Last Sunday, 8 disabled people took part in a scuba-diving trial session at the Aspire pool. The session, run in conjunction with one of the oldest diving clubs in London, Bermondsey, was designed to get participants into the water and using the equipment with confidence. It was also a great way to try out the sport without having to commit to a costly qualification.
Some of those who took part are regular swimmers, whilst for others it was the first time they had been in the water since sustaining injuries that had left them paralysed. For everyone, though, it was a new experience and whilst the delights of the bottom of the Aspire pool can’t quite match those of a pristine coral reef, breathing underwater for the first time was still exhilarating. Ben, who has a spinal cord injury, found that the session has motivated him to get back into swimming: “The experience was wicked – I would have stayed in for hours if there had been time. It really was brilliant. And it felt so good getting back into the water so I’m going to be heading back to the pool soon.”
Dave Rankin, Chairman of the Bermondsey Club, said, “These try-dive sessions are how every diver has started out. It’s not a sport that is generally that accessible to disabled people in this country, though, so we were delighted to work with Aspire to make it available to people who would otherwise not have had this opportunity. It was certainly a learning experience for us too, and we had to adjust some of the ways we normally do things so that everyone could take part. Once the participants were in the water, though, it really wasn’t all that different to what we’ve done with thousands of new divers over the years. For those who want to take up the sport, we can recommend the Scuba-Trust as a great starting point, but Sunday was really about proving that being disabled shouldn’t be a barrier to giving something new a go.”
Rosie Williams, Centre Manager at the Aspire National Training Centre, said, “Aspire has always been at the forefront of accessible sport and leisure and, whilst scuba-diving isn’t something we’ve offered before, this opportunity was too good to miss. The session looked brilliant and hopefully it’s something we’ll be able to offer again soon.”
The photo is of Mike, who features in the Aspire book 'It's My Life' and is a regular scuba diver. (Although he doesn't usually dive with his wheelchair!)