Balsaboy after diving the MV Lucy, Skomer Island, July 2012

On a warm September morning in 1990 at one of the Umhlanga Rocks hotels outside Durban, I jumped into a swimming pool with a cylinder, regs, fins and a mask attached to the requisite parts of my body.

The pool was bloody freezing. As we knelt on the bottom of the pool in a semi-circle around our instructor, going through the drills we’d learnt about in our theory lesson, I watched with interest as one by one, everyone’s lips went blue. I have no idea where in the order of ‘lips turning blue’ I was, all I knew was that from the micro-second my body hit the water I felt like I’d been immersed in a bath full of iced water. I was not impressed. The following day before going on our first open-water dive, I tried to think of every excuse not to go, but my accompanying friend was keen as mustard and there was no escape.

We dived a reef just off Durban, and to my delight the water was sufficiently warm that I could think of something other than “I’m cold, I’m cold, I’m cold…”. The dive was at best uninspiring: the visibility was low, and I think we saw one fish. But that didn’t matter. There was something about being underwater that was simply fantastic.

The experience stayed with me and when, a couple of years later, I saw a big orange boat parked outside the fresher’s fair on my first day at Leeds University, I went and joined the club. I spent the next ten years with the club, completing somewhere in the region of 700 to 750 dives. Diving became my life – a way of life: diving seemed to give a whole new perspective on my outlook to life in general.

When I left Leeds, most of the compadre were spreading to the four winds. I moved in with my partner ‘down South’, got a job and career and then two children. Diving took a back seat and then stopped altogether with my last trip to the Red Sea in 2002.

Ten years later, the children are a bit older and there’s been a conscious shift in the work-life balance in the correct direction. I join the local dive club (South Northants SAC) and there’s no looking back :-)