On an unremarkable evening in July 2016, Sarah Richard created a Facebook group called “Girls that Scuba,” and then promptly shut her laptop and went to sleep. On waking up to over 100 members she considered her work done; she had one hundred new women to chat about diving with, which was a welcome contrast to the all-male crew she worked alongside on a liveaboard.
If you’d told her then that three-and-a-bit years later the group would have 40,000 members, and that she would be leading groups of ocean-loving women on scuba adventures around the world, she might have been somewhat disbelieving.
Yet here we are – those humble beginnings have spawned the incredible community we’re a part of today, and in celebration of reaching the huge milestone of 40,000 members on our original platform we’re here to share with you the highlights of the GTS journey so far!
A multitude of new online homes
As the group continued to grow our content needed a home outside of the Facebook group, and so in October 2016 the very website on which you’re reading this was born. As well as developing our core groups to include Girls that Scuba, Girls that Freedive, and Girls that Tech Dive, we’ve worked to serve the more niche corners of our community – and in doing so we’ve expanded to a network of seventeen groups across numerous platforms!
We’ve been pairing you with buddies all over the world through Girls that Scuba Together, encouraging mothers to get back underwater with Mums that Scuba, seeing what the literary world has to offer to divers through the GTS Book Club, and so much more. If you’re not already a member of any of our groups, what are you waiting for?
The power of a movement
Sarah’s original vision for the group was a place for women to discuss the specifics of being a female in the diving world, away from the comments (and sometimes criticisms) of on-looking men. With that in mind, the group became a safe space for female divers to speak openly, and we have never been afraid to discuss more difficult topics.
In fact, some of our most significant posts have covered more challenging subject matters, including sharing our scuba related stories of sexual harassment in light of the #metoo movement. This post really served to illustrate why a female only community was required in the scuba diving world, and has empowered people of all genders to speak up when they witness unfair treatment of women within the wider dive community.
In continuing to break down boundaries, one of our fantastic GTS members came forward with an open letter to wetsuit manufacturers to challenge the equipment industry and question why women’s exposure suits rarely reflect the variety of female bodies out there. If we’ve challenged all of this in our journey so far, we can’t wait to see what else we have the power to change!
From online connections to real life interactions
With our community flourishing through online connections, more and more of you were sharing stories of meeting other Girls that Scuba in all corners of the globe. This was partly in thanks to spotting other women sporting GTS merchandise, which came into existence purely because you asked for it. Yet the demand went deeper than just requesting mask straps and t-shirts – you wanted a more structured way to meet other Girls that Scuba, and who were we to turn you down?
May 2018 saw the first of these more organised GTS events, with our first ever Girls that Scuba Day held on Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. We attempted to set a new world record, we celebrated female divers with a panel showcasing amazing underwater women, and most importantly we met lots more of you! We returned in May 2019 as it’s become a firm favourite amongst the community; when we reached out to hear some of your favourite GTS memories, our member Leesa highlighted:
Being a part of the Girls that Scuba day dive in Gili Trawangan two years in a row. Colourful wetsuits, many laughs and millions of bubbles!
We then headed to Komodo to host our first ever group trip. We gathered a group of you to explore the gorgeous reefs, glide along on some incredible drift dives, and hang out with stunning manta rays. Since the success of this initial trip we now host over ten trips per year; in 2020 we’ll be journeying to destinations including French Polynesia, Tonga, Cocos Islands, and the Maldives.
We’ve also expanded our trip offerings to include our bubble-free, breath-holding pals - take a look at some of the highlights from our first Girls that Freedive Retreat to Mexico in the video below.
We still have space on a number of upcoming trips in 2020 – check out the itinerary here, and sign up to our newsletter to be amongst the first to know when we announce anything new! We’ll be showcasing the best of these trips on our new dedicated Instagram account, @girlsthatscubatrips.
Hosting more than just trips
It’s not just trips we’ve been hosting over the years here at Girls that Scuba. We’re all about celebrating female accomplishments in every corner of the dive industry, and with females being hugely under-represented in the realm of underwater photography and videography we took matters into our own hands and hosted our Girls that Scuba Photography Competition. With prizes generously gifted by amazing brands such as Paralenz and Emperor Liveaboards, we loved having the chance to exhibit the talents of these awesome photographers.
Another proud moment for us was creating and launching our exclusive GTS Membership Card. In most industries, there’s a price premium when products have a “female” label to them, despite often being identical to the “male” counterpart. This so-called “pink tax” is just as prevalent in the dive industry as in any other, so we wanted to create a system to allow us to fight to gain that money back.
Allied with dive business owners, we put together our Membership Card to offer discounts on products, trips, and liveaboards across the world – we estimate that the average diver can save approximately $410 per year. Most divers will gain back the cost of the membership by booking just one liveaboard trip! Click here to see who’s involved and sign up for your very own GTS Membership Card.
There’s no community without YOU!
It’s all well and good telling you about the incredible things we’ve created, but the reality is none of this would have been possible without all of you! Without the incredible women of this community, and the empowering, friendly Facebook group which sits at its’ core, we wouldn’t be here celebrating the fact that there’s now 40,000 of you – and we certainly wouldn’t be sharing all of the awesome things we’ve done along the way.
We wanted to know what your highlights have been from the last three years, so we reached our within the Facebook group. It makes us incredibly proud that most of you spoke about GTS helping you achieve accomplishments, making you feel empowered in your diving and in your lives, introducing you to new diving friends, and supporting you to overcome things you didn’t think you could.
Here’s what some of you had to say:
This group rocks! My personal favorite experience by far has to be when I posted my struggling post about my DMT journey at 48 and hundreds of women rallied to encourage me and share their experience. That brought me to tears and also reignited the fire in me. There nothing like the genuine support of women that truly want you to succeed. Thank you.
Régine Saintil-Johnson via Facebook
When having doubts getting OW certified at 57. Likewise hundreds replied with love support and encouragement...and made a wonderful friend in Sharne 'Shaan' van Loggerenberg
Alice J Smith via Facebook
It is the journey some take to become divers. The inspiration this group gives them. The obstacles that they overcome are so inspiring. The many accomplishments we see on a daily basis. The sheer beauty of the many stories we read. The amazing photos and videos we do have the honour to see. None of that would be possible if this group did not exist. Completely humbling.
Monica Ciobanu via Facebook
We literally couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Whether you were member 39 or 39,999, we’d like to say an enormous thank you to those of you who’ve been with us on this journey so far. Here’s to the next 40,000 members, and we can’t wait to see what else we achieve!