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Women-Led Expedition Going to the Edges of Earth

Women-Led Expedition Going to the Edges of Earth

This is the first in a series of guest posts by Andi Cross, whose incredible expedition is telling dive stories from around the globe. Join us as she takes us to the Edges of Earth!

Most extreme sports are male dominated. That’s not to say women don’t partake and excel, as they surely do. But, the statistics are staggering between men’s and women’s participation—especially when it comes to scuba diving. According to PADI, 35% of all newly certified recreational scuba divers were women, with the percentage dropping to 23% for higher certification levels in 2021. When looking at the statistics from SSI, one out three certified recreational divers are women. Additionally, only one out of five become certified professional divers. 

Two women sit talking on a beach with two sets of scuba equipment in front of them. The woman closer to the camera is showing the other woman the scuba gear.
Talking all things scuba to a new diver in Vanuatu. Credit – Marla Tomorug

What do these statistics show us? We need to get more women in the water diving. We need more women breaking barriers when it comes to exploration! Scuba has made such a positive impact on my life. I wanted to find a way to introduce the sport to more women and highlight those who’ve made significant impact.  

The start of the expedition

In 2020, I started planning the Edges of Earth expedition—a 24-month voyage to some of the most extreme and remote dive sites globally. From the start, the aim has been to tell untold stories of those who have dedicated their lives to our blue planet. A large component of the expedition is highlighting exceptional women on the frontlines of ocean conservation and stewardship. More often than not, their stories are left untold. 

During the planning stages of the expedition, I was eager to onboard women as part of the core team when it came to content creation and storytelling. This was so important to me because it was a chance for exploration to be portrayed via modern, female perspectives. However, in order to do this, there were a few things that needed to happen…

Find women who are passionate about ocean exploration

My method of searching for talented women who love the ocean started online. I met Marla Tomorug at a virtual ocean event and we hit it off immediately. She became an integral part of my consulting business called WILDPALM, helping to build brands and businesses that fuel the future. After a year of working together remotely, I flew to her home-base in Hawaii. There, we cemented our “forever dive buddy” status. She is our Creative Director, bringing the visual aspect of our expedition to life across our channels.

Then there is Maddy Wilson, our expedition Content Creator. She was working at a brewery in remote Busselton, Western Australia, where many divers come to experience the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere. I heard her Texas accent and had to start a conversation. It’s not often you meet a fellow American in these parts. She showed me her wildlife and diving photography and I was blown away.

A woman with dark blonde wavy hair smiles past the camera. She is sat on a beach holding a surfboard on her lap.
Maddy Wilson getting ready for a surf. Credit – Jeff Wilson

Lastly, there is Matilda Bishop. Growing up with limited access to the ocean, the only thing that brought me close was illustrations in books. When I saw Matilda’s work on Instagram, my nostalgia kicked in. She captures the essence of marine life through her detailed and realistic illustrations flawlessly. Today, she’s our expedition illustrator, drawing the species we see on our travels. 

Find women on the frontlines of ocean conservation

With the expedition team set, it was time to identify women on the frontlines of ocean conservation who wanted their stories shared. Through my research, I was connecting with like-minded women. From those running dive operations and ecotourism offerings all the way through to women pursuing a life of academia and science. These women are in the field, carrying out work that will pave the way for future generations, so they have the chance to experience the ocean well after we’re gone.

A woman crouches faced away from the camera. She is tending to injuries on a green sea turtle's back.
Rachel Thompson, director of the SEAS program in Malaysia, hard at work saving a green sea turtle. Credit – Adam Moore

I was learning about inspiring and empowering women who were behind ocean success stories and critical conservation wins. For example, Gemma Sharp with Whale Watch Western Australia is studying one of the healthiest orca populations in the world. Rachel Thompson, with Scuba Junkie, is running the SEAs program that is tackling critical conservation challenges in Malaysia. Sarah Castine, with Resilient Reefs, is building strategic programs to restore and protect reef systems in Belize, New Caledonia and Palau. 

Find women who are considering diving, but haven’t taken the plunge

Through my professional work as a growth strategist, I conducted a study with one of my clients to understand how much people care about the health of the ocean and how they are getting involved. Of the 200 participants interviewed (18-35 year olds), 99% wanted to find a way to get closer to the ocean; 54% never thought scuba diving was an option for them and; 100% of women participants wanted to find a way to get more involved with the ocean both professionally and personally, but didn’t know where to start.

For those that wanted to get involved but didn’t know how—my response was to “take the plunge” as a first step. Meaning, get in the water and experience it first hand. Our expedition is designed to offer guidance for those actively looking to get involved and for those interested in learning scuba. We will highlight professional and personal options both above and below the waterline in hopes to inspire the next generation of women ocean explorers and divers.

Find a community of women who rally together to celebrate a shared passion

Lastly, I wanted to find a community that brings women together through diving. A safe space where women support one another and celebrate each other’s wins and progress. I came across Girls that Scuba and it was as if I found my home. I knew there had to be a community like this somewhere, it just was a matter of time before I found it.

Two women smile at the camera, one with a clear scuba mask on her head. They are wearing wetsuits and standing on a boat in bright blue ocean with a rocky island behind.
Andi Cross & Marla Tomorug getting ready for a dive. Credit – Andi Cross

Together, Girls that Scuba and our expedition team will share experiences and stories from the edges of earth. Maybe we will have the chance to meet along the way and go diving together. Or maybe we will help you feel more comfortable getting the water for the first time.

Either way, we hope that you’ll follow along and realize there’s a place for women when it comes to restoring and conserving our blue planet. And there are a lot of women out there ready to support your diving journey.

About the Author

Andi Cross is a growth strategist, divemaster, founder of impact consultancy WILDPALM, and lead of the Edges of Earth expedition, highlighting stories of remote ocean conservation communities and organizations in 50 destinations worldwide. To keep up with the expedition and see where the team is going next, follow the team on Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube and their website.