WHY WE DON'T DIVE IN THE WINTER
Winter diving in the UK can be magical. There's times when we've had to pinch ourselves over the flat calm conditions and amazing viz when there's snow on the ground.
Most of the time... it's not magical at all. It's quite the opposite. The weather is all over the place, the sea is angry and we end up arranging dives only to cancel them at the last minute.
It was a tough decision, but The Fifth Point will stop winter diving in the UK. Between November and March, we'll be staying dry (unless you join us diving on one of our trips abroad!)
In this article, I'm going to take you through 5 reasons why we've decided not to dive in the winter.
1. WE CAN'T GET IN THE SEA ENOUGH
Winter diving in the UK often means heading to inland dive sites because the sea is blown out by the weather.
Now don't get me wrong, diving in lakes and quarries is epic! We often visit Ellerton Park and Capernwray and there's sooo much to see. It's like a theme park for divers - there's lots of underwater attractions to visit including planes, sunken boats, and helicopters. The sites are also full of life with regular sightings of trout (you can't get moved for massive schools in Capernwray!), bream, sturgeon and pike.
The inland sites are great for training and a good excuse to go for a bimble if you're drying out over the winter.
HOWEVER, we're coastal dwellers here at The Fifth Point. We're spoilt rotten with amazing dive sites right on our doorstep. We crave salt and love the variety of dives we get in the sea. In freshwater sites, you pretty much know exactly what you're going to see. In the sea, you're never really sure - perhaps you'll spot a really obscure nudibranch or a seal will come to play.
Every dive we do is a dive against debris and we always remove any litter that we find underwater regardless of the dive site. We do still find rubbish in the lakes and quarries, but we like to concentrate our hard work on the ocean. A lake is a finite body of water, with divers looking after it every day. The ocean is huge and faces many more environmental issues and we want you to get involved.
We want you to have adventures in the ocean so you can fall in love with it. Doing all your training dives in the same quarry, or fun diving the same place over and over... it gets boring and isn't a good representation of the amazing diving we have in the UK.
There's also another downside to diving inland - it's expensive! Divers need to pay membership and/or entry fees. More on this point shortly.
2. IT'S HARD WORK FOR SHORT, CHALLENGING DIVES
Winter diving in the UK is cold. The water temperatures in the sea around Northumberland can drop down to 6°c and the coldest I've dived in the lakes has been 2°c. Even with the best drysuits and undersuits, this is challenging. Because of the cold, winter dives usually only last between 20 and 30mins.
If it's one of the good days when the conditions are just too good to ignore, then it might be worth all the prep, the getting changed in the snow, and hopping around afterwards to stay warm. If it's one of the typical days where there's hardly any viz and it's blowin' a hoolie, you might question your sanity afterwards!
We find that winter conditions can be extra challenging for our students. Trying to concentrate when you're getting cold and facing rougher water conditions usually doesn't lead to the best learning environment. Because of this, we won't take classes in the water over winter. We'd much rather you had a fun experience, where you feel more comfortable, and we can make sure there's enough time to do skills and explore the dive site.
3. IT'S OFTEN TINGED WITH DISAPPOINTMENT
If there's one thing we hate more than anything, it's cancelling dives. With extreme weather conditions becoming more common, it makes winter diving in the UK extremely unpredictable.
If there's a big storm heading in (like Arwen in 2021), we can give plenty of notice that dives are cancelled, but most of the time, it's a fairly last-minute decision.
The forecasting apps we use are much less reliable in the winter compared to the summer months. The weather changes more rapidly so it's hard to predict conditions further in advance. We'll normally only know what the wind is doing (probably the most important variable of winter diving in the UK, especially up here in Northumberland) a couple of days beforehand. And for visibility, we need eyes on the site during the day before or maybe even the morning before the dive.
There are times when we get it completely wrong. And it's the worst feeling. Everyone heads up to the dive site because on paper, the forecasts look great. We're all excited for a good winter dive, but when we get there and we find unexpected huge waves, zero viz and surge making things completely undiveable... it's sucks.
We don't want to disappoint anyone, and we certainly don't want you to waste your time (and fuel) travelling to a dive only to find it blown out.
This is the main reason we've decided to stop winter diving in the UK. We want you to love to come diving with us, not be frustrated because we've cancelled... again.
4. WE'D HAVE TO INCREASE OUR PRICES
We could continue diving in the winter if we headed to inland sites when the sea gets blown out. On top of it getting a bit repetitive for our divers as I mentioned before, there's also additional costs involved. You have to pay to get in, and so does the dive centre. A typical diving day at a quarry or lake could see an extra £80.00 in staff entry fees per day, plus more diesel for the van as the sites are further away.
You already know that our prices are higher than the other dive centres in the North East (there's more info on why here.) If we dive the inland sites throughout the winter, we'd be forced to pass the cost onto you and I honestly don't think it's worth it for the diving experience you'd receive.
5. WE HAVE THE PERFECT EXCUSE TO DO SOME WARM WATER DIVING!
No winter diving in the UK means 4 or 5 months of torture. No bubbles... no salt... no fish! How will we survive!?
To make sure that we don't dry out, it's the perfect excuse for some trips to warmer waters! If you're keen to still get wet over the winter, why don't you join us on one of our epic trips abroad?
You can find more information here.
And of course, there's nothing wrong with getting everything scheduled to start your adventures in the new season! You can still get in touch to arrange your PADI Courses, book in on summer dives and snorkels, or if you're thinking about becoming a Divemaster or Instructor, you can keep yourself busy on The Dive Pro Hub.