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March 2020    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 46, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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How Much “Fat Shaming” Is There in Diving?

from the March, 2020 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Facebook Group, Plus Size Scuba Girls, we referred to in the beginning of the story states that it's all about getting women divers to "embrace their inner whale." "Everyone can scuba dive, even plus size," member Lina Amona wrote in her review of the group. "They give confidence to others to try believing in themselves. I love to see mermaids in water, regardless of size."

But that view isn't shared by everyone in the dive world. Unfortunately, it seems plus-sized divers are often discouraged -- and often blatantly to their face -- from gearing up. Mackenzie Macdonald (Lincoln, NE) remembers how the divemaster in her training course did his best to dash her dreams of getting certified.

"He started right away by telling me -- in front of everyone -- that I wouldn't be able to complete the swim test, and that I should quit the class. I am a lifelong competitive swimmer, and was just one year out of college, where I was on the swim team. I showed him, by lapping everyone else.

"But he continued to comment that I wouldn't be able to do the skills, for no reason other than, it seemed, because of my size. He would make me repeat skills over and over again, even though it seemed to me and everyone else that I had done them successfully the first time. Before doing the open water dives in a nearby lake, he asked if I really thought I could do them, then told me point blank I wouldn't fit into a wetsuit. I was a size 14, which is average for U.S. women.

"I passed the dives and finally finished with him. The next week, I was diving in Florida and messed up my ascent. Based on my training experiences, I immediately started to tear up and apologize. The divemaster was taken aback, and assured me everything was OK, and he was there to help me succeed, not to put me down.

"Every divemaster I've dived with since my course has been phenomenal. But that first one made me feel terrible and worthless, even after I proved I was the best swimmer in his class. He nearly made me quit, and I'm sure he's done the same to others."

So let's shame the divers -- pro and sport -- who pull this kind of treatment. Have you been fat-shamed by a divemaster or fellow diver? Have you seen others do it on dive trips? Has it been subtle signs or obvious call-outs? And do you think dive pros have the right to discourage heavy divers from participating in certain dives -- or getting certified at all?

Tell us what you've seen, what you've personally experienced, and what you think -- email your stories and comments to not forgetting to tell us your town and state.

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