Health and Fitness

Pioneering scuba diver who broke into male-dominated world

Dottie Frazier, a uncommon lady within the male-dominated world of free diving and scuba diving on the west coast of America within the Forties and Nineteen Fifties who was typically described as the primary lady to be licensed to show scuba diving in america, died on February eighth at her residence in Lengthy Seaside, California. She was 99.

Her husband, Cyril Might, introduced her dying.

Frazier spent a lot of her adventurous life within the water, making her first dives whereas a younger baby in Southern California. She seemingly had as many diving tales as she had dives.

There was the time she confronted down a shark within the waters off Mexico. The time a big seal needed the fish she was bringing again to her boat and slammed into her, breaking 4 ribs. The time she broke her leg snow snowboarding and made herself a particular wetsuit with an ankle-to-chest zip so she may very well be rolled into it and thus maintain diving with the damaged limb.

Even motherhood didn’t cease her from spending lengthy hours within the water.

“One good friend of mine had a flag she would wave when she wanted me to return again to shore to breastfeed my youngest son,” she stated in an interview for Tim Ecott’s guide Impartial Buoyancy: Adventures in a Liquid World (2001).

Frazier was already a talented free diver and pores and skin diver when she took up scuba diving within the early Nineteen Fifties, when the gear for that exercise was first turning into accessible in america. Initially, she wasn’t impressed with the gear.

“I assumed it was for sissies,” she stated within the Impartial Buoyancy interview. “For individuals who couldn’t maintain their breath lengthy sufficient to catch their dinner.”

Dottie Frazier in the early 1960s. Photograph: via Bonnie Toth via The New York Times
Dottie Frazier within the early Sixties. {Photograph}: by way of Bonnie Toth by way of The New York Instances

However she warmed to the brand new approach, and in 1955 she tried to enrol in a Los Angeles County underwater instructors certification course, sending within the required price. She was despatched a letter saying the course was for males solely, however when she instructed that information to a good friend and revered fellow diver, Jim Christiansen, he requested, “Did they return your test?”

“Once I instructed him no, that they had not, he stated, ‘Simply be prepared; I’m choosing you up,’ ” she instructed the podcast The League of Extraordinary Divers in 2016.

Reluctant college students

She earned her certification, and she or he was quickly instructing scuba diving to others. Her top notch, a gaggle of male docs, baulked at being taught by a lady. She persuaded the reluctant college students to take the primary a part of her course, which was on pores and skin diving, and see what they considered her instructing. All of them got here again for half two, on scuba.

“I used to be happy with my top notch,” she wrote in her autobiography, Trailblazer: The Extraordinary Lifetime of Diving Pioneer Dottie Frazier (2019), “and of my new profession as the primary lady to develop into a scuba teacher on this planet.”

Dorothy Adell Reider was born July sixteenth, 1922, in Lengthy Seaside to Francis and Laura (Davis) Reider, who lived a block from the Pacific Ocean. Her father owned sailboats and motorboats and commenced taking her out on the water when she was a toddler.

“I managed to fall overboard no less than as soon as a day,” she wrote in her guide, “however Dad stated I did it on goal each time he stated, ‘No, you could not go within the water.’”

After her mother and father divorced when she was three, she lived along with her father for a number of years on a 28ft yawl. Grandparents and aunts additionally helped increase her.

“I by no means knew who was going to be taking care of me subsequent,” she wrote. “I assume this is likely one of the causes I grew to become so self-reliant early in life.”

Dottie Frazier teaching a diving class in 1957. Photograph: courtesy of Frazier family via The New York Times
Dottie Frazier instructing a diving class in 1957. {Photograph}: courtesy of Frazier household by way of The New York Instances

She typically instructed the story of how her father coaxed her into severe diving. When she was six and anchored with him off Catalina island, he summoned her to retrieve a espresso pot he’d dropped into 15ft of water whereas cleansing it. (He couldn’t get it himself, he claimed, as a result of he had a foul chilly.) She was already a succesful swimmer however hadn’t braved such a depth. Together with her father’s encouragement, she made the dive and recovered the pot.

“It wasn’t too lengthy after that dive that I used to be making dives at depths that I couldn’t imagine, choosing up shells and salvaging issues,” she instructed The League of Extraordinary Divers. “After which my dad gave me some spears.”

Lengthy reside divers

Her father equipped her with a home-made masks and fins, and she or he grew to become adept at spearfishing and diving for lobster and abalone, typically catching dinner and typically taking orders from locals. Folks would additionally rent her to retrieve wallets and different issues they’d dropped into the ocean.

She graduated from Polytechnic Excessive College in Lengthy Seaside in 1939 and spent a 12 months in secretarial faculty. In 1940 she married Don Gath, they usually had two sons, Darrell and Donald. In the course of the second World Struggle she labored at Douglas Plane. She and Don Gath divorced after the conflict.

In 1951 she married Jake Frazier and had two extra sons, David and Daniel; that marriage additionally led to divorce. She married Might in 1973. He survives her, alongside along with her sons David, Daniel and Donald, and 7 grandchildren.

“A variety of the unique divers have made it to a terrific age. Being underwater does issues to your spirit”

Along with her work as a scuba teacher, Frazier, a member of the Ladies Divers Corridor of Fame, operated the Penguin Dive Store in Lengthy Seaside for 15 years starting within the Nineteen Fifties and designed and offered wetsuits and drysuits. She realized hard-hat diving as nicely – the sort utilized in underwater business work – however didn’t pursue the profession potentialities as a result of, at about 5ft tall and never far more than 100lb, she discovered the tools too cumbersome and restraining.

She was energetic and adventurous even in her 90s. At 93, she went ziplining. In 2019 she lastly offered the final of her bikes. Within the Impartial Buoyancy interview, she famous that longevity appeared to go together with diving.

“A variety of the unique divers have made it to a terrific age,” she stated. “Being underwater does issues to your spirit.”

This text initially appeared in The New York Instances

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