Welcome to The Underwater University

Over twenty students studying at Sussex, Brighton and BSMS have started their diver training with the University of Sussex Sub Aqua Club (USSAC).

Freshers flocked to the try dives held in a local swimming pool last month to find out what it was like to use SCUBA equipment. Twelve absolute beginners have now started their diving course, which will last the whole academic year. This term they will learn in the classroom all about the effects of diving on the body, the equipment they will be using and the local diving conditions they can expect. Next term the real fun begins with the commencement of their training in the pool. In April they will embark on their first big challenge – diving in the open water. A flooded quarry in Somerset, complete with sunken aircraft and cars, a fully equipped dive centre, hot showers and most importantly a burger van, is where they will get their first taste of UK diving. Then they will be able to join expeditions on-board Paradox, our 6 meter rigid hull inflatable dive boat, to explore some amazing local dive sites off the Sussex coast.

This year has been a particularly special one for our club, because as well as the popularity of the beginners’ course we have had unprecedented levels of interest in our more advanced training programme. Years ago university was the first chance many people had to learn to dive. However, the rise in cheap resort diving courses and gap years mean quite a number of undergraduates arrive at university with a basic diving qualification. Around a dozen students have joined USSAC this term to continue their diver training with our Sport Diver course which prepares them thoroughly for diving in UK conditions down to a depth of 35 metres. This qualification opens up to them some of the best diving on offer off the South coast of England.

Many people seem surprised that there is much to see in our local waters but there really is. We have a huge number of historic wrecks to explore including warships, merchant ships, aircraft and submarines lost in the two World Wars.
The biggest attraction for most is the diverse marine life. We have regular encounters with huge shoals of large fish, lobsters , cuttlefish and monster conger eels. Travel a little further along the coast and you can even dive with playful seals. For those who hanker after clear blue waters and sunbathing between dives the club goes on at least one overseas trip each year. We have recently visited the Red Sea, Madeira and Malta.

University diving clubs like USSAC fulfil such an important role in promoting and sustaining UK diving. This year the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC), the national body that USSAC belongs to, celebrates its 60th anniversary. Ever since the very first SCUBA equipment became available people have been exploring the hidden world that lies beneath the seas surrounding Brighton. Despite this, some local BSAC clubs are struggling to attract new members. It is university clubs that continue to introduce new generations to the excitement and adventure of UK diving. USSAC is growing from strength to strength with our very high number of new super keen trainees, our solid base of qualified student members and our dedicated team of volunteer diving instructors.

USSAC is giving Sussex students the chance to make the most of studying at a coastal university. One of our new trainees summed it up perfectly when she wrote in her application to join the beginners course this year: “Scuba diving constantly fascinates me, and USSAC is the perfect opportunity to finally learn.…It would be so exciting to discover awesome underwater landscapes and I love the fact that there is so much more underneath the waves, which you cannot see in the everyday.”

You can follow Sussex students’ underwater adventures on Facebook or on Twitter @USSAC
To find out how you can get involved yourself visit: www.sussexsubaqua.co.uk

James Georgalakis