I started by visiting the Dive 2010 show at the NEC to get a bit more of a feel for the sport. This was very interesting, with some excellent talks. No doubt, if I'd known more about the sport it would have been better still.
Next, I booked a free 'Try Dive' session with the Potteries Divers branch of the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC). This went really well, the diving didn't freak me out and the club meeting in the pub was friendly and informative. I decided to do some training and so joined the Potteries Divers Club. Even though it's a slower route than PADI it's probably a more relaxed pace ... and I fancy the social side of a club ... plus it'll hopefully give me some instant Dive Buddies.
First stop is the Ocean Diver training. The pool training sessions went really well. I felt comfortable and confident with practicing the skills. The theory lessons were organised so that all 7 took place on one day rather than spreading them out over several weeks. The test was passed comfortably. Next up was the drysuit training. I was surprised by how much more difficult the diving became when wearing all this cold-water gear ... and the heat of the pool really saps the strength (must get fitter). The main problems were kit issues to resolve, like 'floaty feet' and errant weight-belt. With practice these were resolved and I was ready for the open water part of the training.
My first two training dives, OO1 & OO2, were in early March on a very pleasant late winters day at Dosthill Quarry, the water was cold (~5degC) but not as bad as I had anticipated. Training dives OO3 & OO4 took place a week later at Stoney Cove, just as cold (~4degC). My final training dive, OO5, was again at Stoney Cove, this time with minimal visibility (<2m). With enough dive 'experiences' I was signed off as a qualified Ocean Diver on 7th April 2011.
During the last training dive at Stoney Cove I started on the Sports Diver training, doing the SMB session (SO1). A Club trip to Plymouth in April (gaining 3 more dives) was followed by a couple of pool based Diver Rescue (SS1) sessions. I visited The Delph in early May to do SO1 (Diver Rescue) & SO4 (Compass/DSMB). Off to Stoney Cove the week after to do SO3 (deco sim) and SO5 (dive lead) to complete my Sports Diver open water training. I then go to Stoney Cove for an evening dive to do some depth progression. Then just the Sports Diver classroom lessons to sit before an exam and (hopefully) qualification.