We've tried to anticipate a number of questions new divers might have. Please look below to see if the answers you are looking for are here. If not, then please don't hesitate to contact us and we will do everything we can to help.
Why join a club?
There are really two ways to learn to dive. Either through a school, where you pay for each course, or through a club, where you pay to attend, but all the courses and training are free. You could just buy the kit and go though. Dive shops don't ask for qualifications before selling you kit. However doing so is a sure way to a watery grave! There is no underestimating the importance of training in this sport.
The difference between school and club is a massive one, and not everyone is suited to each. For schools, you need to be a quick learner, happy to share instructors and get on in the time set by the school. Afterwards, you get your qualification and go find someone to dive with. Clubs, on the other hand are the polar opposite. Your training schedule is only set by how often you can make it, and missing a lesson isn't a problem. If you're slower, or better with the personal touch, the time taken is a huge benefit. If you're quick and grasp the diving easily, you can be off diving with the club as quickly as you can make it to the coast. Plus, there's never a lack of willing divers in a club!
How much does it cost?
Not as much as you might think. SAA members seem to get away lightly when compared with PADI divers. For instance, a try-dive with PADI will set you back around £30, but with Calne Divers, it's free.
The annual membership of Calne Divers is very low, and it covers all training, loan of equipment and even third-party insurance thanks to the SAA. Check out our costs page to find out what our current rates are, and I think you'll be surprised!
How much would it cost to purchase my own equipment?
If you are just starting out, we would recommend buying second hand kit. Just as many give up diving each year as take it up and the result is a thriving second hand market. A full set could cost as little as £300, whereas a decent set of new kit could easily cost up to and beyond £1500. If you buy second hand kit, be sure to factor in the cost of an initial service before diving with it, as using untested life support equipment without knowing if it works is obviously a very dangerous thing to do.
It's recommended that students purchase their own mask, fins and boots during the first few weeks. These can cost as little or as much as you want, but are definitely not a requirement. You can always borrow club equipment for as long as is necessary.
How long does it take to learn?
That depends on you. At Calne Divers, lectures are very informal, and can be arranged around you. You won't fall behind if you can't make it one night, and you can start pool training right from the start. After that you can progress to open water diving fairly quickly, and then you just have to rack up dives and lectures to keep progresssing in qualification.
Do I need to be really fit?
No, just an average level of fitness is required. The equipment takes a lot of the work away from the diver. With the SAA, however, you do need to pass a basic fitness test before being able to train. The list of requirements is on our Training page, but it's nothing difficult.
Am I too young/old?
Probably not. Calne Divers allows divers to train fully from the age of 16. Divers under this age are also allowed to train, but only if their parent is a qualified instructor with the club, and takes the training on him/herself. It may sound strange, but this decision has come about from club members being uncomfortable with the responsibilty of looking after someone elses child in dangerous circumstances. On the other hand, you are never too old to dive. As long as you can pass the fitness test, you can dive. Many people continue diving well into their 70s and 80s.
Does having Asthma prevent me from diving?
Having Asthma may preclude you from diving, but it is by no means definite. You will need to speak to a medical referee, for whom we are able to provide contact details. Never listen to medical advice given over the internet, or from people (including non-diving doctors) who aren't qualified to give such advice. There are many factors to be taken into consideration and only a specialist doctor can do that. We do in fact have several divers in the club who have Asthma and who have been cleared to dive with no problems.
I have a medical condition - can I still dive?
To dive with Calne Divers, the minimum we require you to do is fill out a Medical Self-Assessment form annually. Should this raise any questions, we would require you to possibly undergo a medical, or just to speak to a doctor who understands diving. The SAA maintain a list of these "medical referees". If they declare you fit to dive, you will be issued with a certificate for proof. Do not be tempted to lie about any condition you may have, as you may not only be putting yourself at risk, but also other people diving with you. Most people get satisfactory sign off from a doctor, although in difficult cases some restrictions may be placed on you. The main thing is not to rule yourself out until you've spoken to a professional.
I wear glasses, can I still dive?
Yes, definitely. The masks worn by divers are usually capable of being fitted with prescription lenses. Some people find that the natural magnifying effect of the water means that they can see perfectly well without lenses. To prove a point, there are a number of divers out there who are completely blind, and they can look after themselves just fine. If you wear contacts, this is perfectly acceptable too, but during training it might be advisable to leave them out - you're far more likely to get water in your eyes than you are during a real dive.
What's in the tanks on your back?
Not Oxygen! For the majority of people, it's just air. It might be cleaned, filtered and highly compressed, but still air just the same. Some divers may carry other gas mixes such as Nitrox, or even Trimix occasionally. Nitrox is used regularly within the club in order to extend bottom times for certain dives. Some people feel that it leaves them more energised at the end of a dive. Most members just use air, though. Trimix is used for much deeper dives, and isn't yet used within Calne Divers.
What's the difference between PADI/BSAC/SAA?
This is a hot subject, and the answer usually depends on the organisation to which the person answering the question belongs! PADI is an American organisation which operates world-wide. They have a rapid training programme which is the quickest of the three to get you in the water. Quick is not always good, however, and most divers from the other two organisations often observe that there is no way you could be safe to dive after so little training.
BSAC are mostly club based, with a few commercial schools. They have a very detailed training regime.
The SAA are an umbrella organisation that support the clubs affiliated to it. The clubs maintain a large degree of independence, but have the training plans and insurances of the large organisation that they are. The SAA is also welcoming of divers who wish to transfer from other organisations.
Are UK waters cold to dive in?
Not really. If you are wearing a suitable drysuit, or a good semi-dry with a "shorty" over the top, then you should be fine in even the coldest waters. Almost all trainees start with semi-drys, the downside being that initial feeling of ice running down your back! But once your face has gone numb, you won't feel a thing!
Is diving a dangerous sport?
Yes, but so is walking down the street. If you follow a good training course, understand and know how to use your kit and dive with some common sense then there should be no issues. Diving with a buddy at all times will ensure that you always have help, no matter what happens. Most accidents in the diving world are through poor training, ignoring the basic diving rules, or just through plain stupidity. Calne Divers has a perfect safety record so far, with no accidents at all in our history.