Kirsty Andrews celebrates 20 years of diving and takes the opportunity to look back at two decades of fun and friendship.
This year is my 20th year of diving. Please excuse the egocentric subject but this is an opportunity to reflect on all the many and varied experiences I have enjoyed over two decades, and I wondered if these resonate with any readers. That it has been so varied is one of the real attractions of our sport; as my interests have changed and developed, my diving has grown with me.
Despite being a proud UK diver, my first scuba experiences were abroad; in Thailand as a travelling 18-year-old I “did my PADI” like so many others. I took to it with ease and so when I returned I naturally sought out the university BSAC diving club. The transition was smooth and these were my real formative diving years: bonding over freezing cold quarry training in February with the odd jaunt to the coast and an annual budget trip abroad.
This was camaraderie; this was diving on a shoestring as we squeezed into tiny cars and ate seemingly endless pots of chilli. I loved the training focus of a university club: I progressed through my own diving grades and taught others. Teaching people something that you love and that they wish to learn is a total treat. I even flirted for a season with teaching full-time - I worked for one summer in a BSAC centre in Croatia. At the time I was eager to commence my corporate career although I do look back fondly on those days of full-time diving in the sunshine.
I joined another uni club during my post-grad studies and this one had a RIB! A new dimension of expedition planning, considerably more faff but the joy of speeding over those occasional oily-smooth seas at 20+ knots. My boat handling has never been quite up there, which I partially blame on my instructor nearly sinking the RIB on my boat handling course [another story for another time - and yes it is possible!].
Then came proper grown-up diving. With an increased budget, new opportunities have presented themselves, both the finest dive spots in the UK from Shetland to the Isles of Scilly, and some jaw-dropping international locations from Indonesia to the Galapagos. At first, for me, diving was just about the pleasure of being underwater, and also the personal element of training and being trained. Now, dive by dive, I became more aware of my surroundings, whether that be knowing one end of a wreck from another or knowing when and where to search for seasonal UK visitors such as triggerfish. That learning process never stops.
Picking up a camera has undoubtedly influenced my diving since; trying to record my experiences has brought a whole new dimension to things and it has gone hand in hand with wanting to know as much as I possibly can about marine life. In addition to experiencing new dive locations, I am drawn to a few favourite spots every year and enjoy seeing these sites change across seasons, moon phases and years.
There is so much still to explore and do. I want to contribute more to the sport, and record and share what I see underwater. It may be that as time passes I change my kit, become a proper tekkie (unlikely) or come back more to training or club organising; who knows? I’ve collected so many like-minded diving friends over the years and look forward to meeting more. I certainly hope to be diving in another 20 years, and I wonder how that will be. I hope there will still be fish to see in the sea and plenty of new divers to appreciate them.
This column article was originally published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 108 November 2020. For more membership benefits, visit bsac.com/benefits.
Images in this online version may have been substituted from the original images in SCUBA magazine due to usage rights.