As a PADI Pro, one of the questions I am most often asked is ‘How did you start diving?’. For me, it started when I was 10 years old and I did a try dive on holiday on the Isle of Wight, during the rather cool British summer in an outdoor pool! Despite the cold, damp conditions, I absolutely loved it and immediately asked my parents why I hadn’t done this before.
Through the PADI system, children from the age of 8 years old can experience the underwater world by enrolling on the Seal Team course. This is in 2 parts and begins with Aquamissions 1-5 which teach responsibility and respect of the aquatic world along with basic scuba skills such as mask clearing and regulator recovery. Students can then choose to continue with part 2 and complete a further 10 Aquamissions in specialist areas such as wreck diving and fish identification. All of these are conducted in the swimming pool and each mission usually takes about an hour.
Teaching children is hugely rewarding; their enthusiasm for learning, drive to succeed and do well usually far outweighs that of an adult who has paid for the course on their own! As an instructor, teaching children can also be one of the more nerve-racking experiences - no fear of the water, willingness to give everything a go immediately, speed underwater - definitely keeps me on my fin tips.
At the age of 10 children can earn their Junior Open Water certification. This is exactly the same course as the adults complete, the only difference being a depth restriction to 12m and the need to dive with a PADI professional or parent/guardian. In my opinion, students who have already earned their Seal Tea