Firstly, it is SO incredibly refreshing to read a book about scuba diving written by a woman. Of the many books I have read about diving, be it true adventure stories, or non-fiction, almost all of them have been written by men. While I adore many of these books, I can’t help but feel only half of the picture is presented when a woman’s point of view is missing, especially in a sport rife with competition and big egos.
In “Fatally Flawed,” South African diver, Verna Van Shaik, takes a literal deep dive into the world of deep diving and record setting. Along the way, she shares her own struggles as a female scuba diver in this male-dominated arena, ultimately taking matters into her own hands when she finds she is being excluded, ignored, or simply not given opportunities given to less experienced divers simply because they are men.
It’s an inspiring read for a woman, and particularly for those women participating in extreme sports who may female marginalized because of their gender. But, it’s also a really interesting read because it illuminates the very human nature and human emotions behind the type of person who breaches the boundary of the known. The last couple of chapters almost brought me to tears. In this section Verna discusses ego, control, power, exploration and personal pursuit. For any explorer—man or woman—this book is a must.
Although South African myself, I first heard about Verna van Shaik when I read “Diving into Darkness.” I had no idea she had set the depth record for a female scuba diver, or that she had a story to tell herself. I honestly expected “Fatally Flawed” to be her account of the events that had come to pass in “Diving into Darkness.” I was pleasantly surprised to find this was in fact not the case, and that Verna had her very own story to tell. One I think incredibly important, especially for all female divers entering into the professional side of scuba diving, or the technical side—two areas dominated by men, and in which “male characteristics” are usually given more respect.
I strongly recommend this book to every female scuba diver, if for no other reason than to know that you are not alone. And, I genuinely hope that men take the time to read it too so that they can develop an understanding of the struggles women have to endure in the very male-dominated world of technical diving. It is not fair to ask a woman to adopt more male characteristics in order to rise. I would hope too that men can help lead the way and welcome female characteristics into the mix. We all have so much to offer one another.