|My first experience of diving was on holiday on the Greek island of Kos. I went on a boat with my mum and they just put all the scuba gear on us and took us diving. |
I loved it, though my mum wasnt quite so keen. The weird thing was it never occurred to me that anything could go wrong!
I never considered anything like my mask coming off or buoyancy - I think someone adjusted my buoyancy for me as I went along, though at the time I didnt know that.
I was just so excited to be diving. I dont even remember there being any fish! I saw loads more life on my first dive in Bovisand Harbour [near Plymouth] than in the whole of the Med. But it gave me a taste of what it was like to dive and I was hooked immediately.
When I got back home, I really wanted to go diving again. My dad thought it would be a good idea for me to do a course and get a diving qualification. We checked out a few places and then we read in the local paper about Clidive, a British Sub-Aqua Club branch in Ironmonger Row, Islington, near where I live.
My dad liked the place because everyone was really friendly when we went to ask about the course, and there are lots of women in the club, so its not like a boy thing - just, you know, normal.
I didnt know anything about diving qualifications, and I had never heard of Club Diver, but I remember Louise, one of the instructors, saying that it was a new course. I never realised I would be one of the first people in the country to become a Club Diver!
I enjoyed the pool training, Id much rather be in the pool than in lectures - theyre a bit scary.
I never worried about anything until I did the lectures and suddenly realised there were loads of things that could cause a problem. Some of the physics bits were hard to understand, as I havent done them at school yet.
Declan Daly, Clidives Diving Officer, was very encouraging and all the instructors are helpful. Some of them are quite funny but I cant laugh under water because my mask fills up.
I was 14 when I started the course and everyone else seemed a lot older, but it doesnt matter when youre in the water.
I had no problems in the pool, but in the sea I had trouble with mask-clearing, just because the waters yucky and I worried about how to get my mask back on over the hood. Before a dive I would be a bit worried, and then after Id done it I just wanted to talk and talk and talk about it.
Diving on the wreck of the James Eagan Layne was scary but awesome. I couldnt imagine what it was going to be like, and when we went down on the anchor line I couldnt see anything at first. I could feel a bit of current, which felt really strange, like being pushed. But when the wreck came into view, you could see what you were diving on and move out of the current.
The wreck is just like a home for lots of fish. Wherever you look there are different types of fish. Im not too bothered about animals, but I love dolphins and Ive got two goldfish called Steve and Zoe that my older brother won for me at a fair.
The good thing about diving is that every dive seems to get better because Im more relaxed and I seem to see more and more things. When I was diving in the harbour I saw these cuttlefish that looked like aliens, and on my last dive we ran into a huge basking shark!
We had just finished diving on the wreck of the Glen Strathallen, which is mostly just a big boiler but it had a lobster living in it that we were watching. When we got to the surface, there was the shark, swimming along with its mouth wide open - it was almost as big as the boat! No, I wasnt scared, it was just dead exciting. Id like to dive with dolphins as well.
I go to a great swimming club - Anaconda - but I havent dared tell them about diving because there would probably be a riot if they thought they could do some scuba diving in the pool.
Would I recommend learning to dive to other people Definitely. I think more younger people would want to learn if they had the chance. Especially if a group of friends could learn together. I think lots of people who like to do snorkelling would love to dive because you can get really close to the things youre interested in. Its a bit like being a fish rather than just watching a fish.
Before I went diving, I sometimes used to dream that I could breathe under water. Then Id realise its impossible, so Id wake up and feel disappointed. But now it is possible!
My parents are really proud of me, and now theyve gone and sent all these press cuttings from the local paper off to my relatives. I wasnt expecting quite so much fuss. Its nice, but its also kind of embarrassing.
Ive got two older brothers, but they dont dive. My eldest brother is in Australia and my ambition is to go out to visit him and dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Hes always talked about learning but now Ive beaten him to it!
Declan Daly, Clidives Diving Officer, was confident that Cassie was up to the challenge
When Cassie and her dad approached the branch, I had to carefully consider the implications of taking a 14 year-old on to the Club Diver course.
Our branch regularly holds debriefing meetings in the local pub (not necessarily the best environment!) and she needed someone to accompany her on diving weekends. But her parents were really cool about it.
I was very impressed with Cassies swimming achievements - she goes to the Anaconda swimming club based at Cally Pool near Kings Cross, and she certainly seemed determined about learning to dive. I had every confidence that Cassie could do it, and her first pool session confirmed my belief in her - she could perform every skill with ease. It was a pleasure to train her.
Club Diver is quite a tough course - theres a lot to take in, all in a short period of time, but Cassie certainly rose to the challenge. On land she seems quiet, and there were times when I wondered if she was really enjoying it - but once she was in the sea it was a different story. We call her our Marine Girl because she just seems to belong in the water!
BSAC branches can teach people to dive from the age of 14. BSAC schools can take trainees from the age of 12.
What does Cassies mum Margaret make of it all
Cassie is so comfortable and confident in the water that I had no worries at all about her going diving. She is a strong swimmer and trains regularly. We could see that the branch is well run and that everyone is taken care of, so we were happy for her to learn with Clidive.
I think as a parent that you have to let go of your kids to enable them to take on challenges like learning to dive. I know Cassie has benefited from the experience.
Now its your turn to get qualified...
These organisations run diver training courses at affiliated clubs or schools around the UK and abroad:
British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Telfords Quay, Ellesmere Port, South Wirral, Cheshire L65 4FY. Tel: 0151 350 6200. Website: www.bsac.com
Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Unit 7, St Phillips Central, Albert Road, St Phillips, Bristol BS2 0XJ. Tel: 0117 972 8354 Website: www.padi.com
Sub-Aqua Association (SAA) Vaughn Building, 43-45 Pembroke Place, Liverpool, Merseyside L3 5PH Tel: 0151 707 0111. Website: www.saa.org.uk
Scuba Schools International (SSI) Pelagic House, Mink Bridge Estate, Dunkeswell, Nr Honiton, Devon EX14 0RA Tel: 01404 891819