In our Chosen Family series, in partnership with Kalo, In The Know spotlights small but strong communities that are united by a shared passion.
When Sarah Richard first started scuba diving, she didn’t know just how many women were interested in the underwater sport.
“I just thought that scuba diving was for men,” the divemaster and self-described digital nomad shares. “But then I kind of thought to myself, it would be so cool to have more girls to dive with.”
Scouring the internet for a group to join, Richard came up empty.
“So I just thought, well, if there’s nothing here, then I’ll just start it myself,” she says.
That was in 2016, when she founded Girls That Scuba in the United Kingdom. Five years and more than 23,000 Facebook followers later, Richard’s community of female scuba divers, who connect about anything from dive sites to dive gear, has gone global. In fact, according to the website, Girls That Scuba is the “largest online community of scuba dive women in the world.”
“At Girls That Scuba, we’re all about connecting and empowering women, but we’re also about breaking down stereotypes and breaking down any kind of perceived ideas about scuba diving, of the ocean, and things that are in the ocean,” Richard says.
The Dorset, England-based diver acknowledges that scuba diving can seem scary to some people — what with all the sharks and lack of air below the surface. But the Girls That Scuba founder is all about making the sport accessible.
After all, the point is to be inviting, and to educate. And while she started this global sisterhood of divers, as Richard says, “It’s so much bigger than me.”
Just how big? Richard’s inclusive message has traveled all the way around the world to countries including Kuwait, Malaysia, Denmark, Armenia and the Solomon Islands.
Scuba diving also offers an escape from an increasingly wired and frenetic world “above the surface.”
“You get under the water, the only thing you can hear is bubbles,” Cailla Strobel, a shark fisheries biologist and member of Girls That Scuba, tells In The Know. “You are forced to listen to your breath.”
“It’s calming,” Carmen Hoyt, a scuba instructor and Girls That Scuba member, adds. “There’s something about being under the water and away from everything that puts you in a different mindset. And it really just makes your day so much better.”
With so much ocean life beneath the surface, some members feel as if they even have a lens into the past.
While diving, Ph.D student and biogeochemist Colleen Brown says she likes exploring the sand and finding fossils. “Like this megalodon tooth,” she says while holding up the heavy tooth. “I’m holding something that could be 100 million years old.”
Having those experiences also helps with wanting to preserve the different species and plant life that exist in places on Earth that we rarely see.
“If you’re diving, you kind of just become a conservationist because you see it more often and you’re aware of it,” Strobel says.
“At the end of the day, the more people we can get involved in scuba diving — the more women we can have involved in scuba diving — the more people we have to protect our ocean,” Richards says. “We’re in it together.”
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