She dives like a girl

Dive boats are no longer fueled with testosterone. Szilvia Gogh, founder of Miss-Scuba.com says that the man to women ratio is about three to one on dive boats this year, up from eight to one just ten years ago. You can tell the dive industry has caught on when you see gear with names like “Diva” and “She Dives”. We were particularly interested to notice that our web search also revealed a great number of women only dive clubs and classes. That prompted us to ask, what is the difference between men and women divers?

We contacted 4 women in diving professionals and asked them to comment on the trends and the patterns they see when working with women and men divers. Our advisors were Cindy Ross of Girldiver.com, Szilvia Gogh of Miss-Scuba.com, Pamela VanGuelpen of Sonoma Coast Bamboo Reef Diving and our own diving diva Chaela Sumner of WetCatScuba.com.

All four agreed that most women divers they meet were most likely urged into scuba through the door marked “what my boyfriend (or other male partner) wants me to do.” It is not that they do not love scuba as much as the men, it is just that they were inspired by the desire to share more time with their partner. All also agree that this is changing. Pam said that so far this year she has had more guys (as customers) that were being pushed into the sport by their girlfriends, than has had girlfriends being pushed by boyfriends. Of course most divers will agree that there is nothing worse than a girlfriend (or boyfriend, or wife, or husband, or son, or daughter) who doesn’t want to learn to dive. In addition to the “significant other hook,” Cindy was more specific on the reasons girls go diving. She includes “overcoming their fears” and “because they truly want to explore the other 70% of the earth.” Sziliva says, “Girls, who start diving to try something out of the ordinary, get more excited about taking the big step than those who simply take the class to be with their boyfriends. Dudes enroll in scuba classes because of the adventures and dangers of this manly sport.” I have to add, as a male diver, I never even thought it could be dangerous until years after I got certified and took more modern courses. Szilvia also said she sees more out-of-shape men divers than women but is willing to put it down to the ratios.

As the dive course progresses some other differences surface. Our panel pointed out, and disagreed on, some differences between teaching men and women diving.  Szilvia was definitive: “I find the greatest distinction is in the opposite gender’s willingness to listen to instructions. While girls seem to think everything through and attentively listen to every word their instructor is saying, guys just tend to try and figure things out on their own. Guys often think that they know more than their instructor does. It is even more apparent when the instructor is a younger female, regardless of how many thousands of dives she has logged.” Others were more subtle on this issue, but agree the genders tend to need different teaching styles. Cindy believes that women usually need to need some esteem coaching to bring their “confidence level up their competence level” and men need help a bit of ego attenuation to bring their “competence level up to their confidence level.”

Both during and after the course Szilvia feels that newly certified female divers seem to get more excited and proud of their accomplishments than men do and women are more conservative divers. Pam disagrees and says “I have had many men who are beaming and excited to just be in the pool, even more so than the women sometimes. It is the same with staying within limits or making wiser choices, and even fear of the water.” Chaela captured the difference in this way: “It is about how women tend to want a relationship with the experience of learning and learn well if they have a good relationship with the instructor. On the other hand men tend to be out to conquer their fears and topple the walls that keep them from being divers.” Now a Master Diver, Chaela almost quit diving during her first training session when she had such a bad experience with a “jerk” male instructor who offered little guidance, even though the class consisted of only three people – 2 men who were quite comfortable with diving, and herself.  The poor poolside manner of her instructor resulted in her coming away from her first pool session with a ruptured eardrum. Later her diving career was “saved” when she spent two more days with Deborah Gregor of Marin Dive Center in San Rafael, CA. Deborah took her time with Chaela, really listened to her questions, thoughts and fears, and caused her to feel safe and confident in the water.

In the dive shop, all agreed that men are generally gadget oriented. I guess we cannot argue that, having named our site “ScubaGadget.” Pam, the dive shop expert, points out an interesting trend; with couples it is usually the woman who initiates the purchases. Pam’s sales indicate that while men do by more gadgets, the overall equipment sales figures are fairly equal for each gender. Cindy balances the buying patterns with this couplet, “Women make wise decisions with gear purchases, often choosing the gear they’ll need now, instead of over-thinking where their diving will eventually take them.  Men make wise decisions with gear purchases, constantly keeping abreast of the newest, latest technology that may enhance or make their diving safer.”

In the open water, Cindy says that women tend to delight in the details and will notice smaller organisms often passed over by the men scurrying to the end of the wall. Men get focused on a specific skill or dive goal and work endlessly to achieve it.  Chaela finds that she also tries to master certain skill sets, too, and feels that all divers probably constantly try to improve their skills.

Out of the water, Chaela notices that her male counterparts often discuss their dive equipment with enthusiasm, noting the complexity or simplicity of a certain piece of equipment.  She finds herself not caring how many O rings are in her regulator, but is more interested with her equipment working properly and being safe to dive with. She also notes that both men and women talk excitedly about what they have seen under the water, and swap endless stories.

There are comments from our crew that echo the psychological studies that panic and fear moments do tend to come up for women more than men. However, it should be pointed out that men may have equal anxiety but tend to hide it and keep it under the surface. Stress and rescue instructors point out that dive emergencies most always start well before the apparent crisis. The problem started when you felt uncomfortable about the decision to proceed with the dive and then went ahead anyway. I find it much easier to read stress on the face of a women diver. I have come up with a seemingly calm male dive and later heard that he was really frightened about something during the dive. This trait in women could be a great advantage in getting them and their buddies to abort the dive soon and well before a dive becomes an emergency.

No whining clause: All of our panelist agree that they are reporting on general patterns that every reader could dispute with their own opposing anecdotes. We encourage comments but none that start off saying how this man or that woman does not fit the pattern. We do look forward to reader comments to advance this conversation and help both genders become better divers by learning from each others’ styles.

Szilvia turned her comments to us into an article and the full text is posted on her website at: http://www.miss-scuba.com/girls_vs_guys.html

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