Jennifer Idol, The First Woman to Dive all 50 States0
I flew over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and was moved to raise awareness for local waters through my underwater photography and diving skills. I determined a journey to document and dive all 50 states would help show how our national underwater world is a treasure we should care for and protect. While working as full-time senior designer for the Texas Association of REALTORS, I dedicated vacation time and weekends to set out on the first steps of my journey in 2011. I became the first woman to dive all 50 states in August 2015.
Although I set out to make a difference for our underwater world, especially in fresh water, the five-year journey transformed me as a photographer and conservation artist. An experienced diver, this experience broadened my skills. To reach my goal, I also used every skill from design to diving and pushed my physical limits. By the end of the journey, I was more focused, driven, and a little tired.
I could have made this an easier journey with open water dives in optimal conditions. However, I wanted to influence people’s impression of local waters. That meant it was important to my story to represent all available types of underwater experiences. I dove in caves, quarries, lakes, under ice, in our oceans, on wrecks, and at altitude.
I created compelling images to help me connect people with dive sites. I worked within tight time constraints to create a few moments from diverse environments. At the end of the journey, I left my full-time job to pursue my company while I completed a book to immerse readers in the quest. As I put together my book, the states surprised me with their regional distinctions. From nudibranchs to paddlefish, the wildlife was astounding, and there is so much more to be seen.
Although the journey’s travel has ended, I am working to show our national underwater treasure to all. The tipping point to set out on this journey was made when I flew over the oil spill, but I was also motivated by a career of diving where I observed disregard for local waters and poor buoyancy in environmentally sensitive sites. I hope to encourage divers to experience their local waters and to gain skills that will make them safer and able to control their buoyancy.
When my book comes out in 2016, I hope to also share my story with people who don’t dive. I plan to bring the journey to audiences in speaking engagements and maybe inspire a few people to appreciate these natural resources. Our individual actions have great influence on the world around us. Simple choices like saying no to straws can make the world around us more beautiful. Let’s get out there and see our amazing underwater world.
Jennifer Idol is the first woman to dive 50 states. She’s earned more than 26 certifications and has been diving for 20 years. Her photography and articles are published in DIVER, Sport Diver, Outdoor Oklahoma, SCUBA & H2O Adventure, and Texas Aquatic Science. She is a contributor to Underwater Speleology. The Lake Murray Wildlife Museum and Texas Association of REALTORS feature her work in permanent installations.
Her design firm, The Underwater Designer, provides design and photography services for clients in water related industries. Jennifer is a technical diver, instructor, and underwater photographer. She helps others understand the underwater world through her photography, design, and by sharing her exploration.
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