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  Scuba Diving for Children

General Scuba Information Diving Programs for Kids Scuba Tank Care
Scuba Terminology Best Scuba Diving Locations for Beginners Tips for The Beginner Diver 
Types of Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is descending and exploring underwater through the use of scuba equipment. Snorkeling is the practice of swimming, while equipped with a diving mask, snorkel and fins, and having the ability to view the world below the water surface. It is an adventure of a lifetime to float nearly weightless amongst exotic creatures and unique landscapes.  Scuba diving and/or snorkeling is a hobby that can be enjoyed by the entire family.  Scuba diving is becoming more and more popular as a pastime and  family diving is the hottest new trend.   Certification agencies, gear manufacturers, dive destinations and resorts have all worked to make family dive outings, from snorkel trips to full-fledged dive vacations, easier than ever.

Age To Start Scuba Diving?

For the enthusiastic scuba diver parent, or for those who feel their child loves the water and will enjoy learning about diving and undersea life, many options are available.  Children as young as 5 years old can be trained to scuba dive on some level, and those 10 - 15 can receive many of the same certifications as adults. If the diver is under 15, they will receive a junior certification. This certification requires them to dive with an adult. Once they turn 15, they may receive a regular certification. For more information on certification and classes see our Diving Program for Kids section.

The best place to build your child's confidence and get comfortable with snorkeling equipment is in the bathtub.  Kids will love it, feel secure and have opportunity to get used to the feel of the mask on their faces and how to breath through the snorkel.  The next area to practice and build confidence is in the pool.  Again, it is an environment where the kids will feel safe snorkeling because they are free of waves. Once your child is ready for the open water be sure to select a site for snorkeling that is calm, with minimal waves.

Any basic scuba diving instruction will begin with snorkeling, which has no age requirements, to allow your child to become familiar with the underwater experience and get comfortable with the mask, fins, and snorkel. 

How do I know if my child is ready for lessons?

It is important to know your child and to determine their physical and emotional maturity level when making the decision to have them take diving lessons.   A good indication of whether your child has the strength and coordination for scuba diving is his or her ability to play another sport.  If they are not coordinated enough for other sports then you should wait to start scuba lessons.   Does your child have the discipline, focus and respect for authority required to take scuba lessons?  Remember that if your child is not mature enough to dive safely without direct supervision it will put them or their dive partner in a dangerous situation.   Ask teachers and other adults who know your child for their opinion.
 

Honestly answer these questions about your child and if you find that your answers are all positive then your child is most likely ready for certification:

  • Can your child swim and are they very comfortable in the water?

  • Will they be able to handle the weight of the gear which is about 45 pounds.  They must be able to carry it for about 100 yards, wade into the surf and swim to the diving area.

  • Can they follow instructions?

  • Do they have the emotional maturity necessary?

  • Will your child pay attention to training and take what the instructor is telling him/her seriously?

  • Will they follow the safety rules?

  • How does your child behave with other activities?  Do they wear a bike helmet?  How do they behave in school?

  • Is the child large enough to have the available equipment fit properly.

  • Does the child have a real desire to try this activity.

  • Is there someone for them to dive with?  Are you certified?

Cost Requirements...

To give you an idea of the cost involved with scuba diving, to purchase your basic equipment (mask, fins, snorkel) and take basic lessons it is about the same cost as getting into tennis. However, if you really enjoy the sport, then the cost will be more like that of snow skiing. Starting out is the most expensive because you have to get certified and purchase some equipment. 

The cost of lessons with vary based on the type of lesson and the location.  You can get private or group lessons .  Certification classes will cost between $350 and $450.  Discounts may apply for each additional child in the same applying group.

Once you are certified diving can be as cheap as golfing 18 holes or as expensive as a ski trip in Colorado.  It really depends on whether you live near the ocean and have diving available or if you have to plan a vacation to enjoy this new hobby.

Required Equipment...

Most instructors recommend that you buy the basic essentials (mask, fins, and snorkel) and rent other scuba gear such as tanks and regulators. Key manufacturers are doing an outstanding job of designing, fabricating and promoting scuba equipment for children and small adults. This equipment will cost about $150.   A complete set of dive gear rents for approximately $40 to $80 depending on the location.   Most dive shops do not charge students rental during class.  You can probably purchase all of your gear for around $600 - $800.

The gear that you will need and use will vary somewhat depending upon your diving environment, as well as your preferences. There are four general categories for dive equipment, but some gear fits in all the categories for example the mask you use for tropical diving is probably for temperate or cold water diving, too.

Tropical scuba equipment Used when diving in warm (24C/75F and up), clear water.
Temperate scuba equipment Used when diving in moderate temperature (24C/75F) water.
Cold water scuba equipment Used when diving in water cooler than (15C/60F).
Tec diving scuba equipment Used by very experienced, highly trained divers to visit environments beyond the normal limits of recreational diving.

It is necessary to take your child with you when you are purchasing scuba gear for them because they should  be part of the decision making process.  Proper fit is vital but to them the color and style is just as important. You should buy the gear all together, at least the mask and snorkel, so that they will match and fit properly.  Remember that you only get what you pay for, inexpensive gear could compromise performance and comfort.  If your child is uncomfortable they will be unhappy.

The mask is probably the most important part of your child's equipment. It must fit comfortably and seal well on your face when you are underwater.  There are a variety of different types of masks. Masks without side windows will usually cost a little bit less. Be sure the lens is made of tempered safety glass because it will scratch less and it will be almost unbreakable. The mask strap should be easily adjustable and have locking buckles for quick changes if needed.  You will find that a plastic strap split in back will slip less during dives than the neoprene wide straps. A Silicone skirt. is softer than PVC so it will conform to the face better and will be more comfortable.

Fins, which are the second most important piece of diving gear, must match your child's leg strength.  Flexible blades are very important for kids.  If the fins are too large, or too stiff, they will not have the leg power necessary to use them.  If you purchase fins that are too soft or small,  they will generate too little thrust.   Fins have a broad price range and vary greatly in their materials, shapes, and sizes.  Full-foot fins are less likely to come off accidentally, and they are simple and easy to use however your child will outgrow this type of fin sooner. Adjustable strap fins should have a protective heel plate for comfort with kids.  These fins will give you more years of use but you will probably need to buy booties every year.   Check to see if the shop will let you exchange them if they don't work out.  Comfort and fit should ultimately help you determine your purchase.

Snorkels come in a variety of shapes, and sizes. Things on top of the basic snorkel are bells and whistles, but they may add to the comfort and fit.  Make sure you get a small mouthpiece so that it fits well and does not cut in to the corners of your child's mouth.  A store interested in selling to kids will have a way of sterilizing equipment so they can actually try on the mouthpiece. Typically silicone mouth pieces are softer and therefore they are the most flexible and comfortable.  The snorkel should have a small bore to match small lungs.  Kids do not have the lung power to clear an adult snorkel.  A purge valve will reduce the amount of water retained in the bore and make it easier to clear. If you choose the snorkel first you child will have the snorkel in his/her mouth to try on the mask.

Wetsuits are important for warmth as well as protection.  In addition, the extra flotation will help to build confidence.  A full length, medium weight wetsuit is best for body coverage, comfort and warmth.  A good fit is important, never buy one that is too big.  Look for a wetsuit that is very stretchy to accommodate growth.

Booties and gloves need to fit properly.  Never buy these items large to allow for growing because this will allow excess water in and your child will get cold.   Booties with zippers may be easier for your child especially when they are wet. 

The rest of the necessary equipment includes: a buoyancy compensation device (B.C.), a regulator, console, a wet suit, and air tanks.  This equipment can get quite costly so you will need to make a decision as to whether you are ready to purchase the equipment initially, or if you want to try it out first by renting the equipment. 

Renting Vs Buying Equipment

RENTAL PURCHASE
Ability to try out a variety of brands and types of equipment Equipment is comfortable and fits you perfectly
Do not know the quality of equipment You know the quality of the equipment
Cheaper to rent High initial cost

No equipment maintenance or care

Must maintain equipment
Equipment is not as comfortable Must transport gear

It is best to start out renting your equipment, and then if you really enjoy the sport consider purchasing it.  The list below ranks the equipment based on the order your should purchase it.

  1. Mask, snorkel, fins and booties

  2. B.C.

  3. Regulator

  4. Consoles/Gauges

  5. Wet Suit

  6. Tanks

There is a wealth of other dive gear and accessories that can make any divers underwater life a little easier. It is important to hold off from purchasing these items until you get some idea of your personal style and preference. Here then is a list (in no particular order) of the ten "must have" pieces of dive gear or dive accessories from scubadiving-abc.com

1. A Dive Computer - Scuba diving computers eliminate the need for dive tables to calculate depth time and decompression needs. Dive computers are revolutionizing diving and have been one of the greatest innovations to diver safety since the invention of the aqualung. Dive computers can be no bigger than an ordinary dive watch.

2. A Gear Bag - If you are doing any kind of traveling with your gear, a scuba gear bag is absolutely essential. It is a small investment that helps you keep your all you expensive gear safe and secure while transporting.

3. A Dry Suit - Dry suits keep divers warm in a unique way. Unlike a wets suit as the name implies a Dry Suit uses air, not water trapped within the suit for insulation. Completely sealed, it allows you to wear clothes, even street clothes beneath it. A dry suit is a must have for any cold weather diving.


4. A Dive Knife - A dive knife is an indispensable diving tool. Read that "Tool" NOT weapon - a Dive Knife is not there to protect you from sharks or other denizens of the deep, but it can save your life if you become tangled up in netting or monofilament lines.

5. A Regulator - while many casual divers will rent regulators along with tanks, if you are going to do a significant amount of dives throughout the year it is best to own your own regulator, this way proper maintenance and functionality can be assured. With your regulator literally your lifeline underwater, this just makes good sense.

6. Under Water Camera - there was a time when a list such as this would recommend an underwater housing for your surface camera, but the cost of good underwater cameras both digital and traditional have come down so much in the last few years that anyone can get into underwater photography with a camera specifically made for it

7. Dive Watch - if you are not going the more sophisticated route of a wrist Dive Computer - a Dive Watch is absolutely necessary for monitoring bottom time, plus most of them look darn good on your wrist.

8. Booties, Mitts & Hood - if you are going to be doing any diving in cold waters, these are required. As on land, underwater you lose most of your body heat through your head and extremities.

9. Ties and Retractors - make it easier to carry additional dive gear like lights, cave reels, etc.

10. A "Multi-tool" - the next generation "Swiss Army Knife" - a must have for remote fixes and adjustments to dive gear, Leatherman (http://www.leatherman.com/) makes a great one, and there are others specifically made with the fittings and wrench sizes most common on dive gear.

Did You Know...

SCUBA is actually an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

Beginner divers are probably best advised to stay at 60 feet or above until they gain more experience.

Red and Yellow light is filtered out by the water above divers, so everything appears bluish. divers must bring their own light-source to be able to see natural colors.

Sound travels five times faster underwater than it does in the air so scuba divers can't tell where sound is coming from when they're underwater. 

The bends, or decompression sickness, occurs when nitrogen bubbles in the blood lodge in certain parts of the body.