Member Profile: Faith Ortins

Dive educator and drysuit innovator

Kampung halaman: Beverly, Massachusetts
Usia: 60
Bertahun-tahun Menyelam: 45

Mengapa saya menjadi Anggota DAN: DAN is the only option for dive insurance that uses the funds raised from insurance and membership to benefit the dive community. Why would I work with anyone else?

Faith Ortins is a lifelong diver, and her love for the ocean and devotion to educating people about safe diving practices drive her dive career. 

From being a high school science teacher and dive shop owner to playing a vital role in developing the first women’s drysuits in the 1990s, Ortins is considered a subject matter expert on coldwater diving and the complexities of thermal protection. 

Inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame in 2010, she now runs dive expeditions to the most remote locations on Earth, and it is not uncommon for her to visit all seven continents within a year. 

Determined to Dive

Ortins’ resolve to become a diver started at a young age, despite her parents’ concerns — hardly anyone in her family swam. After getting certified at a dive center in northern Massachusetts in 1979 at age 15, she would use the ruse of “just practicing at the pool” to quell her parents’ fears but instead would ride her bicycle 4 miles to the dive center and sit by the air-fill station with her gear, asking anyone who showed up to take her diving. 

Her persistence paid off, and she earned the respect of experienced dive mentors who kept her diving throughout high school and college, taking her out on shipwrecks and encouraging her to volunteer as a public safety diver. 

Large group of divers in Antarctica
The logistics of leading a large group of divers to Antarctica are daunting, but Ortins is a veteran of leading such expeditions. © MICHAEL GREEN

When she became a high school science teacher in Salem, Massachusetts, she paid forward the benevolence of mentorship, leading dive programs in her local community that taught hundreds of students and underprivileged kids how to dive. The impact of these programs marked a pivotal point in her life when she decided not to teach high school anymore but instead to devote herself to becoming a full-time dive and ocean educator. She started working at a dive shop and then purchased the store with her partner, David Caldwell, committing herself to fulfilling that goal. 

“Don’t be afraid of turning your passions into a career or your life’s work,” Ortins said. “I discovered my passions were getting people into diving and educating people about the ocean. People protect what they love, and through diving I felt I could bring people closer to the ocean with the hope that they would love it like I do.” 

Drysuit Development

As a dive store owner in the Northeast in the 1990s, Ortins was privy to perspectives and practical applications of gear for women divers that didn’t quite register on the radars of dive equipment manufacturers located in warmer climates. 

“When it came to women’s dive gear at the time, the dive industry would take a product, make it smaller, make it pink, and declare it to be for women, never mind the fit or functionality,” Ortins explained. “We were selling a large quantity of Diving Unlimited International (DUI) drysuits due to our location, but I couldn’t get women into them, and I couldn’t keep them warm enough to be diving locally. So I would call DUI often, asking them to consider certain fitment concepts. I would also send drysuits back to them with custom fitting requests for the motivated women divers who pursued the issue, as they wanted to keep diving but wanted the drysuits to fit correctly and be comfortable as well.”

Ortins was determined to make it possible for women to dive safely and comfortably. The available technology limited women’s abilities to explore, but her persistence once again yielded results. A DUI production manager brought her relentless pursuit to the attention of founder Dick Long, who flew to Massachusetts to meet with Ortins and a panel of women divers at her shop. The group told Long what they were looking for, and he left the meeting with plans to create a new line of drysuits designed for women as well as overhaul and revamp the existing line of male drysuits by incorporating new ideas from the details the women had provided him. DUI released the redesigned drysuits for sale to the public 18 months later. 

Two years after their collaboration, Ortins began a 21-year career with DUI, moving from sales representative to sales manager to vice president of sales. She continued expanding divers’ abilities and safety by creating the DUI DemoTour. More than 150,000 divers tried drysuits with professional guides in real dive situations. Her work also involved educational programs that provided free training to more than 1,800 public safety divers about awareness of the risks of diving in contaminated water. 

Ortins dives a steeply sloping wall in Croatia.
Ortins dives a steeply sloping wall in Croatia. © BECKY KAGAN SCHOTT
Ortins’ light points to the 76 mm caliber bow gun of the tugboat Ursus
Ortins’ light points to the 76 mm caliber bow gun of the tugboat Ursus, a highlight of the wreck off Vis, Croatia. © BECKY KAGAN SCHOTT

Blue Green Expeditions 

After leaving DUI, Ortins and Paul Holbrook cofounded Blue Green Expeditions, whose mission is to foster an appreciation for the natural wonders of the planet. She leads expeditions year-round, taking divers on expeditionary trips to unique destinations all over the world, where they dive at new sites and become fully immersed in the environment. 

Blue Green Expeditions returned to Antarctica in early 2024 to continue providing life-changing and perspective-altering explorations of Antarctic wrecks and marine life engagements for their clients. 

“Ice is never boring,” Ortins said. “No matter how much I’ve been diving, there’s always something new to see or discover. Every dive has something special. Even if I’ve already been there, it is always different. 

“The polar lands are hard to explain until someone has gone there, but once you have, you get it. It’s one of those places that defies description. In Antarctica you’re not just a diver, you’re truly a polar explorer, and you are going to have an obligation when you return home to share your experience with others. You realize how small we really are, how incredible this environment is, and how important it is for us to become advocates for this part of the world.” 

Jelajahi Lebih Lanjut

Learn more about Faith Ortins in this podcast.

© Penyelam Siaga — Q1 2024