BSAC London No.

1 Branch

Information Sheet

Why join BSAC London Branch?
Information for beginners

London Branch is the founder branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club, so we have a lot of history. However, we're very much present day divers and are a friendly, well-organised and well-equipped branch. As with all BSAC branches, the club is run by volunteers as a non-profit making organisation. A committee is elected each year, but everyone is encouraged to help out, whatever their skill or speciality. BSAC training is very highly regarded throughout the world and we take great pride in the quality of our training. We encourage all our members to keep on learning within the branch after they've completed their first training qualification, and with the range of experience we have within the branch there are plenty of people to ask for advice about anything diving related. BSAC membership also gives you access to a range of BSAC skill development courses, both to improve your diving, and develop any special interests you might have. These include BSAC instructing courses, and we actively encourage people who wish to become involved in instructing within the branch. As well as training we aim to offer diving that is interesting and fun for all levels of diver within the branch. At the start of 2008 we had 60 members, and we have our own boat (a large 7m RIB) for organising our diving. Most of our diving is around the UK, but we usually have one foreign club dive per year, and club members often organise private trips. Running our own dive boat means diving with us can be considerably cheaper than diving from a commercial boat. It also makes our diving trips flexible, allowing us to cater for all levels of experience on most trips, and we rarely have to restrict the numbers on a dive site. We try to offer a range of diving to suit all tastes, both wrecks and scenic dives, and all levels of experience. Our calendar of trips for the year can be found on our web-site www.londondiver.com. When www.londondiver.com. we're away diving we tend to stay in shared houses, B&B's or on a campsite. This makes our diving affordable but also very sociable. For those people who don't have all their own diving kit, we have some very high quality equipment for hire, at very reasonable costs. Air fills are free for members, and use of the pool is free on Tuesday evenings, whether you're training, trying out equipment or just swimming. It's not just about diving though: we do run a number of social activities throughout the year. After our pool sessions most people have time for a quick drink and a chat in our local pub. We're a relatively large club, and our members come in all ages, shapes and forms, so it's a good place to make new friends, all of whom will be happy to talk about diving with you!

BSAC Diver Training
Learning to dive with us you'll start off by undertaking the BSAC Ocean Diver training programme. This leads to an internationally recognised qualification and consists of: • • • • • 7 theory lessons a theory assessment 5 pool lessons a sheltered water (pool) assessment 5 open water lessons/dives (minimum of 120 minutes underwater time)

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BSAC London No.1 Branch

Information Sheet

In your training pack you have a file of notes, a manual and a qualification ring binder. Look after your qualification binder carefully as they're difficult to replace and try to bring it each week so it can be kept up to date. Your qualification binder should also have your photo and your medical certificate in. There is also a folder of training records kept behind the desk in the branch that should be updated after each lesson. It helps if you read the notes before each theory lesson, and you should read both them and the manual thoroughly to prepare yourself for the theory test. It is possible to do a theory lesson and a pool lesson on the same night, but you have to be here promptly at 7:00 pm, to do the theory. Pool lessons cover basic snorkelling skills as well as scuba diving. Different people learn at different paces, and some of the lessons are quite long, so you might find your instructor recommends you do part of a lesson again the next week. This should be noted in the training records. Similarly if there's something you want to practise again, just ask your instructor – one of the advantages of learning to dive within a branch is the personalised tuition you receive. The last pool session is a run through of all the skills and a preparation for your open water dives. In UK waters you'll be wearing quite a thick wet suit, plus gloves and hood, so it's important to practise in the pool with all this lot on (it feels quite a bit different) and to work out your correct weighting. Your first Open Water dive will be either at Stoney Cove (an old stone quarry, but nicer than it sounds) or in the sea. As you get towards the end of your pool training you need to think ahead to where you'll do your first open water dives. Branch dives are listed on the notice board, together with details of any training days but it's important to discuss it with any of your instructors, or with whoever is behind the desk. They'll be able to give you some advice, or direct you to the training officer or the diving officer. You don't have to have completed all your open water training dives before you can participate in normal branch diving, but some dive sites are not suitable for first dives. In the winter our activities are limited by the weather, so the only option may be a training day at Stoney Cove.

Equipment
The other thing you have to organise as you come to the end of your pool training is your kit. Branch kit is available for use in the pool and we hire out BCs, regulators, cylinders and weight belts for open water dives. What the branch doesn't hire for open water dives is mask, fins, snorkel, wet suit and boots (or dry suit), gloves and a safety flag. These you will need to buy (although some dive shops hire wet suits). A lot of this information is covered in the theory lectures but this is a summary. Mask It's useful to get a mask early on in your pool training, so it fits your face properly. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, some masks can be fitted with prescription lenses, or you can wear contact lenses under your mask. Take your optical prescription when you go and buy a mask and if it's a fairly simple prescription they can fit it at the dive shop. Lenses can be obtained for more complicated prescriptions e.g. for astigmatism but they're not stocked by normal dive shops, so ask someone in the branch for details about firms to contact to obtain these. Cost around £30, plus £20 to 25 per lens for standard prescriptions.

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BSAC London No.1 Branch

Information Sheet

Snorkel Cheap snorkels are fine, the more expensive ones have valves at the bottom to make them easier to clear, but aren't necessary. A lot of people don't take a snorkel with them on normal dives. Cost £6 to £20. Fins Don't buy fins for pool use (the closed heel type). The fins you use in the open water are designed for wearing over boots, so have straps at the back to adjust them. Fins can cost anything from £20 to well over £100, but £40 to 60 is a reasonable price to aim at. Wet suit Talk to an instructor about a wet suit as the type you need for UK diving is called a semi-dry suit and is a thick wet suit (7 mm neoprene) with seals to minimise the amount of water that gets in. It is important that your semi-dry suit fits you well, so take your time buying it (some shops may allow you to return a suit if it's only been used once in the pool, but ask for advice in the shop when trying it on). Second-hand semidry suits can often be found (look at the adverts in the back of DIVE Magazine, buy a copy of Loot or check our notice board). As mentioned earlier, you need to try your suit out in the pool, so make sure you get it in plenty of time before you aim to do your first open water dives. Cost £150 to £200 new. Boots Neoprene boots are worn inside your fins. Zipped ones are easier to get on, but the zips can eventually go wrong. Boots are not required if you decide to buy a dry suit. Cost around £30. Dry suit Again talk to an instructor before buying a dry suit. As the name suggests, these suits keep you dry when you're diving, as they have tight seals on the wrist and neck, and integral boots. They are not essential for most of the UK diving we do, but many people find a wet suit too cold at certain times of the year. There are two types, membrane and neoprene and you should ask to have the difference explained to you. The disadvantage of a dry suit is the cost, typically between £400 and £600. Second hand dry suits are available, but please seek advice before buying one, as it is important that your suit is in a good condition and fits you correctly. Gloves Neoprene gloves are essential most of the year in the UK, but some people don't wear them in the warmest months. 3 mm thick should be fine for most people, 5 mm thick keep your hands warmer but reduce your manual dexterity. Cost £20 to £30. Safety Flag These are invaluable for helping the boat handler spot you when you surface from your dive. It is a branch rule that everyone must have a flag when they dive from the boat. We sometimes have some in the equipment room for sale. Cost £15 from the branch, £18 to £19 in dive shops. Goodie Bag A simple net bag to hold your mask, fins, gloves and other loose items on the boat. Not essential, but well advised so you don't lose anything. Cost £6 to £8.

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BSAC London No.1 Branch

Information Sheet

A torch, knife, watch and/or a computer are not essential for your first dives, although a knife and watch are strongly recommended. Diving shops vary in size and the makes of equipment they stock. Look in DIVE Magazine (you'll get a copy as part of your BSAC membership) or ask in the equipment room for shops that other club members use. We also have a comprehensive list of dive shops on our web site (www.londondiver.com/resources/diveshops.asp In all dive shops, ask for a discount; generally you www.londondiver.com/resources/diveshops.asp). www.londondiver.com/resources/diveshops.asp won't get much off if you're just buying a mask, but if you buy a few things at once, you may get 10 to 15% discount. If you're intending to buy a lot of kit, and are prepared to wait, the annual dive shows can offer some extremely good bargains. Second hand kit can be very good value, but ask for advice before buying second hand. As part of your beginners' training fee you can hire a regulator, BC, cylinder and weight belt free of charge. A deposit of £100 must be left when kit is hired. After you've qualified, the charge is £6 per item per day of diving. Once you've got the diving bug, you'll want to gradually buy your own equipment, but you can carry on hiring from the branch as long as you need to. Enjoy your training, and please ask if there's anything you need to know.

BSAC or PADI?
BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club) and PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) are two different training schemes for scuba diving. BSAC started in Britain but both organisations operate world-wide. You will probably see more PADI dive organisations abroad than BSAC, but both sets of qualifications are well recognised, here and abroad. The first level of diving qualification offered by BSAC, Ocean Diver, is broadly equivalent to the first level PADI qualification, Open Water Diver. (Ocean Diver is slightly more difficult than PADI Open Water and takes slightly longer.) One of the major differences between BSAC and PADI however is the way the courses are run. PADI instructors are teaching diving for a living, courses are generally run over a number of days, full time, and the cost covers the instruction and kit hire for those days. Most BSAC courses are run by BSAC branches like ours. Taking a course with a BSAC branch generally involves becoming a member of that branch for a year. BSAC branches meet once or twice a week, in the evenings, and instruction is given on those evenings. The final part of the training is done at weekends or on diving trips that we organise during the year. BSAC instructors teaching in branches are doing this in their free time, as their hobby. However, membership of a branch offers lots of other things too. Once you've finished your training, there are dive trips organised by members round the UK and abroad that you can attend, you can carry on to do the next level of training in the branch, and you can enjoy the social environment of a club. Another difference between BSAC and PADI is that BSAC branches are non-profit making. This generally means that diving with a BSAC branch is considerably cheaper than with a PADI organisation in the long run. BSAC Schools offer the same training as BSAC branches but operate more like PADI dive schools, in that you pay for the course only, rather than becoming a member. They are generally located abroad in resorts, or around the UK coast.

So which is better?
If you want to learn to dive quickly and particularly if you aren't interested in diving in the UK, a PADI course may be the better option. These are offered in places such as the Red Sea, Thailand and Australia quite cheaply.

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BSAC London No.1 Branch

Information Sheet

If you want to dive in the UK, and are interested in getting involved in a club and its diving activities, then joining a BSAC branch is probably a better choice. Your training will teach you to deal with UK diving conditions, and if you do happen to go abroad your qualification will be recognised. Learning in a club environment can be helpful if you don't pick up all the skills first time; there's always time to go back and practise them again until you're comfortable. It does require a commitment over a number of weeks however, and training can be dependent on both the weather and instructors' availability. If you wish to progress beyond the first level qualification, joining a club to do your training will almost certainly work out more cheaply.

Frequently Frequently asked questions
Money
How much will it cost to join? This depends on your diving experience and the training option chosen. Divers with existing qualifications will pay a different fee (please see separate sheet, or check our price calculator www.londondiver.com/about/priceCalcJS.asp w.londondiver.com/about/priceCalcJS.asp). www.londondiver.com/about/priceCalcJS.asp Where does the money go? The money covers your annual BSAC membership fee, your annual London Branch membership fee, your training fee and training manuals. What do I get for my BSAC membership fee? Third party liability insurance, monthly DIVE Magazine, and access to BSAC's range of skill development courses (boat handling, first aid, instructor courses etc.) What do I get for my branch membership fee? Use of the pool, use of the equipment in the pool, free air fills, subsidised diving trips, subsidised kit hire. What do I get for my training fee? The Ocean Diver course and free hire of BC, regulator and cylinder until you qualify. If you pay the top up fee for additional unlimited training, you also get the Sports Diver, Dive Leader and Advanced Diver courses, but you will have to pay £8 for extra training manuals for each of these courses. Do I get a student discount? On production of evidence, the BSAC and branch fees are discounted by 50% for full time students (see separate sheet). I'm unemployed, do I get a discount? On production of evidence, the branch fee is discounted by 50% for unemployed people (see separate sheet). I live in Westminster, do I get a discount? Westminster residents get a 10% reduction on the branch and training fees.

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BSAC London No.1 Branch

Information Sheet

I'm a member of the Seymour gym, do I get a discount? No, sorry. What else do I have to pay for? Personal equipment (see section on Equipment) Equipment hire charges after training (see section on Equipment) Dives from the boat. Travel, accommodation, food on dive trips (see section on Dive Trips) What if I don't like it, can I have a refund? If you're not sure, we offer a "Try Dive" session for £15. If you decide to join the branch, we deduct this from your membership fee. Once you have joined and started your training we only offer refunds in exceptional circumstances.

Equipment
How much will my equipment cost? Essential Thick wetsuit (semi-dry suit) £150-£200 plus boots £30 or a dry suit £400-£600 Fins £40-£60 Mask £30 Gloves £20-£30 Safety flag £15 Watch £30-£100 (not essential but highly recommended) Not essential immediately BC £200-£350 (can be hired from the club for a nominal charge) Regulator £200-£400 (can be hired from the club for a nominal charge) Cylinder £120-£140 (can be hired from the club for a nominal charge) Weightbelt and weights £30-£50 (can be hired from the club, free with hire of other equipment) Knife £20-£40 Torch £30-£100 Watch £30-£100 or Computer £150-£300 Can I save some money by buying second hand equipment? There is a lot of good second hand equipment available. DIVE Magazine has a section at the back for buying and selling equipment. Loot and eBay are also a possible source. Can I hire equipment? Equipment hire for use in the pool is free to everyone. If you join as a complete beginner your training fee includes hire of a regulator, BC and cylinder for 5 days of diving. After that there is a nominal hire charge, but this is cheaper than hiring equipment from a dive shop. Unfortunately we don't hire wet suits or dry suits.

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BSAC London No.1 Branch

Information Sheet

Training
How long will it take to learn? The beginners' course (Ocean Diver) takes around 8 weeks in the pool. After that you need to complete 5 open water dives. This will usually take a minimum of 2 weekends away with the branch on training days or dive trips. Because our instructors are volunteers, we cannot guarantee to complete the course by a given date, however we will make every effort to ensure you complete your training as soon as possible. Our calendar for the year will show when we have dive trips and training days planned. When does the next course start? We don't run Ocean Diver courses on set dates. You can start whenever you join the branch and proceed at your own pace. Instructors are allocated each evening on a "first come first served" basis, and generally everyone gets a lesson who wants one. Sports Diver, Dive Leader and Advanced Diver lectures are scheduled a couple of times a year, but the practical lessons can be done on training days or normal dive trips. Can I do my open water training abroad? No, sorry. Most of our diving is done in the UK. We do usually have one dive trip abroad each year, but it isn't generally possible to provide training abroad. qualification Will my qualification be recognised abroad? Yes, BSAC qualifications are recognised abroad just as PADI, NAUI etc. qualifications are. Once you have completed the Ocean Diver course, your certificate will allow you to dive to 20 metres. The Sports Diver qualification allows you to dive to 35 metres and Dive Leader to 50 metres. I already know how to dive. We welcome divers with existing qualifications. This will be matched to the equivalent BSAC qualification and this will determine whether we charge you a training fee, and which training course we will start you on. We will need to see evidence of your qualification and your diving experience, and we will ask you to do a short "check out" session in the pool with one of our instructors. If you haven't dived for a long time we will give you some refresher training, before you come on a diving trip with us.

Medical
Will I be fit to dive? Everybody has to complete a medical form before starting training in the pool. If "Yes" is answered to any of the questions on the form, medical advice must be sought. Advice may be provided by telephone, by a medical referee. In certain circumstances a diving medical examination may be required. Common reasons for referral to a medical referee include asthma, respiratory or heart disease and epilepsy. How much would a diving medical cost? Telephone advice is generally provided free of charge. Diving medical referees typically charge £25-£60 for a medical examination.

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BSAC London No.1 Branch

Information Sheet

What about disabilities? Disabled people can dive but, like everyone, must complete a medical questionnaire to check their general health. I'm not a very good swimmer, does that matter? As part of the course you must be able to swim 200m. If you can't you can be given extra instruction, but you won't be able to complete your training until you can comfortably swim 200m I wear glasses/contact lenses, is that a problem? No, you can either wear contact lenses inside your mask, or buy a special mask with prescription lenses. Ask at a dive shop, or consult DIVE Magazine for suppliers of optically adjusted masks.

Other restrictions
Is there an age limit? There is no upper age limit, but everyone has to pass a diving medical (see medical section). There is a minimum age limit of 14, but for 14-17 year olds their parent or legal guardian must also join the branch as a diving member. Otherwise, the minimum age for joining our branch is 18. I don't drive/have a car? You will be reliant on other people to take you to dive sites for your training (although some places may be served by public transport the equipment is very heavy). For some trips, people will be happy to offer lifts in return for a share of travelling expenses, but this can sometimes be difficult to arrange, so you must plan well in advance.

Diving trips
Where Where do you go diving? Most of our diving is done around the UK – all along the South Coast from Bognor to Cornwall, and we also go to Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The further destinations tend to be organised as week-long trips. We try to offer one trip abroad each year; in recent years we've been to the South of France, and further afield to the Red Sea, the Maldives and Indonesia. How much do they cost? This will vary depending on the type of accommodation being used. Camping is the cheapest option and can be as little as £3 a night. On week long trips we often share houses or apartments, about £60-£70 a week each, or we may use B&B accommodation at £15-£20 a night each. You also need to allow for food and travelling costs, and many people travel together to share petrol costs.

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