A tale from Wraysbury

It is the 4th March 2006, “Coldest day of the year” the weather reporter on Capital Radio confidently assures me as I race down the A3 on my way to Wraysbury for my first ever open water dive.

“All my trainees have Overhead Environment Tickets,” joked Jo to one of the staff members. This was the first thing I registered as I got out of my car at Wraybury.

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Quietly excited yet rather anxious about the conditions I arrive at 8.45am, everyone is chatting enthusiastically about the days diving. I am caught up in the buzz yet at the same time, whilst Jo does the briefing I can’t help thinking “Am I really going in there, there’s ice on the surface!!” Jo points me out as one of two people on the day wearing semi-dry’s, a few wide-eyed stares from the more seasoned members does nothing for my anxiety levels.

Chris Hunka, my ocean diver coach in the pool confidently assures me I’ll be fine, with his wise knowing look I wonder what he really thinks.

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Simon Neuoff introduces himself to me as my instructor for the day, we separate from the rest group and go for our pre-dive briefing. Still in a state of naïve anticipation, I set off to get changed. 10 minutes later Simon and I are standing chest deep in the coldest water I have ever experienced. Dave Tressider has confidently assured me that fresh water never drops below about 4 degrees, surely he must be referring to the Kelvin scale of temperature!

Simon has to get his weight right so I try and stay chest deep whilst the water seeps through my suit and warms against by body.

We do our skills in the shallow water, and then we set off on our pre-set course. The shock of the cold, murky green environment is so disorientating it soon has me sucking on my air like and industrial suction pump. We get further out into the lake where the silt hasn’t been kicked up and I start to relax, I can se the bottom and get my buoyancy under control. We fin around for 10 minutes. I am overjoyed with the new experience, the feeling of freedom, the silence and the sense of flying.

We get out and by the time we are back at the clubhouse I am shaking with cold so Simon sends me off to get changed. When I come back out we settle down for a hot cuppa and a de-brief.

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2 hours later we do it all over again, this time I am slightly more prepared for the cold. Instead of the over excited eagerness of a 14 year old on his first date, I concentrate on my skills and take in the dive experience. I do the skills well so Simon is happy to take us off finning to 9 metres. We find the platform, then a sunken boat. I start to relax and have a good look around. I find myself following a Perch that probably weighs in at 2lb, quite respectable in the fishing community. I had been told that Wraysbury was a muddy hole in the ground but the wildlife count in the lake totalled at least three species. My Perch, a large Pike pointed out by Dave then promptly stomped on by Jackie Maskell and Zen who decided a swim would be nice! No one was really sure whether this was due to Dave’s encouragement or just Zen’s shear delight at seeing Alex rising out of the depths like a Leviathan.

Simon and I dived for 21 minutes I was unable to talk when we got out due to the cold and Simon had to help me get my fins off as I had lost all motor function!!

We de-brief, I got changed and came out to watch the other members doing their various training, Bob in his gimp mask and horny hood, Steve Collard and Alex Coombes in their re-breather kits and wonder how long it will take me to get to their level.

Then, when everyone is back in we get to the best bit of the day. All down the pub with its roaring fire for a pint � What a great day!

Oh! and it turns out you need a helmet to dive in conditions where an Overhead Environment Ticket is required, of which I have neither.