Yo-Han Cha continues to vie with his fellow columnists for the unofficial title ‘Britain’s busiest diver’. Here, he looks back on a productive 2023. 

I know that the lockdown restrictions lifted last year, but I feel like 2023 was the year when we finally returned to normality. It’s definitely had its challenges, but words like ‘social distancing’ have thankfully become a thing of the past. This summer I marked a milestone: my last COVID-19 trip was completed. This was a Red Sea trip booked by Greg Wood from Reading BSAC two years ago. His sales pitch at the time went something like, “It should all over by 2023, right? And I need something to look forward to.” And on that sliver of optimism, I paid my deposit.

I don’t normally book my trips two years in advance, so to be honest, I’d forgotten about it. Thankfully I hadn’t double booked myself (a miracle as it was at the start of the summer) and I had just enough annual leave left! And I might have gone a bit overboard this year with dive trips. I’ve found myself maxing out my annual leave and going diving on almost every available free weekend. 

Time flies when you’re having fun

The Red Sea trip kicked off an amazing summer where I found myself diving in Scotland, the Isle of Man and England. I’ve been very lucky to photograph creatures like hammerheads in the Red Sea and nudibranchs of Eyemouth. 

I’ve discovered new dive sites like Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset, where I found I really don’t have my eye in for stalked jellyfish. I’ve also dived around Lundy Island, where there may be a wreck that I’ll look forward to diving again. I made a conscious effort to try and explore dive sites around the South Coast of England; it just makes sense, now that I live in Bristol. To that end, many thanks go to Alison and Paul Pettitt and Ryan and Sandra Stalker (all of Isle of Purbeck SAC) for having the patience and hospitality as I gate-crashed their diving weekends, time and time again!

Another sign of normality returning was me actually filling in some Seasearch forms. After an embarrassing gap of three years, I managed to return a couple of Seasearch Observer forms after jumping on a Seasearch weekend, diving seagrass beds off Plymouth. These ‘completed’ forms were somewhat rudimentary, but just about acceptable. Of course, there was nothing stopping me from completing Seasearch forms during the last few years; I’m putting it down to the change of headspace during the chaos of lockdowns. 

Time flies when you’re having fun and before I knew it, the summer was over. The nights are drawing in and at the time of writing, I only have one organised dive trip left for 2023. I’ve also just returned from celebrating BSAC’s 70th anniversary up in Capernwray where it was great meeting up with diving friends across different clubs, especially those that I haven’t seen for years. Diving’s fun but it’s even better when you do it with friends.

I’ve had a fantastic 2023 and I hope you all had a similarly positive time, despite the weird weather. I hope you found time to relish normal service, in whatever shape it happens to take for you.

Article ‘Back to the normal-normal’ by Yo-Han Cha, first published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 142 December 2023.

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