Class – Day 3 into the Pool
Flush with the victory of having passed our exams the Tara, Chris, and I were excited at the prospect of getting into the pool. Our instructor didn’t waist time. We were handed our equipment and after trying it on we were ready to go. As the pool was several miles away, we loaded our gear our cars and caravanned it to the pool.
After unloading the equipment the instructor indicated that the first thing we had to do was pass an endurance swimming and treading water test. We could either swim 5 times around the pool without our mask, snorkel and fins or swim 10 times around the pool with our mask, snorkel and fins. We were further admonished that if we used our masks, snorkel and fins we could not raise our heads out of the water and either way we could not stop or touch the bottom or sides of the pool.
My children and I agreed that we would swim 5 times around the pool without using our masks, snorkels and fins. Into the water we went and started swimming. I had told my children that they should take it easy and not exert a lot of energy, “just take it nice and slow” I told them. It wasn’t long before my children lapped me more than once. By the time I was on my 3rd lap, Tara and Chris were sitting on the pool entry steps urging me on. With much relief I rounded the last corner and complete the swimming portion of the endurance test.
We had to tread water for 10 minutes. Tara and Chris lapped me in the swimming part, but I showed them a thing or two with the treading water test. They were moving a lot while treading water. I noticed they were getting tired. I showed them how to use their arms in long sweeping motions and proper breath control to reduce the amount of energy needed to tread water. Once Tara and Chris settled down we made it through the treading test.
TIP: Take your time when doing the treading water and endurance swimming test. If possible practice treading water prior to beginning your open water training.
While the rest of the class was doing the swimming endurance test, the instructor reviewed with us how to insert the tanks into the BC (buoyancy control device) and attach the regulator to the tank. My children didn’t have any problems putting the equipment together. In fact they looked like they had been doing it for years. We each took a couple of breaths from our tanks and were eager to get back into the water.
Finally the time came for us to get back into the water. All our equipment was at the pool’s edge. We made our way to our equipment and were instructed to put on the BC and our mask. After reviewing the hand signals we knelt on the bottom and we were scuba diving, ok… we were in the shallow end of the pool and we were not wearing fins, but we were under water.
Into the Deep End We Went
We were in a semi circle at the bottom of the deep end of the pool. The instructor would point to us when it was our turn to perform a skills test. One by one we went through the skills tests. I know I was more nervous than my children. I could feel the adrenalin and my heart pound as my turn came to do a skills test. At the same time it was such a wonderful experience to watch my children perform their skills tests as well or even better than the adults in the class. It was at this point that I realized that my children were going to do just fine. I knew they would do well all along, but seeing them do so well confirmed it.
I think the toughest skill we had to master was taking off and putting back on our BC. I had a little trouble with this skill. My children on the other hand didn’t have any trouble removing and putting the BC back on. I had trouble getting the BC on at the beginning of the class and now I had to do it underwater. When my turn came I was, to say the least, nervous. I got it off OK, but had a hard time getting it back on. My children later told me they didn’t think I was going to get it back on. With a great sense of relief I managed to get the BC back on. When the instructor flashed me the OK signal I swam back to my spot in the semi circle. Once I settled in to my spot in the semi circle both my children and I signaled each other that we were OK. That was the beginning of many such OK signals between us.
I looked at my air pressure gage and saw that I was down to 500 pounds per square inch. I signaled to the instructor my air pressure and she gave me the signal to surface. The dive master surfaced with me and double checked my air pressure. She told me to inflate my buoyancy control device, use my snorkel and watch the group complete the last skills test. This wouldn’t be the last time I blow my air way before my children.
We loaded the tanks up and took them back to the dive shop. We took the rest of our equipment home with us. After rinsing off all the equipment the children and I sat down to recount how we did on our first day of diving. To my surprise my children indicated that they had trouble with some of the skills. In particular both of my children mentioned the hardest skill to do was the neutral buoyancy skill. It didn’t seem to me like they were having any trouble with any of the underwater skills. We all got a good laugh as they described how I looked to them as I tried and tried to get my BC back on.
TIP: Make sure you talk to your children about the skills test. As with the written test your children may not want to disappoint you by saying they were or are uncomfortable with a particular skill.
Class – Day 4 back into the Pool
The instructor told us that we had a few skills left to do and she thought that we would have some time left to just play for a while. After reviewing with us what we had left to do, the instructor had us put on our gear. Then one by one we stepped off the edge of the deep end of the pool and back into the water we went. I watched as my children stepped into the water. Once again they looked as if they had been diving for years.
This day was spent doing some buddy skills. We had to assist our buddy in swimming underwater from one end of the pool to the other end. We also did some out of air skills. I enjoyed the buddy skills more than I did the other skills. My children continued to perform the skills with ease.
The toughest skill of the day was the emergency controlled accent. We had to continuously breathe out while ascending. Because the pool was only 10 feet deep, we had to do our accent vertically from one end of the pool to almost the other end. To make sure we did breathe out continuously during the accent, the instructor held her hand on our mouth piece.
Even including the “difficult” skills tests my children continued to perform as if they were adults. It became obvious to me that while they were children, they could in fact do the necessary skills and any fears I had were ultimately baseless. The lesson here to learn is that recreational diving is well within the bounds of children. As adults we can not let our preconceived ideas on any limitations we feel our children might have stand in the way of a rewarding family experience in learning how to dive.
To Buy or To Rent Equipment
This portion is for families where the parents or guardians are not already certified divers. As I see it there are two primary issues, money and safety. While I watched my children doing their skills, it occurred to me that the equipment they were wearing was more than just “equipment”; it was equipment that might save their life. One of the issues that arise when you rent equipment is whether the buoyancy control device will fit properly. Another one is that you are relying on the dive shop to make sure they maintain their equipment. I think that no dive shop operator would knowingly rent defective equipment, so I don’t think proper maintenance is a serious issue. However having properly fitting equipment is a serious issue. You don’t want your children to be constantly tugging at their BC or having to keep adjusting it. Renting your equipment is fine. Just make sure that you take the time to properly adjust the BC.
My advice is to complete your open water training and then if money permits, purchase BC’s for your children. Once you get an idea on how much diving you will be doing, you can then begin purchasing the rest of your equipment or just keep renting regulators and tanks.
At the end of our pool dives I went ahead and purchased BC’s for my self and my children. I made sure that they fit properly and could be adjusted as they grow. It was comforting to know that I didn’t have to worry whether the buoyancy control devices would fit properly.
In part three Tara, Chris and I leave the dock diving students and come back certified scuba divers.