In our two decades of being online, we’ve seen various revolutions in how people interact and share their passions for diving online. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have brought together a global audience of divers sharing their experiences like never before.
One of the most prominent and active groups at the moment is the female-only dive community Girls That Scuba (GTS). From humble beginnings of 100 members, they have grown to a Facebook group of 36,000+ and a combined broader social media following of over 550,000 across a number of sub-groups and Instagram profiles.
We caught up with the founder Sarah Richard as the community turns three today.
DeeperBlue.com: How did GTS get started?
Sarah Richard: The actual set up of Girls that Scuba was when I was living in Hong Kong in a 15th story apartment – I couldn’t have been further away from the ocean, but it was then I finally thought it was time to start a female scuba diving group after coming back from working in Micronesia, being the only female member of staff and receiving one too many sexist comments. I researched to see if there was already a female dive community I could join and reach out to other women to see how they dealt with these kinds of comments, but none existed. So I just thought I’d do it myself and I created a private Facebook group for women only where female divers could support each other and discuss any problems and challenges in scuba diving alongside sharing stories and successes. The next day I woke up to 100 members and thought my job was done – I’d created a female dive community where we could support and triumph each other. 3 years later there are now 36,000 women in our facebook group and a combined network of 550,000 followers/members. I definitely never expected that.
DB: What’s your background and diving history?
SR: I did my first dive in 2009 and like most of us was hooked straight away. I slowly went through courses as I traveled and eventually completed my Divemaster in 2014. From there I went on to get a job as a Divemaster in Truk Lagon, Micronesia, the wreck capital of the world, which was where I first saw the need for a female dive community. After starting GTS I’ve had the opportunity to dive more than ever and have dived in over 30 countries around the world, and had some truly magical experiences.
DB: Why a female-only group?
SR: Simply; it was needed. If not for the figures (PADI report a 30/70% female to male ratio in professional diving) but for the women who also shared my stories. Girls that Scuba is not about sexism or man-hating at all, we have different needs and concerns. For example – and quite frankly – men don’t have periods, and some women don’t feel comfortable asking a man if they can dive on their period but would feel comfortable asking a woman. If our group makes just one woman feel more comfortable with asking that question and subsequently enjoying her diving without any feelings of awkwardness, then we have done our job.
DB: It’s not all just about the Facebook group though is it?
SR: Today we celebrate our Facebook group – and the beginning of Girls that Scuba – turning 3, however since then many more branches of the Girls that Scuba network has been born. We have 17 social media channels but our main groups are Girls that Scuba, Girls that Tech Dive and Girls that Freedive. We run international group trips encouraging women to try something new and travel to different places, “GTS Day’s” around the world where women congregate to celebrate female empowerment and diving, have a GTS store with eco-friendly products and donations to ocean charities, a membership discount scheme and most recently a plastic and waste-free shop.
DB: You’ve also managed to create a membership system for GTS members – what’s that all about?
SR: Our membership scheme gives back to any woman who has ever been targeted by “pink tax” (yes, it’s a thing) and also gives dive centers a way of reaching out to our audience too. We have tons of scuba diving brands offering exclusive discounts, over 125 dive centers around the world offering 10% off diving and 225 liveaboards with 5% off the trip, alongside discount on courses, photography and dive expeditions. Members also get the first look at GTS trips and a chance to book the first places.
DB: And the dive trips you host?
SR: Our dive trips are one of my things about GTS, other than the obvious of getting to dive around the world, I get a chance to meet so many amazing women and get to watch women step out of their comfort zones and create unbreakable friendships along the way. Our freedive retreats start next week where 20 female scuba divers will be turned into freedivers too, another side of diving and a new experience to be learned all together. Then we have ( sold out) trips to Egypt, Jordan, and Socorro, going into 2020 see’s us head to Cocos islands (a few places left), Baja California, and some more secret destinations soon to be released. Getting to dive around the world with this awesome community truly is the best job in the world.
DB: You’ve spoken at several events around the world around women in diving – what should the industry be hearing and paying attention to?
SR: I think public speaking about women in diving is very important – there’s something more relatable when you watch someone talk over reading an article or social media post alongside the audience getting to see your personality and passion. I do feel like the people I try to reach out to the most aren’t always the ones listening though; the brands are the ones I always want to listen. To listen to what scuba women really want, and realize there is a whole community of thousands of women willing to tell them exactly that – for free. We want the brands to make scuba diving more relatable and encouraging by not just adding a splash of pink and saying their wetsuit or BCD is more for females, but by really looking into sizing and colors. Scuba diving should also be fun, and encouraging community, no matter the gender, is always something I want to talk about.
DB: This has grown beyond just you when you started GTS, how many people are involved around the world?
SR: Girls that Scuba isn’t me. It’s us. It is every woman involved, on every corner of the planet, but logistically we have a large group of admins who help with the facebook groups, we have a social media manager, trip leaders, event organizer, shop manager, and an amazing group of supporters and friends who are always helping out. In the furture, I’d love to start an ambassador program and have incredible women based all around the world encouraging more girls to scuba!
DB: What does the future hold for GTS?
SR: The future is, and always will be the community. Our community are the ones telling us, reminding us, showing us how we can improve, grow and flourish. It was the FB group members who asked for GTS group trips, Instagram followers who asked for GTS merchandise, women at dive shows who asked for discount and girls we met underwater who asked for more meet up events. So if you ask us, you may just get it…
The future also holds a lot of exciting new group trip destinations, a project which involves some microphones and some amazing guests (any guesses?) more conservation work and a whole lot more girl power!
DB: How does someone find out more about GTS?
SR: Join us at facebook.com/groups/girlsthatscuba. Read articles at www.girlsthatscuba.com and keep up to date with trips and new projects by subscribing to our newsletter at www.girlsthatscuba.com/newsletter