|What are your qualifications?
I’ve got my PADI advanced open-water and TDI nitrox certifications.
I don’t really believe in getting loads of qualifications because
there’s no substitute for experience. The nitrox qualification was
important because they don’t let you use the stuff unless you’ve
got the card. I love nitrox: I feel as though I’ve been through the
mill after a week of diving on air, but with nitrox it’s a breeze.
How many dives have you done? About 250. I still log them, but I don’t
go into much detail, just date, site, time, maximum depth and all that.
For comments, I usually write something like ‘shark’ or ‘ray’.
What is your best diving experience?
Well, you never forget your first dive. For me, it was kind of spacey, a
bit dreamy and surreal. I was all over the shop with my buoyancy, so it
was wild, but peaceful at the same time. My first dives at Cocos Island,
off Costa Rica, and Sipadan, in Malaysia, were real eye-openers, too, what
with the amount of life, but there’s nothing to compare with the first
time you breathe underwater.
What is your worst diving experience?
I’ve had a few iffy moments, but nothing that really put me in fear
of my life. I did get caught in some particularly nasty currents around
Cocos Island, but that’s the sort of diving you have to be prepared
for out there. It can be like a bloody washing machine at times. We experienced
down-currents, side-currents, a big swell, the works. I did have moments
of minor panic, but I was never seriously out of control. I’ve never
had to cope with any equipment failures, touch wood.
Where have you dived?
Hawaii, Bermuda, Florida, the Bahamas, Kenya… I sound like a right
flash bastard, don’t I? I’d probably dive around the UK if
I lived in some nice coastal village in Cornwall, but it just isn’t
something I can fit in at the moment.
Who is your regular buddy?
My girlfriend Gabriella. She’s a typical Italian, very laid-back
and easy-going. She’s only been diving for three or four years,
but she’s very good and we’re a great buddy team. We keep
an eye out for each other, but it’s not like we’re joined
at the hip underwater.
Why do you dive?
I enjoy it. There are so many reasons. I love the sensation of
being underwater, the vibe of it. I last dived at Christmas, so now I
feel like I need to get back into the water. I wouldn’t exactly
describe myself as a dive junkie, but it’s a very important part
of my life.
Where do you want to dive next?
I’m due to go to the southern Egyptian Red Sea on the Ghazala Voyager
liveaboard soon, which should be excellent. Beyond that, I want to head
off to Indonesia. I’m after mantas and whale sharks, the stuff everybody
loves. I think there’ll be some excellent photographic opportunities
out there. I tend to look for shapes and the sort of graphic form that
can be brought out with black-and-white photography.
What equipment do you own?
My cameras are all Nikonos V. I usually travel with three of them, and
20mm, 28mm and 35mm lenses. I use fast black-and-white film: 1600 ASA.
Most of my stuff is done on the 28mm lens these days. There’s less
depth of field but it can work if you’ve got the right subject.
As far as diving kit is concerned, I’m really happy with my SeaQuest
BCD and my Mares regulator. My Typhoon wetsuit is getting a bit old. The
zip broke when I was in the Maldives, but there was a tailor in the hotel
who put in a series of Velcro straps to keep the thing on my back. My
favourite bit of kit is my Aladin Nitrox computer, which I can also use
with air. It’s brilliant.
Which five songs would you like to put on a liveaboard compilation tape?
What, only five? It’s impossible! I’d have to go for something
by Hendrix, because he’s my hero. Also Private Number by Judy Clay
and William Bell. The best live band I ever saw was Free – they
could play like you wouldn’t believe, so I’ll have All Right
Now. And I’d have to have a Queen track, probably Somebody to Love,
but it all depends on my mood.
What is the most interesting underwater animal? Jethro
Tull. Okay, seriously: I’m pretty obsessed with rays. It’s
the movement and shape. I saw a lot of eagle and marbled rays at Cocos
Island – but not too many hammerheads, thanks to El Niño.
The animal I most want to photograph is the manta ray. I’ve never
got as close as I’d like, which is why I’d really like to
go to Sangaliki, off Borneo. My dream black-and-white photograph would
probably be of a school of manta rays.
Have you a dive tip that has helped you?
When I’m putting on a wetsuit I like to use plastic bags on my hands
and feet so that my arms and legs go straight through. I always travel
with a couple of Safeway bags, although a Sainsbury’s one will suffice.
I hate being hurried when I’m kitting up. There’s always someone
who wants to get you into your kit 20 minutes before the dive, then you’re
left baking in your wetsuit while they’re still mucking about with
the boat. My motto with underwater photography and working with a rock
band is: ‘Look after your kit and it will look after you.’
You should always have good interface karma with your equipment, if you
know what I mean.
Which figure, living or dead, would you like to take diving,
I’d quite like to take my dad, Ray. He retired recently, but he’s
only 67 and he’s always been interested in the sea. He’d probably
feel a bit claustrophobic, and I don’t know if I’d ever be
able to get him into the water. I’ve persuaded quite a few people
to try out diving, but I don’t like to be too preachy about it.