Look up at one end of the public swimming pool in Potters Bar on a Tuesday evening and you’re likely to be greeted by an unusual sight: up to a dozen people floating with air cylinders on their backs, gliding around in the water wearing fins on their feet.
The surprising spectacle at the Furzefield Leisure Centre is the weekly meeting of the Potters Bar Sub-Aqua club – and earlier this month, three Times Series reporters got a chance to kit up and see what all the splashing is about.
The club has been run by qualified volunteers since it was founded in 1974 and now, in its 40th year, has approximately 40 members who travel on up to ten diving holidays a year.
Ages range from 17 to an impressive 83, but the club’s committee is keen to bring in beginners who, by bringing a fee to cover costs, some swimwear and a towel, can become qualified British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) divers in little more than ten weeks.
Times Series reporters Chris Hewett, Natalie O'Neill and Anna slater got a taste of the course when they strapped on their buoyancy compensation devices (BCDs) and took part in an introductory dive at the Mutton Lane swimming pool.
All three were gently eased into the unnatural experience of breathing underwater before being taken through some of the basic skills needed to take part in an open water dive, including removing their breathing apparatus underwater and clearing their masks of water.
As well as the weekly pool training, the club organises regular trips abroad and across the UK to places including Egypt, Cornwall, Scotland and Swanage.
Diving instructor Jeff Dixon, who has completed more than 1,300 dives in the past 14 years, said: “It is safer than other adventure sports like skiing or rock climbing.
“There is a freedom to it that I love - it is like flying. You’re forever experiencing new things.”
Trip highlights for members have included swimming with dolphins, exploring tropical reefs, and witnessing some of nature’s most impressive underwater creatures.
Divers can qualify either under the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) system, or the BSAC course, though Jeff says the latter is more advanced and better value for money.
He said: “We don’t get paid – we do it because we love it. It is hugely rewarding when you see someone come up after their first open water dive with a beaming smile on their face.”
After resurfacing from their introductory dive, Chris, Natalie and Anna all said they would thoroughly recommend the experience to anyone who has not tried it before.
Chris said: “It was fantastic. I had a few doubts about it being in a swimming pool but it was great fun and you learn a lot very quickly.”
Natalie and Anna both added: “We couldn’t believe how friendly everyone was – it was a great experience.”
Club chairman Micky Greenwood is hoping more people in and around Potters Bar will come down and immerse themselves in the world of BCDs, regulators and flippers.
He said: “Every dive you do is different, whether it is in the UK or abroad. The company and the craic is fantastic and it opens up a big world that you would otherwise never experience.”
Membership of the Potters Bar club, including training, costs £7.50 a month and kit can be hired for £10 a month. Membership to the British Sub-Aqua Club costs £56 a year.
For more information, contact diving officer Jeff Dixon on 07511380386 or email firstname.lastname@example.org