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Free try dive with Bracknell scuba clubBy Lucy Thorne
May 16, 2012
Bracknell Sub Aqua Club is offering free try dive sessions throughout May. Lucy Thorne strapped on her fins
I have done some snorkelling, but my experience of diving is limited to hanging off (or rather on for dear life) to a diving board by my fingertips, too terrified to drop five foot into the pool.
Granted, that was not scuba diving, but it did involve a swimming pool and the unknown, the same combination I would be facing at Bracknell Leisure Centre.
Bracknell is one of the last places which springs to mind when thinking about scuba diving, but it should be one of the first. Bracknell Sub Aqua Club has been going for around 40 years and has about 75 friendly members of varying capabilities and levels.
The club offers try dive taster sessions throughout the year for anyone keen to discover a new hobby or as a refresher for those who haven’t dived for a while.
My session, once I’d squeezed into my wetsuit – not essential but warmer than shorts and a T-shirt – started with a run-through of the kit I’d be using and a safety briefing.
As we were going to be underwater for a while, it was important to know how to communicate with my instructor Jon Payne.
For those who know me, I rarely shut up, so spending an hour in silence would normally be a challenge, but being underwater and concentrating on breathing through a mouthpiece made it easy.
First we learned a series of hand signals; okay, not okay, going up and going down. These don’t sound difficult, but I kept confusing going up (a thumbs up) with okay (a circle between thumb and forefinger).
I was then kitted out with an air tank with floatation vest, weight belt, fins and mask. This is all put on in the water as it’s easier to master, or so Jon told me.
There was so much to concentrate on, and it is amazing how quickly you forget you’re swimming at the bottom of a Bracknell pool.
One of the key skills to master is neutral buoyancy, so you neither sink nor float. It’s controlled by breathing and the amount of air in the floatation vest.
Jon, who’s been diving for 10 years, kept at a constant level in the water but I found myself floating up and sinking to the bottom as I regulated the air. There were also the fins to contend with, throwing out the breaststroke I am accustomed to.
The pool drops to three metres, which allows you to get a real feel for the sport. As I made my way along the bottom, a swimmer was doing lengths above me, oblivious to my presence.
At one point I was so comfortable I stupidly lifted my mask to empty out the water, forgetting I was already submerged.
I probably should have confessed earlier that I’ve never been a strong or confident swimmer and have a fear of drowning. However, having a tank of compressed air strapped to me, a mouthpiece shoved in my gob and a patient and calm instructor, meant that fear was gone.
It was surprising how comfortable it felt underwater and how quickly an hour and a half disappeared. And, despite my jaw being clamped around the mouthpiece, I was relaxed.
There’s something incredibly peaceful about diving, with no stress or modern-day distractions.
For those who enjoy the try dive, the next step is joining the club and signing up for an Ocean Diver course, which allows you dive to 20m.
- To organise a try dive call 07951 855725 or email firstname.lastname@example.org The dives are free during May and £10 throughout the rest of the year. For more details visit www.bracknellscuba.org.uk