Discovering Scuba: An Inclusive and Empowering Journey

Edmund Settle
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)
4 min readJun 8, 2023

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Changing Lives One Dive at a Time

Photo by Micahel A Del Rosario

In recent years, the world has made significant strides toward creating a more inclusive and diverse society. On this journey, various sports and recreational activities have emerged as powerful tools for promoting inclusion and breaking down barriers. One such activity that embodies these principles is diving. Beyond its inherent thrill and adventure, diving has the potential to foster inclusion and empowerment among diverse groups, including women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and those with adaptive learning needs. Let’s explore how diving can create a sense of belonging and equal opportunities for all.

“Learning to dive opened up a world where I could safeguard reefs and pursue my academic interest in marine biology. Scuba diving makes me feel powerful underwater. I never believed, as a Bayahibe native, I would have this chance to make a difference in the ocean and follow my career passion.
- Michael A Del Rosario, Dominican Republic, Research and Coral Restoration Technician, FUNDEMAR and PADI Divemaster, 2021

Women

Photo by PADI

Historically, scuba diving has been predominantly male-dominated; however, there has been a notable shift in this trend recently. According to a survey by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), 42 percent of all certified divers are women, indicating a growing gender balance in the sport. The activity of diving presents a platform for women to confront and surpass conventional beliefs and societal obstacles.

“I found meaning, peace, and a profound respect for our planet through scuba diving. Furthermore, it is truly inspiring to see how the diving community embraces diversity and acceptance. My diving journey has been about overcoming fears, exploring new territory, and supporting our extraordinary community with resiliency and empathy.”
- Macey Higgins, Univ of Rhode Island, PADI Rescue Diver, 2022

Through participation in diving, women have the opportunity to challenge traditional gender roles and enhance their self-assurance. In addition, diving provides a platform for female role models to motivate and foster the upcoming cohort of divers. The increasing involvement of women in diving has led to a greater sense of inclusivity and diversity within the sport, promoting empowerment and parity.

People of color

Divers can effectively promote diversity and inclusion among people of color. Certain sports have faced challenges in terms of accessibility and representation for marginalized communities, but diving offers an inclusive atmosphere for individuals from diverse backgrounds. According to PADI, there has been a 22 percent increase in the participation of people of color in diving over the past five years. Established in 1991, the National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) has over 2,000 members. By actively engaging diverse groups in diving, we can celebrate different cultures, confront biases, and eliminate racial barriers. The rise in the number of people of color participating in diving can inspire and encourage others to try, creating a sense of unity and community.

“As a Black person Indigenous to the Caribbean who is also queer and nonbinary, it is so grounding and life-filling to scuba dive alongside my sea relatives. I can’t fully describe what this sense of belonging has given back to me while living at the intersection of so many marginalized realities. Accessing this feeling of belonging continues to be a blessing.”
- Sasha George Ruiz, USA, PADI Open Water Diver, 2022

LGBTQ+ people

In addition, diving has the potential to play a vital role in fostering an inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community. A growing number of diving clubs and organizations recognize the value of diversity and are making concerted efforts to provide LGBTQ+ people with welcoming environments. According to a Divers Alert Network (DAN) survey, 78 percent of LGBTQ+ divers feel included and accepted in the diving community. Individuals can express their genuine selves within these accepting spaces without the risk of being judged or subjected to prejudice. Individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ can strengthen their sense of community, create friendships, and find support by participating in diving. The emphasis placed on teamwork and camaraderie in diving helps cultivate an environment that celebrates diversity and ensures everyone feels included.

“Scuba diving offers LGBTQ+ individuals a fun, non-competitive way to connect. It’s an amazing experience to share, where we learn and observe together in a supportive community.”
- Greg Hamman, USA, Owner, Undersea Expeditions, LLC.

Adaptive diving

Scuba diving is a sport that promotes versatile learning, as it can be tailored to accommodate individuals with diverse educational needs. Adaptive diving programs enable people with disabilities to experience the exhilaration and liberation of being in the water. Diveheart, a non-profit organization committed to adaptive diving, has facilitated the participation of more than 15,000 individuals with disabilities in their programs, underscoring the inclusivity and advantages of adaptive diving. Those who benefit from adaptive learning can acquire safe and confident diving skills through the use of specialized equipment, customized procedures, and supportive instructors.

Conclusion

Diving is more than just a recreational activity; it is a powerful tool for promoting inclusion, diversity, and empowerment. By actively engaging women, people of color, LGBTI+ individuals, and those with adaptive learning needs, diving breaks down barriers and fosters a sense of belonging for all. Through increased representation, support, and acceptance, the diving community can inspire positive change and create a world where everyone feels welcome, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or abilities. Let us embrace the transformative power of diving and continue to promote a more inclusive and equal society for all.

Edmund Settle is a PADI Master Instructor and founder of Diveristy Diving Dominican Republic. He can be reached at www.diversitydivingrd.com.

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Edmund Settle
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)

Working with nonprofit and community leaders to maximize the impact of their work through coaching http://edmundsettle.com