If you’re working anywhere within the business of diving, it’s important to keep informed on scuba diving industry trends. With a community of 48,000+ female scuba divers in our Facebook group, here at Girls that Scuba we’re in a fantastic position to understand how divers are feeling about the current state of the industry.
Recently, a group member posed a simple yet thought-provoking question – “What’s the one thing you wish you could change about the dive industry and why?” The ensuing discussion between our members was enlightening and covered many elements of the scuba world; from money, to conservation, equipment, and training.
We hope that in sharing a summary of some of this discussion we can continue on our mission to make the dive world a better place for female divers (and guys too!), and in turn we can encourage and inspire more female scuba divers, young divers and passionate divers alike.
If there’s one conversation which comes up time and time again amongst scuba divers, it’s the cost of our beloved hobby. This discussion was no exception, with conversations centering around the desire to simultaneously make diving cheaper for recreational divers and for the young divers we require to keep our industry alive, whilst also recognising that many dive professionals don’t make a living wage (but obviously deserve to).
Many expressed frustration that people will pay extensively for other adventure activities (skydiving, horse riding, skiing) yet those same people don’t expect to pay a high price for scuba diving, despite the fact that it requires expensive, well-maintained equipment in order to keep them alive. Some commented that people are willing to cut corners on price without realising the impact on safety.
This lack of willingness to pay a high price for an expensive hobby fed into other wider issues surrounding dive professionals’ pay, with agreeance that dive instructing should be paid as a respected career (noting the importance of instructors taking care of peoples’ lives underwater) as opposed to being paid as a “holiday job”. Much of this feeds back into the problematic belief that we shouldn’t be well compensated for doing a job which is perceived to be “fun”.
Many also want to see a change in the problematic nature of tipping in the industry; there is frustration from divers who find it difficult to navigate the expectations around the world, as well as dive pros who feel that employers rely on generous tipping in order to supplement sub-par salaries. Many dive pros within our community wanted to see a change in the certification agency fees and insurance costs which drive up the cost for instructors; these barriers make it difficult to progress when the expectation is to consistently train to become a better diver.
As well as changing the unfair monetary compensation, there was also discussion that dive pros are unfairly compensated with time off. Overworked instructors means poorly taught new divers, making the overall quality of new divers in our sport lower than it should be. An issue which goes hand in hand with this is the difficulty for instructors to afford international travel – how can pros be expected to keep up their passion for diving if they’re unable to dive in other places for their own enjoyment?
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to highlight so many issues which people wish they could change without offering up some tangible solutions. Our creative community suggested a possibility of dive pros doing “swaps” with others around the world – offering free diving and accommodation to one another in order to drive down the cost of travel to simply the airfare and food. Many also agreed that there should be a change in the cost of training for pros in order to encourage instructors to continue their own education and drive their passions.
One commenter offered some fantastic solutions for the cost barrier which is preventing younger divers from getting into scuba. She noted that getting young people into the sport is vital, and dive clubs are imperative to making this change. Diving scholarships, lower prices for junior club members, formal internship programs, and second-hand equipment exchanges were all identified as great solutions. To take this one step further, there was also the suggestion of dive clubs seeking our local corporate sponsors for funding clean-up dives and training teams for ghost-net removal.
Many of the monetary changes people want to see in the dive industry also feed into certifications and the nature of how we certify new divers.
Some commented that they hoped to see a change in the number of instructors passing unsafe new divers. As well as the pressure of being overworked, many commented that instructors can often feel trapped by their dive centre management to become a “certification factory” of sorts and therefore are forced into passing these “unsafe” divers. However, there was defense that the percentage of pros certifying in this manner is in the minority. The change we need to see there lies in the way managers choose to practice within dive schools.
Another change which many in our community wished to see when it comes to certifications is the discouragement of “zero to hero” practices, and a move towards amassing more knowledge and dives in between courses. Some people would love to see a change in the use of the word “advanced” when it comes to diving, noting that having an Advanced Open Water certification is not equal to being an “advanced” scuba diver.
This discussion led to a related conversation around changing the way dive operators verify divers when a minimum level is put in place. Many felt that when operators put in place a minimum certification or number of dives, these are not thoroughly investigated or followed up. Divers would love to see a change in how these are followed up, and to see more liveaboards and dive schools completing thorough check-out dives.
Here at GTS we’re no strangers to conversations surrounding the problems of inclusive sizing in scuba equipment. However, whilst some small manufacturers are making great strides towards becoming more inclusive, the industry standard is still far from it – and this conversation rightly covers rental equipment as well as personally owned gear.
Operators should change how they choose to carry sizing; this isn’t only a comfort issue, but a safety matter. All dive operators should be carrying full and inclusive size runs, as a larger diver in a too-small wetsuit may experience uncomfortable squeezes, and a too-small BCD may not offer the necessary lift capacity, whilst a smaller diver in too-large equipment may not be kept safe at the surface or sufficiently warm in an exposure suit.
The conversation around rental sizing also extended to a desire for change in the language around choosing equipment sizes. Many agreed that they would love to see a more empathetic approach to the conversation; it’s become normalised to ask divers what they weigh in order to ascertain sizing, but a much more inclusive way of approaching the topic would be asking “what size are you comfortable in?”. This also applies to weighting – many divers felt they weren’t being listened to when they explained the weight they needed. Some even felt demonised for needing weight, with disbelieving guides thinking they know better.
When manufacturers are creating new equipment, our members believe that more women should be invited to trial equipment, and that that extends to diverse women being offered this opportunity. Dive manufacturers, if you’re listening – we’ve got 48,000 women waiting for you who’d jump at the chance!
Our Girls that Scuba community, like most dive communities, is fiercely protective of our environment. Many of the changes people wished to see centred around plastic pollution within the industry, dive operators being more accountable for their practices, and divers having less of an individual impact on the environment.
Us divers know first hand the issue of plastic in the ocean – so why is all of our brand new equipment still arriving wrapped in the stuff? Dive manufacturers need to take more accountability of this, and follow in the steps of industry leaders such as Fourth Element. This change extends to certification agencies – do we really still need to be issuing plastic certification cards (and charging for the privilege of e-cards) with the knowledge we have now? A fantastic suggestion for a solution to the manufacturer problem was that more dive brands should be organising and sponsoring clean-up dives around the globe.
Many people commented that we need to see a change on an individual level when it comes to respect for the environment. It’s astounding that some divers have such little respect for the underwater world; why are divers still kicking coral, touching animals, taking shells and other “souvenirs” from the ocean, and using non reef-safe sunscreen? This extends to the “normalised” practices of some underwater photographers harassing marine life in order to get the shot. These individual practices all need to change.
Many of these can also be changed by dive operators taking a firmer stance. Lots of members of our community would love to see stricter codes of conduct, working hand in hand with dive guides who are empowered to enforce them. Briefings should include disclaimers such as “if we see you behaving in a harmful manner, we will reserve the right to stop you”.
This change is a small part of a wider one – dive operators should be prioritising the environment over profit. A member commented that conservation should be lived through every element of the business; this means not merely taking part in periodic clean-up dives, but encouraging a culture of local clean-ups, reducing plastic across all elements of their business, offering reef-safe sunscreen on boats, etc. Another change which we should see is dive shops taking responsibility for tracking reef and marine life health over the years that they continue to take divers there, to ensure the environment is not becoming excessively damaged by their impact.
A final related change which many members agreed on was an increase of local staff in high powered positions in remote areas, increasing opportunities for local divers to progress to instructor and management levels.
The final few changes which divers wish to see in the industry are centred around individual attitudes. Obviously these are much more nuanced, personal, and therefore difficult to change, however, if they’re being commented on and corroborated by enough people they’re definitely significant enough to mention!
An attitude which many agreed needs to change within the dive industry is toxic masculinity. This presents itself as sexist attitudes and materialises in inappropriate comments experienced by female divers. However, we know that by Girls that Scuba simply existing, we’re doing some part to reduce this attitude in the industry – the same commenter was so thankful for the group and the community we’ve created!
There was also a desire to change elitism between different levels of divers. This was experienced between technical and recreational (perpetuating the stereotype of recreational divers not being “real” divers), between instructors and non-instructors, and between new and experienced divers. A recent project of ours at GTS may go some way towards bridging the gap between new and experienced divers. Our moderators have set up a mentor programme which allows experienced and new divers to buddy up and chat about their dive experiences. If you’re a female diver who would benefit from this, join our Facebook group and keep an eye out for any future intakes for the project.
What changes do you wish to see in the dive industry? Is there a change which we’ve identified that you have an amazing solution for? Are you a dive manufacturer or operator who’s been inspired to change your practices? Let us know in the comments, or contact us on our social channels!