The sun had just come up over the English Channel, and around me, 10 other figures huddled on the quayside, similarly clutching thermoses full of hot coffee and seeking relief from the cold inside layers of thick clothing. Despite the chill wind and the early hour, my companions and I were in good spirits — we were about to embark on the first dive-club trip of the year. As we waited for the captain of our charter boat to finish his final preparations and allow us onboard, I took a moment to reflect on the benefits of joining a dive club, and on why they’re such a valuable dive-community institution. Perhaps the first, and most obvious, reason to join your local dive club is its members, like-minded people who also love to get in the water at every given opportunity, and who provide not only camaraderie but also a friendly, informed support system. If you choose to take an active part in your dive club, you may find yourself gaining a circle of acquaintances that swiftly turn into friends for life.
The signature feature of most dive clubs is their ability to add a new dimension to your diving experience. Dive-club membership can transform what was previously a casual hobby into a lifestyle, and give easy access to the wider benefits of being part of the community. All clubs will differ, but most (like mine) offer social events ranging from casual evenings sharing a drink in the clubhouse after a hectic day’s diving to organized lectures from influential and relevant speakers. The only thing better than finding something you’re passionate about is having people to share that passion with, and that is precisely the purpose and function of any good dive club. Clubs are also a great option for those of us whose family or friends aren’t avid divers. Instead of turning up for a dive buddy-less and alone, you’ll find yourself diving over and over again with the same group of familiar faces. There will inevitably be other single divers to pair up with, so over time you’ll be able to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from buddying with someone whose personality and abilities are familiar. Joining a dive club is also a good idea for nervous or beginner divers, who will benefit from the support and advice of more experienced members.
As well as social benefits, dive club membership has some considerable practical benefits. Most have a program of scheduled dive trips throughout the year, of which you can choose as many or as few as you like. Having access to organized trips like these allows you to avoid the stress of planning on your own, and to easily meet minimum passenger capacities on charter boats. It often makes diving cheaper too, as most clubs are eligible for group-booking discounts; even transport to the dive destination can be more affordable through ride sharing with other club members. Dive clubs are often affiliated with dive shops and can offer good discounts on gear as a result, and provide easy access to dive instruction and training venues as well. Most dive clubs also organize at least one trip abroad annually, and hearing about other members’ experiences can provide inspiration for your own scuba travel. Most importantly, by offering a scheduled program of dive trips (whether locally or abroad), dive-club membership encourages you to keep diving, and to add to your dive experiences rather than letting your gills dry out after your initial certification. If you learned to dive while on vacation, joining a dive club is a great way to become involved in your local dive community on your return home.
In the end, the diving on that cold morning in the English Channel was not particularly memorable. The visibility was limited, and the water was icy. However, it was a trip that left me with some great memories of surface-interval jokes and stories shared among a group of people united in their love of diving, whatever the conditions. That’s the real benefit of joining a dive club: with the right one, you’ll never have a bad day on the water.