In at the deep end – and it’s a breath-taking experienceBy Mike Pyle
April 28, 2010
Bracknell is renowned for its variety of sports and pastimes – ice hockey, football, rugby to name a few – but you wouldn’t expect scuba diving to be one of them.
Mike Pyle donned ‘fins’ and air tank to find out more
A group of more than 40 people from the area take to the briny deep – well, the swimming pool at Bracknell Leisure Centre – every Thursday with Bracknell Sub Aqua Club.
Amazingly, the club has been going for 41 years.
Members regularly take trips to UK diving locations like Weymouth, Littlehampton and Plymouth and often visit more exotic spots all over the world.
But rather than taking me straight to the Red Sea, I was dropped in at the shallow end in the Bagshot Road leisure centre for a ‘try-dive’.
I was talked through all the equipment – breathing apparatus, a floatation vest, weight belt, fins (flippers to the uninitiated) and a mask – by Steve Lawson, my tutor for the evening, then we hopped into the pool.
The first thing I had to get over was just how unnatural it feels to take a breath while I was underwater, despite the oxygen supply.
Even though Steve told me to just breath as usual I almost couldn’t help but hold my breath and then gasp for air.
Once I got the hang of the breathing and controlling my buoyancy though, the feeling was liberating.
In no time at all I was unsteadily roaming the bottom of the pool and Steve had me doing forward rolls, backward rolls and more.
My 45-minute session underwater went by upsettingly quickly because it was such good fun.
But my disappointment at having to clamber out (no mean feat in all the kit) and dry off was tempered by a refreshing trip to the centre’s bar for a chat with a few of the club members.
Publicity officer John Ralstone said: “I’ve been a member for 16 years. It says a lot about the club that it tends to keep its members.
“I came down because one of my friends told me there a scuba diving club here and I thought that was amazing – and 16 years later I’m still here!”
Other members, who are almost all from the Bracknell area, include chairman Nic Hallet, who only started diving when he was 40, deep diving world-record holder Frances Jewson and national diving officer with the British Sub Aqua Club Jeff Reed.
John added: “We have a great social scene – even during the off-season [the winter] there are lots of events going on.
“And from April to the end of September there are trips away pretty much every weekend.”
The club, which is registered with the British Sub Aqua Club, welcomes new members and offers try-dives for just £15.
As a non-diver, membership to Bracknell Sub Aqua Club costs £190 for the first year and then less for renewals.
There are discounts for people who already know how to dive, and students.
For more information visit www.bracknell-scuba.org.uk or to arrange a try-dive call 07951 855725.