A NEW initiative to introduce snorkelling to Oxford residents has been given a boost with the arrival of a £10,000 boat.

Since February, the Oxford British Sub Aqua club has helped 200 people to try out the sport at Hinksey outdoor swimming pools.

Now the National Lottery and Sport England have bought the club a new Humber 16ft rigid inflatable boat to take groups of eight out into the sea to try snorkelling in the wild.

Boat officer Andy White said: “It is a fantastic achievement for an inland club to be awarded this, and the only one of its kind this year.

“We have had a big drive to get more people interested in snorkelling, and help them to go on to bigger, better things.

“Since the spring, 4,000 new people across the country have tried out the sport.

“In Oxford, we have helped well over 200 people, including 60 Sea Scouts.”

After initial training in Oxford pools, the club runs snorkelling trips to everywhere from Selsey Bill on the south coast to the Red Sea in Egypt.

Chris Watkins, assistant leader of 1st Standlake and Cokethorpe Sea Scout group, said just an hour of training gave youngsters aged 10 to 15 the right skills.

He said: “We have taken three minibuses full of Sea Scouts to have a go, and it is an incredible confidence booster.

“They all really enjoy it.

“A few have done snork-elling before on holiday, but this teaches them how to keep their tubes clear and how to breathe properly.

“Once they know what they are doing and have the equipment, they can do it anywhere.”

Advanced instructor Nick Allsworth said that once first-timers had mastered snor-kelling, they could progress to scuba diving.

He said: “As a young child, I started snorkelling in rivers, but now it has taken my wife and I around the world.

“We start with children aged six, but also take their parents snorkelling.

“It is a real family sport that everyone can do.

“It is relatively cheap and safe, but when you get good it can lead to the most amazing things.”

He added: “There are sights you can see snorkelling that you could never imagine.

“You can see so much more than diving, because you are on the surface a lot more.

“Recently, I was snorkelling with my wife at a reef in Dijbouti, turned around, and I was about six feet away from a 40ft-long whale shark. It was fantastic.”