People have been scuba diving recreationally since the 1960s, but there are still stigmas attached to the sport that never seem to go away. If you’ve been anxious to give it and try and have not, maybe you’ve been listening to rumours.
This is a shame, as a lot more people would be out there enjoying themselves if people knew that the way we learn to dive and the equipment used has improved over the last forty years.
Diving is simple, easy and fun, and these days, a sport the entire family can enjoy together.
Diving is environmentally friendly, teaches environmental respect, and requires almost zero physical fitness and only average swimming skills. It’s also a completely non-competitive activity since there is little contest in just swimming around underwater; diving is simply a vehicle we use to explore our oceans as it makes it possible for humans to breath underwater. So, for no other reason than that, diving should appeal to anyone who is looking for a sport where everyone in the family can enjoy it on an equal level.
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- John Gray's Cave Canoeing Tour in Phang Nga Bay
Finding activities that the whole family can enjoy together is sometimes difficult as there can be different levels of abilities between children of different ages and between the parents. At the same time, scuba diving has somehow retained the stigma of being a male-dominated sport, where wives are hesitant to try. This male-dominated perception is simply not true, but the perception remains so women hesitate.
Compounding the problem is when their husband insists it would be a great idea and doesn’t back off when the woman suggests another activity. Spouses are often afraid the husband or boyfriend will be overbearing and apply pressure to perform during what would otherwise be a fun and non-competitive class. It turns what should be a very pleasant exciting event into a stressful, uncomfortable experience. You know how we men can be.
Scuba diving lessons should be conducted under a calm environment. Unfortunately the reverse is true. Many men simply have to exert their authority, even though they may be the ones who are having trouble adapting and may be more nervous than the woman. As a scuba instructor, I have seen this time and time again.
I normally suggest that the wife take lessons separately from their husband if their husband displays this kind of behaviour when they do other sports. However, if children are also involved, then this problem is diminished.
Diving with Kids
When kids are involved as well, dad will tend to calm down and pay more attention to the kids rather than his ego. At the same time, mum will be more fascinated watching her kids go through the process and worry less about what she is doing. The children are rarely an issue, they take to diving like they take to eating ice cream; it just come naturally to most of them. And even if your child is not particularly active or coordinated, it makes no difference, as diving skills don’t require much coordination or athletic skills.
In this way, everyone learns in a stress-free environment. A family who learns to scuba together can still eat dinner with each other that night.
Learning In Swimming Pool
There have always been certification programs for children, but in recent years they have become more available and easier to participate in. Kids under eight cannot learn to dive, but an active parent can get the kids interested in the ocean by learning to dive themselves first, and then take the child snorkeling. Once she has turned eight years kids can try scuba diving in the pool or the shallow ocean, begin to learn skills and become comfortable with the equipment.
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the world’s largest dive training organization, offers a unique program called the SEAL Team that takes place in the swimming pool. The child is taught basic skills and then given a series of underwater games to do to hone their skills and interact with other children. A certificate is given at the end of the course, and the kids love it.
Once the child has reached the age of ten, she can become a Junior Open Water Diver which opens up the ocean’s reefs to exploration. There are a few restrictions at this age for depth and supervision in the water, as there should be for safety reasons, but by the time the child has reached ten-years old, the child can dive with her parents down to a depth of 12 metres or 40 feet. Most of the world’s coral reefs are accessible at that depth so there is plenty to do and see. Once they reach 12-years, most of these restrictions disappear. Diving is one of the safest outdoor activities your child can do.
Once parents and child are certified there are a number of activities they can participate in. There are simple liveaboard diving holidays the whole family can do together, and there are educational experiences to learn together. Diving teaches a child how to think and encourages maturity and individual thought.
Family Liveaboard Diving
Liveaboard diving holidays are something like a mini cruise ship where you live on or stay on board the boat so you can reach remote islands and coral reefs. Many diving trips like this are available here in Phuket.
Some boats even have large enough cabins so the whole family can stay in the same room, and many boats will have babysitting services if one of the children are still too young to scuba dive; the nanny looks after the child while the parents dive. In between dives you may take the child snorkelling together as a family.
Education and Environmental Awareness
Educational opportunities exist within PADI and other organizations where you can learn more about the ocean’s marine life, underwater photography or videography, night diving, underwater navigation or even wreck diving. The choices are vast and in some places in the world offer “summer camps” for the family to learn about the ocean together.
It’s important in these days of environmental uncertainty to teach your children how important conservation of our oceans is, and there is no better way than by demonstrating the beauty of the ocean hands-on, face-to-fact, up close and personal. When the child can see for themselves what is actually down there, they develop a love for it which they will keep with them for the rest of their lives.