With the news this week, I suspect many of us have been pouring over the roadmap out of lockdown, with the exciting prospect of a possible return to snorkelling in England from 29 March. But how can we prepare as snorkelers?

The government announcement states that, provided that certain criteria are met, on 29 March outdoor sports facilities in England may open, the stay-at-home rule will end, and there will be a return to the rule of six/two households for social gatherings. All in time for Easter!

But, before we get all our kit out and plan to visit our nearest inland dive site (assuming they are open), or perhaps a sheltered cove, can I sound a note of caution? Don't jump the lights! 

Think of the roadmap announcement as amber on the traffic lights. The next light should be green. The timing between amber and green on normal traffic lights is fairly predictable, but Covid-19 may not be so predictable. The lights could be on amber for longer than anticipated and the lights could even go back to red. Let us use the next month or so to prepare diligently for what we hope will be a green light for our return to our favourite activity.

Be cautious  

If you are lucky enough to be heading to the coast (travel restrictions permitting), select a sheltered site you know well where calm seas await. In April, it will be cold - remember that British water is slow to warm up. The first water entry could be quite a shock and it has been a while since we were last snorkelling. A short and gentle excursion with your buddy close by, just to enjoy the pleasure of being back in the water, should be the plan.

Do not be pressured to get back in the water at the first opportunity. Take the plunge when you feel ready and the conditions are right for you and your buddy. Reintroduce yourself slowly and cautiously, building back up to and maybe even surpassing the snorkelling skills and abilities you had before the pandemic changed all our lives.

Hone your personal fitness

The lack of a fixed time scale over the period of inactivity has not helped us motivate ourselves to stay fit. Now that we have a potential end date, let us all make the effort to improve our personal fitness.

Remember a little and often is a good mantra, as hitting an over-enthusiastic fitness regime can lead to injury. Build up activity levels slowly and help yourself if it is appropriate, particularly the more mature of us by reducing food and alcohol consumption.

Have you checked your kit?

Now is the time to inspect, fix or replace equipment ready for that all-important first trip. 

  • Meticulously check over your mask strap and seals. There could be unexpected signs of deterioration leading to splits and tears the first time it is used again.
  • Carefully check your snorkel mouthpiece and the retainer - are they all still in perfect condition or are replacements needed?
  • Fin straps can perish, and buckles deteriorate so check them as well. If full foot fins are used, do not forget to look carefully at the area which fits over the heel – it can be prone to an unexpected split.
  • What is the condition of your suit, hood, and gloves? Hopefully they have not suffered the attentions of any visitors who have decided they make the perfect nest!
  • Remember to carefully examine your buoyancy vest, knife / shears, weight belt, torch, and SMB. They could have deteriorated and need some attention or maybe replacing.

Replacing equipment

Shopping on the internet is the only option currently available. Buying a mask without being able to try it on is less than ideal unless you are replacing it like for like. If you can be patient and wait until about 12 April hopefully personal shopping for a replacement or even some new type / style of equipment will be on the agenda.

Think SAFE – Dive SAFE – Stay SAFE

Marg Baldwin
BSAC Snorkel Instructor Trainer

Preparation for a return to diving and snorkelling

It is a common part of diving and snorkelling in the UK that we promote the need to get ready for an approaching diving season. Whether you have been out of the water for the winter or for a few years, this section will help you prepare to get back out there.

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