By Jane Ahn
Photos by Jane, Will, Martina
For the inaugural newsletter profile (and this blog), I try to get some sense out of Richard Clegg. As an instructor, Richard is a familiar face in both classroom and pool and can often be found afterwards in the Approach arguing utter nonsense with Brian. He is one of HSAC’s oldest members, in the sense that he has been diving with the club for many years but also in that he has been alive long enough to be Lizzie’s dad. His DIY drysuit repair endeavours (extensively chronicled on Facebook) and the resultant failures (warily supervised by the pool marshal on Monday evenings) are delightfully weird and soggy. But Richard is more than just entertainment fodder; here, we learn more about Hackney Sub-Aqua Club’s Diving Officer.
From left to right: Red wine to the brim – class in a glass; teaching AS ascents in the pool on torch night; ‘What’s in the bag, Richard?’ – bringing the goods to Martina’s party; when two just won’t do – slates for a dive training weekend
Can I call you ‘Cleggface’?
Definitely do not do that.
I had always assumed you were grown in a lab, but now I’m told otherwise – out of what dark hole did you crawl?
I was born in lovely Blackpool in a hospital that was demolished soon after (I don’t think this was as a result of my birth). I grew up by the sea on the North West coast but moved to York when I was eighteen for university then to London in early 2007.
Where do you work and what do you do?
I work at Queen Mary University of London as a lecturer in Networks and travel regularly to Beijing to teach Chinese students about how the Internet works.
Do you have any hobbies outside of diving?
When not diving I run (Brighton Marathon this year, 3 hours 51 minutes), go to gigs and the theatre. Anne and I are both running in the Hackney Half this year so wave to us if we go past your house.*
How long have you been diving? How many years have you been with HSAC?
I started in very late 2006 with my first open water January 2007 in Capernwray in Northern England. I joined HSAC, I think, in April 2007 so pretty much all my diving has been with HSAC.
What do you enjoy about HSAC? Any particularly treasured HSAC memory?
I think everyone would say something like this but there’s a great atmosphere round the club right now. Every Monday night I come to the Approach and there’s a good group of people chatting about diving and making diving and non-diving social plans. I think we’re pretty good at bringing new people in and making them feel welcome.
It’s hard to pick out an individual memory but I always really love it when someone gets a new qualification, especially if they struggled hard to get to that point; so, without picking out individuals, I always love those training days when someone wasn’t sure they would pass a qualifying dive and then aces it.
Describe your first diving experience?
A friend of mine was moving to Fiji as an instructor and wanted to practice on some of his friends. The dive was cold water in January in a drysuit but I had a lot of insulation and felt toasty. That was a very nice experience as it was one-to-one with an old friend who I had known for eighteen years.
What was your most memorable dive experience?
If I had to pick a single dive it would probably be Darwin Island in the Galapagos where I estimate we saw 1,000 hammerheads in a single dive as well as whale sharks (large pregnant females), Galapagos sharks and eagle rays.
[But then Richard decides he can’t just pick a ‘single dive’…]
Other good dives: drifting over the length of the Kronprinz in Scapa was an amazing experience – being able to see the length of that historic wreck in good vis after spending 50 minutes diving around it; the crystal clear visibility of the cenotes in Mexico has to be seen to be believed;
[blah, blah, blah]
I did a dive in the southern red sea where a 3.5 metre oceanic white tip charged straight at us and my buddy kicked it in the face; back home I’ve had some excellent dives with the friendly seals in the Farnes.
Any bad dive experiences?
I had a somewhat exciting time when my DSMB tangled round a shot in a high current — the effect was somewhat like waterskiing but underwater. It was quite scary at the time and I was a relatively new diver.
Most people have heard me talk about extreme narcosis at 42 metres in Scotland on a very cold very dark dive where I was hallucinating rather vividly. Fortunately, I was with a safe experienced buddy (Caron)** and I was doing depth progression so it was handled safely.
What’s on top of your diving bucket list?
1) Truuk/Chuuk in Micronesia where some of the Japanese fleet were sunk. Because it is hard to access, the wrecks are in very good shape.
[ok, Richard, what’s next after the top…]
2) Socorro on the west coast of Mexico has a good variety of large life and reliably great diving.
3) There’s a beautiful yacht-based liveaboard that goes out of Komodo and I’ve never spent a long time on a yacht. I find sleeping at sea really relaxing.
As HSAC’s newest Diving Officer, what do you hope to accomplish?
I want to get a lot more people qualified as Dive Leader and Instructor. I’d like to see us regain the ability to train Advanced Divers. I am also quite encouraged by the number of people who are moving into twinsets and more advanced diving techniques.
Is it true you ate a Mars bar at depth?
I had a very good go. It wasn’t very deep, I should say; I think about three metres in the Farnes and after my safety stop. What I quickly found is that:
1) It is super hard to chew a chocolate bar while not chewing a mouthpiece.
2) Anything you chew in the sea tastes mainly of salt so it is not a pleasant experience.
3) It is super hard to breathe while all this is going on.
Say something nice about Brian
Brian is the easiest Hackney diver to see underwater; it makes him hard to lose (though we had a good try on the Zenobia off Cyprus).
Do you still double space after typing a full stop?!
*Richard and Anne both completed the Hackney Half ages ago but I’m terrible and didn’t write this up for months
**Caron is Richard’s long-suffering partner of ten years and HSAC member