So, you've just finished your diving course and joined the club, or you've just joined the club, or you joined the club a long time ago but ever since you have been a name on a piece of paper but not a face on a dive. And 'what now' you say. 'I should be entitled to more for my $5.00 (or $15.00) than just a newsletter, perhaps I should go on a club dive.' But what is a club dive? You've heard about 'dives' before. They're expensive. You pay $300 for a weekend away and stay in a luxury hotel and get two 'lead-you-by-the-nose' dives. This you say is not for you. But that is a 'commercial dive', not a 'club dive'. A 'club dive' starts with an intro in the newsletter. You know, those things which give a date, a place, a name, a phone number and a description of all of the fantastic things that you are going to see. But should you, you ask yourself, really ring up that number and talk to a stranger and commit yourself to a weekend away with a whole group of strangers? Certainly you should! The first step of a 'club dive' is to ring up the contact person. They are simply a coordinator. They are there to make sure that everyone knows where they are going, and that everyone can get there. They make sure a boat will be there, so that you can go diving. They are not there to tell you what to do, but to help you to do what you want to do. To attend a dive you should usually ring the coordinator on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the dive so that they can have time to organize lifts etc. (Remember that they have other jobs to do/lives to lead so give them as much warning as possible!) If you don't have a car, that's OK. You won't need to bus to the coast, but tell the coordinator that you need a lift and usually there is someone who is going who has a spare spot. If you have a car and a spare seat to take someone, then let the coordinator know. It's pointless paying petrol costs all by yourself when you can share it. Just keep in mind that when diving, you need to fit more than just people into a car and no matter what the size of the car three divers is going to be a pretty tight squeeze (many cars will only be able to take two).
Having decided that you are going on a dive and have rung the coordinator and organized a lift you have to make sure you have all the gear you need. If you own it yourself then no problem. If you don't then you can take some of the club hardware (that is, reg and gauges, BCD, and tank) on a club trip free of charge. Simply ring the person on gear roster for the week before the dive prior to the Thursday and they will attend the gear store (the green double garage next to the pavillion on North Oval - that is, just across barry Drive from the tennis courts) at 5:30 to sign out some gear for you. If you need wetsuit, masks, fins etc then there are three dive stores in Canberra where you can hire these items (Steve's shop "The SCUBA Store" in Braddon, "Aqua Medium" in Phillip, and some place out in nappy valley- ring around, and mention that you're diving with us, and you'll soon find who has the best prices). You should make sure you are fully equipped before you leave Canberra and not rely on hiring down at the coast (chancy and generally more expensive). Once at the coast with all the gear the fun can start. A 'club dive' is not an organized diving trip where you are told what you have to dive. If you want to do an easy, shallow dive then tell the co-ordinator and one can be arranged. If you want to do a deeper or more adventurous dive there will surely be others who will wish to join you. The club owns two rigid hulled inflatables, one which will comfortably take four divers and the other six, so can dive more than one site at a time. We usually dive in shifts with outgoing divers kitted up and ready to take the boat when the incoming group returns. This way we try to minimize change-over time so that all going well you'll be able to get a second boat dive in the day (after everyone has had their first and depending on how many divers there are that day). The club goes to a variety of spots all up and down the South and East coasts so we are not limited to a single spot, though of course there are favourites. On club trips we try to minimize costs. We are not a commercial venture and keep costs down because nobody is being paid to do things for you. We camp, usually in caravan parks with amenities but sometimes in less populated areas at more rugged camping spots. People going down in the same car share petrol costs. It is a good idea to take food with you and be self-sufficient, though we usually go near a shop to get air fills so if you're desperate you can get take-away. When we stay in a town you will usually find a group of people will go down to the local pub for dinner, but at other spots you're a long way from town and will need to bring your own dinner. Ask the coordinator if you're unsure.
All in all, a club trip is good fun and a very cheap way to dive with experienced divers who know what they are doing and can keep an eye on you if you are a bit apprehensive, rusty, or unsure of what you are doing. Just remember to let us know if you're inexperienced or haven't dived for a long time and we can make sure that you have a buddy who will keep an eye on you and make sure you're OK. And don't be shy to say you don't really feel like going down to 40 metres and would rather stay above 25. There is no pressure to dive above what you feel comfortable.
So, if you were thinking that the only way to get any more experience in diving was to fork out big bucks and do another course, cancel that course and come diving with us. You won't regret it.