Yo-Han Cha considers the enduring appeal of dive clubs, and how diving has a unique way of forging life-long bonds.

Strictly speaking, I don’t need a club to go diving. I just need a buddy to go either shore diving or with whom I can book spaces on a boat. All the same, I currently find myself a member of not just one, but two dive clubs: Clifton SAC and Reading BSAC. I’m also a member of two underwater photographic clubs, and several informal friendship groups with different diving backgrounds. So, if I don’t need a club to go diving, why then am I a member of several?

I think it’s partly due to my personality type. If I learned anything during that first Covid lockdown, it was that I have a definite need for regular contact with people; that social element is key to me. I love being able to meet up with my friends on a regular basis; not just when I’m diving with them at the weekend, but also mid-week on a club night. I do love chewing the fat with friends over a pint or two! 

it’s really hard to make new friends as an adult! Being able to so easily meet people who have similar interests was something that being a member of both clubs allowed me to do

Make friends with BSAC

As BSAC celebrates its 70th birthday this year, I’m reminded of how being a member of BSAC has helped me personally over the last few years, especially as I’ve moved twice in that time. Of course, I could have approached Reading BSAC without initially being a BSAC member and I’m sure they would have been just as welcoming. But when it came to diving with a bunch of strangers, it definitely helped, both them and me, to be able roughly gauge what our diving abilities were before we got into the water. The same went for Clifton SAC when I moved to Bristol a year later.

Beyond diving, both clubs were invaluable in helping me settle down after moving to new places. This may sound a bit pathetic, but it’s really hard to make new friends as an adult! Being able to so easily meet people who have similar interests was something that being a member of both clubs allowed me to do.

Make friends with BSAC

Fundamentally, I love being friends with divers. It’s not simply because we share a common interest, I think it’s also thanks to the close-knit community that diving, especially UK diving, fosters. Perhaps it’s sharing a room and putting up with each other’s snoring, or because we’ve seen each other perform the most visceral of bodily functions in and around dive boats (the pre-dive spitting; the post-dive snot; the pungent undergarments and inverted pee valves...)Perhaps all of the above makes UK diving a great leveller. I’ve found we divers usually put up less of a front with each other, and that leads to more authentic friendships. That’s what it’s all about. A dive club shouldn’t be a cold, commercial operation. There’s friendships and community, which is what brings people in and binds them together. We enjoy the good times, help each other through the tough times and whatever happens, we’ll get together and laugh about it later, in the pub.

Article ‘United we dive’ by Yo-Han Cha first published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 140 November 2023. Images in this online version may have been substituted from the original images in SCUBA magazine due to usage rights.

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