Legends of Diving Articles


Dottie Frazier
First Female Instructor in 1955

Dottie Frazier

Dottie Frazier was born in July, 1922 in Long Beach, CA, a female who should have been a male according to her dad. At that moment he decided that he was going to teach her all the things he would have taught a son.

Swimming by age 3, Dottie became the youngest YMCA to receive an unofficial membership card from the director of the Y since she had been going with her father for over two years. By the age of 7, she was the youngest girl to perform in the water Ballet and won many swimming

and board diving awards. Dottie went on later to teach skin and scuba diving for the YMCA in an old basement swimming pool in downtown Long Beach. She was rowing her own skiff at 5, and Dottie knew the ins and outs of fishing as she had lived aboard boats more than on land. By 10, she was using one of the masks her dad had made out of pieces of a fire hose, glass, tape, glue, and straps from an old inner tube. She became especially proficient at spearing fish. By the time she

was a teenager, getting lobsters became her specialty. She competed in Diving Derbies against men, frequently winning.

Dottie did not follow the mainstream way of thought where women were to have jobs in the secretarial field, even though she did try secretarial college for a few months. Instead her idea of heaven consisted of gutting sharks and standing waist-deep in fish. She was what you would call a true tomboy.

Growing up on the sea made it easy for Dottie to find work on commercial fishing boats as a deck hand, cook, and on all day fishing boats as galley girl for over 10 years. It was during

Dottie Frazier in 1955 with a Golden Cabrillo

this time that she entered every skin diving contest that came up and was the only female competitor. She had taken a lot prizes but she had never captured a first place.

Dottie was also known to be able to tear apart outboard motor apart and could be found tinkering with engines until they were perfectly in tune.

At only 100 pounds, Dottie would spearfish bringing up groupers nearly as big as she was catching them on a breath or two of air. One 150 pound grouper drug her for almost a mile she recalls.

In 1940 Dottie started teaching skin diving classes and became the Worlds first female Scuba Instructor in the United States in 1955. She enrolled in the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Certification Course which was, at that time, considered too physically demanding for a female to complete. Dottie proved the male dominated diving world wrong when she took top honors in the class for waterworks amid resentment from the other students who were all men. She later became the first woman hard hat diver but she felt too restricted and gave it up 2 years later.

Expanding to new adventures, Dottie became owner of her own dive shop called the Penguin. She was the first woman in the world to own and operate a dive shop! Dottie then began manufacturing her own line of wetsuits as well as making suits for US Divers, Healthways, and Navy UDT teams. Once again, Dottie became a first, as she was the first woman to commercially produce both dry suits and wet suits.

Amid all of this, Dottie raised four sons who all became divers. Soon after her third son was born, Dottie started a club called “Aqua Families” which consisted of diving couples with children. They met every weekend. Husbands and wives would take turns watching the children and diving.

Dottie was honored as a Life member of the Long Beach Neptunes in June of 2001, and became a member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame in March 2000.

Dottie is the oldest and only surviving member of the original founding members of the second oldest diving club in the USA – the Long Beach Neptunes. Dottie is a true pioneer. Her favorite hobbies are riding her motorcycle surfing and diving. She over came sexism and prejudice to succeed as an instructor and businesswoman in the diving community.

Dottie Frazier's dive shop, Penguin, in 1959

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