Already a diver but not sure if you are suitably qualified for UK waters? See below for real-life scenarios that might answer questions you have about dipping your toes into our seas and inland sites. UK waters are teeming with life, wrecks and interesting topography, and we just love the buzz of being part of the diving community.
The course hyperlinks in this blog are for PADI e-learning courses, but there are many other training agencies in the UK who can teach you the necessary theory and skills required for cold water diving.
I am an Open Water Diver who did my course in the Maldives. Can I dive in the UK?
You absolutely can! If you learned to dive in the tropics however you may want to contact your local dive club, lake or quarry to gain some supervised experience in UK waters first. This is because diving in a shorty with just a few kilos of lead and aluminium cylinder feels very different to diving in a doubled-layered 7mm suit, hood and gloves. Add to the mix a heavier weight belt and a steel tank, and you may feel like a novice all over again!
Your certifying agency will have given you a certification card with a phrase similar to this printed on it: “qualified to dive in conditions as good as, or better than, those in which you trained”. To clarify - 20 degrees colder and 25 meters less visibility are not similar conditions! Therefore, it is important to learn from those more experienced in the new environment than yourself.
Regarding equipment, you may be given a BCD to rent with integrated pockets that you haven’t used before (after all, additional weight all on a belt may be uncomfortable on your hips). You might have never used open heel fins (it takes practice to bend down to put those on in thick wetsuits). A hood might make you a bit claustrophobic to begin with if you have been used to having mermaid hair in clear, warm water! All these changes will result in a very different (but still enjoyable) experience to when you last dived.
I have never dived in a drysuit and want to learn, but I am worried I won’t be able to afford one if I do the course.
Diving dry keeps you diving throughout the year and in more places. When signing up for a Dry Suit specialty course the rental suit is usually included in the price. During the course you will learn how to don and doff a suit correctly and practice proper buoyancy. It will also prepare you for choosing and maintaining an appropriate dry suit and undergarments for when you are ready to invest in one.
A good drysuit will last for years if properly looked after. There are also some very reasonably priced neoprene suits on the market. Mike’s Dive Store offers finance on orders over £500, so you can spread the cost over a number of months.
Following this course with Peak Performance Buoyancy is highly recommended in order to fine tune your new knowledge of diving dry with being a careful diver with good trim.
I’m interested in diving the wrecks of Plymouth Sound. Can I do this as an Open Water diver?
Many wrecks around the UK coastline are deeper than 18 meters so learning beyond an entry level diving course is recommended. Wreck diving is a fascinating adventure and historically interesting. Each wreck has a story to tell about its life, its crew and its final journey. To enjoy wreck diving to the max you should first complete your Advanced Open Water course and then perhaps a Wreck specialty course. You should a) have deep dive experience to a max depth of 30 meters and b) be able to identify hazards that wreck diving may introduce you to.
Many boat operators will insist you launch an SMB when wreck diving in current. The Advanced Open Water course is also a good opportunity for you to practice this skill under supervision. A continuing education course helps to build confidence and introduces you to different diving activities and environments. Specialty courses show how to approach those new activities safely and get the best out of them.
I live inland and learned to dive in a freshwater lake. I have never done any diving in the sea or from a boat. Who can help me with these new experiences?
Signing up for an Advanced Open Water course and both Drift and Boat specialty courses can introduce you to sea diving. If your local dive club only dives inland there is nothing stopping you from contacting a dive centre on the coast. They can help recommend accommodation and transport links to get you further afield. It is never a bad thing to spread your wings!
Learning about different currents and how to read tide tables are invaluable skills that can get you to dive sites at the best times. This will enrich your diving experience and make you aware of potential hazards. Your instructor will teach new communication, navigation and drift diving techniques.
Boat diving is a lot of fun and will take you to sites that would otherwise be inaccessible. There is a camaraderie on boats that you get nowhere else because excursions are a team effort. The Boat specialty course will introduce you to etiquette, terminology and procedures for diving from a small inflatable right up to a large charter boat.
I had a scary experience in a down current on holiday and the guide had to rescue me as I breathed all my air. Now I am afraid of going anywhere with current in case it happens again.
A Deep Diver specialty course will arm you with the knowledge and confidence to control your buoyancy with depth changes. You will also learn about physiological changes that are affected by increased pressure like nitrogen narcosis and gas usage. Mother nature is powerful and there is nothing to be ashamed of in having a healthy respect for something like a down current. Overcoming fear often just involves having the right tools to master it. This course will allow you to go to depth under supervision in a controlled environment.
There is also a Self-Reliant Diver course where you learn to manage alone in the event you become separated from your buddy or a dive guide.
Lots of my friends use nitrox and keep telling me I need to learn about it for UK diving. What advantages will this have over diving on air?
Enriched air gives you an extended bottom time thanks to its reduced nitrogen content. Oxygen is also metabolised by your body better than nitrogen. Reducing the nitrogen content in your cylinder means less nitrogen dissolving into your body tissues (certainly within the 18-30 metre range). It does make sense for you to do an Enriched Air Diver course, so you may dive on the same gas as your mates. Your dive plans will be more closely matched and - if you have good air consumption - you can spend more time at depth with them. It is also an easy course that can be completed in less than a day.
I really want to dive in the UK, but I am afraid of getting lost in murky water!
When you join a dive club or sign up for a UK trip, chances are you will be guided by a professional who is familiar with the area. It is also worth mentioning that UK waters do not have poor viz all the time! However, it is never a bad thing to take more responsibility for your own dive plan. We recommend either an Underwater Navigator or Search and Recovery specialty course to make you more UK savvy. They will help get your head around compass use, search patterns and natural navigation techniques.
Taking control of where you are heading and finding your way back to either boat or shore will a) reduce stress and b) improve your air consumption. There is nothing worse than a long surface swim when you can smell the bacon sandwiches from so far away!
I want to do my Rescue Diver course in the UK, but I am quite small and I’m worried I won’t be able to lift divers up ladders and over rocks.
While diving emergencies can happen in any environment, you are more likely to witness problems in more challenging conditions like cold water and low visibility. Many divers say the Rescue Diver course is the most rewarding course they ever did. It will challenge you mentally and physically, but it does not exclude you because of your size or fitness. You are taught different methods for lifting, and you adapt techniques to the best of your ability. You also work as a team during many of the scenarios. This course will make you a more thoughtful buddy and will build confidence.