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Scottish Dive Conference 2018



Not long to go before this year’s Scottish Dive Conference on the 4th of November at Stirling University. It has been a daunting task organising this event, however thanks to the generosity of the speakers who agree to give up their free time to present it is sure to be an amazing event this year.

Andy Torbet

Andy Torbet is taking a break from filming with the BBC to attend. You may not have seen some of the Beyond Bionic footage where he is seeing if a human can match the feats of wildlife. In the past we have seen him kit up and jump into blow holes to see if he can get out into the sea below or carry his kit up mountains to dive high lochs. He reminds you of the great late presenter John Noakes who used to do the dangerous stuff on Blue Peter except that Andy seems to have raised the danger levels up a notch for present day children’s TV. He will have a few interesting diving stories to tell.

Louise Trewavas

It is hard to believe that it is 20 years since the launch of that sometimes controversial magazine Dive Girl! It was a great antidote for the macho side of diving and tackled media issues that are still relevant today. It managed to be sexy without being sexist and above all was funny! Louise Trewavas was the editor among a team of very talented writers who promoted diving from a different perspective than the mainstream media at the time. She is more well-known now for her column in Diver magazine, and being experienced technical diver. She still finds time to dive and mix with us mainstream Sunday divers who potter around at 25m as you will know if you read her contributions to Diver magazine. Her presentation this year is entitled Tales of the Unexpected. The strangest diving experience of my life! (so far).

Sea Champions – Tara Proud

For centuries our seas have been a dumping ground for human waste and have been treated like an inexhaustible resource for us to use as we please. Sustainability is a relatively new word when applied to our oceans and in the past we have taken an “out of site out of mind” approach. Human population growth is having a seemingly irreversible impact. Not only are the seas being overfished but much of the packaging necessary to preserve land derived food and drink is being disposed of there too.

Volunteer & Community Engagement Manager of Sea Champions, Tara Proud, will be doing a talk at the conference focusing on plastic pollution.

Frogfish Photography

Frogfish Photography will be bringing all their underwater photography and videography equipment to the Scottish Dive Conference. The equipment ranges from action video cameras, to high-end SLR cameras in housings. You will see equipment from: Nauticam, INON, Paralenz, Cinebag, Peli Case, Fantasea, Olympus, Hugyfot, Sealife, Knekt, GoPro and more…. They will also have free copies of Dive Travel Adventures and the Scubaverse Annual to give away.

Nick and Caroline Brown of Frogfish Photography are biologists, underwater photographers, authors, photo-journalists and have their own company dedicated to all things underwater photography called Frogfish Photography. Caroline is the Deputy Editor of, with Nick working as the Underwater Photography Editor. They write for Dive Travel Adventures, Scubaverse and DIVER Magazine, as well as contributing to newspapers and magazines around the world. Their three books to date are: Underwater Photography Art & Techniques, World’s Best Wildlife Dive Sites, and Deadly Oceans (which features in the Natural History Museum). They are currently writing their 4th book “Wild Dives” which is due to be published in 2019. Nick is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. Nick and Caroline are most happy when underwater together, with their cameras, photographing large marine animals up close.

David Ansley

Marine biologist David Ansley will appear in one of the conference’s breakout sessions. He set up his dive charter business, Sea Life Adventures in 1988 and is the most experienced charter skipper in the Firth of Lorn Special Area of Conservation. David has been involved in scientific surveys in the area and he has taken an active role in bringing about protection to wildlife in this area. Nine years ago an agreement was reached with local fishermen to stop the use of tangle nets which kill large numbers of seals and porpoise. As a result, this is now one of the very best areas in Scotland for porpoise and common seals. Scallop dredging was banned within the Special Area of Conservation and David has filmed significant improvements to the whole ecosystem.

As an enthusiastic underwater TV cameraman David has worked on a number of documentaries including the BBC series ‘Hebrides: Islands on the Edge’ as well as ‘Coast’, ‘Maelstrom’ and ‘Otters in the Stream of Life’. Some of his footage can been seen on the Scottish Natural Heritage website.

Natalie Hirst – Seasearch

If you unaware of the activities or you would like to learn more about Seasearch, this event offers a great opportunity. Seasearch was established by professional marine biologists in the 1980s to harness the enthusiasm and knowledge among non-professional divers. It resulted in a national network of enthusiasts who are helping chart and record the sea life around Britain and in particular, pre- Planet Earth- the state of it and how much is left! This data, contributed by amateur divers, has been an important contributor to the identification of areas to be designated Marine Conservation Zones. There is still lots to do and if you are looking for a new angle to your diving or even want to learn more about what you see then you should attend this session with Natalie Hirst.

Doc Wilmot

David is well known nationally for his knowledge and experience in dive medicine. He started diving himself in the 1970s and trained dive medicine in the 1980’s. Having been the ScotSAC medical referee for as long as most people can remember, he was awarded a life membership to ScotSAC in recognition of his dedication. He talks at the conference every year and due to the nature of our sport there is always a big demand to see him.

Hope to meet you on the day!

This conference is open to divers from any organisation and non divers, however for the first time last year the AGM was held before the conference. It was so well attended the team have decided to do the same again this year. The AGM is of course free to attend at 9am however if you wish to stay on for the conference the cost is £18 in advance on PayPal (available now on the website) and £20 at the door. This includes lunch, tea and coffee at the University. Helpers (including the organiser) only pay £10.

If you would like to help on the day please contact Sandy at

Freediving Blogs

British freediver sets new national record with 112m dive



British freediver Gary McGrath has set a new national record at the prestigious Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas.

Using only a monofin for propulsion, Gary swam down a measured rope to a depth of 112m (367ft), returning to the surface to receive a white card from the AIDA International judges to validate his dive.

Gary, 41, held his breath for three minutes and 13 seconds to complete the dive.

Freedivers descend underwater on a single breath of air and the atmospheric pressure on their bodies increases as they go deeper.

At 112m deep the pressure is 12 times greater than the surface, meaning the air in Gary’s lungs would have shrunk to less than a twelfth of its original volume – around the size of a golf ball.

Freedivers train to cope with the physiological strains placed on their bodies by their sport, and Gary uses his background of yoga and meditation to help his physical and mental preparation for deep dives.

He has also had to overcome physical challenges after contracting Covid last year during preparations for a previous national record attempt.

Gary said: ‘Diving below 100m is a totally unique environment, it’s my therapy. 

‘This year has been extremely challenging for my mental health and freediving has helped me overcome that for sure. 

‘At depth I have complete isolation from the everyday world we live in. Down there it’s just me and nature. It’s that escape that all freedivers crave. 

‘There are moments of extreme mental clarity and purity that I can only achieve when underwater. The flow state that a deep dive allows me to experience is unique and addictive.

Gary, originally from Twickenham, began freediving in 2006 and has been competing since 2008.

A former tree surgeon, he became a professional freedive instructor in 2014, and he and his partner Lynne Paddon run Yoga and Freedive Retreats in Ibiza.

Remarkably, he completed his 112m national record dive on Tuesday (August 9) despite being forced to compete wearing a borrowed monofin which was a size too small for his feet.

His entire kit bag containing his monofin, bifins and two wetsuits was lost by an airline as he travelled to the competition.

Despite his careful preparation, Gary said he suffered nerves on the morning of his national record dive, and relied on a phone call to his partner Lynne, who helped him focus on breathing techniques and visualisation to calm his nerves.

Speaking immediately after his dive, he said: ‘That was all for Lynne – this whole week has been about her. I could not do it without her. I hope that everyone finds someone they can click with, it’s the most magical thing in the world.’

Gary also thanked supporters who helped him to crowdfund to raise the money needed for him to travel to the Bahamas and compete.

Vertical Blue is considered one of the most elite events on the freediving calendar and has been dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Freediving’.

Owned and run by world record freediver William Trubridge, the event takes place in a 202m (663ft) deep sinkhole known as Dean’s Blue Hole, off the coast of Long Island.

The previous British national record of 111m was set by Michael Board in 2018, also at a Vertical Blue competition.

All Photographs courtesy of Daan Verhoeven (

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Film Review: Thirteen Lives



Ron Howard’s recreation of the 2018 rescue of a Thai junior football team is impressive. Even though we know what happens in the end the tension and drama played out is palpable.

On 23 June 2018, 12 members of a Thai junior football team, the Wild Boars, and their coach became trapped deep in the Tham Luang cave system by rising flood water. The film details the incredible international rescue efforts that ensue. And Ron Howard has judged the tone perfectly. There is no Hollywood glitz and glamour and the two leading actors: Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen, who play John Volanthen and Rick Stanton respectively, capture the intensity of the situation perfectly.

The diving scenes are claustrophobic in the extreme. Although I suspect that the visibility was even worse than the film depicts as you have to be able to see something in the dramatization! All the way through the film I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the extraordinary feat these divers pulled off. The skill and bravery required still impresses after watching films, hearing them speak in public and reading about the rescue.

I loved that, whilst the divers took centre stage in the film, the heroic rescue efforts of the water engineer and his team was also given the attention they deserve, as well as the incredible Thai Navy Seals and the thousands of people that flocked to the region to help.

Thirteen Lives is a must watch movie about an incredible cave rescue. It’s sober tone hits the mark. The cinematography is skilled and creates an impressively tense experience. It is available on Amazon Prime right now.

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