Pioneering female scuba diver and La Jollan stays passionate about beach access
By Pat ShermanAnyone who has attended a community meeting in La Jolla likely knows Phyllis Minick.
During the past several years the longtime La Jollan has come before the Town Council, Community Planning Association, Village Merchants Association, and other groups imploring La Jollans to help fund an elaborate remodel of the sidewalk area above Children’s Pool beach. The design, by La Jolla landscape architect Jim Neri, creates a safer surface for pedestrians and a more aesthetically pleasing public experience that would complement the new lifeguard tower there (currently under construction).
Minick appears to have reached her $250,000 fund-raising goal with a pledge she received late last month for $200,000.
Her passion for the project — and for keeping Children’s Pool beach accessible to the public — makes sense. As someone who was repeatedly rejected in the once male-dominated sport of scuba, Minick refuses to let anyone else tell her she cannot enter the water.
Inspired by the TV show “Sea Hunt,” (1958-1961), in which Lloyd Bridges played a frogman (someone trained in scuba in a tactical capacity), Minick longed to see for herself what mysteries awaited beneath the ocean’s surface.
However, as recently as the 1960s, she found it nearly impossible to find a scuba class that would accept female students. “It took three years for me to find a class that would accept a woman,” she said. “No class would take me, and I went to all the dive shops around (La Jolla and San Diego).”
Minick finally received her certification in February 1966 through the YMCA. Her final test for certification was a roughly 100-foot dive at La Jolla Shores, she said.
Her deepest dive would be at Palancar Reef, off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. The water was so clear there that she could see her husband, Stan, looking down from the dive boat 160 feet above, and he could see her. For Minick, ocean exploration is as close as a person can get to space exploration. “This is the only other world that humans, most of us, will ever get to visit — and it really is unlike anything I’ve experienced walking around on Earth,” she said.
Minick would go on to dive regularly with renowned underwater photographer Chuck Nicklin, Bottom Scratchers member and Scripps Institution of Oceanography dive instructor Jim Stewart, and marine biologist Wheeler North. She penned regular articles for
However, few concessions were granted to her for being a woman. To get to some of the most prime dive spots, she traversed rocky cliffs and long hikes. “If you’re a woman, you carry your own gear,” she said.
Minick’s final dive was three years ago, at the Great Barrier Reef, near Queensland, Australia.
“That was it,” she said. “I decided, if there’s a pinnacle in that sport, that should be mine.”