Tab Tries…Scuba Diving

Dripping with hangover, MAUD DROMGOOLE still made it to the pool for her try dive with the CU Scuba Diving Club – and even enjoyed it. Read about her experience here.

Cambridge Chesterton Maud Dromgoole Scuba Diving Seaside Sport swimming

Last Monday evening, after almost a week of binge drinking, college parenting, and convincing various faculty members that I was ‘on track’,  I was definitely ready to curl up and indulge my hangover.

I was not, however, particularly ready for my ‘try dive’ with the CU Underwater Exploration Group (CUUEG). Having dragged myself from my cocoon of blankets, mustered the energy to go, and cycled in circles for a good half-hour, after the Features Editor misread Google Maps quite spectacularly. I then realised I had forgotten my towel.

If CUUEG wanted a vaguely positive write-up, it was going to have to do a lot of convincing. But, amazingly, as occasionally happens in these situations, it was bloody brilliant, made more so as a consequence of my base aspersions about the experience.

Getting to grips with going underwater

Photo: Neil Taylor

Already feeling quite vulnerable sitting in my bikini/t-shirt combo by the side of the pool, the kit was intimidating; tubes and canisters galore, it looked more like a dialysis machine than something I’d don electively, let alone for ‘fun’. It was hardly confidence-inspiring when an instructor , presumably seasoned at porting this apparel around, struggled with the apparatus. The club members, perhaps spotting my terror, rallied around to allay my fears; I was assigned Mark as my instructor, a kind man who was easy to trust – lucky that, since he was controlling my air supply.  Every inch of equipment was fully explained to me – and I tried hard to listen, in case this became the proverbial matter of life or death – before dipping a toe in the pool.

Although horribly uncomfortable on dry land and hardly sexy, when you’re in the water it’s actually quite easy to forget that there is a large cylinder of compressed air strapped to your back. It also is far easier to breathe than I imagined. It is weird and psychologically takes a mental leap to allow yourself to do so, but there is something perversely fun about it. Mark spent twenty minutes on the surface going through all the procedures: signals, emergency drills, the differences between pool diving and freshwater diving (unsurprisingly, myriad).

Maud communicates in underwater language with instructor, Mark

Photo: Neil Taylor

There is certainly a childlike charm to communicating underwater. Basic hand gestures have to be relied upon; I felt rather like a dolphin upon earning a little clap for something such as catching a ring or rolling over. I swam length after length, negotiating the underwater world and occasionally encountering a seemingly disembodied limb dangling from a surface dweller yet to submerge.

I got back to the changing room, remembered my lack of towel and felt rather less romantic about everything.

A bit about the club…

Up close and personal: in the holidays, the club doesn’t just stick to the pool

Photo: Stuart Moore

CUUEG (as the club is known) is registered with BSAC (the British Sub Aqua Club) and is qualified to train to anything from basic to expert standard. This is achieved through weekly pool sessions and lectures (Thursdays, 9pm in the Engineering Department). There was a lovely spirit about the club and I wasn’t surprised to hear that the lectures were followed by a pub get-together at the Panton Arms. The members aren’t of your typical university sporting club type: they are of all ages and very inclusive. They are currently running ‘try dives’ which – as the name suggests – mean you can try diving with them before enrolling on the course.

Members of the club scuba diving off Portland, Dorset

Photo: Neil Taylor

Scuba diving is not the cheapest of sports and also requires commitment. The club unfortunately could not give me an estimate of price for this years course. However, given that equipment is provided for free, it is certainly one of the cheaper ways to access the sport. The commitment is something to be taken seriously: extra lectures and pool sessions wouldn’t be easy to fit into a Cambridge schedule. Furthermore, it isn’t for everyone: if you become easily claustrophobic or have any fear of water it’s perhaps not the sport for you. However, you’d probably have a hunch whether you were or weren’t the type who’d take to it; if you think you might be interested, consider a try dive.

For more information about the CUUEG, check out their website here.