History of the Deep Water Underwater Club
The origin of the Deep Water Underwater Club pre-dates the establishment of the national and international dive certification programs, and was among the first community scuba diving organizations in Ontario, if not Canada.
The DRUC was formed in 1957 with an initial membership of 15. The Club functioned initially with a few personal dive sets that were shared among the membership. Local dive expeditions were held on lakes and rivers in the area, with experienced divers sharing their knowledge and experience with new membership. In consultation with a commercial dive organization in Toronto, the Club developed its own in-house graded training program. This early training program involved practical open-water instruction sessions. By 1965 the DRUC was affiliated with the Royal Life Saving Society, and the training was advanced to include life saving lectures.
Memberships, training fees and the sale of shares in the air compressor produced Club income that was used to purchase equipment, with one of the first purchases being a small compressor that took 3 hours to fill just one scuba tank. Self-funded purchases also included scuba tanks, regulators and buoyancy compensators. This was the approach over the years to gradually accumulate equipment for the equipment-intensive sport.
With a steady demand for more training, the Club expanded its training season to include the winter months by running sessions in pools on the nearby CFB Petawawa and CFS Foymount, handling as many as 50 new divers at a time from Deep River and neighbouring communities. The training was still focussed on the practice of dive skills, but the pool sessions brought out new activities such as skills relay races and underwater hockey and polo. The training also expanded to include periodic weekend training sessions at more distant areas of Ontario including New Liskard, Gananoque, and Brockville. The focus of the Club in its early years however was on introducing the sport to communities of the Upper Ottawa Valley, and through organized dive expeditions, exploring the underwater world of the lakes and rivers of the area. From time to time the Club was called upon to search for lost articles such as outboard motors, and other Club activities included wiener roasts and boat trips to Oiseau Rock, a local scenic attraction on the Ottawa River. Thus the Deep River Underwater Club emerged as an ambitious, enthusiastic, resourceful community club.
After roughly 10 years of self-developed diver training, a formal international diver certification program emerged through the Club’s affiliation with the Ontario Underwater Council (OUC), leading to formalization of the DRUC instruction program. Formalization started from OUC certification of the DRUC dive instructors and involved delivery of classroom and practical training sessions in pool and open-water sessions. The formal training still included the unique skills-development activities such as underwater hockey, keeping the spirit of underwater adventure alive. In about 1970, the DRUC became affiliated with the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), with the training further advancing to offer NAUI certification to divers. At about that same time the Deep River Community Pool was built, with local funding that included contributions from the DRUC. A commemorative plaque acknowledging the DRUC’s contribution to the community remains at the bottom of the pool.
The availability of a local pool allowed improved access to training. Between 1970 and the early 1980’s the Club delivered formal certification programs 12 to 15 new members annually. For a community population of roughly 5,000, the collective involvement of the Club in the community was significant. The Club’s involvement in the community was not just limited to diving however; with the Club sponsoring “miles for millions” and “swim-a-thon” events, and participating in summer festivals and even the Christmas parade.
Over the years, new diving equipment was purchased as Club revenues permitted, but by 1980, much of the equipment acquired some 20 years ago was aging and advanced equipment designs were then available. Using funds generated from membership, training and equipment rental fees, fund-raising events, and proceeds from a Wintario grant, the Club was able to update the equipment. The updated equipment allowed modernization of the Club, and allowed the Club to remain rooted in offering quality certification training, which by this time included an advanced diver training program.
During the 1980s, the club remained active in local expeditions, but the diving destinations became more distant, ranging from Kingston to Tobermory. Starting in the mid 1980’s the Club organized an annual week-long charter expedition to tropical destinations such as the Bahamas Islands.
By the 1990’s the Club suffered from atrophy, as most of the Club executive were among the first generation. The Club remained active on a limited basis to the end of the 1990’s, but eventually fell to a dormant state. The age of the Club equipment was a key factor causing the Club decline. The capability to fill scuba tanks using the Club compressor was lost, and the buoyancy compensators and regulator sets were outdated in technology and at the end of their life cycle.
In 2000, efforts were initiated to address the future of the club. All equipment was inventoried and assessed in terms of condition and suitability for re-use. Very little of this equipment was deemed suitable (safe) for re-use. The community was consulted via public meetings to determine if there was sufficient interest in restarting the club. From this exercise, community feedback was very positive, and a new club executive came forward. As a result, specific actions were initiated to restart the club. The immediate challenge was, and remains, the minimal club equipment available to provide dive training, and organize excursions and community services.
Accordingly, the club restart is being carried out in a two-stage approach, with the ability to move from stage one to stage two depending on the acquisition of updated equipment. The first stage, club operation with minimal equipment, resembles the initial years of the club’s existence, where a limited range of activities is available (primarily refresher and upgrade training, and local and regional dive outings) based largely upon the sharing of equipment owned by members.
The major achievement of the club in recent years has been its success in re-launching the club, as attested by activity-based (participation) parameters such as the number of organized local and regional excursions and other club events, the number of individuals participating in formal training, and simply the number of scuba tank refills during the year (see the charts below). With respect to the clubs training program, what’s not shown in the activity statistics that further indicates the success in re-launching the club is the excessive demand for basic training that could not be met because of the limited amount of equipment available (roughly half the demand was met in 2003). In 2004 we again met a strong demand for basic and more advanced training.
The future is BRIGHT!!