Guest blog: Dipping your toes in
Diving enthusiast and instructor Paul Murray, of Edinburgh-based Deep Blue Scuba, has an exciting life and job diving in Scottish waters. I have asked him to bring regular updates about his dives in Scotland’s sea and lochs. I’m fascinated by what lies beneath Scotland’s shoreline but I’m a scaredy cat and get too cold to dive! Paul knows far more than me in any case.
In his second guest blog, he describes how people can get into scuba diving in Scotland.
He writes: Learning to dive might not be something you think of as a prime activity to do in Scotland, but it’s more popular than you would expect. And there are plenty of mad keen divers. I know because I have been teaching lots of them!
Many of the phone calls and emails we receive at Deep Blue Scuba start with the words: “I’ve always wanted to try diving”, which is great and there is more than one way to give scuba a go right at your doorstep. We’re lucky to be surrounded by sea lochs and never really far away from a coast, so there are plenty of locations and different types of sites to try.
The other common question is: “But isn’t Scotland too cold for diving outdoors?” At this time of the year, the water temperature will just be starting to rise again towards double digits and thermal protection is key. Typically, students wear a neoprene drysuit with a couple of thin layers underneath. Add to that, hood and gloves and you don’t feel very cold at all. Later in the year, things get even easier with water temperatures up to about 14 degrees, which can feel positively tropical! Promise!
Having said that, most divers still start out in their local swimming pool. Under the PADI system, there’s a choice of going for a taster session called Discover Scuba or going the whole hog and completing an Open Water course over four days.
For the taster session all you need is swimming gear. An instructor gives a quick overview of the scuba kit and explains the basic rules of diving, including: never ever hold your breath, equalise your ears as you descend and make sure you are nice and floaty when on the surface.
Most people take a few minutes to get comfortable breathing underwater, so we allow time to build their confidence before going for a swim. Within a short time, new divers manage their own buoyancy fairly well and are happy to play around with an underwater Frisbee, for example. For those interested in learning more, we introduce skills from the open water course as well.
People who have already decided that they want to become certified divers usually go straight onto an open water course. It’s a bit more involved, starting with independent study to prepare for the classroom sessions. Once these are complete, it’s time for five confined water dives. We tend to teach them in the pool, because it’s safe and easy. This is when we introduce crucial dive skills, which all focus on learning to solve problems underwater, be safe and enjoy yourself.
Then it’s time to put everything into practice in open water. Being based in Edinburgh we have a choice of east or west coast, but we tend to go west most times because the sea lochs offer dependable training conditions. While there are still skills to be done there is also plenty of time to swim around, go for a dive and explore anemones, soft coral, crabs and other sea life.
We leave plenty of time for chats and teas and coffees, too. What’s great about the course is that after spending the four days together, many newly qualified divers have become friends and go on to become dive buddies. Learning to dive really is only the start of a new lifestyle and we encourage divers to join us for trips, fun dives and club nights, too.