So, we all love to travel/dive all over the world. Fantastic, yes, but it can leave a dent in your bank balance after a while. In 2015 after I finished my training in Utila, Honduras, I came home to the UK to spend time with family and restock the bank balance!! The one thing I was determined not to do was put my diving and teaching on the back shelf. I was no stranger to UK diving as I had completed my PADI open water course at Aquanauts in Plymouth. However I certainly wouldn’t call myself a cold water diver.
As soon as I returned to the UK, I searched for the nearest dive Centre which turned out to be Aquasport International. I explained to the Course Director, Vini Howlett that I had just qualified and would like to gain experience to enhance my teaching skills whilst being in the UK. Straight away he was more than happy to help out a new instructor and I was to start team teaching the next weekend. And the rest started a new chapter.
The Dry Suit!
My first task was to tackle the dreaded dry suit. I had completed my dry suit orientation in Iceland a few weeks prior but it was now time to master the skill of dry suit diving in UK quarries. Surprisingly what I did find was my position in the water was a lot easier to maintain as the air was able to spread across the whole of my body rather than just the BCD. By trapping a small amount of air in the foot of the suit, this lifted the lower half of my body therefore allowing effortless and comfortable fin kicks. Perfect!! I picked up tips and tricks from the amazing instructors at Aquasport International that would really help me out when I started teaching in open water, most importantly 'The Cheese Jokes!!!'
Quarry Diving!!! Well …!
There are many preconceptions of diving in quarries. Whenever I tell people where I dive most weekends they look at me like I’m crazy. Dead bodies lurking in the depths, Loch Ness monster waiting to drag you down to hell and no visibility, are just a few comments I get from both divers and non-divers. So to set the record straight; I have not yet found one dead body, unfortunately I have not yet found the Loch Ness monster either (but I’m pretty sure he resides up in Scotland). The visibility comment I have to admit has some truth to it. Yes, at certain times of the year due to environmental factors the visibility can be as little as 1 meter, whilst this can be a minor nuisance your navigational skills are put to good use, however this isn’t the case every dive. Most dives (unless the open water students have be picking a fight with the silt) I experience a good 6 meters and on great days 10 meters. I have to say when I do go to a dive site with 30 meters visibility I appreciate it more than most.
At certain times of the year being cold can be an understatement, however after the first few minutes you acclimatise and the cold sinks to the back of your mind. Just make sure to warm those hands up when you surface with a warm cup of English tea!! Once you get over the cold you can then start to appreciate what’s around you. I dive at Dosthill Quarry most weekends and despite being small in size there is plenty of adventure to be had. There is a plane, boat, barge, house, container, truck and a bath to name a few. And not forgetting finding Norman and Bob (the resident Pike and Sturgeon). Close by to Dosthill there is Stoney Cove which is a lot bigger and even more wrecks to penetrate. A little further North there is Capernwray that is home to a Dickens Class Harbour Minesweeper. These are just a few of the fantastic Quarries the UK has to offer to all levels of divers.
Teaching in the UK
I have been very lucky with the students I have taught over the last 2 years. Their perseverance and dedication has been inspiring. As an instructor you may at times forget how hard it was when you first started diving, so by having this empathy and understanding allows us to think outside the box. Teaching in the UK can be really challenging, not only for an instructor but for the student as well. New divers not only have to deal with the unfamiliarity of breathing underwater and controlling their buoyancy for the first time, they also have to do this in a dry suit simultaneously, which for even an experienced diver takes time to master. If that wasn’t enough they also have to overcome the fabulous weather we get in the UK (no sarcasm obviously ;)).
One of the key points I highlight to my students during the briefing for open water, is that unfortunately the weather cannot be controlled and they have bring a positive attitude and prepare for the worse.
‘The attitude you bring to the dive, will shape your dive’
I have taught in snow, hail, down pours of rain, freezing to warm water temperatures ranging from 5 -18 degrees Celsius and least I forget the odd sunny glorious days. And in any one of those conditions above my cheeks still get burnt every weekend!!
One of the hardest skills for new divers is to be able to control their buoyancy, there can be a lot of ‘yo yoing’ going on the open water dives to start, but once they start to get the hang of it you can see the relaxation in their face and the enjoyment taking over. I truly believe that divers completing their open water in the UK, especially in a dry suit, pushes their ability to the max and sets their diving capabilities much higher than learning in less demanding environments.
Time of my life!!
To all non-dry suit instructors, if you really want to progress your skills as a diver and instructor, head to a country (UK preferable ;)) where dry suits are essential. I promise you, you will be amazed at the skills you will gain. I feel very privileged to say I have had the chance to work at one of the UK’s top Dive Centres. The staff at Aquasport International have been incredible to work with, even when they dress/look like this.
They took me into their dive family and despite me being the brunt of most of their jokes, the banter is what I will miss the most. I’m off to explore the world once again but I know I will find myself back home in the UK one day and the first thing I will do is head to Aquasport International and get straight back into that dry suit. Sorry Mum, I will try and pop by to say hello first!