In the depths of winter, we are all coping with seasonal malaise and high-calorie snacking. National Instructor Luisa Jones has plenty of tips to stay healthy, active and on how to go diving all year round. 

With the nights seemingly endless, temperatures dropping and the weather even more unpredictable than during the UK summer, many divers use the winter months as time to relegate their dive gear to the garage. Although there may be limited opportunities for sea diving during the winter months, it does not mean that diving activities have to be forgotten about altogether.

Scuba skills and drills

Let’s face it… we didn’t become divers to then become either fitness fanatics or health geeks, so what else can you do over the winter to retain your diving fitness?

The obvious answer is to continue diving. When was the last time that you practiced your skills? Everyone learnt their safety skills (alternate source ascent, controlled buoyant lift, rescue breaths) during their training for Ocean Diver and Sports Diver, but how many people actually keep practising these skills?

Winter is the perfect time to arrange rescue skills refresher courses within the club. Make good use of the pool by practising vital safety skills with fellow divers – you may hope that you never have to use them on a real dive, but if the need really does arise, you must be as practiced and efficient as you can be. If you want to take it a bit further, consider running the Lifesaver or Advanced Lifesaver courses within your club.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to a swimming pool deeper than 1.2m, then you can progress your rescue skills practice to deeper water, and you can also practice other skills. Deployment of a delayed surface marker buoy (dSMB) is a skill that invariably becomes a little bit rusty with lack of practice, so water deeper than 2m gives the perfect opportunity to practice, both deploying static from the bottom and, if sufficient water exists, deploying mid-water.

Winter skills practice doesn’t have to be limited to in-water skills. This is also the perfect opportunity to cover vital subjects such as Oxygen Administration, and First Aid for Divers. They can either be run as a complete Skill Development Course within the club, or merely as shorter skills refreshers.

If your club is fortunate enough to own a boat how about some boat orientation, or maybe even boat handling practice if the weather permits? If there is a compressor within the club, train new members to become compressor operators, and run refreshers for existing members, allowing everyone to be prepared for the new diving season. In a similar vein, an equipment maintenance course will set members up nicely for the start of the new season.

Photo by Simon Rogerson Stuart Duncan-cold water diving

For the hardier members of the club, who are suitably equipped, open water diving at one of the many inland sites in the UK can carry on through the winter. Appropriate thermal undergarments, along with thicker hood and gloves, and regulators prepared for cold water diving, are essential. Sheltered inland sites allow divers to practice their open water skills, including their buoyancy and trim (a vital, but all too easily forgotten about skill), without the concern that the weather may disrupt the dive plan.

Actually going diving!

Just because it is the middle of winter, it does not mean that all diving activity in your club has to cease. Organising a warm-water diving trip is not only a great way of keeping up your diving skills, but also a memorable social occasion for your club. 

Photo by Pascal van de Vendel - Egypt BSAC travel - Pascal van de Vendel - sataya reef (dolphin house), egypt

Fancy something different?

There are many warm water destinations that are attractive to UK divers, budgets permitting. Remember you can save lots with the BSAC Travel Partners.

The dive sites of the Red Sea have always been popular as a winter diving destination, as has Malta – the benefit of an island is that regardless of wind direction there is always one part of the island that will be sheltered. For the more adventurous, destinations like Mexico or Indonesia offer warm water diving and winter sun.

If time is tight, then you can look much closer to home for a fun winter diving destination. Nemo 33, located in Brussels, has become increasingly popular as a destination for club trips. With balmy water temperatures of 32ºC and a maximum depth of 34m, a club trip here is infinitely more attractive than a day trip to an inland pit.

Enhancing it further is the close proximity to the UK, and the chance to turn the trip into a pleasant weekend in a beautiful European city, enjoying the sites and the food on offer. There have even been moves towards creating a similar facility here in the UK, making it even more accessible as a winter diving destination.

Photo by Stuart Duncan Stuart Duncan-cold water diving

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I should mention that a significant number of divers choose to remain active around the UK coast during the winter. Sometimes it’s a question of having a flexible plan that can change according to weather. Or it could be a case of mounting an expedition to an area with more protection from wind and sea chop, such as the sea lochs of Scotland or the freshwater sites of the Lake District.

Winter kit care for scuba divers

With diving activities winding down over the winter months, many people tuck their kit away in the corner of their garage and forget all about it for a while. Or worse, equipment is chucked into a box after the last dive of the season and left there mouldering away until spring. In fact, winter ‘dry-time’ presents a window of opportunity to treat your kit to a bit of TLC.

  • Take regulators and BCs in for a much-needed service
  • Disinfect all those neoprene items that languish damply in the bottom of your dive bag, such as hood and gloves
  • Clean the rust off your dive knife or snips before treating it to some grease to protect the metal in the coming season.
  • The rubber straps on masks and fins can be checked for signs of perishing and replaced if necessary.

It’s so much better to resolve these problems in the comfort of your own home instead of trying to improvise quick fixes while rolling around on a boat, fully kitted, with your buddy waiting impatiently to jump in.

Diet – what goes in, tends to stay put!

It is a hard ask over the winter period to try and eat healthily… roast dinners, puddings fine wine and eating one too many chocolates is what keeps many of us going through the mid-winter period. 

My advice? Don’t deprive yourselves, but go for smaller portion sizes. Midwinter gluttony is, I suspect, a significant factor in the many cases of ‘mystery shrinking drysuit’! I know it sounds boring being so restrained after the civilised gluttony of the Christmas period, but the truth is that a little self control can work wonders when looking at your overall health.

Keep moving

Outdoor exercise tends to go by the wayside over the winter period. But never let go of the fact that you are a diver, and if you’ve got the right kit anything is feasible. In this instance, I’m just talking about getting outside and moving. The health benefits of a daily walk have long been espoused by the medical community and the weather need not be an obstacle – just ask any dog owner.

For the keener exercise enthusiast, the buzzword for indoor exercise is HIIT (high-intensity interval training). HIIT is a form of interval training alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. It has been shown to promote cardiovascular fitness, while increasing fat burn for a prolonged period after exercise has finished. Exercises used include: mountain climbers, star jumps and burpees (any gym stalwart’s nightmare!). The attraction of HIIT for many is that the training time can be short (as little as four minutes), and requires no specialised equipment so can be done in the privacy of your own home.

Learning Curve article from SCUBA issue 64



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