Neal Breeden - Club Secretary
PADI Divemaster #356428
EFR Instructor #356428
Neal is a disabled diver. He's a wheelchair user and has additional mobility with the use of his crutches. But don't let that deceive you... in the water you would never know that he couldn't walk unaided!
First and foremost Neal is a PADI Divemaster and EFR Instructor. He is also qualified diving professional with a number of other agencies, including:
SAA Dive Leader
BSAC Dive Leader
Neal is a passionate sidemount diver and enjoys the more technical aspects of diving, particularly wreck diving and deep diving. He can often be found rummaging his way through the innards of a rusting hulk, and in so doing, is completely in his element...H2O!
Neal also enjoys assisting on courses with his fellow team mates at InDepth Dive Club and previously he was the club secretary at Cheltenham Sub Aqua Club and also a Divemaster at Dive 90 Cheltenham.
Neal is also a fully initiated member of the MARU Diving Club, his given MARU name is 'Wheelie Bin MARU' because of his wheelchair! (You don't need a sense of humour to be a member, but it certainly helps!)
Neal is extremely passionate about encouraging other disabled people to explore the underwater realm and actively encourages them to learn to scuba dive. He is an advocate of having a go and his mantra is:
"Just because you're disabled, doesn't mean you can't scuba dive. There's nothing stopping you from trying!"
Prior to November 2008 Neal was a fit and active 39 year old who enjoyed football, rugby and running; he used to run at competition level for the South West of England. All of that changed overnight...
Neal woke up one day to find himself in hospital, what he thought was a nightmare was, in fact, a reality. One day he was a fit and healthy young man, the next minute he was waking up in hospital and being told that he could no longer walk and would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
He was in hospital for 3 months and returned to a home that he could no longer recognise. All of the doors of his property had been widened, a wet room now existed where his bathroom had once existed and the property had been extensively modified for disabled use. A hospital bed now sat in his living room and he had become a prisoner in his own home, confined to the downstairs, unable to access the 1st floor or even his garden. That first night he cried himself to sleep.
For the next four years Neal was confined to a wheelchair. It would be fair to say that he was in a dark place, his thoughts often dwelling on his life before his illness and the life he once had. It was these thoughts that drew him back to a holiday he had taken to Cyprus with his two daughters, a happy time, a holiday that involved a scuba 'try dive'... and a memory that sparked an idea...
Neal decided to pursue the idea and set about finding out if he could learn to scuba dive despite his disability. He visited NDAC and then consulted his GP with the medical declaration forms that he'd been given. His GP signed him off as fit to dive and Neal's life was essentially transformed from that moment.
Learning to scuba dive gave Neal a new found purpose in life, it also gave him some of his mobility back. Over time that limited mobility gradually improved and allowed him to leave the confines of his wheelchair and gain additional mobility with the use of crutches. And whilst Neal is still unable to walk, in the water he is freed from disability and the impact that it has both physically and mentally.
It is without question that scuba diving is good for your mental health and Neal will attest to that and the transformation that it had on his life.
Neal went on to complete his PADI Advanced Open Water course and PADI Deep Diver course with NDAC. He decided to do his PADI Rescue Diver course with Dive 90 at Cheltenham and it was whilst undertaking this course that he met James Neal, who was his instructor. Neal actually met James before he had had his subarachnoid haemorrhage and he was actually one of the first people to visit him at Frenchay Hospital, wearing a mask and snorkel...!
A shared experience with brain injury.
After James's SAH - he taught Neal's Divemaster Theory whilst he was recovering himself. Initially from his own home and then, once better recovered, Neal would collect him and they would go into the Dive 90 classroom and spend the day going through all the scuba diving theory needed in order to pass the PADI Divemaster exams.
It was at this time that Neal decided to join Cheltenham Sub-Aqua Club and he soon became the Club Secretary, a role he held for several years and thoroughly enjoyed.
Once James had recovered enough to venture back into the water they hatched a plan to undertake a 24 Hour Scuba Dive in order to help raise awareness of Brain Injury. They had both been helped by Headway, in Gloucester and so this was the obvious charity to promote. Given that they were both members of Cheltenham Sub-Aqua club at that time, they enlisted the help of a few friends and built a dedicated team of divers around them that were up to the job.
Many of the dive industries top brands got behind the event and donated items of value to put into the raffle. Companies like Suunto UK who donated several dive computers, KUBI, Miflex, Narked at 90, Oceanic, O'three, Fourth Element, Regal Dive, Westfield, Sea & Sea and many others donated prizes.
The dive team all went out and individually sought their own sponsorship. And between them they managed to raise many thousands of pounds. With individuals in the dive community giving generously, particularly those that knew both Neal and James personally.
The 24 Hour Scuba Dive itself was held at NDAC (sadly now closed) and they really got behind the event and gave it all the support and publicity that they could. Ultimately the event was a huge success and it went like clockwork. The team raised just over £8,500 at the time and increased this to just over £10,000.00 by the time they had collected everything in and raffled all the items donated!
With the 24 Hour Scuba Dive completed and James gradually making more progress it was time to start planning some dive trips. A liveaboard in the Egyptian Red Sea was most definitely called for and so they hatched another plan... a two-week, back-to-back liveaboard trip in 2014... the first of many Egyptian trips that included Emperor Divers' Superior and Elite, which resulted in the creation of the Northern Hemisphere MARU Divers as well as another trip on Nimar to reunite with the MARU divers in 2019 and a bespoke itinerary that James had put together.
A great many diving trips and holidays, both in the UK and overseas, were arranged over the years, from Eastbourne to Egypt. Northern Ireland, Pembrokeshire and Cyprus. As well as taking the club RHIB out as often as possible and numerous hardboat dives.
When it came to the idea of starting our own Dive Centre, after James had had a false start with a couple of toxic individuals and an abject lesson in how not to do it! Neal, Ollie and Tony talked him into doing it again, this time the way he wanted it done, properly! Neal was extremely keen to be involved in any way, shape or form that he could, and there was no way his disability was going to stop him!
By this time it would be fair to say that a strong bond had formed between Neal and James, their shared struggles and love of scuba diving have made them good friends. But it takes something unique to cement a friendship like theirs. They don't always agree, far from it, both are strong individuals, both have stared death in the face and said 'not today'... and that gives you a unique outlook on life and a realisation that time, and friendship is more important than money and possessions. Taking on adventures and creating invaluable memories that will be forever etched in the soul. Making life's journey worthwhile, making the most of life!
And that, is the ethos of InDepth Dive Club in a nutshell. Camaraderie, companionship and shared adventure.
“THERE IS NOTHING IMPOSSIBLE TO THEY WHO WILL TRY.”
— Alexander the Great