Paraplegic scuba diver Dan Metcalfe-Hall hopes to establish a new category of Guinness world record later this year – by scuba diving a distance of 5km propelled by his arms alone at the Stoney Cove inland site in Leicestershire.
Nicknamed “Wheelsdan”, Metcalfe-Hall, 34, from Grantham in Lincolnshire, sustained severe injuries in two accidents just four years apart.
He was told that he would never walk again in the summer of 2014, after a crash while riding his motorcycle had left him paralysed from the waist down.
Handcycling played a major part in the gym instructor’s rehabilitation, to the extent that he progressed to being rated fifth in the UK. Then, in 2018, a car that had been hit by a truck ploughed into him – just 14 miles from the finish line in a 600-mile charity handcycle race.
This second accident left Wheelsdan with a serious neck-compression injury for which he still requires treatment, also causing reduced muscle strength in one shoulder. Around the same time he was diagnosed with PTSD and depression.
Wheelsdan had already tried scuba diving and says that it helped with his rehabilitation after the second accident, providing a “big release from being in a wheelchair”. He is now qualified as an Assistant Instructor. “Without scuba diving in his life, Dan doesn’t like to think what might of happened to him,” states his crowd-funding page, acknowledging the sport as a “life-saver”.
The diver works for a wheelchair retailer in Huntingdon and continues to take part in a range of charity events, “proving that there should be no boundaries when it comes to people with disabilities taking part in sport… or anything else for that matter!”
If Guinness World Records agrees to his proposed “Fastest Freshwater 5k Scuba Dive, Arms Only” record category, Wheelsdan’s bid will take place on 28 September. He expects to be submerged for around six hours to cover the distance non-stop at a depth of 6-8m.
The attempt will be a fund-raiser for volunteer groups the Scuba Trust, which has supported Wheelsdan as it does many scuba divers with a range of disabilities; and MAGPAS Air Ambulance, which responded in his first accident and without which he says he was unlikely to have survived.
Remaining funds will go towards providing changing facilities for disabled divers at the National Diving Centre at Stoney Cove. “The facilities are brilliant for able-bodied people, however they’re not so great for their disabled buddies,” states his JustGiving page, which has a target of £5,000. “Dan is looking to help change that.”