Meet The Dive Team - Nick Smith

Meet The Scuba Leeds Dive Team - Nick Smith

Meet the Dive Team - Nick Smith, one of our new PADI Instructor candidates. We asked Nick about his diving so far.

When did you start diving?

When I started diving in 2015 I was only ever going to dive on holiday. I planned that I would hire my kit making this a fairly cheap hobby to do in the sun. Instead of sitting on the beach dodging the skin searing rays that hunt us gingers so much we have to have our own aloe vera plants. So I started diving in April 2015, my qualifying dive was completed 25 April at Capernwray. I learnt to dive in a small group. The chap who was my buddy was quit after the first open water dive. He had a “moment” or two on the dive and realised that learning to dive was not for him. Leaving Capers that day I had my first two certificates in the bag. I was a PADI Open Water and Drysuit Diver. I booked a holiday to Jamaica for September, where I could put my new learnt skill into practice. In preparation I watched YouTube videos, read forums and realized that even as a qualified diver five dives was not many. So I thought before I go I’ll get my advanced cert completed, that way I would have more than five logged dives. I also fancied trying a new dive centre so that way I would meet more divers. It was then that I found Scuba Leeds and met Ben for the first time. I started my advance course tied a few knots, followed the compass, mapped a wreck and suddenly realised that having an open water certificate did not a diver make. After the first few dives I was taken to one side (nicely) by Tony and told openly and honestly that I needed to get a few more dives in before I would be ready to complete the course. I had loads of problems with my buoyancy; I like many new divers could not manage a safety stop without holding on and often held on with my feet in the air bobbing toward the surface. Not exactly what is needed for the Peak Performance Buoyancy dive or the safety stop after going deep!

So what happened next?

I was invited to come diving with the team, not on a course so I could practice and get some on-to-one assistance (little did I know at that time I would do the same for others in less than 18 months time). So I had a couple of dives with Neil Scarlet who helped with some of the buoyancy problems but still felt I needed more dives before completing my deep dive in the advanced course. So under guidance I completed the Essentials Peak Performance Buoyancy course. Three pool sessions working on trim, buoyancy and finning followed by two dives at open water. This course was the most beneficial courses I have ever take I loved it and had so much fun as my diving improved in big jumps after each session. Third certificate done. I also booked a Blue O Two live aboard for November that year. As this would be a lot of diving with good divers I was also encouraged to complete my enriched air diver certificate. Fourth dive done. A warm weekend at Stoney Cove followed and I completed the final two dives of the advanced course without incident. Certificate number five in the bag. The pasty ginger kid went to Jamaica where the water was 28 degrees and the Red Stripe was much cooler, I completed 20 dives included in them was the dives of the deep specialty course. Forty meters in the Caribbean sea is very different to 20 at Stoney Cove, for one the sun was still bright enough to cause skin cancer had I not have my factor 50 on. After I had completed a timed test to demonstrate impaired functioning at depth, my Instructor Shaq told my to turn upside down and pointed to the dive boat which could be seen on the surface. So in the Caribbean Sea of Montego Bay I completed my deep specialty course. Six down, and I had been diving 10 days short of five months.

Where/when was your last logged dive?

Currently my last logged dive was in the lake at Capernwray. I was diving the last two dives of the open water course with four divers. Not as exciting as my next few planned dives which are in New Zealand. I have booked to dive on the Rainbow Warrior and MHNZS Canterbury before moving south for a couple of dives on the Poor Knight. The Poor Knight’s is one of Jacques Cousteau’s top ten dive sites. Other than Capers and Stoney Cove this year I have diving planned in the Red Sea, Scotland and Jamaica.

What are your dive goals?

My diving goals are ever changing. Finishing my IDC (which will, I think be my eighteenth certification card) as I really enjoy teaching new divers. It's so rewarding working with people who want to improve their diving skills. I currently have just short of 200 dives logged and I must also have 200 or so swimming pool dives This year I would like to log at least 52 dives and also dive every month, which I have managed since qualifying in April 2015. I still need to improve my skills, I need to be better at back finning and also want to master demonstration of all of the open water skills whilst neutrally buoyant. During a recent session with Alan Whitehead the PADI Course Director we were videoed diving and the day after Alan offered us a critique of our diving techniques. This was really useful and there are a few changes I need to practice when diving to help me remain still and flat in the water when completing skills. All of the little tweaks and tips make significant improvements that have big impacts on my diving. I am looking forward to diving a wing and long hose both when training and when on holiday. Coz it’s cool to be different. Other goals for 2018, I would like to give the rebreather a try and also have a go at some decompression diving. When we go to Scotland this will be my first salt water lock diving, and most of all I am looking forward to diving in my new dry suit, dry gloves and P valve.

What keeps you diving and how do you keep the passion?

For my there are so many more things that I would like to do and see when diving. I also really enjoy taking people under the water for the first time. Personally I also want to be a better diver and to improve you need to dive more. I have a bucket list that needs to be completed also:
  • Silfra
  • Galapagos
  • Isle of Man
  • Scapa Flow
  • Big Island - Hawaii
  • Monterey Bay
  • Bimini
  • Sun fish
  • Mobula ray
  • Whale shark
  • Zenobia
  • Rainbow Warrior
You get the idea!

Whats your favourite dive site?

Ummmm! I have had to think about this long and hard and changed my mind. Dive site is hard to decide as many sites that I have been to I have only been to once so would like to see many again. The most fun I had was Shark and Yolonda, Ras Mohammed National Park in the Northern Red Sea. I dived this with Neil, Martin and Josh and I can’t wait to go back again very soon.

What is your favourite piece of equipment?

I think my logbook is my favourite piece of equipment. This is where all of the memories are held, my first open water dive, my first night dive, my first so many things. I am happy of an evening or between dives on a live aboard to flick back and read about where I have dived and what I saw. Writing it down helps me to remember where I have been who with and what we saw. It's also great to see how my weighting has changed and also how my air consumption has dropped.

So… why do you dive sidemount?

When I started diving I was an air hog, I was the one who called the dive. I was made to have a 15li cylinder and still I called the dive. I realised that having two cylinders would give me more gas and mean that someone else turned the dive. There were a few twinset divers I these looked heavy and cumbersome and you had to reach behind you to shut down (I could barely put my fins on with a thick under suit on). I know that Cato dived sidemount and this looked way cooler! So it was decided. Cato took me through the course, then helped me set up my gear. He then put me through my paces during the open water training dives.

So what is sidemount diving?

Sidemount is when you dive with a tank on each side of your body instead of mounted on your back. Sidemount tanks lie parallel to the body, below the armpits and along the hips. When you dive sidemount you have two separate sources of gas. You breathe first from one tank and then the other, switching back and forth between two independent regulators throughout the dive. You clip the bottom of the tanks to a ring on your hip. The top of the tank is secured with a bungee loop, which allows the tanks to ride along your side. Sidemount diving has evolved from advanced and technical divers. Particularly cave divers realised that wearing tanks on the side of the body created a lower profile in the water than traditional back mounted tanks. This allows access to smaller, tighter areas. Sidemount was adopted by some wreck divers who discovered they could push a tank ahead of them into a small hatchway by simply unclipping the bottom of the tank from the hip. Cave divers saw the same benefits when working their way through low, overhead passageways. Reef divers, too, implemented sidemount diving to improve the navigation of tight coral canyons while hopefully reducing unintentional coral contact. The sidemount configuration gives easy access to tank valves in an emergency. Sidemounts make it easier when divers need to swap out extra tanks staged along a tagline or the floor of a basin. The position of the tanks also gives the diver's head greater range of motion for enhanced vision and comfort. One final advantage for sidemount diving is simply the management of heavy cylinders. I take my cylinders to the waters edge on a trolley. Where I leave them until I put them on in the water when I start diving. At the end of the dive I take the cylinders off and leave them until the next dive. One reason I enjoy sidemount diving is you look really cool! Walking to the water with only a wing on. Clipping on you cylinders in the water and slipping under the water. I can also now get three training dives from the cylinders without having to change them.
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