To say it is almost 60 miles from the nearest coastline, it’s no mean achievement that a sub-aqua diving club in Sheffield is celebrating its diamond anniversary.
The branch of the British Sub Aqua Club will celebrate its longevity in style, using surface marker buoys to float up and cover the surface of Ponds Forge pool where members meet on a weekly basis.
“It will look like a giant cake covered in candles,” explained membership secretary Sue Gill.
“We did something similar for our 50th anniversary, and will invite other local clubs to join us for the occasion.”
It’s a smallish but friendly club, with 22 members, and very active. Regular training sessions take place and diving trips are arranged across the world.
Any new members will be made very welcome, from seasoned divers to complete beginners, said Sue. But they must be able to swim.
People have no idea how spectacular and colourful the underwater world can be. Colours change as you swim deeper.Sue Gill
She chuckled, recalling a new Italian enthusiast who only informed them at the poolside that he had never swum a stroke.
“We told him he must learn to swim and he did. He returned six months later and became a member,” added Sue.
At one time the club had a huge waiting list and allowed inductions only once a year. Now, there are many more clubs and some divers prefer to centre their interests abroad.
There are no founder members still at the Sheffield club, but there is one 85-year old member, a university professor who remains active.
It all began when a small group of enthusiasts got together and decided to form a club.
In those days they had to cut and glue together their own diving suits from neoprene, explained Sue. There were no lifejackets and diving equipment was extremely basic. Diving took place in much shallower waters and was much more hazardous.
Sue’s husband Alan, 66, is the oldest serving member now.
“Everyone is here simply because they love diving”, explained Sue. “I have a great interest in marine biology, and Alan enjoys underwater photography. Some people love to explore caves or shipwrecks. There are 15 dotted around the British Isles.”
She continued: “People have no idea how spectacular and colourful the underwater world can be, and it changes colour as you swim deeper.
“In the waters of the Maldives, wafting Manta Ray, the ‘giants of the ocean; are a common sight.
“They glide by and spend time cleaning themselves then settle for a while....wonderful to watch.”
Divers love sharks, she added. “Sharks are more afraid of divers than vice versa. Only great whites are dangerous and you don’t find those in our waters.”
It can be a challenging sport in open water. Susan recalls times when the sea has quickly become rough, and an occasion when they surfaced to find themselves in dense fog.
“Luckily we had a compass bearing. Otherwise we would have had no idea which way to go,” she added.
Cathedral Rock at St Abbs in Scotland is a favourite diving spot for the Sheffielders.
It’s not a sport for children, so they are not admitted as members. Divers need to have a tough physical and mental capacity. Accidents can happen, and one diver is dependent on another should they get in to difficulty.
Sue has seen two people airlifted to safety after they got the ‘bends’ or decompression illness. Training covers how this can be avoided, and certain illnesses prohibit any diving.
Otherwise it is as safe a sport as any other, with sophisticated equipment. This can be expensive at first, but with membership of a club comes the opportunity to buy second-hand items at reduced cost. There are benefits to being part of a national set-up too, in the form of dive insurance, a monthly magazine, and discounts and offers on dive holidays.
The Sheffield Sub-Aqua members link closely with the city’s university diving club.
Anyone young or older who would like to try diving can join the Wednesday night meet at 9pm and have a go. “We make it gentle and fun, with a somersault or two for newbies,” said Sue.
“You never stop learning though. I’ve been diving since 1979 and am always adding to my knowledge.”
Trips out are planned at least once a month. On a recent day to Northumberland members were joined by seals who circled and played with them and rubbed up against their legs.
“That was fantastic,” said Sue. “It’s an experience like no other.” For more information contact Sue on 07815 185470, email firstname.lastname@example.org
* Club - Sheffield branch of the British Sub Aqua Club.
* Meets - Ponds Forge Pool.
* Day - Wednesday
* Time - 9pm
* Age of club - 60 years.
* Membership - 22
* Training - British Sub Aqua Club qualifications
* Nearest coastline - 57 miles
* Open water trips - once monthly
* Date of anniversary - September 28
* Minimum age under national diving restrictions - 12
* No upper age limit
* Former famous diver - Arthur C. Clarke
* BSAC motto - Dive with friends
* Website - Sheffield branch, Sheffield BASC