Learning to scuba dive can be daunting for anyone – but brave Laura Britland is having to overcome more than most.
The 32-year-old from Rugby was born with no arms. She was looking for a challenge – and when she was told she’d find scuba diving impossible, she was spurred on to try it.
And now, with the help of the Rugby branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club, she is looking forward to diving in open water on her forthcoming honeymoon in the Maldives.
Laura, of Queen Victoria Street, said: “My parents never let me say I couldn’t do anything - I couldn’t get out of helping around the house!
“The attraction of diving is that it is peaceful and calm. And when I dive, I feel the same as other people.”
But she admits the hardest part of taking the plunge with Rugby BSAC was making the ‘giant stride’ – the term divers use to describe the moment they step over the edge of a pool or boat and into the water.
Laura said: “One of my main fears was actually jumping in. Since I was a child I’ve been taught not to fall, as I’d end up flat on my face because I can’t put out a hand to stop me.
“Also, I had to learn to swim in a different way. When I was younger I’d learnt to swim on my back – you need arms to swim on your front and lift your face out of the water.
Laura, who is a service manager with substance misuse charity Addaction, added: “Initially one of the problems was how to manage the equipment and how to control the buoyancy aids - on most standard kit the valves are on the shoulder or the chest.
“Usually I use my feet in place of my hands, but that’s a bit difficult when you’ve got fins on!”
Instructors Marcus Bancroft and Dave Lowe, who accompany her on each dive, set about adapting the inflator valves, which help a diver either sink down or rise to the surface. They rigged up strings and lines, and sewed valves onto a knee bandage, to allow Laura to pull her legs straight, or hold her knees together, to release or close the valves.
Marcus said: “I am a confident diver, but I found it scary. I suddenly realised what Laura had to face, relying on somebody else.”
To find out more about scuba diving with Rugby BSAC, visit www.rugbydivers.org