Rugby woman born without arms becomes scuba diving ambassador

Laura Furness with scuba instructors Dave Lowe and Colin Bancroft
Laura Furness with scuba instructors Dave Lowe and Colin Bancroft

A civil servant who was born with no arms has been appointed as a scuba diving ambassador to encourage more women to take up the sport.

Laura Furness’ lack of limbs didn’t hold her back and once the determined 34-year-old decided she wanted to try diving her local British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) helped her achieve that ambition.

I don’t care whether I dive in a swimming pool or open water – for me it’s about the feeling of freedom you get from it

Laura Furness

Four years later Laura, who lives with husband John in Rugby, has dived all over the country and abroad.

She said: “I’m pretty stubborn so to be honest the reason I wanted to do it in the first place was mainly because people had told me I wouldn’t be able to as I have no arms.

“They said it would be a step too far, so naturally I was going to make sure I did it.”

Laura is a great role model for the This Girl Can campaign, which BSAC is backing as official partners of Sport England.

The campaign aims to encourage more women and girls to be active, and overcome the barrier of feeling self-conscious.

Laura is the fifth This Girl Can Dive Ambassador to be appointed by BSAC as part of the campaign.

She first tried scuba diving in a swimming pool in Chesterfield when she lived in Sheffield and, after moving to Rugby in 2012, soon joined her local BSAC branch – Rugby SAC - to continue the sport.

Having been born without arms or hands is an added challenge to Laura especially as communication underwater between divers is all done by hand signals.

She said: “It does give it an extra dimension but I’ve just created my own set of signals. It can be a bit tricky but that’s probably part of the appeal.

“There are more things I have to think about. For most people if you need to adjust your mask you just do it whereas I can’t but there’s no point worrying about things like that, you just have to get on with it.

“It’s probably more of a challenge for the people I dive with as I know my own capabilities but they have to get their heads round it.”

Since Laura took her first plunge in an indoor swimming pool she has enjoyed diving in the Maldives, surrounded by turtles, sharks and eels, as well as off the Northumbrian coast with seals.

She said: “Seeing sharks asleep at the bottom of the sea was pretty amazing and playing with seals that were nipping at our fins.

“But I don’t care whether I dive in a swimming pool or open water or a quarry or the sea – for me it’s about the feeling of freedom you get from it.”