Barbara Allen

Location of Interview
Collection Name

Beneath the Surface of San Diego


The beautiful coastal city of San Diego in southern California has been the nucleus of underwater exploration, innovation and research throughout sport diving’s relatively short history. Boasted as the home of the first dive club in the world, the first oceanographic research institution to use diving for science, and many of the most influential diving pioneers, San Diego has a rich cultural heritage in sport diving antiquity. Large and significant portions of this history have gone undocumented, as many stories and observations remain accessible only in the memories of these pioneers themselves. However, recreational divers in San Diego represent a large stakeholder group with a highly respected and knowledgeable capacity for shaping local marine resource management choices, and divers rely on the health and protection of these coastlines as a driver for their passions, leisure and fascination. The purpose of the project overall is to tell the history of sport diving in San Diego from the perspectives of those at its forefront.  Oral histories were recorded with eight experienced local San Diego divers who began diving recreationally and went on to become influential contributors to revolutions in marine science, diving technology and ocean resource management.

Date of Interview
Biographical Sketch

Barbara Allen is a seasoned diver and underwater instructor who has made significant contributions to the diving community in San Diego. Born in Los Angeles, Allen first visited San Diego as a teenager with her parents. Her first experience with diving was in 1957 when she took the LA County Underwater Instructors class. This marked the beginning of her lifelong passion for diving and underwater exploration. Allen's first dive in San Diego was at Scripps Canyon, Scripps Pier, an experience she describes as "scary as heck." Despite the initial fear, she continued to dive and eventually worked for an ocean research lab that had a boat on the pier. Allen was also involved in the competitive spearfishing community, helping out at spearfishing meets and attending gatherings of the CenCal Council of Diving Clubs. She was particularly drawn to the inviting diving community in San Diego, which she found more accessible than the diving spots in LA.

Scope and Content Note
This oral history interview with Barbara Allen, conducted by Ashleigh Palinkas, provides a detailed account of Allen's experiences and contributions to the diving community in San Diego. The interview was conducted at Allen's home in Leucadia, San Diego, CA, on March 21, 2014. The interview begins with Allen's early experiences with diving, including her first dive at Scripps Canyon, Scripps Pier in 1957. She describes the fear and excitement of her first dive, as well as the social and educational aspects of the diving community. Allen also discusses her involvement in the competitive spearfishing community, including her experiences at spearfishing meets and gatherings of the CenCal Council of Diving Clubs. She shares anecdotes about her diving adventures, including sleeping in a bathtub at a gathering and her love for kelp diving. The interview also touches on the differences between the diving communities in LA and San Diego. Allen expresses her preference for the accessibility and diversity of diving spots in San Diego, which she found more inviting than the diving spots in LA. Throughout the interview, Allen's passion for diving and her commitment to the diving community in San Diego are evident. Her experiences provide valuable insights into the history and evolution of diving in San Diego.

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The NOAA mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. The Voices Oral History Archives offers public access to a wide range of accounts, including historical materials that are products of their particular times, and may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes.

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