Scuba Diving – A Hobby for the Whole Family
Scuba diving, or at least underwater adventure is a hobby that can be enjoyed by the whole family. While there are age restrictions on Scuba Diving certifications, depending on the certifying organization, today children of all ages can take part to some degree of exploring the underwater world.
There is no age requirement to snorkel or skin dive. And if you are planning any kind of dive trip to well-known reef or other dive locations, there are always great opportunities to snorkel. The key to getting your kids to have fun with snorkeling or skin diving is to build their confidence and get comfortable with equipment.
The best place to do this is in the bathtub believe it or not. Kids will get a kick out of this and have opportunity to get used to the feel of the mask on their faces and how to breath trough the snorkel. Then once you arrive at your dive destination, take a few spins in the hotel pool first. Again the pool will afford a great opportunity to raise your kid's confidence level, in a clear fear- free environment. Kids will feel safer snorkeling in a pool where there are no waves, there are walls for boundaries, and no fear of what may be "lurking" below them.
Once you get out into the open water with your now proud skin diver, still select a site for snorkeling that is calm, with minimal waves. For the young snorklers even who may be strong swimmers, it is a good idea to have them use water wings or other floatation devices, this way they are not using up too much of their energy just staying afloat on the surface before they slide under for a dive.
Popping up in many dive locations that are giving kids even as young as four an almost "real" Scuba experience and the thrill of a lifetime are two relatively new concepts called SASY and SNUBA. SASY stands for Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth. It was invented by father and dive enthusiast Wayne Hasser who wanted his young children to have a chance to share in his love for diving, with an experience closer to Scuba than merely snorkeling. The SASY system which can be used by children 5 and up is basically a combination of a BC (buoyancy compensator) and a life vest. The SASY vest has been designed with foam pads and equipped to hold a lightweight Pony bottle of air in a pouch on the back. The child does use a regulator but the vest keeps the child from going below snorkeling depth.
SNUBA which you can also find at many dive resorts is a system that can be used by children as young as 4 years old. Snuba is a shallow dive system that is kind of cross between Scuba and Skin diving. A "Snuba" diver is tethered by a 20 foot air hose attached to a standard scuba tank that follows his or her movements beneath the surface on a raft floating above. The sytem uses a vest similar to the SASY system that allows the snuba diver to stay near the surface or dive as deep as the line will allow.
These intermediary systems are great ways to get your kids introduced to the wonderful world of scuba diving. As they get older and can become certified divers as teens, Scuba can be a great activity that keeps families closer together and can teach kids responsibility for the maintenance of their gear, their personal safety and the safety of others, and at the same time gain an appreciation for conservation and the underwater world.