Ray Woolley, who turned 95 on August 28, already holds the record as the oldest active male scuba diver. On Saturday he dived for 44 minutes at a depth of 40.6 metres, beating his previous record of 41 minutes and 38.1 metres — when he was 94.
“We did it...I feel great. It’s lovely to break my record again and I hope if I can keep fit I will break it again next year with all of you,” Woolley said moments after emerging from the water.
Woolley and dozens of other divers scoured the watery depths around the shipwreck of the Zenobia, a cargo vessel laden with trucks that sank about 2 kilometres off the southern Cypriot town of Larnaca in 1980 on its maiden voyage.
Woolley, originally from Port Sunlight in northwest England who now lives in Cyprus, said he had first visited the wreck in 1982. A radio operator in the Second World War, he has been diving for 58 years.
“I am trying to prove to myself, and I hope to other people, that exercise, especially when you are getting to around my age, is most important to do,” he told reporters after returning to land.
The nonagenarian, who lives in Limassol, already held the Guinness record title following a similar successful dive on his 94th birthday last year, where he dived to a depth of 38.1 metres for 41 minutes.
Ray’s main dive buddy, David Turner, the diving officer at the Western Sovereign Bases Area Sub Aqua Club at RAF Akrotiri, organised the record attempt.
“It was a brilliant day and a pleasure diving with Ray and the other divers,” Turner told Cyprus Mail. “He is an inspirational and skilled diver, who at 95 years of age puts many younger people to shame.”
Woolley started swimming at his local swimming baths aged five. In Cyprus, he dives with the British sub aqua club BSAC at and began diving with the Portland and Weymouth British Sub Aqua Club in 1960.
“I shall celebrate later with a glass of wine with my family who flew out to Cyprus for my dive and my Birthday. If I can keep fit and my dive buddies will still dive with me, I hope I will be able to repeat this again at 96 years of age,” Woolley told the Cyprus Mail. The 95-year-old will also feature in a documentary about him. ‘Life Begins at 90’ was filmed in Cyprus and highlights Ray’s life, his passion for diving and the water, and his healthy approach to ageing.
Woolley said he will find out if he officially held on to his Guinness world title as the world’s oldest scuba diver in a few weeks’ time. Zenobia, which now lies on its side with its 90-odd trucks still chained to the vessel, is extremely popular with divers and about 60,000 visit the site each year.