We were lucky enough to meet Andy at a Northern Underwater Photography Group meeting a while back and since then have featured in one of his Fancy a Brew? diving podcasts. In a reversal of roles, we ask “Andy the Northern Diver” a little bit about himself and his popular diving videos and podcasts.
Tell us a little about yourself Andy…
After serving just over 10 years in the military I was introduced to scuba diving through the Joint Services Adventurous Training Program in 2016. I joined my local BSAC club, who took forever to qualify me to Ocean Diver. I then flew out to Fuerteventura on my first expedition to survey Angel Sharks and qualified as a Sport diver to 35m. Because of my enthusiasm and drive I was out on another expedition to Gibraltar the following month where I all but completed the Dive Leader syllabus.
5 months later I had smashed through 100 dives in a variety of situations and conditions and found myself sitting at the BSAC school of excellence that is the Joint Services Sub Aqua Dive Centre (JSSADC), HMS Drake, Plymouth sitting the Open Water Instructor combined course. On completion I flew back to Fuerteventura to run my first BSAC Ocean Diver course, at Deep Blue dive Centre.
Still in the first 12 months of my dive life I went on to complete the Advanced Diver program ending in a planned 2-day expedition to an unknown dive site(s) in Anglesey diving with SBS Boat Charters better known as Diggsy on his boat ‘The Interceptor’.
In 2017, I (foolishly) put my hand up to take the lead in a military expedition out to Malta with 16 divers for 2 weeks. A vast amount of planning, fundraising and administration is involved in undertaking this task. In hindsight, I was very lucky to have the mentorship of my very good friend Steve Kirkman. Not only did he introduce me to Scuba Diving, he has helped me every step of the way. Including when at the 11th hour one of my dive supervisors, required for this expedition, had a heart attack 4 weeks before we flew out to Malta. So, I was ‘voluntold’, get down to Plymouth and qualify as a Sub Aqua Dive Supervisor – “Yesterday”!
Generally mocked by my friends now for discussing my ‘bad knee’ I’ve endured several operations now which unfortunately saw to it that I had to be medically downgraded in the Army Reserves, meaning I could no longer dive. Having reached the rank of Staff Sergeant, served in Afghanistan with the Queens Royal Lancers on Operation Herrick 8 and almost completed 15 years I decided my time was up.
So as of April 2021, I will be a full on civvy once again. And will continue to run my successful business ‘Standish Property Maintenance and Pest Control’ and hopefully enjoy many more years of happily married life to Ali – the Northern Mermaid!
Other than a few technical courses with TDI, Sidemount with Garry Dallas and lately the SDI Solo Diver course, I’ve tried to consolidate my training and concentrate on planning expeditions and just diving. I roughly do 100 dives a year in all weathers and safe conditions whenever and wherever I can get wet.
Tell us about your videos & podcast!
After testing some new kit and equipment for Northern Diver, I decided to start a YouTube channel to feature some 5-minute films of dive sites and adventures we’d been on. This quickly grew to me making how to videos such as “How to stop your mask fogging” to where I’d made 30 or so and then we were all in lockdown. I was listening to Jason Fox’s “Wild tales Podcast” were he seeks to discuss the mental and physical resilience in his guests who have typically done something epic like climb Everest or walk the Amazon. At the same time another friend Kevin Gilham suggested I should start a podcast to complement my YouTube Channel.
My idea was to discuss with other divers how they dealt with tor improved their own mental and physical resilience through diving! So, I went to the people I know really quite well, those who inspire me or would inspire others. The obvious choice at first was my mentor and friend Steve Kirkman, who I had to cut off after 3 hours because he is so passionate about diving he wouldn’t shut up!!! We did the first 2 episodes in one take.
In order to spread our wings a little I did a collaboration with Ian Last from the BIG Scuba Podcast. I think networking is very important, as is helping out others as you’d hope they’d help you. So as Ian and Gemma had given me the opportunity to advise them a little with YouTube I thought it right I gave him an opportunity to talk about what he had gone though as a diver and in setting up a podcast.
Episode 3 followed really quickly with Nick from Frogfish Photography, who really had loads to talk about his career and the conservation work he and his wife Caroline do, that intrigued me and was one of my most interesting chats (honestly). Nick told how he found the pain from an old injury and surgery was gone once he entered the water.
Then followed a few representatives of the ‘Girls that Scuba’ group Vicky Barton, Grace Westgarth and Sarah Richard the founder of the network that has 700k members!!! I’ve spoke to Fernando Reis, about his life as a Shark diver and conservationist, that led onto sharing a brew with Director of Shark films such as ‘Of Shark and Man’ – David Diley. This week’s guest is the Scuba Psychologist Dr Laura Walton.
Perhaps the most memorable episode features Stuart Lawson. He is another ex-serviceman the in getting to the last few years of his Army career was in a horrific accident, 2 of his colleagues sadly died, he escaped with major burns and some limb loss. On waking from his coma, his surgeon suggested that when Stu was well enough, they’d go out to the Maldives and he’d teach Stu to Dive. Not only does the salt water sooth his damaged skin, it silences his tinnitus but diving gives Stu a new-found reason to heal and progress in life!
The podcast is shared on most of the typical apps such as Spotify, apple, TuneIn etc from the PodBean platform. I record it using Zoom using my Olympus OMD EM1 MK2 4k camera and Audio-Technica USB microphone in a purpose-built office / studio at home.
Where can our readers find your work?