You might be sitting on a plane reading the latest copy of Diver heading off to warm waters to dive. You might be heading home after completing your Open Water course, energised having fallen in love with the underwater world. Or you might be at home dreaming of warm waters and sun. Wherever you are, if you’re a warm water diver then the lures of the UK waters may have bypassed you.
For ten years I was a warm water diver, and committed to remain so, only completing the IDC to become an instructor in the UK because I couldn’t get the dates abroad to tie up with school holiday dates. After a change in my personal life that restricted my freedom to travel abroad I decided to give UK diving a go. I booked in for a dry suit course and, I have to say, hated it! A small leak meant I emerged from my first dive lacking feeling in extremities and a serious concern I’d lost a few bits. From not having to worry about my buoyancy I’d been plunged into cold water, weighed down by all the extra kit that comes with dark and cold diving, and the inability to put on my own fins.
A year later and I’m a committed UK diver and would go out every weekend if I had the time. I called a local dive club and went along. A dive master took me under his wing and we went out to Wraysbury so I could get used to the drysuit I’d picked up second hand and work on my buoyancy. It was a trip to Plymouth that convinced me UK diving was worth it. I love the Red Sea and had travelled there seven times in the last year but the life in the UK water rivalled anything I’d seen there. But what was more appealing was the wreck diving and it is this that has continued to inspire new trips and visits.
After diving in the UK I have undoubtedly become a better warm water diver. I am more aware of the behaviour of the sea, my buoyancy has improved beyond recognition and my confidence has increased. I have become far more self reliant, building a little toolkit and learning how my kit works rather than giving a shout for someone else on the boat to come along and resolve an issue. Knowing my equipment has improved decision making underwater and I’m a safer diver, and a better instructor, as a result. I still have to learn more about the tides and how our seas work; it’s vastly different from the easy days of loading the boat and leaving the rest to the captain.
The other big difference in warm water diving is accessibility. I’ve generally travelled alone and turned up to different spots around the world and hopped on a boat, being buddied up with groups on board. In Hurghada I’d guided dives and had a different experience with my diving. In the UK I found it a little harder work but luckily found myself a great club with active divers of all abilities, and who, most importantly, were willing to buddy up so I could build experience in the UK. In time I’ve met other divers and, now I’m more at home in the sea, I feel confident to use buddy groups on social media.
So if you’re sitting on a plane reading this as a warm water diver my advice would be to book into a dry suit course, call a club and plunge in. The UK has some of the richest dive opportunities of anywhere in the world. It might not always be glorious blue water and brightly coloured fish, but it is a great experience. I’ll still warm water dive but this year’s goals? Scapa Flow, Farne Islands and a bit of Channel wreck diving.