The Fifth Point Dive Centre
A Dive Centre with a difference
We had the pleasure to be invited to pop down and find out what The Fifth Point Dive Centre is all about by the owners Nic and James. This brand new state of the art dive centre in Blyth opened this June and has been making a splash ever since!
We jumped at the chance for a dive, dusted off our flippers and dug out our cossies (not a budgie smuggler in sight you’ll be pleased to know!). Our crack team of reporters were of mixed levels of experience, ranging from complete novice to out of practice occasional holiday diver. But Nic and James put any fears we had to the back of our minds with their calm and confident demeanors. Nic and James clearly know their stuff as they spent 4 years running the busiest dive centre in Malaysia before returning home to the UK in 2016 to establish The Fifth Point. They have a real passion for environmental conservation and it shows!
We were asked to come down to Cambois Beach early on Sunday to do our bit for the environment with a Beach Clean. Since opening their dive centre in Blyth this June they have been regularly organising beach cleans across the north east to help do their bit to help keep our beautiful coastline clear of litter and prevent it from harming marine animals. They organise these via social media, for more details check out their Facebook page here.
We turned up bright eyed and bushy tailed (not!) to the car park where we met Nic modelling a fetching hi-vis with far too much enthusiasm for that time on a Sunday morning! We gathered with a host of other volunteers, there was a real mix of ages and people had come from all across the region which was great to see. We were handed our gloves, pickers and bucket to put all of our finds in. There were two options, a free pick where you grabbed as much as you can or a survey.
We opted to do our pick as part of the survey, a marked off area in which we were to record all the types and amounts of trash we picked up for the Marine Conservation Society’s Beach Watch initiative. This is the UK’s biggest beach clean-up and survey. It is a national beach cleaning and litter surveying programme – helping people all around the UK to care for their coastline.
With regular cleans throughout the year there are loads of opportunities for you to look after your very own local beach. The Marine Conservation Society’s flagship national event is the Great British Beach Clean on the third weekend of September (so the next one is 15th-18th September 2017). Keep an eye out here for more information.
During the Great British Beach Clean in 2016 they celebrated 23 years of Beachwatch. Almost 6,000 volunteers picked up a whopping 268,384 pieces of litter. Click here to see the results!
As part of the Beach Watch initiative, The Fifth Point adopted a number of beaches in our region:
We got to work heading down the slipway to the beautiful beach. For those of you not familiar with this area it is sandy, dog friendly beach just outside of Blyth. It is on the North Spit, a stretch of sand sticking out between the River Blyth and the North Sea. Like much of the Northumberland coast it has both stunning natural beauty and heavy industrial heritage in close proximity.
Despite the weather reports predictions it was dry and a lovely (all be it cloudy) day and the turnout was really good. We got out to grips with our grabbers and filled in our form ready for the main event.
We gradually began to fill our bucket as we meandered across the survey area grabbing and recording what we found. It was at this point I realised my schoolboy error as I was the only one not in wellies! But wet feet aside it was actually great fun. The beach was actually pretty clean (a high tide had washed a lot back out to sea) but as we picked up little pieces it soon started to mount up. There was a lot of plastics as you might unfortunately expect but also pieces of metal, glass, cloth and other household items. Everything was recorded and chucked in our bucket.
It was a lovely day and great to take in some fresh sea air, we even managed a spot of rock pooling as we went along, rolling back the years in search of crabs, shrimp, fish and a host of other aquatic creatures.
As time passed we began to fill our bucket, recording everything down. There were separate containers for anything hazardous, including dog poo, which luckily for us we did not come across!
Some items were pretty big and needed a team to remove. The beach and rocky coastline where full of fellow pickers and morning dog walkers. It was a great way to meet people and everyone was very welcoming.
With our bucket full and the beach looking good we headed back to the sorting area where everyone was putting their finds in the correct bins.
- Hard Plastics (to be sent to TerraCycle to be made special beach plastic products)
- Metal and Glass (to be recycled)
- Creative Items (anything that could be used by their beach artists!)
- Hazardous Items (like dog poo or sharps to be disposed of appropriately)
- Landfill (unfortunately not everything can be recycled but they try their best!)
It was great to see that so much could be recycled, it came a a real surprise and highlighted why we need to make more efforts to recycle as much as possible to protect our environment.
We love what TerraCycle is doing, it’s a great concept, Eliminating the Idea of Waste® by recycling the “non-recyclable“. So whether it’s coffee capsules from your home, pens from a school, or plastic gloves from a manufacturing facility, they can collect and recycle almost any form of waste. TerraCycle also offers a range of free programmes that are funded by conscientious companies, as well as recycling solutions available for purchase for almost every form of waste.
There was a real mix of items found, we did not find anything creative to be recycled into art but others had a few items including a frankly freaky fox ornament, some sunglasses and someone’s lost false teeth!
The total haul came to 47kg. The good news was this was a very modest amount compared to previous beach cleans in the area with three or four times this amount found normally. Unfortunately a lot of this was from near the car park area where people had been fly tipping. It was such a shame to see as the volunteers were doing such a good job cleaning up the beach and it was annoying to know a few selfish people had been messing up the area so badly.
The volunteers all met up and chatted while they helped Nic sort the trash from the recycling and load The Fifth Point van up.
You can read more about the results of the beach clean at The Fifth Points blog about it here.
With the van loaded we stopped for a quick team photo before everyone went their separate ways. If you would like to do your bit to help and join in on a beach clean check out The Fifth Point’s Facebook page here for upcoming events.
With our bit done we headed over to The Fifth Point Dive Centre in Blyth for our next part of our tour. Based in Blyth Riverside Business Park the centre was opened in June of this year after much hard work from Nic and James (to find out how and why they built their dream dive centre click here).
We were welcomed by James who had been waiting for us and he gave us the tour of their fantastic place. First impressions were that the place was amazing, not like any dive centre I have ever been to! It had a really relaxed and laid back feel, with comfy sofas to chill out on, great modern industrial decor and a big glass window which you could see their purpose-built dive tank though. The vibe of the place and James put us at ease, diving like many highly specialised hobbies can be intimidating to beginners but there was none of that at the fifth point.
The decor was all lovingly done by James and Nic, a lot of it was made with recycled materials such as old pallets and was very in keeping with their ethos on looking after the environment.
Nic, James and the team have worked very hard creating a unique facility. Reclaimed materials have been used at every opportunity in an attempt to reduce our environmental impact. Off-cuts and skip raids have been turned into something that’s unrecognisable – especially the 150 wooden pallets that were destined for landfill.
Even their logo is made from reclaimed plywood! Nic drew up the plans, a friend laser cut the sections, then Nic then spent hours gluing them all together, sanding them down, painting and mounting. That is commitment to the cause!
Their commitment to recycling is clear to see and the results are fantastic. It really sets them apart from and other dive centre I have ever seen.
We were treat to a delicious cuppa and a fried egg sarnie on their awesome reclaimed Chesterfield sofas, as James and Nic introduced themselves and told us what we were in store for!
For me it was a refresher dive as I had previously learnt many years ago on holiday but not been diving recently. For my blogging companion who had never been diving it was the full beginners “Try Dive“. This offered a sneak peak what was in store for people wanting to see if they would like to learn to dive. This is a great idea and can be done in just a couple of hours so makes it a popular way to see if you want to get your scuba qualifications before forking out for the full training. The Fifth Point use the RAID qualification. RAID is the world’s fastest growing diver training agency with both full service and satellite regional offices, dive stores and instructors waiting to provide diver services to you across the globe. RAID is also the first diver training agency to offer a complete range of online diver academic programs from beginner to instructor examiner levels in snorkeling, scuba and free-diving. The mission of RAID is to be the benchmark brand for quality dive training globally through improved technology, training techniques, a proactive quality control system and ensuring the highest standard of dive instructors. The measure of our success is not the number of divers they train but the quality of our divers, every diver we train is an ambassador for RAID.
Nic took us through the various paperwork to allow us to dive and explained the whole process before James briefed us on our dive. Their indoor tank is an impressive 3.2m deep and has a stunning viewing window downstairs so you can watch your friends dive. This is a great feature and also perfect for families wanting to teach their kids how to dive. Though best of all it means you can get some awesome photos without the need for an underwater camera.
The sheer scale and size of it was mind-blowing! It must have taken and age to fill!
3.2m of water and a 1m shallow training platform. You’ll not be tied down to weekly pool sessions on a night that doesn’t suit you – the tank is available 24/7 for training, refreshers, buoyancy checks, new equipment trials – whatever you need! This was amazing to see what they had installed and was a real game changer when it comes to being able to dive whatever the weather and to fit in with your own pace and schedule.
We were kitted out with wetsuits and went off to change in their changing rooms. The facility has shower rooms so you can warm up and wash off any chlorine after. I was very impressed with the facilities throughout, you can see the care, love and attention to detail they have put into their dive centre. After what seemed like an age of getting my wetsuit on (I blame the extra sarnie I had!) we headed back up to the tank to get ready for our dive.
The equipment was brand spanking new and a system I had not seen before. They really know their stuff and like to use the best cutting edge equipment, staying ahead of the curve. They understand the need for change in a somewhat outdated UK diving industry. As soon as you encounter The Fifth Point, it’s obvious there’s something special developing here and we are lucky to have it in the north east!
Fully briefed and with our gear on we headed over to the on-site training tank. Custom built it allows you to learn how to dive, improve your skills and just have some dive-time whatever the weather. This is a really special feature and crucial in this part of the world. Diving courses can be intense and understandably take a while to complete but with the indoor tank this means you will never be disappointed by rough seas, bad weather or poor visibility.
We tentatively headed in and got ourselves comfortable on their lowered safety platform. James talked us through what we going to do, breaking us in gently with a few safety practices in the shallows. His calm and confident demeanor really helped put us both at ease and it was perfect for beginners to find their first steps underwater.
We practiced clearing our face masks of water, communicating underwater, how to swap over air supplies and a few other basics. For me it was slowly coming back and a great chance to recall and refresh what I had learned all those years ago. It was also good to get used to all the new equipment and slowly get my confidence back. It is perfect if you are going on holiday and want a practice dive to brush up on your skills before your trip. For the beginner in the group it was a great glimpse at what to expect when learning to dive.
It has to be said it was also not all too serious an affair with some great laughs as we did some drills worse than others or struggled with our buoyancy (a few bums in the air at times!) and communicating underwater. This was brilliant to see, diving can be quite daunting to beginners and James good sense of humour really helped.
Once we had got to grips with the basics and stopped giggling James got us ready for the main event. We took turns to practice our “trim“, one of the biggest keys to being able to relax and enjoy your time underwater by achieving buoyancy control. Buoyancy control and all the benefits of having it (lower air consumption, less fatigue, longer and more comfortable dives) all come with practice and experience. I’d love to say we mastered it but there was a fair bit of arm flapping and the occasional moment of floating around like a drunk goldfish! As time went on we got better and better and that is the point of such a dive after all. James was patient throughout and took it all in his stride.
They have bags of experience as instructors having both worked in the busy tourist diving industry in Malaysia for so long. During their travels, they’ve learnt from some of the industry’s best. They developed their diving technique and added new skills to their repertoire. But most importantly, they fine-tuned their teaching technique. That’s why students at The Fifth Point will only ever use the most up to date equipment and practise the latest skills.
Once we finished it was time for a good old swim around at the bottom of the tank, a few photo opportunities at the glass window and some time to just take it all in. It was thoroughly enjoyable and I cannot recommend enough.
Try Dives are a great way to see if diving is for you, they can be done in a couple of hours and at a very reasonable price. They are great for groups, families and kids. The relaxed dive centre means you have somewhere to hangout if you’re not participating and can just watch your buddies from the warmth and safety of an armchair with a cuppa in hand!
I’d definitely recommend for experienced divers too, the warm atmosphere and friendliness aside, it was great to get to grips with new equipment, it was of such a high standard. Nic and James pride themselves in being ahead of the curve when it comes to new diving techniques and equipment. They really do know their stuff!
It has to be said my blogging companion absolutely loved it too, as a first dive it was fun, memorable and informative. Now hooked, she now has the scuba diving bug and is looking at beginners courses. The great thing about doing the courses in this country (as opposed to on holidays) is you can do them at your pace, not having to cram everything into a minimal time and missing your well deserved holiday break having to dive all the time! They can fit learning around your schedule and take their time to ensure you are fully comfortable with all the skills needed, learning at your pace. I think this makes the huge difference when comparing to learning to diving abroad.
They also take the time to explain the environmental side of diving and you can see their passion for this clearly in everything they do! The Fifth Point are committed to keeping the sea trash free! They take a proactive approach that involves their divers and members of their local community. They have pledged to conduct a beach clean up with data reported to the Marine Conservation Society at one of these beaches each month. Every dive conducted by them is also a Dive Against Debris. They will remove every piece of litter they find underwater, and organise specific dives following reports of ghost fishing tackle or larger items of debris. This really goes to show their commitment. The beach clean was a real eye opener for me, in total, they’ve removed a staggering 500kg of rubbish from our beautiful north east beaches. They’ve also adopted the land around the dive centre which backs onto the River Blyth to clean-up and restore wildlife habitats.
The Fifth Point are also social bunch, we sat and chatted with James and Nic afterwards over a cuppa. They believe it’s important that all customers feel welcomed and part of the family.
“The worldwide diving community is very tight-knit and they strive to strengthen these links whilst maintaining a professional standard of customer service.”
It was a thoroughly great day out and we would definitely recommend The Fifth Point, Nic and James are a great couple and very passionate about what they do. We wish them the best of luck with their new dive centre and will be back!