UCD Sub-Aqua are undoubtedly one of the college’s more adventurous societies, as Conall Cahill found out.
IN one photograph the sun sets in the background, the water shimmering underneath the silhouetted boat as it makes its way across the sea. In another, Fungie the dolphin leaps playfully over three beaming swimmers, readying himself to plunge back into Dingle’s famous waters. A third photo shows four divers moving between continental plates in Iceland, explorers on a mission of discovery. Then there is the underwater hockey team at a tournament at the National Aquatic Centre, satisfied beams shining on each player’s face. This is UCD’s Sub-Aqua Club, the largest of its kind in Ireland and now entering its twenty-fourth year of existence.
One of the great things about college – and UCD in particular – is that one gets the opportunity to try new things, be it with a sports club or a society, alongside other beginners who are normally the same age – and usually these experiences come at a fraction of the normal cost. The Sub-Aqua Club definitely represents an exciting opportunity for anyone looking for adventure and something different to take the mind away from exams and coursework.
The club’s activities include not just snorkelling and scuba diving, but also – for all of you competitors out there – underwater hockey, a sport in which the club competes both nationally and internationally.
UCD Sub-Aqua Club represents an exciting opportunity for anyone looking for adventure and something different to take the mind away from exams and coursework
The club’s secretary Ellen Casey informs us that the club is planning a trip to Slovenia this summer for a competition in an open-air pool by the beach (the Observer’s planned summer working in Belfast seems rather mundane, suddenly). Indeed, you can join the club just for the underwater hockey if you like the sound of that but don’t quite fancy the scuba aspect of the club.
What is underwater hockey? (or ‘Octopush’, as it is otherwise known) Well, picture ordinary hockey – just with a snorkel, a mask, fins and a puck instead of a ball. Holding your breath is an essential skill! As well as sounding like terrific fun, the sport is also a great way to get started in the Sub-Aqua Club, as Mairead O’Byrne – in her first year in the club – found out. Initially apprehensive about joining after a bad experience snorkelling on holiday, underwater hockey was something she immediately loved. And she is keen to emphasize how helpful the club’s more experienced members were in easing her into things:
“I always wanted to do the diving, but I’m afraid of water a little bit. They (the club) were like, ‘Have a go at the underwater hockey’ – so I went along and signed up. I’d never actually managed to get down to the bottom of the pool before, but everyone spent loads of time doing it with me and when I got down, it was such a good feeling.”
While Mairead came into UCD wanting to try out snorkelling and scuba diving, Omar Coughlin had never even considered it until the Sub-Aqua Club’s ‘Freshers Week’ stand caught his eye in his first year at UCD. He decided to go along to a trial dive session the club were holding the following week and, as he says, “it just kind of clicked with me, so I stuck around!”
‘Good diving isn’t guaranteed, but good craic always is!’
Ask Omar about experiences he’s enjoyed and he mentions the annual trip to Malin Beg in Donegal around the time of St Patrick’s Day, weekends down to Wexford, and dives off the west coast, where he says that (due to the unpredictable Irish weather) “good diving isn’t guaranteed, but good craic always is! It happens the odd time that we might have to stay in for a day, but there’s still always something happening”.
The club also takes in trips to places like Malin Head in Donegal, Inishbofin in Galway and the Blasket Islands in Kerry, where last year instruments replaced phones each evening and, after days spent diving, sing-songs accompanied by candlelight would run into the small hours. Away from Ireland, UCD Sub-Aqua has visited destinations like Egypt, Normandy and even Ibiza.
Whether it’s tropical fish or World War II wrecks you’re after, UCD Sub-Aqua has you covered – Omar recalls on one occasion swimming alongside a wreck off the coast of Dublin and seeing “a set of bunk beds from nearly one hundred years ago…when you get to do things like that you come away with a smile on your face”.
What’s more, through the club you can become better qualified to explore anywhere around the world. With the club offering training in all aspects of diving, you can obtain internationally recognised diving qualifications and learn how to plan or lead dives (a skill that would perhaps come in handy for anyone seeking an interesting way to spend a summer abroad).
UCD Sub-Aqua provides a chance for travel, adventure, friendship, new experiences and great craic… sure, isn’t that what college is all about?
Membership of UCD Sub-Aqua is open to students, staff and alumni. Anyone seeking to join the club can drop Ellen an email at email@example.com or message the club’s Facebook page (‘UCD Sub-Aqua Club’).
The next big event for UCD Sub-Aqua is the annual Dublin Sub-Aqua Ball at the Alexander Hotel, Dublin on April 8th alongside DCU, DIT and Trinity, which UCD are hosting and which promises to be a great night bringing together anyone with a passion for water sports (wetsuits are optional). For more information visit the club’s Facebook page (‘UCD Sub-Aqua Club’). Contact Suze to book your ticket at firstname.lastname@example.org