Diving for success - at 13

Qualified scuba diver James Gardner, 13, from Leigh
Qualified scuba diver James Gardner, 13, from Leigh

A Leigh teenager has become one of Britain’s youngest qualified scuba divers.

James Gardner, 13, took his first step towards becoming an expert diver by passing his Ocean Diver qualification, just eight months after taking up the sport.

St Mary’s Catholic High School pupil James was inspired to put on his oxygen tank and head for the depths as his dad Ian is also a diver at the Sub C Divers club, which meets at Howe Bridge sports centre.

Although taking the plunge underwater was somewhat nerve-racking at first, James quickly adapted to his new hobby, learning the basics in the swimming pool before heading on to more ambitious open water dives at sites across Lancashire.

Proud dad Ian, 44, says James’ achievement is quite unusual as few youngsters scuba dive in Britain and many learn by heading abroad.

Ian said: “James had shown an interest in diving for a while, but you can’t actually learn until you are 12, although we do have junior snorkelling classes.

“There’s not many youngsters scuba diving, the majority seem to go abroad somewhere nice and warm such as Malta and learn there.

“James also started learning in November, which isn’t the best time because we did a few dives when it was absolutely freezing and we even had ice on our equipment.

“When it’s dark and gloomy going down into the water isn’t very inviting at all, and a few times he didn’t really want to dive, but now he absolutely loves it and there’s just no holding him back.”

James’ feat has been recognised throughout his sport, with the governing body the British Sub Aqua Club featuring him in their magazine.

James’ next step will be to move on to the second qualification, the Sports Diver, which will require him to learn more rescue skills and understand the workings of the human body more.

However, Ian says he is keen not to rush his son into taking on that particular challenge just yet.

He said: “They’re going to start running a class relatively soon, but I would like him to take his time. He’s got his qualification now and I want him to build up confidence and competence and work on becoming a good, safe diver.”