The UK lockdown is beginning to ease, warmer weather is on the way and international travel may not be on the cards for a little while yet. Why not use this as an opportunity to get involved in UK diving? You may already be a certified diver who hasn’t yet explored UK waters, or you are new to the sport and dying to get involved in more outdoor activities. Whatever your reason, see our recommendations below to help you take the plunge and pop your cherry in UK waters!
Start where you are
Google your local dive shop or go to a training agency page (such as PADI or BSAC) and do a dive club search to find them. Give them a call for a general chat and arrange to meet someone in store when retail shops can open. Alternatively find out when their next socially-distanced club night/Zoom meeting or pool session may be. This is a great way to break the ice and talk to people who have been there and done that! If there is more than one dive club near you, shop around and see which one gives you the best vibes. Sometimes smaller businesses can cater to your needs more than massive centres with hundreds of members.
Visit an inland dive site
On 29th March some freshwater lakes and quarries will open their gates to divers, working in accordance with UK government guidelines. Pre-booking will be essential and if you are not already a member contact them now to express an interest to join. No buddy? No problem! Many can provide a guide at an additional cost and this is also a more personal way to get shown around the site and its facilities. Alternatively, you can sign up to do a course if there is a dive centre on site. You will be surprised at how many points of interest and how much marine life there is to enjoy at a freshwater inland site. A few of the more popular sites include:
Wraysbury Dive Centre (closest to London)
National Diving and Activity Centre (Chepstow)
St Andrews Lake (Kent)
Buy some sufficient cold water dive gear
We will follow this blog soon with some further cold water gear tips, but the best advice we can give for now is... do your research! Dive magazines – both online and in print – often review dive gear after one use. These articles are all well and good but really valuable information is how durable it is. Ask fellow divers and dive professionals about equipment they have tried and tested in different environments; join a diving forum; speak to the Mike’s Dive Store team for their recommendations. Our staff dive regularly in UK waters and have done for many years. They have seen brands, gimmicks and trends come and go and have a vast knowledge of materials and working parts of all dive kit from drysuits to reels and regulators to computers. Here's our guide to some of the best diving equipment for UK diving:
Do a course that will benefit your introduction to UK diving
So you are already a warm water diver and feel you have good buoyancy skills. Do a dry suit course and learn how to dive all over again! This course is very humbling but essential for getting under UK waters safely. It will also make diving in your new environment more enjoyable and comfortable. There are other courses and skills that you might find beneficial in time such as boat diving, boat handling, search and recovery and wreck diving. While dive centres are still closed you might be able to get a head start with some e-learning courses.
Get involved in a conservation project
The UK has a vast number of charities and organisations crying out for active members. As a few examples, The Shark Trust has the Great Eggcase Hunt and the Basking Shark Project, Marine Conservation Society has Sea Champions and British Divers Marine Life Rescue has the Marine Mammal Medic course. You can contribute to conservation and scientific research by getting involved in underwater and beach activities either with your buddy or a dive club. UK waters have so much to offer and it is nice to give something back and be part of the wider community.
Keep your eyes peeled for a series of further blogs by Mike’s Dive Store giving you more useful ideas for getting involved in UK diving as lockdown eases.