A few years ago over his spring break, my sister and I took my nephew to the Florida Keys to learn how to snorkel. We learned to snorkel when we were young — my dad, who was in the Army, was stationed in Hawai’i and we learned to swim with the fishes in the warm Hawai’ian waters. My nephew was about the age I was when I learned to snorkel, in kindergarten or the first grade.
After a few stop and starts, my nephew took to snorkeling like, well, a fish, so it wasn’t really a surprise when last year he asked me about SCUBA diving, knowing I’m a certified diver myself. That got me to thinking — aside from being a strong and confident swimmer, what other parameters go along with teaching kids to SCUBA dive?
According to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, more widely known as PADI, kids 10 years old and older can take the Junior Open Water Diver course, as long as they can swim, of course. Online learning is available for kids 13 and older through the Open Water Diver course online, and kids ages 10 through 12 can learn via the PADI Open Water manual and DVD.
Upon completion of the Junior Open Water Diver course, and to be sure kids don’t exceed their limits, divers 10 and 11 years old must dive with a PADI professional or certified parent or guardian, and dives can’t go beyond 40 feet. Young divers between the ages of 12 and 14 must dive with a certified adult and dives can’t go beyond 60 feet. Rules change as young divers age and, after 15 years old, the depth and buddy restrictions default to those of regular PADI Open Water Divers.
If your kids are interested in SCUBA diving, not quite 10 years old but at least eight, or aren’t quite sure they want to get fully submerged into diving, check out PADI’s Bubblemaker and Seal Team programs. Bubblemaker goes as deep as six feet in its one-day program in a pool or confined water to introduce kids to SCUBA, while the Seal Team program is a bit more of an extensive pool program that covers basic diving skills along with taking underwater selfies, learning environmental awareness and practicing buoyancy.
If you have a young budding diver in the family, consider one of these programs and introduce him or her to the forever sport of SCUBA diving.