Initially, diving was reserved exclusively for best prepared and healthy soldiers and scientists, who had to complete a demangind diving course. With the development of science, equipment and new technologies, diving has become a very popular sport, no longer reserved only for the best and the fittest. Today, almost everyone can dive, including children. When we talk about diving for children, we do not mean first attempts with mask and fins, but the proper scuba diving with full equipment – regulator, air tank, weights and compensator. Yes, all this equipment is almost the same as for adult divers, while the differences lie in the allowed length, content of the course, exercises in a swimming pool, and all the rules that apply for children’s diving.
Security, Playing and Safety
The diving course for children is very much different from the one designed for adults. Children can start with the first dive at the age of eight. All major diving associations have programs for children between the age of eight and twelve, in which children learn the laws and rules of diving through games, entertaining content in books, and cartoons. This training must be a combination of work in class and activities in the water, and instead of the final exam, children show to their parents what they have learned in a swimming pool. The main laws of physics and other important things are learned through games, and what is particularly emphasised throughout the whole teaching process is the importance of safety in diving. Most children enjoy activities in the water, while toys, games and fun tasks quickly help them lose any fear or insecurity. When they, however, do feel insecure, they are encouraged to stay close to their instructor, and later, as their confidence grows, a team of instructors must follow every move they make. For the whole duration of each dive, instructors have to be close enough to each young diver to be able to quickly catch them and take them to the surface if needed.
How Should Children Dive?
Diving for children has its own rules and restrictions, which must be strictly adhered to by all the involved parties, starting from each young diver to the instructor and owner of the diving center.
• Age. Each diving association has its own standards related to child diving, in which it clearly states the age when children can start diving (scuba). It does not really matter whether a child has already reached the depth of two meters only with fins and a mask at the age of six, or if every summer on vacation the child spends more time under water than on the beach. Before children reach the prescribed age, they should not dive with tanks. Period.
• Equipment. All children’s equipment is actually the same as for adults, but smaller. Mouthpiece of the regulator is smaller, hoses are shorter, and tanks range in size from five to seven liters. Children do not yet need diving computers, but all young divers should know all the parts of the equipment, how to assemble a scuba kit, how to take care of the equipment, and what is the purpose of each piece of equipment.
• Instructor. Diving instructors for children can only be the persons who completed a special course for instructors of children’s diving. Working with children requires special methods and exercises that are not included in diving courses for adults.
• Diving with an instructor. Following the completion of the course, children must not dive alone, but always accompanied by a trained instructor. This means that not even the child’s dad, who has been diving for ages, cannot dive alone with his child, but only accompanied by an instructor. In case when a group of young divers takes part in a dive, there should be two or more instructors with them.
• Depth and diving locations. Children are not afraid of depth, they are curious and attracted by many things, so it could easily happen to dive too deep, forget about time, or fail to recognize any other danger (venomous or dangerous animals, boats, etc.). Having completed the first diving course (this is called Scuba Rangers, at SSI), they can only dive by day, up to five meters deep (SSI) and in a protected aquatorium (enclosed bay, pool, or similar).
Basic Course and Special Courses
Children can start with their diving education at an early age. Apart from basic diving courses for them, some of the diving clubs that have more children who dive organize diving at a swimming pool or in the sea every week or month, so children can get more exercise and continue their diving training. The same as adults, they also have their own special courses, where they learn various skills, which will be introduced in more detail later in their diving career: navigation, diving at night (in the pool), equipment care and maintenance, marine biology, underwater photography, diving with a computer, how the compressor works, underwater signalling, rescue activities, taking care of peers during diving, and the like. All exercises are held in a pool and under the supervision of one or more instructors. Young divers can join older divers on diving excursions. Of course, they can not dive with older divers yet, but they can see how to prepare for a dive and how to behave on a diving boat.
More Experience, More Self-Confidence and Safety
It is never too late to start diving. However, besides good equipment and knowledge, experience is of great importance. Divers who began to dive as children, have a lot more dives and, therefore, more experience. Naturally, accidents can happen to anyone, but when diving with children, it should be clearly noted that at the course and later on during diving, the greatest concern is safety and the importance of responsible diving. If children are made aware of the dangers, the possible consequences of mistakes and their behavior under water, the likelihood of acting irresponsibly during a dive is smaller. After several years of diving with an instructor and later at a club with a diving mate, each child will know very well what is obligatory and what is forbidden, and, most importantly, how to react in case of danger or problems under the water surface.
Text i photo: Matej Ogorevc