If you are a regular reader here on ESBT you will know that my body image was something I struggled a lot with when I was younger. To the point where it actually became a factor in deciding where I would travel. Despite being an avid water-lover, I spent the first few years of my early 20’s avoiding beach destinations. I didn’t want to be ‘the big girl’ at the beach.
I slowly started to adapt and feel more confident as I got older. In 2015 I finally made the decision to head to SE Asia; one of the places I feared being body-shamed the most. Thankfully, my experience in Thailand was much better than I ever expected (you can read about that here) and I stopped stressing about how I looked in a swimsuit and spent more time actually enjoying beach and ocean activities, including scuba diving.
Like many other travellers, I learned to scuba dive in Koh Tao, Thailand. I loved my open water course so much that the second I received my certificate I asked if I could do the advanced one starting the next day. I had an amazing dive school (Ocean Sound Dive) and an incredible instructor who allowed me to feel strong and confident as she taught me. I’m so grateful for that positive experience because things since haven’t been quite to easy.
My Biggest Struggle as a Curvy Diver
There’s one major problem with being a plus size diver and that is wetsuits. I always struggle to find a wetsuit to fit my body which has led me to stick mainly with warm water dive destinations. Places where the water is warm enough that I can just dive in my rash guard. While my self-confidence in my body image has come a long way over the years, I still feel ashamed and embarrassed when dive shop owners tell me that they aren’t sure they will have something to fit my curvy, size 18 body.
After a particularly embarrassing wetsuit experience in Vancouver back in 2017, I decided I had had enough. I was tired of being made to feel ashamed of how I looked. Tired of my bleeding fingers and knuckles as I tried to force my thighs, hips, and boobs into suits clearly not made for anyone with curves. Tired of struggling so much to do something that I not only loved, but something that I was actually good at too. I’m a strong swimmer. I’m confident in the water. And quite frankly, I’m a better diver than many of the ‘slim’ divers I’ve been paired with over the years.
So, I broke my silence and shared my story. I wrote a piece for Livestrong, then another for Girls That Scuba, and shared my thoughts on my social media channels. And you know what? Turns out I wasn’t the only female diver who had faced these issues before. My struggle was a common problem.
Because most wetsuits are made for men. They don’t take into consideration female body shapes. Which means that most women, myself included, never feel like a suit truly fits them properly. And for some ridiculous reason, that has become our burden to bear. It’s our fault that the dive industry doesn’t recognize that female anatomy is very different from that of men.
Fact is that the dive industry is, traditionally, very male oriented.
But, things are starting to change.
Truli Wetsuits: Made for Women
Not long after I shared my stories I got a message from a fellow Canadian named Mia. Mia has a wetsuit company with suits specifically designed for women. Suits that actually take into consideration that women have hips and boobs.
While her business had been around for a while she admitted that sizing was limited but she wanted to expand. She asked me if I could help her out in figuring out new sizes. Clearly, I said yes.
Over the following few months, I went back and forth with Mia quite a bit online. Providing her with my measurements to help create sizing charts and feedback based on my experiences. She came to Ottawa multiple times as well to visit friends or attend the local women’s and outdoor adventure shows. I’d meet with her to try on the latest samples and provide feedback. It felt so good to be a part of this growth. To know that there would be more options for women like me with bodies like mine. To think that maybe the next time I walk into a dive shop to rent a wetsuit I won’t get that dreaded look up and down and a “well, we’ll see if we have anything that fits you.”
Truli wetsuits are actually made for women. This means that the design actually takes into account what a female body looks like rather than just adding some pretty colours and calling it a ‘woman’s wetsuit’.
That being said, Truli Wetsuits are quite flattering too (well, as flattering as a wetsuit can be) with little details like bands of colour that accentuate the female body. This attention to detail just shows the care and thought put into these designs.
Right now, there are four styles of Truli Wetsuits (from shorty suits to full length) available in 21 sizes with 2 more being added soon. Furthermore, to reduce fatphobia, Truli has taken a unique approach to their sizing charts by naming the suits with empowering words like ‘Freedom’, ‘Bold’, and ‘Adventurer’ rather than relying on traditional numerical sizing. As someone who used to fold her clothing in a way that the size tags stayed hidden, I think this is a huge step in helping remove judgement and stigma surrounding clothing sizes.
Changing the Narrative and Supporting Women Diving
Of course, this is a big project and with such a large size range now, getting product is proving to be tricky. Which is why Truli Wetsuits is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to purchase inventory.
Financing wetsuit inventory is the biggest up front cost that Truli Wetsuits has to bear as a small business owner and is what’s stopping Truli from moving forward and meeting women’s wetsuit needs. When women’s wetsuits are available in all sizes, it demonstrates to women that we belong in the world of water sports. It also lets the industry know that being size-inclusive is absolutely possible and entourages other businesses to step up as well.
Crowdfunding is a popular strategy for companies like Truli to get customers involved to make products available. Customers are given options to contribute by purchasing rewards or pre-ordering products. The funding raised will go directly to purchasing inventory to make all sizes available in all designs.
From now until November 30th, Truli Wetsuits is running some amazing deals for those who are ready to pre-order a wetsuit or get some great dive swag. All four styles of Truli Wetsuits are available to pre-order at slashed prices. Those who don’t need a suit can also choose to contribute for rewards such as Stream2Sea eco-conscious sunscreen, Scuba Sisters Leggings, or even a personal dive experience with Mia herself.
As mentioned above, the funds obtained for this campaign will all be put towards having a supply of Truli Wetsuits inventory so that they can quickly be available for the women who need them. No more bloody hands, no more body shaming. Just a selection of wetsuits available in a diverse size range that will allow more women to feel comfortable and confident doing what they love.
If you can, please help support the female dive community by contributing to this initiative. Help us add more female power and voices to the dive industry. No woman should ever be ashamed and turned away from watersports because she doesn’t fit into a specific, male-oriented mould that has been considered the norm for far too long.
You can find and learn more about the Truli crowdfunding campaign here.
And visit the official Truli wetsuit website here.