In The Beginning
Paul's school days proved him to be a
powerful swimmer. That ability saw him in competition swimming for his school
over a number of years.
Later, in 1988, Paul and his wife Kath
decided that the Maldives would be a good place to spend their next holiday
during the 1989 season and seeing photos of divers on those colourful reefs set
their minds on a course with destiny.
Perhaps not so surprising, Paul
remembered ten years previous about an open day that Carlisle Sub Aqua Club
held. A lecture was giving together with some slides but, as they say, the
penny failed to drop on that occasion.
The First Club -
With the 1989 Maldive holiday coming
up in November, they decided to find out if any Sub Aqua clubs were still
around in the area and eventually found several but with one problem. Pauls day
off at work did not fall on any of their training days. He remembers that time
. . like it was yesterday, and refused to be beaten. He found Dumfries club
trained on his day off which was a Tuesday, and although this club was 33 miles
distant - off he went and joined. His wife would follow on at a later
Paul says: "That was a great time - I
was hooked with the very first training session. In those days it was snorkel
training and snorkel lectures for your Snorkel certificate before being allowed
to go onto Scuba.
Dumfries were a tough lot - everything
had to be done three times but if you got two out of the three assessments
right, you moved on to the next stage in the course. They had the deepest
sodding pool at TWELVE FOOT. That was a serious challenge having pounded up and
down that Olympic size pool - then you had to duck dive for the fins and mask
on the bottom while still out of breath. But I loved it and I soon passed my
snorkelling with Dumfries. Now I was ready to move to the more serious stuff,
His Second Club - Penrith
By now he was making a twice a week
trip. The travelling was becoming a frustration and with rising fuel prices he
sadly began to look for an alternative club nearer to home, but there were non
to match his day off. He made the difficult decision to change his day off work
to Wednesday. Paul says: "that was tough to arrange and basically I was
informed I could take Wednesday or nothing - I bit their hands off ! - he
exclaims - because I knew Penrith Divers had their training day on Wednesday
night - in fact it was great - Wednesday 6pm they set off for a dive and then
back to the RAFA club at Penrith for a pint and a lecture. So although I was
still travelling just over 20 miles to get there, plus another 8 to the dive
sites, but at least it was just once a week."
Paul explains: "The 5th of May saw me
buy all my gear in one big swoop.
My first suit was a semidry suit, Spiro
reg, a Buddy Pacific ABLJ (anyone remember them?) a dive dynamics watch etc."
13 or more years on and I'm on my 3rd dive watch, 2nd underwater camera, 3rd
knife and probably tenth torch and 27th snorkel tube - oh, and 3rd weight belt
- blasted fishermen keep picking them up after I leave the water !!!??". He
adds" Ullswater has most of my gear but I picked up stacks in the sea to
compensate me. Anyone lost a ###### ??? - shhhh Paul. :-)".
"Kath by now had joined Penrith with
me and she quickly caught up with me onto the Scuba - I blame the Dumfries pool
size and depth for that!"
Their training in open water Scuba
began on the 23rd of July, 1989. Paul said:"It was Stybarrow Crag - the deepest
site in Ullswater at 60 odd metres but - I was only going to drop to 10 metres.
But what a great ten metres - the log book reads:- Jumped in from height.
Maurice towing me 100 mtres, Snorkel swim for 200 metres. Went down
medium/steep slope running out.
AIR in: 230 bar. AIR out: 160 bar.
His 31st dive was "The Maldives" on
Budufinulu Canyon. Paul recalls:- "It was an 18 metre dive in crystal clear
water and it was like taking a hot bath - the water was hot and we were seeing
unbelievable colours for the fish and hard coral's too!
By the end of that first year in 1989
he had achieved 47 dives within 6 month.
Having rapidly gained his
qualifications as Sports diver followed by Advanced Diver. He wasted no time
getting involved in club politics. This saw him voted on as Equipment Officer,
Science Officer and Secretary over the following years.
Attending the Annual National ScotSac
meetings he found himself up for National Course Co-ordinator. He recalls: "the
proposed appointment of myself onto this elite group brought about a challenge
as to my experience - not least as a qualified diver!. I'm not one for keeping
my mouth shut - naturally I had a few things to say in that crowded hall but
after a few arguements during the process, I was voted on". It would be the
first of many confrontations. Turning a ScotSac loss maker into a profit and
making a name for himself as the "Yes I can - It's you that can't man".
Paul said: "being the National Course
Co-Ordinator was very rewarding - I won't forget when they told me due to
finances that only a certain number of courses could be afforded. I was
recommended to put on no more than 3 or 4 boat handling courses - I actually
had the demand and so that grew to 13 or 14 boat courses that year! and to put
it politely, that raised a few eyebrows. All very hard work, but then came the
Oxygen Admin course which was the new ground breaker of the day - in the early
90s, sadly that took a few years to set up. Course co-ordinator was not a one
man job - it involved a lot of negotiating with outside companies for
accommodation, food, and of course appealing to instructors to assist in the
training. By the end of that first year "we" had a fantastic team. We then
started work on the, then new, Oxygen admin course. Although we never got to
implement it, in our time, it did take off though."
Paul continued: "I should mention that
internationally, ScotSac and BSAC have the best courses as proven by the masses
of letters and calls I recieved from overseas visiting divers who actually come
here to take the ScotSac and BSAC courses. They found out about those course
from their fellow buds who had told them how brilliant they are!!
big feather in the caps of those agencies, so to those diving under ScotSac or
BSAC you should feel proud that divers overseas hold you all with such high
regard - even though we feel things could be improved."
Paul the Computer Whiz Kid
By the end of 1999, Paul was already
taking his next bold steps in learning how to make web pages.
He happened to take a course at
Carlisle College covering all the main software applications and here comes
another surprise for readers - he jumped straight into the deep end, excuse the
pun, and took on the Advanced Diploma in Computer Applications which is the
toughest course the college operated at that time. It was a two year course and
without any formal training he walked away not just with top marks but with a
career in teaching others at the college and that was on top of holding his
full time job.
Paul said: It wan't such a great leap.
From the age of 15, I was programming computers and started producing little
port scanning programs and other stuff for fun. Some of my software was
commercially produced and I helped many others reach the same level as myself."
- quizzed further he said: "today, many so called hackers haven't got what it
takes - they simply copy viruses that someone else has written. That's no
challenge! Half of them don't know how to program a virus - I do believe that
real programmers do this to gain employment - programming a brilliant virus is
like creating a brilliant CV, and proves their ability all in one go. They also
get free global advertising of their skills - that's sweet and it makes me wish
I was 15 again - I'd have been a millionaire 10 times over by now!!".
The dream, the reality -
Paul never seems to stop to take in
air - maybe that's the secret to his achievements and in particular, his long
dives?. On the other hand, neither Kath or Paul smoke - maybe that has a
bearing on things. Paul commented "the trouble with smoker divers is that most
cant last more than 15 minutes down under - I went in with one guy - we had
only just touched 15 metres after ten or less minutes when I gave him an air
check, thinking he'd be around 210 or 220 bar. He was at 40 bar and we surfaced
immediately. He smoked 60 a day and that was the last ever dive I done with
"My own dive Buddy has given me some flac over this issue
because he smokes, but only lightly and he actually has better air consumption
than myself !!- amazing, but I am pleased he is the exception to the rule -
he's a good buddy but then I'd have to say that !"
Paul's idea now,
was to put on-line all his dive information. But he says it wasn't an easy
path. Already he saw several marine websites covering the seas and ocean's he
has dived. But few were covering the Lakes and tarns. And so it was.
He said: "Making the web pages was
easy, but getting the thing uploaded to the server took several month. He had
asked lots of people coming into the shop he managed, if they had any
experience of writing and uploading. Many had, but he was amazed at how much
trouble they had. He got to know two lads well and they exchanged ideas but
they gave up trying to upload. Paul was near the end of his teather with it too
- it was then that he met Paul Brown who went on to set up as Paul Brown
Computer Services. Meeting someone else who is also mad keen on PC's has been
beneficial for both of us he said. Not that the new college skills didn't help.
Kath was also getting into PC's and she had taken up a number of computer
courses so that she could lend a hand".
It's not been a bed of roses for Paul.
He has seen some of his former buddies not walk away from dives. Paul said:
"Either they ended up in hospital or worse. Until recently one buddy who he had
performed a lot of dives with was still down there after many years searching".
He is keen to point out that he had no involvement on that dive.
On March 1st 2000, the first
Freshwaterdiver web site came on-line after a three month struggle. She had 4
lakes covering 15 dive sites and made 800 hits that year. A major upgrade and
update 12 month later saw the hits climb to 1200 per year. As of writing this
article on March 18th 2004, Freshwaterdiver has just gone through 20,009
Further more, the new Freshwaterdiver 2005 version for launch in
January 2005 has now been completed, save for this last article.
Paul said: "I didn't get this far
without the help of many people. A patient wife, Kath, who has seen me working
on this web site until 4 am in the morning and that has been more the norm than
anything else. And to my friend's who have help, but also enjoyed checking
through this new site with me. Will M. (Apple Macs), Jim Dick (a Mac technician
from a local computer store), Paul Brown (Computer Services), Chris R. and
others for their input on the technical side - not to mention many local divers
and clubs who have kindly taken me down to those underwater dive sites, and to
many others for sending in write-ups on sites. B.J. Everett, Chay Doleman,
Geoffrey Chambers, Martin Middlemiss and his bud Alistar. To the mighty Furness
Sub Aqua Club - thanks to David Thexton, Dave Skinner. Thanks to BSAC's Noel
Wood and the West Lakes branch. Thanks to ScotSac's Solway, Penrith, Carlisle
Divers, Red Fox divers and Dumfries branch.
He has dived the
Shetlands, Maldives, underwater cities of
Gozo and Malta, and so many local Scottish
sites it would make you dizzy to reel them all off - but the one place he loved
the most was the Moray Firth. He say's "I met everyone up
there (on the moray) while doing a stint for the NDC (National Dive Council)
and people here were so freindly that Kath and I re-visited the area many, many
times". He has dived every point around the Scottish mainland and that includes
the Shetland Islands. Surprisingly, he hasn't yet got to the German fleet in
Update: October 2005 onward, Paul has
been on Radio and TV helping in the Carlisle Floods of January 2005 and then
again in October 2005. There was also the Wastwater Gnome story that broke
across Europe on TV and in the press which was ushered in by Paul and his
In 2006, he had dived the Greek island
of Zante, and in 2007 he plans to have a dunk in the Caribbean and maybe
For 2007, he just got back from an
amazing time diving Grand Cayman in the Caribbean and New Providence Island in
the Bahama's. He even paid for a DVD of it all from Red Sail Sports in the
Further breaking news for 2007: Paul
signs up with ScotSac and Carlisle Divers.
They say there are no old, bold divers
and for Paul, towards the end of 2010, was to see him bow out of diving due to
work pressures, meaning only one day off per week for diving was not enough.
Regretfully, three month later, he was discovered to be suffering from Diabetes
type II. So that would as he says "seen him kicked out of diving - perhaps
He said "The Website will continue for
many more years" he promises.