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April Weickert: fighting casual sexism while covered in snot 

Founder of Nova Scotia’s first women’s scuba dive team shares success story

April Weickert of Torpedo Rays Scuba Adventures hopes to create an inclusive diving experience for women, as the shop nears its 27th anniversary. 

Torpedo Rays Scuba Adventures is a family owned scuba store in Dartmouth. Weickert manages the store while also pursuing diving and dive instructing herself while she’s not there. 

Weickert earned a business degree from Mount Saint Vincent University and briefly tried out life as an accountant in Toronto. However, she decided that the big city life wasn’t for her after one year. She took a big pay cut, re-established her life on the East Coast and went back to diving. 

“It was worth taking the chance,” said Weickert. 

Weickert now has a full-time career in diving and in the fall of 2019, became the youngest certified and active female instructor in Nova Scotia. 

Her goal now is to build a community that encourages women to enter these fields. 

Dealing with sexism

“There’s a lot of struggle and a lot of barriers [for women in scuba],” said Weickert. “Obviously, there’s the big sexism factor of, when you envision a diver, what do you envision? And a lot of times it is a middle-aged man!” 

The gender ratio in the diving field has recently risen to 40 per cent women to 60 per cent men, up from 35 per cent women to 65 per cent men, but that doesn’t mean Weickert’s dealing with any less sexism. 

“I’ve had people be as blunt as saying ‘I would rather speak with a man because they understand equipment more than women,’” she said.

Weickert is also an International Diving Centre (IDC) staff instructor, which means she helps train other instructors and dive masters. 

“Sometimes people are like ‘Really? You? Really, you’re our instructor?’” she said. 

When Weickert receives these remarks, it can go one of two ways. 

“Some days it excites you and makes you want to work harder, and then other days it’s like you’re getting nowhere,” she said. 

The Sea Foxes

The exhaustion of being a woman in a male dominated field pushed Weickert to form the Sea Foxes, a diving club specifically for women divers. 

Weickert says that in 2019, only two female instructors were on staff at Torpedo Rays, where the idea was born to have a women’s only dive. 

“We joked that it would just be the two of us going diving but like we’d call ourselves a club,” said Weickert. “And honestly that was our expectation.” 

The day of the dive, six women showed up to participate. 

“[That] doesn’t sound like a lot, but for us expecting it to just be the two of us, and see 6 girls come was amazing,” said Weickert. “We were like, ‘Maybe there’s something here!’”

Growing from just those six women in 2019, the Sea Foxes boasted over 300 members in December 2023. They are hosting women’s dive day events with over 100 people attending each. 

The organization hosts women’s dives monthly during the cold months and bi-weekly during the summer. 

“People notice a difference when they come and dive with The Sea Foxes,” Weickert said. “It’s a judgement free zone.” 

Jump In

If that wasn’t enough time spent in the water for her, Weickert also dives with her co-stars on the show Jump In, which streams on local networks across Canada. 

The show, which centres on female empowerment in diving, follows Weickert and other divers on their cold water dives in N.S., as well as on diving trips to other countries, such as Mexico and Egypt. 

“It’s all just about how fun coldwater diving is, showing that it’s not scary,” said Weickert. “Female divers in Nova Scotia, we’re really just this rugged, don’t really care, covered in snot kind of people!” 

For Weickert, all of these things have come together to make a more enjoyable career than she could’ve had in business. 

“For me, a career in scuba means teaching, managing the shop, playing around with our TV show and all these funny little side quests that it takes me down.”

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