Saturday, December 17, 2011

What It's Like ... To Be the World's Oldest Diver

The World's Oldest Diver::::Norman Lancefield

I’m 91 and have been diving with the same gear since 1970. Like me, it’s still going strong after more than 500 dives. My hips don’t stick out far enough, so I can’t wear a weight belt; instead, I rely on a harness and I make my own weights with melted lead shaped in loaf tins. This setup has worked for me in Malta, Mexico, Turkey and my favorite destination, the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. I have swum with sharks and dolphins, but at my age you don’t need obvious excitement. Even a hermit crab can be thrilling — they’re funny creatures, living in second-hand seashells.

Diving isn’t a dangerous sport; it is a hazardous sport and my goal is to avoid the hazards. A buddy helps me into the water, but after that, once I’m in I do fine.

I don’t do strong currents — those days are long gone. I don’t go too deep either. I’m not as physically fit as I used to be, but that’s why I like diving: I tell anyone looking to take up the sport that you don’t need to be an Olympic swimmer. I’m noticeably slow in the water, but I still swim 500 meters three times a week.

Because of this, I could swim all day if I had to. It’s important to me that I keep up with my buddies in the Barry Sub Aqua Club here in Wales. I also make a point of testing my gear regularly. It sits in a closet all winter, so I kit up in a local pool before each season. I’d rather find problems when I am only six feet deep.

Only once have I been scared in the water. My mask flooded completely — I had placed part of the seal atop my hood. I lit my torch, spun wildly in a circle and realized I had lost my buddy. But I surfaced after one minute and returned to the boat. There was my buddy waiting for me.

It’s important for divers — of any age — to know when to say no. You don’t want to put a buddy at risk. I had a mild attack of the flu 18 months ago, and had to sit out on a planned dive. But for the most part, I stay fit. As long as I can keep going and not be too much nuisance to my buddy, I will keep diving.

Thanks to Norman Lancefield and Scuba Diving

Kathy Dowsett

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