In the midst of the global pandemic, countless women persevered in their missions to explore and protect the blue world. They found ways to balance the needs of humanity and the ocean. Then, they took action, inspiring those around them. In their dedication and courage, we find that hope is rising. 

Dive in with us and get to know a few of these amazing women in diving and PADI Torchbearers to inspire your own adventures in ocean conservation.

1. Maddison “Maddy” Molina, youth diver and Coral Ambassador, United States 

12-year-old PADI Junior Open Water diver Maddy Molina is an avid scuba diver and ocean conservationist. She spreads awareness about saving the world’s coral reefs. In her viral video, “Saving the World’s Coral” (2021), thousands of people got their first look at what corals are. Then, the film explained why corals matter and what’s harming them. Most importantly, it taught us what we can do to turn the tide.

2. Song-Hyun Choi, actress and ocean advocate, Korea

Song-Hyun Choi

Song-Hyun Choi has found a way to combine all her passions for the common purpose of encouraging others to experience the healing benefits of the ocean. She has taken her platform as a successful Korean actress and used it to inspire others in South Korea to learn how to dive. Song-Hyun learned how to dive for a movie she was acting in, and is now a PADI Instructor and AmbassaDiver™ who shares her diving experiences online to inspire others in her home country to explore new places and join her in protecting the ocean.

3. Mima, a nation’s first female PADI Divemaster, Timor-Leste

Mima has been breaking boundaries and challenging gender barriers her entire life. In 2019, she became Timor-Leste’s first female Divemaster with Blue Ventures. After that, her fears were replaced by a fascination for the oceans. This inspired Mima to take her training further, becoming a science assistant and Community Liaison Officer. Now, she mentors others and spreads her message of female empowerment to her friends and community. In sum, her ultimate goal is to become a PADI Dive Instructor and to teach other women to dive.

4. Ehdaa Al-Barwani, from divemaster to women’s dive development, Oman

Diver in traditional Omani outfit
Ehdaa Al-Barwani dives in a traditional Omani outfit to showcase the culture’s historical symbiosis with the ocean.

In everything she does, Ehdaa exemplifies the symbiotic relationship that can exist between women, traditional Omani culture, and the ocean. For example, in 2018, Ehdaa Al-Barwani became Oman’s first female PADI Divemaster. Soon, her journey inspired her to open the door for more women to join her as PADI Professionals. Therefore, she began offering women-only dive courses at Aura Divers. In these, she instilled good conservation habits and critical knowledge in her students. She continues that work today.

5. Cristina Izurieta, mother of a movement to clean the seas, Ecuador

Mantay ray with scuba divers
Manta dives with Mares Ecuador. Mares Ecuador

Cristina Izurieta co-founded the dive shop Mares Ecuador with a dream. She wanted to create conscious divers who were responsible for and passionate about the ocean. She also practices what she preaches. Therefore, through cleanup events and dives, Cristina and her team removed hundreds of pounds of plastics and other marine debris. More recently, she’s inspired people to keep helping through her movement #DoMingasDeMares. Finally, Cristina has also certified over 100 children under 17 to become open water divers. She encourages them to care for our oceans and to become the next generation of PADI Torchbearers.

6. Cody Unser, adaptive diver advocate, United States

Adaptive divers train in a pool
Foundation members train in a pool. Cody Unser First Step Foundation

This PADI AmbassaDiver has overcome hardships and challenges her entire life. In 1999, she was paralyzed by the autoimmune condition Transverse Myelitis. Therefore, at age 13, she started a foundation in her name. At first, the Cody Unser First Step Foundation had three goals: to raise awareness, drive medical collaborations, and improve the quality of life for differently-abled persons. Soon after, the foundation began using scuba diving as therapy for paralysis. Since then, Cody has shared the benefits of adaptive scuba diving with others. In this way, she works to “change lives one dive at a time.”

7. Martina Alvarez, founder of Women of the Ocean and mentor to local women, Panama

Two women divers in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Nazari and Martina Alvarez share a love of the oceans.

Martina Alvarez left a comfortable life on land in Buenos Aires. With the sea as her compass, she first learned to dive in Thailand and then moved to Mexico to hone her skills. Eventually, she landed in Bocas del Toro, Panama, where she became a PADI scuba diving instructor and ocean filmmaker. She soon realized that local girls there weren’t taught to swim. This bothered her, and she set about to change that.

In coastal communities, having water skills and confidence helps women get good jobs. These jobs support their families and protect the ocean simultaneously. Therefore, Martina founded Women of the Ocean to bring these girls closer to the water. Through the program, Martina met a passionate local teenager named Nazari. Martina mentored Nazari as she explored her home waters. Now, Nazari’s goal is to become the first local woman to teach scuba.

Here are some ways you can get actively involved:

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