To kickstart 30 before I am 30, fate has given me the draw of scuba diving as my first activity to tick off of the list. I recently finished at a job and my lovely team gifted me the chance to have a try dive for 2 hours at Vobster Quay.
Vobster quay is a lovely quarry that many now use for both scuba diving and wild swimming. Many come here for the diving and they have various boats and sunken areas under water to explore (for the more experienced diver).
So…how did it go?
It was quite an interesting one! I was in a group of 4, myself being the only adult, (as it was the school holidays) so not only did I feel rather old but was looked on by parents, who were all lovely and one even provided the images for me.
To begin with our lovely mentor gave us a introductory talk about diving and how everything you are wearing works (I will run through this in kit). We talked through hand signals for under the water. These are used for the more obvious reasons and also for safety, so if at anytime you feel uneasy it is straightforward to communicate.
We also covered descending in the water and why you need to do this slowly. You stop and then equalise your ears (like you would on a plane by holding your nose and pushing air to pop the ears). As you get deeper the pressure on your ears increases and if you do not equalise you will get ear pain.
We also have a buddy system, so you are always checking with the person next to you how they are doing, using the hand signals.
The basic kit
Wetsuit/drysuit and boots: Everyone needs one of these in the cold water of the UK, especially when you are learning as it’s a lot of sitting around in the water. These are provided for you.
Flippers: You will be wearing these on your feet and they will make you walk funny. But they are used to aid in swimming underwater. You only use you legs for swimming when diving, no hands needed!
Diving mask: This covers your eyes and nose.
BCD: This is the vest you wear with all of the technical gear on. You can inflate and deflate this with a special button you always hold when diving to help you get to the surface or descend into the depths.
Oxygen cylinder: Attached to the vest is the oxygen cylinder, a key part of the diving experience. It of course allows you to breathe underwater! Attached to the oxygen is your regulator (breathing apparatus). This you put into your mouth and breathe. It also has attached a spare regulator and a gauge that measures how much oxygen you have in your tank, so you know when is best to resurface with enough time.
Being in the water
Because we were on an introductory dive, we were practising within a kind of quarantine area for safety while in the water. This area had the steps down into it, each going down a meter further in depth.
With all of the kit on it was quite difficult to stand up and kneeling down I did feel the cramp (just getting old I guess!). First off we were getting to grips with the weight of the kit and then attempting to lie down on our tummies in the water. This was the hard part for me as the aim is to be able to sink. I had to have extra weights added to me to allow me to do this, however the weights were very one sided so ever so often I was offset to the right, and if you aren’t calm you end up just flailing about.
After a while I did get used to the weights and began to calm myself. It is very much a mental state and you need to stay calm. I must admit, like they say, when you are older it is much harder to grasp new things sometimes. The kids were naturals of course and were sinking quite easily. At first I had some trouble with sinking far enough down under the water but after speaking to the instructor I realised that I wasn’t breathing deep enough out. Once I did this the sinking part was easy!
After this I did get used to the diving experience and spent most of my time practicing going under, swimming for a few minutes and then resurfacing. I went down to around 2 meters and the other boys I was with braved it and went down to 3 (my adult safety mechanisms coming in again).
If you are interested in trying out diving for the first time and you are unsure of what this may entail then an introductory dive is the way to go. It is 2 hours and really gets you to grips with what diving is all about. You may not necessarily be going and looking at corals or shipwrecks but there is so much to learn in the space of 2 hours that it won’t matter to you. Like anything, practice takes time. After 2 hours my energy levels were down and I got a round of applause from the parents when I left the water (thanks to them for the support and photographs!)
I would definitely advise trying to get a try dive in an outdoor area rather than a swimming pool as it’s natural and you may be surprised to catch a glimpse of some fish. For me it was a beautiful sunny evening, which made it all the better. If it were raining it may not affect you too much as you are in the water anyway.
Try dives are a great way to test your boundaries and if it isn’t for you, you have only spend around £30 rather than £100+ for a PADI diving test.
For more information on diving at Vobster Quay check out their website.
Photos by Ben Langdon.