Originally from the Claddagh but now living in Gort, Joe Fegan has been diving since 1987 and as well as being president of Galway Sub Aqua Club, he is currently Regional Diving Officer for the West of Ireland
Based in Galway City, the Galway Sub Aqua Club (GSAC) has members from all corners of the county, as well as members from countries including France, Poland, Ukraine, Romania and South Africa.
Club President Joe started diving while studied at NUI Galway and dived with the college for a few years. However, after leaving third level he found it more difficult to continue diving. “I didn’t give it up on purpose, I just got involved in different things and then I didn’t dive at all for about ten years,” he says.
But he couldn’t stay away from diving and joined the GSAC seven years ago. He has “been mad into it” since then. The club’s main focus is on sports diving and the GSAC dive every Sunday all year round and also on Wednesdays in summer time, usually between Killary and Kilkee.
“The west coast has some of the best diving in the country and others travel hours to experience what we have on our doorstep,” says Joe.
The GSAC incorporates the social side of diving into the club’s activities, as Joe explains: “We often travel away for bank holiday weekends all over the country throughout the year with occasional overseas trips.”
Founded in 1963, the club celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. Ever since its earliest days, the club has been involved in underwater search and recovery activities on a purely voluntary basis.
Recovery differs from the work of the RNLI and Coast Guard as the focus is on the unfortunate cases where it hasn’t been possible to rescue the missing person and it is necessary to try to locate and return the body to the family. All of this work is funded by voluntary contributions.
“That’s the darker side though and only a minority of the members are involved in that work,” says Joe. It requires specialised training and Joe explains that it is obviously not something that anyone is expected to do or everyone wants to. 15 of the 45 current members of the GSAC are involved in the work.
The club has also been involved, on a voluntary basis, with the running of the recompression chamber at University Hospital Galway since 1975. The chamber is one of only three in Galway and is used to treat divers with ‘the bends’, also known as decompression sickness.
As GSAC President Joe is also involved in activities such as fundraising and the logistics involved in the club’s operation. In addition, he serves as Regional Diving Officer, which sees him organise the most advanced tests and courses.
“The basic ones are done within your own club and you’ll be assessed by someone from a different club to maintain standards, then for the instructor grades it’s organised at a regional level,” he explains.
GSAC starts a beginners’ class every September in the pool in NUI Galway, running it in conjunction with the college, and hope to be in the water starting dives with new members from January. For more information visit www.galwaysubaquaclub.com.