YOU wouldn’t expect land-locked Solihull - over 100 miles from the sea - to be home to the oldest scuba diving club in the country.
Yet Birmingham Underwater Exploration Club, who meet weekly at North Solihull Sports Centre, have that distinction and are now celebrating their 60th year.
Tomorrow (Saturday), the club’s 40 members will meet at St John’s Hotel to reminisce on how diving has changed in the decades since the club was formed in 1953.
“It’s come on leaps and bounds since back then,” said Tim Prince, the group’s equipment officer. “When the club started a lot of members made their own equipment.
“They would soak trousers and suits in rubber, convert their own air canisters and even make their own masks.
“The principle of having a bottle of air on your back to breathe hasn’t changed, but now the equipment is like the latest model of Ferrari rather than the Ford T model.
“You’ve got these computerised gadgets that can fit in the palm of your hand, it’s like the diver’s ‘bling’ really.”
Tim, aged 46, has been tasked with compiling a book on the group’s history, with access to 60 years worth of records.
Members were originally based at Highgate baths, Birmingham, before moving out to Tudor Grange and more recently North Solihull. Members range in age from 13 to 85!
Their reasons for getting involved vary vastly - Tim himself has been diving for more than 20 years, having first taken the plunge while at university.
“I had no interest at all at the time, but there was a cheap holiday - learn to dive for £50 - and I couldn’t afford anything else.
“I soon caught the bug though, although ironically enough the lad who had got me involved - who’d wanted to become a professional diver - never finished the course.”
The group meet each Tuesday evening and are always on the look-out for new members. Call Tim on 0777 558 0033.