While working as a dive instructor in the Philippines I had a conversation with a gentleman who stated: ‘Well, if the dive isn’t deep or with sharks and/or strong current, then it isn’t really a dive.’ I hid my amusement by biting my nail polished finger nail and fiddling with my long beach-blonde hair. Throughout my diving carreer I have had similar conversations with men, it was almost as if they wanted to impress me with their hard-core dive stories. I would smile politely and look impressed and gently suggest that maybe there is more to ‘boring, normal diving’ than they might think, all the while thinking ‘That was a bit of a dodgy judgement call, now wasn’t it, John?’
In their defense, not all men are like this, though and I have many, many male friends who are excellent, responsible divers. Having said that, when I came upon the research done by Mandy Shackleton at Hull university in 2007 on how woman are better at scuba diving than men, it made me chuckle and I had to share it with the world! Perhaps the word shouldn’t be ‘Better’. Perhaps is shouldn’t be a competition at all, but here are a few reasons why women make excellent divers.
It wasn’t what you said
Women are better at reading non-verbal cues such as body language and visual cues. Since talking underwater is limited to incomprehensible grunts and squeals of delight divers rely on communicating non-verbally – a language women are fluent in.
The big picture
Women are better at ‘reading the room’ they pick up on non-verbal, situational and environmental cues. This means they are able to navigate the underwater environment and adapt to changes in the environment better.
The power of 3
Male divers often seek sensations, they look for experiences that are novel, exciting and intense. This leads to the secretion of cortisol, testosterone and adrenalin which urges them to take more risks underwater. Dr Magnus Hohnson of Hull University mentions that men are thrill seekers and would take more risks while diving with a woman in order to impress her (like I said, right?). Women on the other hand are more safety conscious and thus take less risks while diving.
Women tend to have a higher percentage of body fat than men which makes them naturally more buoyant. Sure they might need an extra weight or two, but this also made them more adept at controlling their buoyancy while learning to swim – skills that they then put to use while diving. Women also tend to incorporate relaxation and breathing techniques that lead to better buoyancy control.
Because women see the bigger picture they have a better spatial awareness underwater – the opposite of what is true on the surface where men are more skilled in this area. This, in combination with woman being more cautious divers and having better buoyancy control, mean women divers make less contact with, and break less coral than their male buddies.
It’s all in the legs
In general women tend to harness their lower body strength more than men –who rely more on their upper body strength. Divers propel themselves forward by making use of their powerful thigh muscles – something that comes natural to women. This enables more efficient kicking cycles, better trim and lower air consumption.
A touch of Zen
Testosterone (naturally higher in men) reduces the effects of oxytocin while estrogen (naturally higher in women) enhances the effects. Oxytocin is the love hormone and creates feelings of being relaxed and loving towards others which enables women to stay calmer when diving.
Because women move more efficiently through water, have better buoyancy and have smaller lungs they tend to use less air than men. This enables them to dive for longer and leaving more air available in the ‘unlikely event’ of a buddy running out.
So for your next dive trip, try to mix it up, skip the male-bravado and invite a few women to join in… not only are we excellent divers, we also bring snacks!