Stacy with a dugong

Learning with a club was right for me

Stacy with a dugong
Stacy Bonser

For some years my partner, Michael, had been saying that he thought I’d love scuba diving. He’d done his Open Water course abroad with PADI in 2003, and then again 10 years later, but that’s another story! He knew I loved wildlife and was addicted to nature documentaries so for him it seemed natural that I’d love to experience life under the waves. The problem was, I was scared to even put my head under water!

We knew that the PADI approach wasn’t going to be right for me, Michael understood I’d want to take this slower and at my own pace. I needed a club which would be happy to work with me to overcome my fears and for me not to feel rushed. We both decided to have a try dive with a local scuba diving club with the idea of joining them so we could learn to dive but the club just didn’t have the right ‘feel’ for us!

It was back in 2017 when a work colleague suggested Mansfield and District Scuba Club as he was a member there; we both decided we’d give it a shot. It started with a pool session and we both felt so at ease we joined the club and our scuba diving journey began.

Looking back, I can’t believe it took me 4 pool sessions before I felt comfortable enough to sit on the pool floor. How patient the trainers were with me was amazing. I really felt I was supported throughout the process, they took the time to work with me so I could build up my confidence and overcome my fears.

Michael and I both work shifts so we weren’t able to attend all the pool sessions on offer by the club but that wasn’t a problem. Our lecture program and pool sessions were worked round our shifts and I felt that I wasn’t rushed; I asked lots of questions and was never nervous about asking for things to be explained in a different way for me.

After over 10 months of pool sessions, and having passed my pool test and getting the hang of a dry suit, my first open water dive beckoned. As we left Mansfield to go up to Hull to dive at 8 Acre, I did question what I was doing…it was snowing! I never thought I’d be diving in the snow!

I couldn’t believe how much encouragement I got from other members of the club, trainers and Diving Officer as I tried to overcome my nerves before getting in the cold water. I felt as though everybody was willing me to succeed on my first dive, and it definitely helped. My first dive lasted 15 minutes, I couldn’t feel my fingers and my face was freezing cold, but wow the sense of achievement was amazing. I had finally done a dive it was such a major step. I felt on top of the world. My second day of open water diving was in much warmer water and I managed to successfully complete a couple of skills. Both dives were 18 minutes and I felt that I’d made some serious improvement and I had got the diving bug!

Learning in the club environment has really suited me. I’ve got to know my instructors both in and out of the water and this has helped me feel more confident and safe when diving. I’ve benefited from the advice and experience of other club members who’ve shared their diving stories.

In June this year, Michael and I decided that the 2 week diving holiday to Egypt being organised by the club was a must for us. Wow, what an amazing trip it was too. Having only dived in a dry suit in the UK, being able to dive in a wetsuit was so liberating and it was much easier without wearing gloves and hood too.

I can’t really put in to words what that dive holiday to Marsa Alam meant to me. There were some amazing highlights…turtles, so many I lost count, crocodile fish, cornet fish, nemos….and a wonderful experience with a dugong. I couldn’t believe it; the variety of fish, the beautiful colour of the corals, the wonderful visibility. It was everything I’d dreamed of and so much more. I felt privileged to have a glimpse of the underwater world and feel very lucky to have had such an experience.

Diving with members of my club, including instructors who’d been so patient with me for over a year, gave me reassurance and confidence. After every dive I came out feeling more assured in my ability and couldn’t wait to get back in again.

During the holiday I was also able to benefit from the knowledge of some highly experienced snorkellers. If you’d asked me 2 years ago to go in to the water when there was some swell like we had, I would have politely declined! Thanks to a couple of club members who helped me develop my snorkelling skills and giving me sound words of advice, including ‘go with the water, you can’t fight it’, I’m now confident on top of the water too.

Learning to dive with Mansfield and District Scuba Diving Club has been such a rewarding experience. The instructors and members have been patient, encouraging and it’s such an inclusive environment I feel as though they’ve all been on this amazing journey with me. A journey which has not only seen me become a qualified scuba diver who’s now working towards their Club Diver qualification but somebody who has developed more confidence in general too. I can’t imagine my life without scuba diving being part of it and I can’t wait to learn more skills and gain more experience so I can continue to explore life under the waves.