetheless, over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that we ladies might struggle to get into that discipline for various reasons in different places.
In this blog, I’m going to share my tips and tricks, from a woman’s perspective, on how to make your life easier when joining the technical diving industry without the overwhelming feeling that you don’t belong.
I’m writing from my own personal point of view, as I pursued my dream of becoming a tec diver despite all the testosterone floating around. I hope it will help you realize that technical diving might not be your cup of tea or reassure you that you’re on the right path.
I’m going to tell you now, I am going to be quite blunt about things. However, I am not trying to offend anyone with my opinions, just give honest, the first-hand experience without the buffer that you might find in other blogs.
Table of Contents
- Tip 1: First and for all, stop whining.
- Tip 2: Stop trying to prove anything to anyone.
- Tip 3: Ask for help.
- Tip 4: It’s not about the look, it’s about the comfort.
- Tip 5: Ladies time of the month.
- Tip 6: Get used to awkward jokes.
- Tip 7: If you made a mistake, admit it.
- Tip 8: Don’t hold it!
Tip 1: First and for all, stop whining.
Technical diving is not for sissies; it is hard sometimes. At the start, it can be very challenging, as is anything you do when you are learning new skills. It requires a strong state of mind and a bit of courage.
As you are dealing with the elevated risk compared to recreational diving, when surfacing is often not an option because of a decompression obligation. That’s why it is a good idea to do your Divemaster Training Course first and get your diving skills to an expert level before starting your technical diving adventure.
Tip 2: Stop trying to prove anything to anyone.
If you choose this sport to try to prove something to the world or to yourself and all you care about is pushing the limits while getting certification after certification, double-check if your motives are correct.
Chasing depth might not keep the passion for sport for too long and can be very dangerous.
Tip 3: Ask for help.
If you’ve ever had a twin set or a CCR (Closed Circuit Rebreather) on your back with a couple of stages on, plus a scooter, you know it’s heavy and you might not be able to carry everything by yourself.
As much as you can use different techniques of lifting, grabbing, pushing, pulling, and assembling sometimes it’s just not a one-woman job.
You have to just accept it, men are physically stronger than we are. It goes all the way back to the times of primitive societies and there is nothing wrong with that.
Ask for help and don’t feel bad about it, it doesn’t make you any weaker or a less valuable team member.
Tip 4: It’s not about the look, it’s about the comfort.
The diving market has changed in the last couple of years and there is so much to choose from as a woman. You can finally get the equipment in colours other than black (some of the colours are very feminine) a dive hood with cat ears, shaped like Nemo or like a hammerhead shark, pink surface marker buoys, and countless accessories that go with it.
Yes, diving with style is important, but remember not to compromise the reliability just for looks. Choose the equipment suitable for the conditions and environment you are going to be diving in and leave all the rest for another time.
Tip 5: Ladies time of the month.
Here’s where I’m going to be really blunt, I did warn you. If it’s your time of the month and you decide to share the info, just like you do with your girlfriends while you are surrounded by male divers, you might not get the understanding you are expecting.
I mean I get your pain girl, but most of the guys, as hard as they try, will not, and talking about it while getting ready for a dive might make things a bit awkward. Take a moment to check with yourself; if you are feeling such discomfort that you need to share it with everyone around, are sure you’re okay to dive?
Also, consider a more conservative dive plan as according to research, we are more susceptible to getting DCS in the first half of the menstrual cycle. Theoretically while menstruating because of fluid retention and tissue swelling, women are less able to get rid of dissolved nitrogen (read more about it).
This is, however, not definitively proven, but make sure to keep it in mind for your own health and safety. Like the whole PMS symptoms are not enough, right?!
Tip 6: Get used to awkward jokes.
The sooner you get comfortable with a questionable sense of humor the better. From personal experience, before and after the dive, weird (and even sometimes highly offensive) jokes are thrown around as natural banter between a team of mates.
Just go with it, be able to laugh at yourself or others, and don’t take it personally. Or if you think it’s rude, over-crosses your boundaries, and makes you feel uneasy try looking for a different team that suits you better.
If you are not comfortable with someone on the surface you might feel the same way underwater and that is the last thing you want on a deep dive.
Tip 7: If you made a mistake, admit it.
I know, it’s easy to blame gender discrimination among other things when your performance isn’t as good as it should be. When stuff does not go as you planned it’s important not to let the emotions get in your way.
As a tech diver, you need to forget about your ego. Today it is you, tomorrow will be someone else from the team so embrace it and be able to learn from your mistakes, they’re going to happen sooner or later in your diving career.
Tip 8: Don’t hold it!
The sooner you realize that peeing in your wetsuit is okay, the sooner you’ll feel better with yourself.
I mean come on! When you have over a 90-minute dive it is impossible for any well-hydrated human being to hold their bladder for that long. Plus, it’s not healthy!
A need for a wee is a natural body reaction to the change of pressure, temperature, circulation, and lack of gravity due to immersion. So just get over and go for it, but don’t forget to properly rinse your wetsuit after the dive.
I really hope that helps. Technical diving is still dominated by men, if you look at the statistics, however, there are plenty of inspiring female technical divers that overcame the stereotypes and did not stop pursuing their dreams to explore depths of the oceans, rivers, and caves.
The growing popularity of technical diving discipline amongst female divers, accessibility to proper training, and equipment is a sign of a new era in tech diving where the gender barriers are replaced with companionship and mutual respect. So you shouldn’t let anything or anyone stop you. Ever!
I hope you enjoyed it!