Our club became a branch of the British Sub Aqua Club in 1958 and was designated Branch 58. Things have changed a lot over the years, as some of our founder members would tell us; one current member started diving on the formation of the branch!
In 2008 we celebrated our fiftieth anniversary by doing a Mexican wave with divers jumping into Stoney Cove. Eight years later, to celebrate our fifty-eight anniversary, our members returned to Stoney Cove and installed a special plaque underwater below Nemo’s Cafe.
In the early days, we made our own wetsuits, ordering the neoprene, cutting pieces to the right size, sticking it all together and adding a posh yellow strip of material to cover the glued seams. Drysuits did not exist.
In those days, it was perfectly acceptable to take anything of remote interest from undersea wrecks. Some of our retired members have portholes in pride of place in their front rooms! Spear fishing was the name of the game before it became “unfair” to take fish using SCUBA, although breath-holding dives were common place as the training regime was more robust in those days and continued to be for quite a number of years.
All training was done on twin hose regulators and SLJs (service life jackets) and you weighted for the expected depth you were going to dive to. Older divers will still fondly remember the ABLJ (adjustable buoyancy life jacket) which in the early version had no direct feed so needed to be inflated during the dive orally.
Now we all use the latest kit: we dive with high capacity cylinder, BCDs , high tech single hose regulators with an AAS, dive computers and (mostly) watertight drysuits although with a plethora of ancillary bits and pieces.
New ways of doing things
Grades have changed over the years as has equipment and techniques. In the early days it could take up to 6 months just to qualify as a Snorkel Diver! For those who remember the tests were alphabetically i.e. A, B, C, D, E and F. All of these were completed in the pool except D which was open water snorkelling tasks.
Before the advent of Police Search and Recovery teams, the branch was asked on a number of occasions to search for missing people in the local rivers.
On a final note one of our original members was even unable to swim when he first joined but went on to hold a number of Committee posts before he became an honorary member and hung up his ABLJ, Twin Hose and Jet Fins!