Local dive clubs flourish everywhere from landlocked states to busy cities and towns with heavy winter snows, sometimes in the places you'd least expect. For instance, you might be surprised to find out that New York City boasts one of the largest dive clubs in the U.S., averaging 300 to 400 club members annually while one small local dive club comprises just three members who dive in a Midwestern river.
Some clubs are officially open to any diver whereas others are invitation only, focusing on a small group of like-minded individuals. While some groups remain free, others may charge a nominal annual fee, but all extend serious perks. Below are 10 reasons to join your local dive club — in addition to discovering a community of people that shares your passion.
Note: Some clubs are informal, so extensive digging to find one may be required — search online, contact your local dive shop, ask other divers, and check social media including all major outlets such as Meetup and Scubaboard.
Club dives and trips
Dives hosted by the club or members can showcase some of the best dives in the area and provide you a chance to dip your toes into local waters. Clubs organizing weekend getaways and international trips guarantee you dive buddies on vacations, while non-diving significant others can hang out with other landlubber partners.
Clubs can also apportion skills like navigation or spotting critters to everyone's benefit. Even better, you can always count on at least one photographer in the group to record memorable shots of the dive/event, and sometimes even photos of you. As an example, all the images in this article showcase actual club events documented by a member from my club who's an avid photographer in his spare time.
While the best part of joining a local scuba club remains the diving, socializing with other divers is also fantastically fun. Catch an ocean-related movie, eat dinner together, enjoy drinks, or hang out to chat with others who adore diving, and you'll feel an instant connection.
Your local dive club can function as a great resource for the best dive sites in your area, tips on local conditions, how to locate specific critters, and the best local provider of equipment and fills.
No buddy? No problem — you're bound to find someone to pair up with regularly or on an ad hoc basis at your dive club. A club is also a fantastic source of new friendships.
Knowledge and entertainment
Some clubs feature a regular lecture series on topics ranging from amazing dives, to safety, to swoon-worthy vacations. While the club may focus on local dive reports from members, experts from the area and noted guest speakers from around the country may also present.
Free or lower-cost training
Some clubs organize official training events, workshops, or groups like the formal introduction to Northeast diving event and underwater photographic society that my club hosts. Others offer a more informal mentoring style, like my Australian friend's group, where members exchange photos for critique, or my Canadian friend's club where more experienced divers often support newbies. Oftentimes, these activities are free or at a lower cost than those offered at a dive shop. Some of the training may even be unavailable anywhere else.
Answers to questions
An entire community available to answer your specific questions can be incredibly advantageous. You'll also see the gear others dive in and discover different options while also minimizing wasted money on unnecessary equipment.
Local clubs develop great relationships with boats and shops and, with a guaranteed amount of business, can often secure discounts on dives, fills, equipment, and resorts. Also, members usually sell their used equipment to other members when they've decided to upgrade. You can snag some good deals this way and the seller will be up front about the equipment's condition since you know each other. In addition, you can test out the equipment on a dive first to ensure it suits you.
Collectively, you'll all be looking out for one another as well as sharing safety info (e.g., locations to avoid, equipment recalls, etc.), and safety equipment. For example, one of my buddies has an expansive first aid kit while another friend always brings her full oxygen kit plus an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).
Dive more and get/give inspiration
You can't always go on vacation, so feeding your scuba addiction by diving with a local dive club can ensure you get wet more often. It'll also encourage you to dive more naturally with long-time divers and inspire newbies, seeing scuba through fresh eyes.
I hope I've encouraged you to join your local club if you haven't yet and if you're ever in the New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania area where my club often dives, feel free to look up The NYC Sea Gypsies.
Photos courtesy of Michael Rothschild