To Boldly Go… A bit deeper than the time before

Never Ever, Have I Ever…

Heard a student start a course saying that they want to dive deep. There are exceptions to this rule of course, but the majority start off with “I only want to go 10-15m, that’s enough for me”

That limit sticks, right up to the point that they go to whatever their target depth. where they decide that it was great and not really any different from a couple of meters, they also see there there is no “magic” line at 18m – which incidentally is only there because the pioneers chose 60″ as the entry level depth, had they been of the modern world, chances are 20m / 66″ would have been the limit.

So then it starts, the lure of the DEEP…

Anyone that’s sensible will progress their depth, with plenty of shallower dives in between. That way they bring up their comfort and skill level to the maximum depth hit previously before planning another PB dive. Most will also be progressing through the core courses at the same time, allowing each aspect of their diving to be complimentary – please don’t think as some do, that doing course after course after course is the best way. You have to get experience in there somewhere. If i had to put a number, then 15 dives as a buffer to early PB dives and 30 between courses. There is of course a limit to how deep people will go, this is a very personal thing and nobody should ever pressure, or feel pressured to break that personal limit. From experience, i would say that 100% of properly experienced divers will do 30m, this drops to about 50% for 40m, 10% for 50m and 2% 50m+ this rule will change slightly thought if you factor in helium use in either trimix or helitrox.

So, why go deep at all?

Well, locally speaking the diving is just… Better… I’m not saying that all shallow diving is rubbish, far from it, but there are many benefits to heading deeper. The main one is that as you go below 18-22 meters (depending on time of year) then you will lose most of the seaweed, which in the shallows, is hiding all the topography and life. As you pass this invisible line (actually to do with light penetration) you’ll start to see far more interesting life, soft corals, gorgonia, sponges and the incredibly pretty swathes of jewel anemones.

One thing that is almost always better in the deep, is the visibility. I think of vis in 2 ways, the actual distance that you can see and the clarity of the water. For me clarity is way more important than actual distance. You can bet that 99 times out of 100, clarity in the deep will be better than the shallow, especially in the summer months with the “bloom” in the water. One thing that does dwindle with depth though, is the light. But luckily there is a new-fangled device for fighting this – it’s called a torch.

If your into scalloping, then there is no doubt that the scallops are more dense in the deeper water, mostly as less people go that deep. There is a fine balance though, as the deeper depths mean much shorter dive times which in turn means that you catch less. Many people over the years have thought that depth would improve their catches, most soon discover that the execution of the dive also becomes more important as you go deeper. When it comes to scalloping, most stick to the mid range of 20-40m, anywhere outside of this range is likely to be hit and miss and we can’t have that in such a fierce competition…

Some say that competition has no place in diving, i couldn’t disagree more. Whether it be on number of scallops, size of fish, max depth, dive-time or gas remaining. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition between mates and even with yourself. Competition is in human nature, it’s what drives us as individuals and as a race to be better than we were yesterday. If it weren’t for this drive, we would most likely still be living in caves! Of course, the competition needs to be healthy, and it needs to be last on the long list of dive requirements – with safety being first. Maybe with our divers the battle is more in the open as we shout “SCORE” after every dive, but trust me it happens all over the world. Where you don’t see it, it just means that there is probably less to compete over – why do you think dive guides in the warmer climes have such low breathing rates?! Those that don’t want to compete in diving, probably can’t…

Another reason is “lust for rust”, anyone that likes to wreck dive will eventually decide to go that bit deeper. This is because whilst there are many wrecks in the shallows, most resemble a pile of “stuff” with seaweed growing out of it. For me, i like to be able to recognise what the wreck was in it’s previous life.

For wrecks less than 20m, you’re really limited to just the Forth. If you go up to 30 ish, then you can add the Cement wreck (30m) and the Ammo wreck (32m). A diver that pushes to the next step will gain access to a heap more: Mary Toovey (42), Figaro (45), Stella (46), Brighton (50), Niko (50), Duanna (50) Cairnside (52), M483* (52). Those that really show a passion and aptitude for the deep and go on to Trimix will open up the really special ones: Edirne (55), Bizon (58), Rouen (58), Jeanne Marie (58), St Malo (69) and many others.

*Arguably the best wreck dive in the channel islands – for more info and links to video, see the main website

In listing all these reasons, i’ve missed out one very important one – diving deep is immense fun. This is largely due to narcosis (more on this in a later blog). Well at least it is to some people, now i’m not saying that everyone needs to dive deep, people should do what they want. But if you like pushing yourself and you’re willing to accept the increased risk, why not go for it.

One last point i’d like to make, is that just because you can dive deep, you don’t have to. I know that it gets said of me that I only dive deep and yes, if i have the choice, then mostly i will pick deep over shallow. Of course, if i’m diving with someone, then i will dive to their limits and I do enjoy the occasional shore dive. If i didn’t then i wouldn’t do it especially not on my own (which i have been known to do in desperate dry times). Only last week I went into Havelet to dive with┬ásomeone because they needed a buddy, instead of going scalloping and earning money.

What the naysayers miss though is that if you can dive deep, then you can dive shallow. A skill that doesn’t work the other way. Think of it this way, can a racing driver drive a normal car slowly, the answer is of course yes, but does being able to drive a normal car make you able to drive a racing car fast…

So go forth and embrace the narcosis!

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