Diving is an expensive hobby and for many underwater enthusiasts, the only way to stay submerged is to mix business with pleasure. Luckily, the dive industry has a lot of frontiers, and it rewards ingenuity. That’s how it went for Sarah Richard who saw an unmet need in the community that turned out to be the perfect place to carve out her niche. The result? Girls That Scuba — a network of women that share a passion for diving, travel, and fun.
Now in its third year, GTS grew out of Sarah’s desire to find like-minded dive buddies. She knew that not everyone wants or needs to be a serious diver, that even those who only dive on vacation may want to be part of a community. Her aim was to encourage more young people, especially women, to come diving with her. And with almost forty thousand members in her Facebook group, it seems like she’s made more than just a good start.
It wasn’t long before women began asking her to put together dive trips. Sarah was only too happy to do so, focusing on keeping the trips affordable, and thus more accessible to young people. GTS branded merchandise was next, once again growing out of community demand. Gone are the days of a male-dominated sport.
“I’m a girl,” she says. “I like to scuba and freedive and I want girlfriends to do it with. When you come on a GTS trip, you know it’s going to be fun, young girls.”
In 2019 she organized eight trips, including a recent one to Jordan and Egypt where guests got to freedive with dolphins. There are even more on the docket for 2020–twelve to be precise — and that’s not all Sarah’s been up to.
Within a year of getting GTS launched she began to develop Girls That Freedive. Seeing an unnecessary divide between scuba and freedivers, she encourages women to try it just to see if they like it, to see if diving without gear will add fresh fuel to their interest in diving. Her belief is that freediving is a natural extension of scuba, and vice-versa — whatever keeps women in the water.
To that end, she’s been developing retreats and camps for Girls That Freedive. The retreats are for women who scuba dive but have never done any breath-hold diving. After seven days of workshops, discussions, and training, nine women emerge as freshly-minted freedivers. They even get a chance to use their new skills, freediving in the open sea with gentle, giant whale sharks.
Like the retreats, the camps are also limited to nine guests but are open to freedivers of any certification level. With three female instructors, the GTF camps offer a 3-1 training ratio for $2000, including accommodation. Guests dive every day in the gorgeous cenotes of the Yucatán.
Now that GTF is blowing up, Suunto has sent Sarah a D5, but her relationship with them goes back much farther. When she first began diving, she knew she wanted a Suunto computer right off the bat–all the dive pros were talking about them, and they had the only colorful option on the market.
With thousands of dives logged, a divemaster certification, and a successful scuba blog, she took a chance and reached out to Suunto to see if they would be interested in partnering with her. They sent her a mint green D4, and the rest is history.
She still loves that D4 for scuba, but the D5 has a great freedive mode. Its screen brightness is adjustable and can be set super-bright for night dives, glowing perpetually so you don’t need to keep pushing the button over and over to check your stats. It’s reliable, shows your entire dive profile, and isn’t massively conservative when it comes to the algorithm. Sarah especially likes that the straps come in lots of colors and are easy to change–a fun feature that makes the D5 a star in form as well as function. It’s safe to say that Suunto is going along on all twelve of her 2020 dive trips.
The next horizon Sarah’s set her sights on is in a still more professional direction. She’s growing GTS to include Girls That Teach Scuba. In addition to facilitating a network of women making their living in scuba as instructors or dive business owners, this will include online profiles that highlight how they did it, how they’re doing it, and what a day in their life looks like.
“There’s no ready-made path,” says Sarah. “You have to find a way in.” But she isn’t pulling the ladder up behind her. In the end, she’s made a place for herself by making a place for all women who love to dive. As the nucleus of such an expansive group, Sarah’s doing her part to shape the future of diving–and her idea of the future looks a lot more female.
“I would love in like ten years’ time for a young girl to say to me, ‘Why do we need Girls That Scuba?'” It’s a grand aspiration, but in the meantime, Sarah’s going to work hard and play hard, and she’d love for you to join her.
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