Welsh divers discover a whole underwater world
Gary Baker on 21/12/2011
Diving is the nearest anyone can come to space in more ways than one. The deep can be an underwater wonderland of fish and walls of coral, as space is full of stars and planets.
And there is also the additional thrill of weightlessness which only astronauts have otherwise experienced.
Many divers travel abroad to places like the Red Sea for spectacular diving in clear waters, as illustrated here (picture Puffer Fish In The Red Sea, courtesy Torfaen Sub Aqua Club).
And, although Wales' waters may not be so warm or clear as those in the Middle East, they are still some of the most popular sites around the UK.
There are many clubs, with hundreds of enthusiastic members, based around the Principality who regularly submerge to the depths around places like Oxwich Bay and the beautiful Skomer Island off the Pembrokeshire coast.
And it is not just in the warm summer either that Welsh divers don their wetsuits and jump into the water.
Dave Bell, Wales' regional coach with the British Sub Aqua Club, said: "We go out all year round. There are 57 clubs in Wales, both north and south, and there are over a thousand fellow diving members not including family diving members."
Sub aqua diving is not just about strapping a tank to your back and plunging to the depths. There is a lot of important training and, with the BSAC, examinations to take before someone is ready to go off-shore.
Health and personal safety are taken very seriously in the sport as, other than the most commonly known danger of decompression sickness - known everywhere as The Bends, there are many other things that could go wrong unless thorough grounding and knowledge is given and received.
Bell said it takes in the order of about six to seven weeks before a beginner can have their first open water adventure.
However, once those preliminaries are over, the rewards are incredible.
Around Wales, shore and wreck diving are the mainstay of sub aqua - and all are fascinating adventures.
Bell explained about one particular dive off the West Wales coast. "There is a wreck of a German boat from the Second World War that was on the route to Canada and had a cargo of Christmas Puddings and bicycles," he said.
"It was bombed - and, although the bikes are still just about there, I don't think there is any trace of the Christmas puds!"
Diving is not just about submerging around the coast either as there are plenty of inland water resources in the country. But, before diving in reservoirs, particularly, safety checks with the authorities running the site need to be made to ensure there are no planned water movements that coincide with a dive, again a safety precaution.
Also, in addition to jumping into the depths in and around Wales, many divers go all over the country - and the world - to explore new sites.
One of the top sites in the UK is off the Orkney Islands at Scapa Flow where many German ships and U-Boats are found underwater.
Bell added: "It is a very social sport as well, and I don't think people realise how inexpensive it is to take up. You can hire a wetsuit for the weekend for £15, and a refill (of the air tank) is £3.50."
Add the mandatory personal items of mask and fins - flippers - plus a couple of friends for company, as divers must never go down alone, and, after training, you are off.
Sub Aqua diving is also looking to continuously evolve, which has seen the development in recent years of stand-alone snorkelling sections of clubs across Wales.
These are keenly used by youngsters taking their first dip into the underwater world.
In addition to the national governing body, the BSAC, the Welsh Association of Sub Aqua Clubs is based near Neath, while there is also another organization, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), that has outposts in the Principality.
The many sub aqua clubs from the various bodies are based in towns and cities like Barry, Brecon, Cardiff, Holywell, Monmouth, Newport, Pontypool, Newcastle Emlyn, Oswestry, Pembroke Dock, Swansea and Pentre (Rhondda)
For further information about sub aqua diving, contact Dave Bell on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07817 666486.
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