Diving may be one of the most exhilarating and exciting of all sports, but how do you get started.
These days there are opportunities galore to take your first plunge almost anywhere in the world.
For there are diving centres at holiday destinations in virtually every country, some attached to hotels, others not.
Almost all of them offer what are known as resort diving courses, which introduce you to diving over several days without providing you with a qualification at the end.
And if you want to become qualified as a diver, many of them can also provide a structured course of training which will result in a qualification of one sort or another.
But if you go for a resort diving course, then decide that diving is something you want to pursue when you get back home, its easy to do so.
One way is to join the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC), the oldest and biggest diving club in the world.
The BSAC has more than 1250 branches in over 50 countries, plus some 170 BSAC training schools in Britain and abroad.
More than 12,000 people join it every year, and millions of divers have been trained the BSAC way since its beginning in 1953.
The training system developed by the BSAC has become a benchmark for dive tuition and safety worldwide, based on long experience and enlightened progress.
Today, aqualung training with the Club is available to anyone over the age of 14 who is medically fit.
The 14-year-old limit is likely soon to be reduced to 12, for the BSAC is now running an impressive snorkel training programme in association with the nations schools which will prepare young people for the use of underwater breathing apparatus.
Diver training through the BSAC is provided in two ways: either through the Clubs unique network of branches; or through BSAC-approved schools, which are commercial organisations that adhere to BSAC training standards.
BSAC branches conduct weekly training sessions, both in the classroom and in the swimming pool, with open water tuition at the weekends.
The training is carried out at the individual divers own pace, and each new lesson is taught progressively, with safety as a key factor. The aim is to build confidence and self reliance. Some of the more sophisticated equipment can be expensive, but most branches are able to lend or hire you the basics to get you started, though its as well to buy your own mask, fins and snorkel.
In addition to the current HQ joining fee of 53, branch fees are added, and these vary. Joining members receive a copy of the Sport Diving manual (worth 12.50), plus 12 monthly copies of Diver magazine (worth 30), so newcomers immediately get something for their money.
The commercially-run BSAC Schools offer the same training as branches, but provide training programmes at times of your own choosing, over a number of days or weeks.
Newcomers can obtain Novice Diver status through a BSAC School without becoming members of the BSAC, but membership is required to achieve Sport Diver status. Commercial rates are charged for such training, and they vary from school to school.
The first BSAC grade is Novice Diver 1, involving 5 lectures, 8 or more lessons in the pool, and tests. The aim is to give you essential knowledge and the skills required to prepare you for open water diving. Novice Diver II merely involves two open water dives to consolidate what you have learnt.
The Sport Diver qualification requires eight more lectures and ten more open water dives. Then its on to the Dive Leader grade, requiring a further six lectures and three leadership assessments in open water.
After that there is an Advanced Diver qualification, when experience will have been gained in such subjects as small boat work, chartwork, navigation, compressor operation, and other related skills, plus the planning and organisation of dives at different locations and in different circumstances.
The BSACs highest grade is that of First Class Diver, requiring a high degree of knowledge and experience, but many divers prefer to move sideways at this point and to concentrate on instructor grades, which can lead to the coveted National Instructor qualification.
Possibly unique to the BSAC are its skill development courses, designed to help divers achieve self-sufficiency in all diving activities. They include boat handling, chartwork, dive planning, life-saving, first aid, VHF marine radio operation, and search and recovery.
  • For a full list of BSAC branches or for further information, contact the British Sub-Aqua Club at Telfords Quay, Ellesmere Port, South Wirral, Cheshire L65 4FY (tel: 0151-350 6200; fax: 0151-350 6215).

Learn to dive

The Learn to Dive concept was conceived by the British Sub-Aqua Club, the worlds largest diving club, during 1994.
Behind the idea was the conviction that there were many people who could become enchanted by the underwater world. They simply didnt know it was waiting for them!
So began Learn to Dive - a nationwide campaign, with hundreds of BSAC branches throwing themselves into the push to spread the word about diving.
And it worked. During National Try-Dive week in April last year, branches across the country held free come and try it sessions. These were immensely popular. Some branches had over 150 visitors. Others were kept so busy that they had to extend the try-dives over several months. During the week, over 9000 people who had never donned an aqualung before had the opportunity to do so. They all went away with a certificate to prove theyd done it.