How do you define an obsession that doesn't dictate your daily routine? That said, how do you put to bed that nagging regret of a life-long unfulfilled dream? We all have aspirations and ambitions - without them we remain stagnant automatons.
But what if others think your interest is insignificant or not worth getting involved? And what if you have to rely on others to make things happen? Yes, Mr. Rhodes is definitely on one!
For many, and as spring follows winter, thoughts drift towards that long awaited and well deserved summer holiday. For me, thoughts drift to a perennial desire to get wet and to finally sign off that long established ambition to go snorkelling.
I would like to go snorkelling in the sea amongst the fishes. But this is the 21st century and snorkelling has become a dinosaur amongst more exciting aquatic sports.
So what happened to snorkelling? As a child growing up in the glorious 1970s (viva la power cuts, viva la three-day-week, viva la winter-of-discontent) snorkelling was considered an adventurous pastime, that was both accessible (public swimming pools allowed snorkelling during public sessions) and affordable, with Woolworths selling a wide range of cheap masks, snorkels and flippers or fins. Nowadays, most swimming pools ban snorkelling on grounds of health and safety. And we all know what happened to Woolies.
But why snorkelling and why the keen interest?
I remember that first day trip to Bridlington in the mid 1970s. While walking the promenade we spotted this teenager attired in a tatty old wetsuit, mask, snorkel and flippers (not called fins by us kids in the 1970s). This lad was snorkelling amongst the rocks near the harbour. The joyous simplicity of it all. I was maybe nine years old and totally envious. I also wanted to go snorkelling and explore the rocks.
Like many, my interest in snorkelling and diving was nurtured through television. God bless you Monsieur Jacques Cousteau.
My Action Man (qualified scuba diver) also played his part. And during the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, the Filey Sub Aqua Club put on a display during Driffield's celebratory gala, and I was enthralled by a demonstration put on by its members. Why couldn't I scuba dive or snorkel like my contemporaries - those junior members, now middle-aged, who I still envy to this day?
During the 1960s the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) flourished. Its members were a hardy bunch of adventurous mavericks, with their bulging biceps and manly sideburns, and that was just the women. Oh yes, there were women who scuba dived too, but what about us kids? Well, if you could swim you were allowed to join the National Snorkelling Club. In the 1970s I couldn't swim, but still I wanted to go snorkelling with the fishes.
Then, as now, there were numerous obstacles that prevented me from getting wet. My parents couldn't afford the equipment and I couldn't swim, and there wasn't a dive club in Driffield back then.
But most important of all, snorkelling wasn't me. Not known for being athletically minded, I was expected to be interested in Airfix models and little else. To partake in anything that could be construed as sport was a balmy concept, especially as I couldn't swim. Did I mention that I couldn't swim?
That said, despite my own deficiencies and circumstances, in 1981 I did managed to go snorkelling, a crime which so far has gone unpunished. Let me explain...
In the 4th Year - Secondary School (Year Eleven in today's parlance) it was the policy that all pupils should swim at least one length of the pool before the end of term. Accordingly, for the three or four kids from my year who couldn't swim (me included) extra lessons were provided during Thursday lunchtimes.
For ten weeks we would gather at Driffield's swimming pool. Unfortunately, while the school was keen for us kids to make an effort, none of the PE teachers were that keen on teaching us, so we ended up being supervised by a six-form student (with a life-saving certificate) and told to teach ourselves.
Now between the boys and girls changing rooms was a storeroom, which one Thursday was left unlocked. Inside I discovered a mask and snorkel. Before you could shout 'bogies' really, really loud, I was in the pool and snorkelling. Oh, the simplicity of it all.
Despite not being able to swim a single length of the pool, I found that snorkelling was invigorating and confidence building and I managed several lengths, albeit with my head submerged and my hands by my side. I duck dived and had the best time of my life - never bettered, and all unauthorised and against the grain. Must have broken every BSAC rule in the book.
In the mid 1980s (after leaving school) I did finally learn to swim. I attended swimming lessons on Saturday mornings and increased my confidence by attending late night public sessions. It was here that I learnt to tread water and dive in from the side. The deep end became a welcome friend, not to be feared.
Then one day I brought along my mask and snorkel, only to be told that they were banned. I was even told by the lifeguard that it was safer to use a mask and snorkel in the sea than in 'her' swimming pool (sic). I had previously bought my mask, snorkel and fins in 1983. It would be another ten years before I finally used them.
Into the time machine and it's 1992 and I'm now living in Bridlington. After visiting various second hand shops in Scarborough, Filey, Bridlington and Hull, and after scanning the classifieds in numerous local newspapers, I finally secured a wetsuit (from The Northern Wetsuit Factory in Scarborough).
Thereafter I finally, finally went snorkelling in the sea. Sadly I chose to snorkel off Bridlington's sandy north beach with its zero visibility. Furthermore, without a weight-belt I found it impossible to duck dive and I accomplished little, other than entertain thousands of bemused holidaymakers. I felt totally dejected and I haven't snorkelled in open water since.
Every now and again the frustration gets to me. I want to have another go, but my confidence is shot. Also, personal circumstances always get in the way (including lack of transport and sympathetic support). I am told to throw caution to the wind and just go off and get wet, but snorkelling is a hazardous sport that needs to be practised in the confines of a swimming pool.
When I moved to Hull in 1996, there were plenty of opportunities to snorkel through the local swimming baths, but only for children. Hull City Council provides Rookie Life Saving Lessons during the school holidays, which includes snorkelling, but for kids only.
If you're an adult you're high-and-dry, simply because the main governing body that promotes scuba diving, namely the aforementioned BSAC, or rather its local branch, no longer provides support or friendship to snorkellers.
Truth be known, what killed off snorkelling were the technological advances in scuba and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). For ten-quid you can now experience scuba diving in the warmth of a heated swimming pool, and for a few hundred quid you can qualify as an PADI Open Water Diver. But PADI do still offer snorkelling, even though my experiences with this money-grabbing commercial outfit isn't that good:
Around ten years ago I paid a dive shop in Hull (since closed) £20 for a PADI one-to-one snorkelling lesson.
Cometh the day and I ended up at a school's swimming pool in north Hull. Firstly I wasn't given any weights to counteract the buoyancy of my wetsuit. My mask also leaked. My instructor was also pre-occupied with a group of trainee scuba divers. One minute my instructor was attentive and the next he was at the other end of the pool, giving instruction to other, more profitable clientele.
I left the session feeling deflated and dejected. What I realised from that lesson was that snorkelling isn't as easy as some people might think. Snorkelling (like swimming) is a craft or skill that needs to be practiced. Good fin action and properly executed duck-dives reduce effort, making snorkelling a relaxing pastime.
On the other hand, scuba diving is about technology. Why do you think kids and the disabled and even non-swimmers are now allowed to scuba dive? Press one button and you go down. Press another button and you go up. Snorkelling is dead, but not everyone can afford scuba diving lessons or the expensive kit.
Sadly my local BSAC dive club will not provide me or anyone else for that matter with a level of friendship or support needed as a snorkeler. A local diver wrote to me: 'Snorkelling has not a lot to do with [scuba] diving and I am glad people see sense nowadays.
And I am glad there is little of it left in the training scheme. Can't think why it should be pushed. snorkellers just get in the way at pool sessions. If it's what individuals want to do that's fine but it adds no value to a dive club as far as I can see.'
Another diver wrote: 'I too have no problem with people snorkelling. My argument is that as a dive club we do not have to provide non-divers with the facility to use our pool to snorkel. I would much rather see our pool full of divers.'
I'm constantly being told that snorkelling is a safe sport, yet those with knowledge are reluctant to pass on important information about where is the best place to dive and what to avoid. The golden rule in snorkelling is never dive alone, and yet...
Hello? Anyone there? Anyone else interested in snorkelling? Certainly none of my friends are interested. And that's the problem. Diving is about family and friends and friendship.
Sadly diving and snorkelling is also about money and if you're skint or rely on public transport then you're high and dry, and that's when the anxiety kicks in. And while your contemporaries are enjoying life to the full, you're stuck in limbo - usually on a nice sunny day thinking of what it would be like to explore the shallows at Flamborough or some other aquatic vista.
When I was growing up and when my ambition, desire or obsession (you decide) occasionally surfaced, I would often read the same old book in my local library. It dictated that you must be able to accomplish a variety of swimming tasks before being allowed to wear 'fins'. Most frustrating.
But that was then. What took me years to realise and what hurts to my very core is the sense of not belonging. I've seen divers and snorkellers on TV and in real life, but the greatest pain felt is one of not belonging - not being part of the adventure.
Snorkelling and diving is more fun with like-minded individuals, namely your family and friends, especially if they look worse than you do in neoprene. Snorkelling is about dressing up and getting wet - to escape from reality and to explore what some might consider mundane, but which is still an adventure to others. After all, one man's rock pool is another man's abyss.
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