A year has flown by since we celebrated PADI Womens Dive Day 2015, with our girl powered blog focusing on the women of Master Divers. I for one, am proud to be around in an era where diving is so accessible to women, as this was not always the case! For decades, nautical folklore and pirate legend alike held the belief that a woman aboard a ship was bad luck. It was rumored that if you dared to brave the blue with a female in tow, your ship would surely meet a watery grave. Today, women are on the front lines of ocean exploration, marine conservation, and, of course, diving. In honor of PADI Women in Diving day 2016, we would like to highlight a few individuals who have forged a path for women in this industry by dedicating their lives to diving and the ocean.
Dottie Frazier – 1922-present
Dottie Frazier was born in 1922. She began freediving for lobsters in her early teens off the coast of California. Prior to WWII, diving derbies were growing in popularity, and before too long, Dottie was participating – often as the only female. In her 20’s, Dottie left a secretarial job when a friend’s deckhand had an appendix burst just before the boat was to depart on a fishing trip. She quickly became one of the only females involved in commercial fishing industry. Dottie continued freediving for over 20 years before a friend finally convinced her to try scuba. Up until this point, Dottie, like many of her free diving contemporaries, viewed scuba to be sissy equipment that allowed unqualified divers to enter the free divers’ realm. In 1955, Dottie would make history when she became the first female scuba diving instructor. She went on to be the first female owner and operator of a dive shop, and she would start her own line of custom tailored wetsuits that would be distributed across the United States.
Sylvia Earle – 1935-present
Sylvia Earle, also known as “Her Deepness,” is an oceanography, author, lecturer, and entrepreneur who has clocked over 7,000 hours under water. Throughout her career, Sylvia has been pushing boundaries leaving countless scientific breakthroughs and esteemed accolades in her wake. Always driven by her own curiosity, Sylvia rarely shied away from an opportunity to go deeper or stay longer beneath the waves. In 1970, She captained an all female team of aquanauts who lived in a submersed capsule for several weeks. She has walked on the ocean floor at a depth deeper than any other women before or since. When she grew frustrated with the pace of innovation in ocean exploration, Sylvia founded Deep Ocean Engineering–a company that is still pushing the boundaries of ocean exploration today. In 1990, she was appointed the Chief Scientist to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. She was the first woman to hold that position. Currently, Sylvia heads up the marine conservation organization, Mission Blue, which she founded in 2009. Mission Blue aims to build a network of marine preserves called “Hope Spots” that resemble the national park systems found in many countries on land.
Natalia Molchanova – 1962-2015
One of the most decorated athletes in her sport, Natalia Molchanova is still regarded today as one of the greatest free divers of all time. Growing up in the then Soviet Union, Natalia was already a standout in the water. In her teens, she was an Olympic swimmer prior to the birth of her first child. 20 years later, she would return to the water, this time, as a free diver. She would go on the rack up 41 world records. At the time of her death, she was the female world record holder in 7 out of the 8 freediving disciplines. She was also the overall record holder for static apnea (holding breath while lying face down in a pool) with a time of 9 minutes and 2 second, and she was the first female to free dive to over 100 meters. Aside from her competition accolades, Natalia was the first woman to free dive the blue hole in Dahab–a site also know as diver’s cemetery due to its dangerous currents. Revered by her competitors for her machine-like consistency, Natalia was at the top of her sport for several years. She passed away in August of 2015 when she descended on a fairly routine training dive and never surfaced. It is suspected that she may have been caught in the strong currents of the coast of Spain. Natalia will be remembered for years to come as a legend in the freediving world.
We hope this has inspired some of our female readers to follow in the footsteps of some of these great women. If you would like to know more about learning to dive, learning to freedive, or maybe even just a snorkel trip, just contact us and let us know! Female staff available on request!