Gemma Smith is a female scuba dive role model of our time; a technical diver, caver diver, Elite Instructor, PADI Ambassadiver, expedition leader, and the first woman ever to dive at the world famous Antikythera Shipwreck - which yielded some of the most important ancient sculptures ever to be found on the seabed. At only 27 years old she has achieved more in her diving career than most will in their lives and has been a constant inspiration to all - no more so than the Girls that Scuba community who have followed her expeditions and stories from the beginning.
On March 14th 2018 Gemma was involved in a car accident - without even being in the car - while walking along the road in The Faroe Islands. What happened next changed her life forever.
We speak exclusively to Gemma about her accident, her diving background, the support of the community and what it is like being a female in the technical diving/recreational diving industry.
At Girls that Scuba we aim to encourage and empower more women to start scuba diving and when we heard Belinda's story about getting through hard times by starting to scuba dive we wanted to share it to motivate and EMPOWER. So, that's what we are doing; here's Belinda's story.
On Girls that Scuba we’ve heard it all; stories involving bodily functions, dive boat slip ups, lack of toilets(?!) and many more in between. And because we are a friendly sharing bunch - who knows how to laugh at ourselves - we thought we'd share some of these with you! Before we put you off, please remember, diving makes us incredibly happy! We all agree that the experiences you are about to read are worth it for what we gain in return; our love and passion for scuba diving!
Dear wetsuit manufacturers,
My name is Hannah and I’m a twenty something travel addict who is head over heels in love with scuba diving. I love marine life, I love the relaxing feeling of being totally submerged in the ocean, and I love the comradery with my fellow ocean lovers. My happiest days are gearing up on boats in the middle of Komodo National Park, or off the coastline of Indonesia’s islands and I dream of diving and snorkeling around the world in places like Silfra, Iceland or Manitoba, Canada with the beluga whales. But, with all my scuba destination dreams and goals there’s something that is holding me back.
You see, while I may be like every other diver in terms of my passion for the underwater world, I always stand out. Why? Because I’m bigger. Curvy, voluptuous, plus-size, even fat if that’s how you want to say it. This shouldn’t be a problem. After all, people come in all shapes and sizes. However, in this industry it is; because apparently, in your minds, my ‘above average size’ means that I shouldn’t be diving.
In August of 2017 I joined a snorkeling with seals tour off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. I can’t tell you how excited I was at the idea of being in the water with these beautiful animals. I was told it was seal pup season and I bounced eagerly back and forth on the balls of me feet all morning in anticipation of seeing the adorable, fluffy pups in their natural habitat. I was like a kid going to Disney for the first time.
But, my enthusiasm and excitement plummeted as I faced what would quickly become one of the most humiliating moments in my life. I tried to remain positive as the woman fitting me for a wetsuit grumbled about how it was going to be difficult to get something in my size. I told myself to keep smiling as the first two wetsuits she gave me wouldn’t budge over my hips. I forced myself not to burst into tears as the skin on my fingers peeled away, leaving my fingers raw and bleeding as I struggled to pull too tight neoprene over my curves.
For most people the first breath taken underwater is truly life changing. Whether its experiencing the marine life, overcoming a challenge or doing something that few get to experience; there is something that happens on most people’s first dive that fundamentally changes them as a person. It was exactly the same for me, I was completely hooked after my first DSD and before I had even started my Open Water Course, I was already had my mind set on becoming a Dive Pro.
Nearly every diver I meet has dreams of being an instructor and travelling the world. This is all very well and good but let’s face it, not everyone can or wants to teach. So what else is out there? What other jobs are there where you can work in diving but without the repetition of doing DSD after DSD, OW after OW? Without all the customer service? A mine clearance diver do I hear you say? Sounds interesting; I wanted to find out more!
It's one of our passions here at Girls that Scuba; finding women who are making waves in the professional dive industry, and there is none quite like Richa Malik - a tech diver and instructor from India who quit her job, and faced many questions by her stereotype-keeping Indian colleagues, to pursue her career as a scuba instructor. Your passion is infectious girl, we hand the spotlight over to you...
We first heard Amber's story a few months ago when a video of her was shared to our Girls that Scuba group, and it was one of our most interacted posts. Scuba girls from all around the world offered Amber their support, love and encouragement, and in return Amber's motivation and fearless attitude inspired us all to work even harder to achieve our dreams. Now, we have the honour of speaking to Amber and hearing more of her incredible scuba story. Over to you, Amber:
*Read to the bottom to see how you can support her*
When a member of our GTS community came forward to talk about how she achieved her dream of scuba diving after being diagnosed with Non Hodgkin Lymphoma in August 2008 which started from her elbow and then spread into both sides of her groin, we all read with a small tear in our eye. A tear for happiness, for bravery and for a woman, who we didn't know, but we are now connected to through the love of the ocean. Gabrielle, 50, kindly shares more of her story with us here.
Blogs have become huge during the last few years and are now read more than some mainstream publications! Scuba dive blogs are the new kids on the block though, and more and more divers are turning their hand to writing to share their underwater adventures with the world. Here are a list of our favourite scuba bloggers you absolutely have to follow.
Being able to scuba dive with manta rays is on most people's bucket list, but these interactions are becoming harder to obtain as mantas become vulnerable to extinction. Thankfully, there are scuba stars out there like Steph Venables who is dedicating her life to saving these beautiful animals. We are both proud and honoured to chat to her, and name Steph our latest scuba star!
If anything has come from our female scuba dive community over the first few months is that the world is full of inspiring women who not only care about the ocean, but are actively promoting it and making it a better place. And there is no way we can keep these women's stories to ourselves. With out series Scuba Stars we highlight women we think desereve to have their name in lights and we couldn't be more excited for our latest scuba girls boss. Girls that Scuba member and contributor Jeanette Smith dives right in with Becky Kagan Schott.
Every now and then here over at Girls that Scuba we come across inspirational ladies that are aboutsely rocking the underwater world, and as proud as we are to have these females in our group we also want to share thier stories with the world. In order to do this we have set up 'Scuba Stars' highlightly scuba-chicks that are making waves in the scuba industry. Let us introduce to you Gemma Westgarth who is 13-years-old and Indigo Bolandrini, 15-years-old, two scuba girls that have acheived more in their scuba carrer than a lot of us; and they are stil teenagers