Fear set in when 4-year-old Frances Farabaugh swam in the Dallas World Aquarium shark tank for the first time — but not because of the predators.
“It was my first time in salt water. My eyes stung,” the underwater natural says of a pain she forgot, mesmerized by the fish.
From then on, Farabaugh begged for an open-water certification. Ten years later, her mother — a diver — relented, scouring San Diego for an instructor who would “put the fear of God in me.”
At Seacamp San Diego, the new diver saw that the sport could be part of a future career and not just a hobby. Scuba became a rudder, leading her to Humboldt State University — with an esteemed diving curriculum — and a year abroad at the James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. There she began volunteering on Mike Ball’s Spoilsport, which resulted in a starring role in a new BARE Sports ad. For the shoot, the crew arranged a private shark feed. Typically, divers sit for the experience, but Farabaugh and her cameramen swam among the silvertips.
It was an experience most divers dream of — and the zoology-and-marine-biology major, 20, is just getting started. Regarding the future, she is unsure, save for diving. As a researcher looking to answer the previously unanswerable, she says, “The sea has so many unknowns that it’s fantastic.”
» Why I Dive: It’s so extraordinary, and yet familiar and comfortable.
» Age when certified: 14
» Certification level: PADI Rescue Diver
» Hometown/School: San Diego, California; Humboldt State
» Most memorable dive: I was leading a group on the Great Barrier Reef. My compass heading had been wrong, and I realized this as a current carried us into the blue. We surfaced to see a pod of minke whales.
» Funniest dive: A sea lion poked me on my shoulder, then on my other shoulder. After another round, I caught her and laughed, exhaling a huge bubble cloud — and she did the same.
» Who I Most Want to Dive With: Richard Branson or James Cameron. If either of you is reading this, I would love a seat on your sub if one becomes available!