I got SCUBA certified many years ago while I lived in California by NAUI. Although I love to dive, my husband tried it on our honeymoon in Tahiti and hated it because of his claustrophobia. So, while raising three boys, I haven’t had much chance to dive over the last twenty years.
We have enjoyed snorkeling over the years in Mexico and the Caribbean. I love snorkeling, but something feels much freer about SCUBA diving. When I dive, I feel like I am part of the peace and nature underwater. But I needed to wait until my kids were old and mature enough to involve them in my diving life.
But good news, my kids can now join me under the water!
I did all my initial diving training in California. I have to be honest; I vastly prefer diving in warm locales where I can dive only with a bathing suit and dive gear. Although the weather in California is warm, the water can be pretty cold, so I took my certification dives with full wetsuits on, including a hood.
We planned our first trip to Hawaii and knew we wanted the boys’ first dive in this beautiful place. But we didn’t want to spend our whole time diving or with the boys in class.
But we especially didn’t want the boys to do their certification dives in the even more cold water of Rhode Island. I wanted their first dives to be fantastic, so they would love this sport as much as I do.
I researched and found out that you can do your classroom and pool dives at a local SCUBA shop and take your certification dives (called referral dives when they are separate from where you get schooled) somewhere else.
So we found a local PADI dive shop and signed up for classes, ensuring that they would help us find a shop to dive with in Maui.
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Steps to getting Open-Water Dive Certified
Your first step is spending about 20 hours learning all about SCUBA diving in a classroom. It is an adventure sport, so there is the possibility of getting injured if you aren’t well-trained. This was also another reason I didn’t want my kids to learn quickly on vacation. While they were getting their certification, I was doing a refresher course alongside them as it had been a while since I had dived. Another bonus was the quality family time together.
We did our local certification with Giant Strides in Warwick, Rhode Island.
Soon into your diving education, you start taking dives in a swimming pool, and this is a part you can do at home. We had four dives at a local pool, so we all felt very comfortable with SCUBA equipment before heading to Hawaii.
Open Water Dives
The Hawaii dive shop, Maui Dreams, first tested the boys to ensure they had the book knowledge to dive.
The last step is to get into some natural water! For your certification dives, you have an instructor with you the whole time. It is like a guided dive in the water. Our instructor was testing our skills but also using an underwater writing tablet to teach us about corals and fish we found underwater.
The boys first headed out for a shore dive while I snorkeled with my youngest son nearby.
The next day we headed out on a boat and were able to dive to Molokini Crater, a crescent-shaped volcanic crater off Maui’s coast. We also did another dive on the way home.
The whole experience was nothing but positive for the three of us. My boys are itching to get back into the water, and I see a life-long love of diving in their future.
How Do I Know if My Teen is Ready to Learn to SCUBA Dive?
A child can get PADI certified as early as age 10, but I can tell you that all of my kids weren’t ready to dive at that age. Diving takes an understanding of complicated tables and concepts. They have to be good swimmers. But emotionally, they also have to stay focused, serious, and aware of their surroundings underwater. Not only that, but diving uses a buddy system. That means if something happens underwater, they need to be physically and emotionally able to help someone.
My boys got certified when they were 14 and 16-years-old and were ready to do it then. My older son wanted to dive before this, but I felt 16 was the right age for him in which to undertake this responsibility. My current 14-year-old has yet to choose to dive but enjoys snorkeling.
How Much Planning Will This Take?
I would recommend trying to plan at least six months in advance. Our home training took about three months, and we waited a month or so for a new class to open.
Are you a SCUBA diver? What was your certification experience like? What is your favorite spot to dive?