Scuba diving is a great hobby, that everyone can enjoy – seeing the ocean from a different perspective that from the surface. Entering into the world just below the surface and deeper can provide some excellent sights. Brightly coloured fish, complex coral reefs, intricate ecosystems and interesting wrecks are all part of the experience.
Whilst it is not exactly an extreme sport, there are dangers when going into the world’s seas and oceans. We are not naturally designed for life under the sea and even with the right gear, there are still risks involved when going further down. Whilst rarely deadly, the risks should be known so that you can stay safe.
For most people, renting the equipment involved is easiest, as most people probably won’t have all of the gear needed (If you are starting out, click here to get an idea). One of the smaller pieces of equipment that can often be overlooked is a good quality watch.
Analog watches may seem antiquated to some, but for divers they are still essential pieces of kit, being responsible for ensuring safe dives countless times. They have numerous uses – telling the time, tracking dive time, timing decompression stage when ascending and other features such as depth gauges and compasses on some models.
There are huge ranges of watches available for all styles, tastes and uses, but if you are serious about your diving, investing in a high quality watch from a brand such as Omega or Rolex can help you out during the sport and will look good in any situation. Stockists such as Banks Lyon in Lancaster have a great range of watches which can see you through as many diving trips as you can handle and give you years worth of service.
There are many options available, but here are some of the points that you should try and get to ensure you best watch at your disposal.
- Get a larger depth resistance than you need. If a watch is resistant up to 200m, you should not push that limit as there is more pressure than just depth. Moving your wrist exerts more pressure on the watch, effectively making the pressure much greater than the depth you are at.
- Screw down crowns have a reputation for being more waterproof than push pull crowns, but on higher end watches, the difference is negligible.
- A rotating bezel on a watch is vital for diving. It should ideally be removable for ease of cleaning, have engraved markings to resist wear better than printed markers and be unidirectional so that calculations can be kept precise. If it knocks forward, it may cut your dive short, but if it knocks back it could endanger your life!
- Illuminated displays are helpful, but ensure that there is enough power in the watch to last through the dive, either with a good battery or being out in the sun to charge the luminous paint beforehand.
- Helium valves are great for deeper diving. They release helium as you descend, so that pressure is equalised to ensure the watch casing will not crack.
There are many other features provided by different manufacturers, so having a good understanding of what you want out of your watch is very helpful and will help you for many dives to come!
If you’re a fan of sporting holidays; especially those of the water sports variety, a destination which you may not have considered is The Maldives. This beautiful collection of islands is the perfect location for those who want a week or two of water sports and with such a large variety of marine life, suits scuba diving and snorkeling absolutely brilliantly. However, whether you prefer sailing, wake boarding, kite surfing or para sailing; there’s no debating that The Maldives could be just the location for you.
We were recently lucky enough to visit The Maldives and stay in one of the leading Maldives hotels, The Baros Maldives. Following our trip, we thought we’d blog about some of our favourite water sport activities which we took part in whilst we were there.
1. Wake Boarding
Our number 1 by far has to be wake boarding. There’s no doubting that this is what we enjoyed most, despite only trying it out on the last day we were there. It was such an experience whizzing through the turquoise blue Indian Ocean on a wake board and the sport is so exhilarating. If you’ve never tried wake boarding before; you’re missing out big time! With just a couple of hours lessons, we were quickly gaining confidence and felt comfortable out on the water.
2. Banana Boating
Whilst it’s by no means an activity which is exclusive to The Maldives; you can’t deny that it’s fun, with that sense of danger and excitement coupled in. Banana boating is great fun, wherever you do it, and we weren’t going to miss out on the opportunity of a go whilst on the holiday. It’s something we’ve done before but in such a tranquil setting, it seemed even more amazing!
Possibly the most relaxing water sport which we endured had to be snorkeling. With thousands of different species of fish, turtles, dolphins and coral reef in The Maldives; it was mind blowing. Seeing many of these species of marine life in their natural habitat was outstanding. We may have seen many in sea life centres and the like but that’s nothing compared to seeing them in their natural environment.
All in all, if you’re looking for a holiday destination where you can spend a couple of weeks enjoying water sports, there’s no doubting that The Maldives is for you. With so many luxurious Maldives Hotels available for you to stay in, you’ll have the holiday of a lifetime!
The Olympics are just round the corner and it is a great opportunity to see some of the sports that are rarely shown on prime time TV. There are many different water sports this year that peaked my interest, but one event in particular that I am looking forward to is Olympic water polo. Recently I’ve been reading up a lot on water polo and far from a children’s pool game it is a very tough and physically demanding sport.
Invented originally in the 19th century as an aquatic version of rugby, it still retains some of these tough beginnings and as a contact sport in the water it is still quite a dangerous game. It is often overlooked slightly at the Olympics when it comes to aquatic sport, I myself had never seen anything about it until i recently started looking into it in preparation for the Olympics.
The basic rules allow for teams of 13 players with only 7 of these players allowed in play at any given time similar to the set up for basketball. There’s no limit on substitutions but they must be made in one designated area of the pool near the appropriate team. The game is divided into four 8 minute quarters with the ball starting in the centre and a race to the middle for each of the teams. The team with the ball only has 30 seconds to score before it is handed over to the opposing team, making the game incredibly fast paced and intense. It is said that Olympic water polo players can swim anything up to 3 miles in a single game, not accounting for the extended periods of treading water – the pool is 2m deep across the whole ‘pitch’ and touching the floor during play is a foul.
So this at the London 2012 Olympic water sports competitions I intend to be watching every stage of the water polo tournament as a beautiful sport somewhere between rugby and synchronised swimming (a fairly odd combination) gets its day in the sun. And just in case you weren’t excited about the aquatic events at London 2012 yet, here is a very exciting teaser trailer of what we might have in store.
The games as a whole look set to be a great spectacle and in a promising way for the sport, it was the aquatic events that were in high demand when tickets were available. This summer looks set to be a great opportunity to see some of the rising talent in water sports. For more information about water polo head to the official Olympics page.
Let’s face it; a holiday wouldn’t be a holiday without you going swimming at least once! Could you imagine heading to a luxury resort with sandy beaches and a fantastic choice of swimming pools and swim spas without taking a dip? Getting in the water and the pool is what a holiday is all about and whether you find yourself going to Turkey or Florida, you’ll without a doubt find yourself in a pool before long!
Swimming in the sea or in one of your hotels luxury pools is what going on holiday is all about and as such, you need to be prepared for spending a fair bit of time in the water! Perhaps treat yourself to some designer swimwear before you head away and always make sure you pack some waterproof suncream…the last thing you’d want is to end up burned after being out in the sun in the water all day!
More than anything; swimming is fun, especially on holiday, and it’s a great way to keep cool when the weather’s just too hot to handle! Whether you’re going for a dip in the sea or in the pool, or even in a resort waterpark, it’s a fantastic way to spend an afternoon or an evening after a busy day.
Not everywhere is like the UK where we see only a few weeks of glorious weather a year so be sure to pack your swimming stuff before going away and make sure it gets used! If you went away and didn’t get in the water you’d be sure to regret it afterwards!
This week there has been a lot of controversy regarding the final resting place of The Concordia. Almost the largest cruise liner in the world, the Concordia has been partly submerged since it drifted too close to the shore and damaged its hull on a sharp rock last January. Currently lying just off shore on its side, The Concordia looks very sad but it is quite remarkable that it has remained floating in the water for this long.
There are several different voices within the local scuba diving community, some of whom are claiming that we should allow the vessel to sink because it would prove a massive attraction to scuba divers and tourists the world over. Aldo Baffigi, a local of the island of Giglio, says he prays every night that the wind will take the vessel to the bottom of the ocean from its current location, perched somewhat precariously on an underwater ocean ledge. According to Baffigi, the ship would prove to be ‘the most popular shipwreck in the world’.
Sinking a very large capsized ship is not a wholly uncommon practice. However, the reasons for the voices of dissent when it comes to the Concordia are very understandable. The pristine waters surrounding the island made sinking the ship an unfavorable option for many of the other divers in the area as well as the tourist-driven economy who value the gorgeous environment around their island more than having a large shipwreck off-shore.
A ship of this size at the bottom of the ocean will inevitably have an adverse affect on the surrounding area as pieces of the ship decay, break off and splinter. The opinion of most of the community was summed up nicely by International Diving instructor Gian Domenico Battistello who said ‘The Concordia would be the Disneyland of the diving world and everyone knows it. But I’d rather have the pristine waters of Giglio than the ship.
The 300 million dollar salvage operation will take over a year as the rescue ships inflate buoyancy modules underneath the ship and haul it away in one piece. Again the usual option of cutting it into sections and carrying it away was not possible again because of the fear of spoiling the wonderful environment surrounding Giglio.
Over the course of that year, Baffigi is still holding out hopes that the ship will eventually be sunk either during the salvage process or by a large storm.
When the Concordia capsized, 30 people lost their lives and it is important that whatever happens to the ship is respecful of their memories. It is positive to see that 100 years on from the sinking of the Titanic and in a shipwreck of a similar scale, the infrastructure of the maritime industry has improved sufficiently to minimise the loss of life.
There have recently been some very important advancements in the treatments of jellyfish stings in the form of acidic relief sprays that can neutralise the sting and relieve the pain. Considering the high risk of stings for scuba divers in particular and the recent explosion of the jellyfish population, I think it is important to place a product like this under holiday essentials for most divers.
A company called Ocean Care Solutions has developed a jellyfish relief spray that has a 5% level of acetic acid in a viscous formula that is easy to apply and the spray that clings to the skin will relieve the effects of many jellyfish stings in only a few minutes. The home solution to jellyfish stings has always been household vinegar, for the same reasons, because it contains a similar level of acetic acid which helps to neutralise the sting. However, common vinegar does not have a concentration high enough to provide effective relief and because it doesn’t cling to the skin like this relief spray, it is not as easy to apply or as fast acting.
Jellyfish stings can range greatly from the irritating to the incapacitating and even potentially fatal stings of box jellyfish and other lethal species. To avoid getting caught out, it is advisable to carry this small bottle of spray just as a precaution because even if you get only a minor sting, the considerable irritation will certainly make you wish you had thought to bring the first aid spray. When it comes to diving, or just first aid in general, it is very important to treat the injury as quickly as possible; the time it takes to find vinegar, or get back onto shore could make the injury substantially worse than it needed to be.
On a more positive note, these animals are some of the most remarkable and beautiful creatures in the ocean. One jellyfish in particular that caught my interest recently was when i learned about the turritopsis nutricula also known as ‘The Immortal Jellyfish’. This species can reportedly return to an adolescent state after reaching sexual maturity, which in theory and providing it doesn’t get killed could extend it’s life indefinitely. So rather than simply detailing all of the dangers of jellyfish stings and their effects I will end this post by pointing out the beauty and worldwide fascination with these 650 million year old creatures. But if you are planning a trip to get up close to some of these dangerous species just make sure that you take the proper precautions.
I’d like to make you aware of a brilliant Scuba based charity that is doing some wonderful things for injured soldiers and dive enthusiasts. It’s called ‘Dive Pirates‘ and its ethos is to help injured soldiers with different levels of disability to achieve diving qualifications and fall in love with the diving experience with the hope to both aiding recovery and improving support both within the community and between them and their families.
The course starts with some basic training and ends with an all-paid trip to the Caribbean to receive the open water certification. The benefit of this are incredible for the injured soldier and their families. The idea is based on the buddy system because the participants require a varied amount of support underwater depending on the limitations of their disability. These buddies will include an instructor but also usually the families or friends of the soldiers and this in particular makes for a wonderfully rich experience for everyone involved as they all get to enjoy the exciting adventure together.
As this video shows, the organisation has been committed and fortunate enough to be able to help many veterans and their families since it started in 2005. They are slowly gaining more and more recognition for their incredible work, with chapters of the organisation now featured all over the US. One of their goals it to integrate adaptive divers (divers with special requirements) into the mainstream diving community. This makes training buddies just as important as training the divers themselves. The more people that know how to support an adaptive diver, the more accessible the sport becomes fro them. So if you are a diver interested in that type of training, contact dive pirates for more information.
The charity is run by a team of highly enthusiastic divers and a dedicated workforce who have seen remarkable success in recent years as the funds they have raised and the recognition they are finally receiving has allowed them to train and help veterans and their buddies. Sophie Wimberly, Vice President of Dive Pirates loves training new recruits and is constantly astonished at the number of people willing to give their time and money in donation to this worthy cause. One of her main aims is to ensure that she is using this money responsibly and so the site features a full financial breakdown of how the charity spends its donations.
For more information about dive pirates check out their website www.divepirates.org, and if you want to help, they are always looking for volunteers and donations so be sure to get in contact. For a more detailed write up, check out this story of two soldiers engaged in the program and if you have your own blog or even just twitter and facebook, you can use them to raise awareness about this wonderful program!
A Scuba diving club in North Yorkshire have started an exciting new project to map over 150 ship-wrecks off the coast off the North East. They are looking forward to exploring the wrecks themselves and plan to enjoy the diving involved for the sport of it, but are keen to let people know that the goal of the project is to produce some serious and never before documented research into the history of these many wrecks in the North Sea. Members of Scuba association BSAC, the team involved are all highly trained and experienced divers, but according to the club’s training officer, Howard Rawson, they would welcome the involvement of anyone who had a passion for the project regardless of Scuba ability or proficiency.
Once they have conducted their research including mapping, photography and a detailed look at the history of each wreck, their findings will be made available to the public or any number of academics that may be interested in using the information collected. One of the first wrecks that they are going to explore is the sunken German U-boat, UC-39 which was depth charged and sunk in 1917 in Bridlington Bay. Seven of the crew members died on the submarine and it is now a war grave which the scuba team are committed to treating with the utmost respect.
The team are a small and dedicated scuba club based in North Yorkshire and they are keen to carry on with exciting projects like these. They have struggled as a club recently when the Abbey Leisure Centre in Selby, where their training pool was, was damaged in a fire and is now in the process of extensive renovation and repair. According to Howard, they are currently looking for a new location that they can use to teach new members the joys and the proper procedures of recreation scuba diving. Small clubs like these making a very positive difference in the community and even in academia are part of what keeps the sport of Scuba diving relevant, useful and exciting to a whole host of new members as well as the public. The club could very well be the start of a trend of detailed research for recreational diving in the UK.
The lion-fish population has recently exploded in size in the gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Florida, this has resulted in a higher number of attacks and injury for both recreational and professional divers alike. As a result two major diving organisations, DEMA and DAN have joined forces to get the message out about the proper way to behave around a lion-fish and the best immediate fist aid techniques and equipment to treat a lion fish sting. DEMA ‘The Divers Equipment and Marketing Association’. and DAN the Divers Alert Network have released this PSA they they hope to reach a wide audience and educate people about the dangers of lion-fish and getting near them.
The increased number of lionfish has caused an increase in the number of attacks, not just on other animals, but on humans too. It is important that any diver who thinks that they may be likely to go to certain lionfish areas, to educate yourself thoroughly with all of the information that you will need should you or anyone who may be diving and needs you precise in treating the lionfish stings immediate fist aid techniques and equipment to treat a lion fish sting. DEMA the, the divers equipment and marketing association. and DAN the Divers Alert Network have released this PSA they they hope to reach a wide audience and educate people about the dangers of lion-fish and getting near them. If you know of anyone diving in the regions that might be at risk, send them the information about the PSA so that they can reduce their level of risk.
The diving industry seems to have been in something of a territory war in recent years as different qualifications are taught and accepted in different places. The two main warring schools were BSAC and PADI, both of which were competing to be recognised as the universal qualification for divers all over the world. However, PADI is just slightly ahead when it comes to diving across the world.
The number of small shops and diving teams that will accept a PADI qualification is significantly greater than it is with BSAC or any other qualification. Usually these other organisations end up being talked about in terms of their PADI equivalent regardless of what level has been achieved within them. This often causes confusion and delays when preparing to go out with a team or in a location you have not been out with before; which is only made all the more difficult when there is a language barrier in foreign locations.
There is no bitterness towards people with different qualifications, but diving leaders are, very understandably, worried about their insurance and whether they are qualified to take this person out and how deep they are allowed to go. The most hassle free solution is just to take the PADI qualifications that are more widely accepted and most hobbyists that want to take a move into serious career diving will eventually take their PADI tests just for the sake of ease when it comes to new dives.
This is a phenomenon that is building momentum as more people have the qualification, more people recognise it as universal and vice versa. We are moving towards a time when PADI will be the only acceptable diving qualification in much the same way that their is only one qualified school for obtaining a driving license. This will be a benefit to many scuba divers and the sport itself as it will increase legitimacy and safety across the board for the great pastime that is becoming increasingly popular.