DIVING boards made a triumphant return to Hilsea Lido on its 80th anniversary – after a gap of more than 30 years.
When the Lido was opened in 1935, one of its central attractions was the 10m diving platform.
But as the site declined over the decades the boards were lost and the pool has been without diving facilities since the late 1970s.
Now a 2m platform has been installed thanks to funding from the Big Lottery Grant, diving equipment company Divegym, and construction company Weldtec.
The Hilsea Lido Pool for the People Trust, which owns and maintains the lido, is hoping that the new facilities will encourage people who dive into open water in other areas of the city, a practice known as tombstoning, to come and dive in a safer environment.
Vice-president of the Hilsea Lido Pool for the People Trust Helen Downing-Emms said: ‘We have always known that the diving boards were the heart of lido when it first opened and it’s fantastic to see them return.’
‘We’re hopeful that the re-introduction of diving at the lido will encourage the tombstoners away from the Round Tower, Hilsea Creek Bridge and from any other unsafe place where people jump into unpredictable open water.
‘We’ve got children who have been very badly injured and we had lots of people come here last year who said they were jumping off the Round Tower but would much prefer coming here.
‘So it has always been something we have been very keen to have at the lido.
‘Hopefully the children will learn how to dive properly now.’
Diving has played a big part in the lido’s history.
It was used as the 1936 Olympic diving training ground and shows have also been hosted at the site frequently when the facilities were still available.
The new diving platform, which has one board, will remain in place until the trust can secure further funding to buy a bigger one.
Helen added: ‘This is just the beginning.
‘We’re looking in the future to have competition-level diving boards and that may include a 10m board but that’s what we’re aiming for.
‘It’s fantastic. We’re bringing grass-roots diving back to Portsmouth.’
The trust contacted the Big Lottery Fund and negotiated so that it could use leftover funding from last year to buy the board.
After Divegym agreed to provide the equipment and construction company Weldtec agreed to install it, the board was designed and installed.
Divegym’s team has been involved in the sport of diving for nearly 50 years up to and including the highest world level.
The lido is now open to the public for the season and information on opening times and events can be found at hilsea-lido.org.uk and on the Facebook group at facebook.com/pages/Hilsea-Lido-Pool-for-the-People/97853561433