by Natalie Novak
Many people are surprised to discover that a 10-year-old is allowed to scuba dive to a maximum of 40 feet. It's funny how we project our fears onto others. In my experience, children often learn to dive much faster and easier then adults. Children rarely overthink our practice exercises in the pool. They enjoy copying their instructors as they learn and they often have no fear. This means however, that they need careful supervision underwater. But when they are on the boat ride back to shore, it is wonderful to see them so proud after their first dive.
Ten is also the minimum age to become open water certified, and I have certified a few exceptional kids. However, for most 10-year-olds who do not want a lot of homework on vacation, I suggest the "Scuba Diver" course. It is the first half of the full open water course, but when one holds this level of certification, they can dive to a maximum of 40 feet with an instructor OR a dive master. This is perfect for kids age 10 to 14 who should not be diving deeper then 40 feet anyway.
I also love to see how proud a teenager is after they finish the open water course and discover that many colleges in the United States and Canada accept the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Open Water course as college credit.
But diving is not just for the young; it's also for the young at heart. My oldest first-time diver was 72. My oldest refresher course was 78, and last week I was guiding a wonderful woman (who prefers to remain unnamed) who is 75. Just goes to show, you are never too old to learn something new ... and why not learn it underwater!
No matter what age you are, there are some health questions you need to answer before learning to dive. If you have any concerns, check with your doctor at your next check-up and, if you are cleared to go, have your doctor write you a note saying that your doctor finds no reason why you should not be able to dive. It is better to have this note and not need it, then to not have it and spend a few hours in Paradise getting a check-up.
Dive with Natalie & Ivan