View Full Version : Too young to dive?

01-02-2007, 05:29 AM
I got certified at 13 and have never looked back since. I have seen adult dive training students who had no business diving.

Do any agencies set a minimum age for training?

01-02-2007, 01:05 PM
I believe PADI sets a minimum age of 10 for training for a Junior Certification. IIRC, after certification, the 10-year-old has to dive under the direct supervision of a parent or DM/Instructor. My 5-year-old, who is a good swimmer and a decent snorkeler, is already interested in scuba ...

01-03-2007, 02:15 AM
10-12 is the industry average. Personally I look at not only the age but the ability to manage the scuba unit.

01-03-2007, 02:24 AM
I got certified at 13 and have never looked back since. I have seen adult dive training students who had no business diving.

Do any agencies set a minimum age for training?
I started at 14 with PADI.I can remember it being sooo exciting and it made all the other kids jealous! My daughter just got in the water 3 months ago and loves it. Shes 13

01-04-2007, 12:00 AM
10-12 is the industry average. Personally I look at not only the age but the ability to manage the scuba unit.My kids used 20 cu ft tanks when they were just ankle biter size; Dacor had a small mouthpiece if I recall but it didn't take them too long 'till they were jamming a Cyklon in their mouths.
Most of the time they hand carried the tank by its valve (old J valves were good hand holders) or tucked it under their arm.

01-04-2007, 09:33 PM
Do any agencies set a minimum age for training?

I believe they all do. A few have a minimum age of 10, but I believe most have a minimum age of 12.

01-11-2007, 08:10 AM
To an extent age doesn't matter it's how comfortable you're in the water. WAY too many people get certified whom have no business being in the water. Learn how to swim first!

01-11-2007, 10:57 AM
Age is very important. People mature as they age. One might be more mature at 15 than another at 20, but that same person is more mature at 20 than at 15. No one is mature enough to dive before 12. Damned few are mature enough to dive before 16.

01-22-2007, 08:32 AM
I agree with Walter, but I must also add that I find kids today more mature than what I was at their age. But I think in the end it comes down to the person being able to distinguish between what to do and what not too, being responsible and having your boundaries of limits set. Something a 16 year old will definately be more 'mature' in than a 12 year old.

02-27-2007, 12:18 AM
10 year old for PADI.. Once they turn 15, they may trade their Jr Cert for a
an Open Water.
In addition to the age limits are, as mentioned by some members, restrictions
that they must dive with an adult, parent, DM/Instructor. One reason for
the age/depth is there are unknowns on the cause/effect of gasses under
pressure on those little bodies. Being prudently safe. Beside, most of the colorful
stuff is in the shallower depths anyway. I do agree that starting early,
training, practice and keeping them excited is a great way to start.

02-27-2007, 12:21 AM
I let my then, 11 yr old daughter get certified. She was after it from the time she was 7. I had, under the supervision of an instructor/ Shop owner in a SASY unit from the time she was 5. I took her to several Scuba experiances to wear the gear and try it in the shallow end of the pool.

I do not regret getting her certified but, I will admit she needed to have a bit more muscle. Her instructor was also a friend of mine and an awsome instructor. The Instructor, regardless of agency is the most important piece of the puzzle for students.

What do yopu do when you come across a diver who "has no business in the water" ?

Do you offer a friendly hand because at some point, in some way, we have all been there?


Do you walk away in disgust at the lack of compentence and/or training in our sport? (After all to gain a Basic Open Water Certificate you only have to meet a minimum requirement)

As far as swimming is concerned, I know SSI has a swimming requirment as part of their basic open water certification.

02-27-2007, 05:26 AM
If someone has no business being in the water I will NOT help them at all getting in. If they are in trouble in the water it is my job to rescue them, because all ocean lifeguards know you're always on duty. I personally feel that far too many people are certified that have no business being certified, not just basic cert. it goes all the way up to instructors. All you have to do is take classes, you don't have to have any ocean knowledge which if diving from shore in the ocean is critical.

02-27-2007, 05:28 AM
Daddy-O, what a great Dad you must be!

02-28-2007, 01:06 AM
Daddy-O, what a great Dad you must be!

Thanks, I am. :)

If someone has no business being in the water I will NOT help them at all getting in. If they are in trouble in the water it is my job to rescue them, because all ocean lifeguards know you're always on duty. I personally feel that far too many people are certified that have no business being certified, not just basic cert. it goes all the way up to instructors. All you have to do is take classes, you don't have to have any ocean knowledge which if diving from shore in the ocean is critical.

Then your real gripe is with the training angency pumping out student for the sake of cash over safety. I have no beef if you decide not to help, but no action does nothing to help them from becoming a statistic we don't need. The certifing agency let them down. as a collective group and to keep our sport safe isn't it also our duty to help them. A good Buddy doesn't begin below the surface and end after getting out of the water.

As far as ocean knowledge is concerned how would you propose teaching ocean knowledge?

I could fall into your catagory, because of the nearlly 200 logged dives, and approximately 20 or so non-logged dives (short dives in and around stuff that I decided not to record) it was not until recently that I got to do 5 dives in the ocean.

See where I live fresh water is the norm, would you keep me out your ocean and stay out of my fresh water? (because you would lack the knowledge to deal with fresh water conditions in much the same as I would lack knowledge about salt water)- just a thought

02-28-2007, 06:05 AM
Well I been in the ocean all my life, so that's how I learned, and only expierence can teach you. Yes I can't stand the turn over to make money, instead of actually teaching. There was one guy in my class that I was amazed passed, they told him to dive with a dive master but still gave him his c-card. Also I didn't say I wouldn't help. I won't help someone getting in because if you can't get in on your own, you shouldn't be in the water. I will help if they are in trouble in the water, and two weeks ago I rescued a drunk kayaker floating sideways on his capsized kayak. It ended up being a big deal, firefighters rappeling down a cliff and two lifeguard boats, all the while I was off duty enjoying myself diving. Also it was on my way back after a 1/2 mile swim to a sunken barge. To your last comment, yes I wouldn't dive in fresh water without studying or getting tips from experts. Also I wouldn't go, unless I was going with someone that has been in a simular location. I need to have the knowledge of someone I trust has the knowledge/experience before I dive in a new place. Maybe I'm just too safe, but I don't think so. But I wouldn't keep you out of the ocean, and I'd expect the same.

02-28-2007, 08:41 PM
Okay at the risk of being argumentitive...

I have no experiance in the ocean, therefore I do not belong? Are you saying that there needs to be more certs? one for fresh water and one for salt?
How do YOU determine who is fit to deal with the water?
There are hundreds if not thousands of handicap divers that may require help getting into the water, are they exempt?

See it is a nasty slippery slope... Some if not all of us were ignorant of what thet water hold for us before getting certified. I for one was not prepared to fight the urge to surface radiply the 1st year I was diving. Towards the end of nearly every dive I wanted the surface NOW!
If only those knowledgable of the water were allowed to dive, there wouldn't be so many of us.

Any ways we hijacked this long enough.

02-28-2007, 10:09 PM
Yes it's a very slippery slope. Here is an example that I saw while exiting a recent dive. There was this guy carying two bcd/tank units in the water. One he had on the other he was carrying. This location was a very easy sand entry. Next I see his buddy, I guess, hack away attempting to swim out to him. I would never put my self in that situation. I watch them and his buddy made it out, but if I saw that at work it would be an instant rescue. My buddy was even amazed, and shocked. I fully agree that handicap divers may need help, and if I was comfortable with their ability in the water I wouldn't hesistate to help, there is a difference. Maybe more certs would help but I'm only OW and I feel fine with my abilities. I dive with buddies at work who have gone through ever class and they are on the dive team, and I feel just as confident as them. I can't speak for fresh water but people don't respect the ocean and water in general. They don't realize the power it has, which I do. I've been out surfing in 12ft+ waves with no problem but I realize that with one slip up and I could be in a world of hurt. If you don't have any expierence, like I don't in fresh water, get some advice and dive with someone that knows the location. To tell if someone is fit in the water, it's very easy to tell. Watch them, and see what they do. Please don't hesistate to respond, you're not being argumentitive.

03-01-2007, 01:37 AM
Your job may give you some insight to humans around water.

We do all sorts of diving from shore to boat diving and lots of limited vis. We get large swells of three to four feet on some of the smaller lakes to 10-12' on the larger ones. As far as I am concerned water is water. The ocean dives I did, did nothing to convince me otherwise (granted we were diving from a boat on reefs. But other than the color(fish and coral), slightly better vis (time of the year) and salt, I may have just as well have been in any of the lakes I dive in now.

Every agency states that you must be comfortable in the water to complete thier course. As I have no insight to people around water, it is easy for me to agree to help them in or out of the water. with that said there are some divers I simply will not dive with one on one anymore. Some of them are Tech divers who believe that buddy diving is dangerous and every dive should be considered a solo dive, Some are too new and are coming around and will be good a dive buddy in the future (because we help them), 5% are divers with more dives than you can shake a stick at and are just plain arogant about it. They simply seen everything done it all and you can't tell them anything.

Just out of curiosity how many dives do you have to be so comfortable?

How would you "train" some one for an ocean dive?
(The only experiance you can give them is to put them in it.)

And let me turn this around a little, what questions would ask about fresh water diving?

03-01-2007, 03:42 AM
I agree that salt or fresh, water is water. I haven't been around lakes much but I do know the power of the ocean. I didn't realize that lakes got that large of swells. So maybe the only difference is that you can drink one and not the other. I know to me that it's really wierd that the water wasn't salty when I went white water rafting this summer in Canada. I really don't have all that many dives logged, not nearly as many as you. I've only been diving for a little over a year and have sixty dives logged. I guess I feel so comfortable because all the dives except cert dives were from shore, and most of them were with my same buddy. I think that I'm especially comfortable because I've grown up in the water, only two blocks away and I'm an ocean lifeguard and my dad's been one for thrity years. Also I swam and played water polo throughout high school, and I'm currently swimming for the college I go to. I can't give you the answer on how to train someone, bescides children about the ocean. I learned from my dad, junior guards, and expierence. I guess the best way would be to just watch the water, fellow dives, and ask the locals. I guess the only question I have is what considerations, or changes do you have to do to dive in the altitude? I know you can reprogram a dive computer for the altitude, but I don't like to rely on an electronic device reason being that my computer decided to give me little waring about the battery life, and stopped working in the middle of my dive. Luckily I knew my tables, had a watch, and knew how deep I was and how deep the location was. I also had my buddy with a working computer. Again feel free to ask more questions so we can both learn from one another.

03-01-2007, 04:35 PM
hbh20guard, were you originally saying that you wouldn't look at some one who obviously is at a dive site that is beyond their abilities, and then help that person get into the water? I can agree with that. Why help them hurt themselves? The only way newer divers are going to get better is by more experience, and more experienced divers can help them by taking them to dive sites that ARE within their abilities and buddying up on dives with them.

03-01-2007, 05:10 PM
Truth be known I rely heavily on my computer.

Altitude diving is another aspect all together and much has been writen and is easy to find on the net and at your local dive shop.
One of the trick, as I understand, is knowing at what altitude you will be spending time after the diving is done for the day.

Experiance is the best teacher, having some one willing to take you to a new spot is always good. Being able to say "Look this may be beyond your skill level, do you still want to go?" is a good way to let them back out gracefully.

03-01-2007, 09:30 PM
that's exactly what I would do, ask a local for advice and dive with someone that know what they are doing.

Seasnake that's exactly what I was trying to say. I don't want to be responsible for someone getting hurt or even dieing becasue they should be there. If they managed to get themselves in trouble I would do my best to help get them out, but I wouldn't put them in that situation. So that's why I won't physically help someone in the water, unless they are disabled, or something along those lines.

03-03-2007, 06:56 PM
I am not a doctor but, as I an instructor, here are my thoughts on the subject of kids diving:

The following copy of my Sep '01 Undercurrent http://www.undercurrent.org/ piece "The Minds and Bodies of Children -- are they really suited to scuba?," may address some points of interest to you:

"Make no mistake. More children at increasingly younger ages are going scuba diving. Many diving parents want their children to experience the colors, creatures, calm and curiosity of the underwa t e r world. And, the dive industry wants to expand the market. By marketing diving to families and certifying children, the entire industry — the training agencies, the manufacturers, dive stores, and dive travel — benefits economically.

With an eye toward promoting the sport, in 1999 the Recreational Scuba Tr a i n i n g Council, a standard- setting body whose membership is composed of training agencies, eliminated its recommended age of 15 for junior certification. No longer fettered by minimum age limits, several major training agencies lowered the age for extended dive experiences and conditional certifications. For example, today PA D I ’s “Seal Team” and SSI’s “Scuba Rangers” offer scuba experiences to children as young as age 8, and junior open water certification at age 10.

Despite the undeniable appeal of introducing youngsters to the underwater world and making scuba a family activity, several psychological and physiological reasons demand consideration in opening scuba to 8-year-olds.

To understand the psychological and physiological concerns requires recognizing the age varation at which children make the cognitive, behavioral and physical transition from one developmental stage to the next. In fact, this well-known variability itself forms a basis for questioning the policy of lowering ages.

Cognitive Issues:

Among cognitive concerns is the child’s ability to acquire and manipulate information. According to Jean Piaget’s widely influential system, three developmental periods are germane to child scuba divers.

The first, the Pre-Operational stage, begins about age 2 and extends to about age 7. In the later years, a child has an intuitive though rudimentary grasp of some logical concepts. A child’s perceptions still dominate his judgment. He will tend to focus attention on one aspect of an object while ignoring others. He is unable to understand the principles underlying proper behavior, relying on the do’s and don’t s imposed by authority. While it is uncommon, some children 8 and older are delayed in the Pre-Operational stage and the dive agencies have no explicit criteria for screening them out. But, a late-developing child could forget to continue to exhale while making an emergency ascent or may not place anothers’ safety on par with his own. It is up to the instructor (who could himself be a teenager of 18) to recognize cognitive immaturity and refuse to teach the child.

During the next, or Concrete Operational stage (covering approximately age 7-11 years), logical thought develops. But it remains dependent upon concrete referents. While the child is developing the ability to appreciate concepts such as length, mass and volume, and to arrange objects in a logical sequence, it
remains linked to objects present — not objects in the abstract. One can assume that the child at age 11 is much more capable than the child at age 8 in this stage.

The new policy for PADI, SSI and others clearly allows children in the Concrete Operational stage (7-11 years) to enroll in scuba programs. The potential risks are not inconsequential. For example, a child in this period may be able to understand basic scuba theories such as Boyle’s law and solve a few problems. However, he will be unable to hypothesize from such principles and extend them to a wider application — such as appreciating that an empty tank may allow for a few more breaths as one ascends. More worrisome, when faced with a scuba emergency, such as a BC inflator mechanism stuck in the open position, they will unlikely be able to generate multiple solutions to the situation. And, they would unlikely be able to select the best alternative: attempting to vent the BC continuously rather than disconnecting the inflator hose.

In the final stage of Formal Operations (covering approximately age 11-15 years), thought gradually becomes less tied to concrete reality and becomes more abstract. The ability to generate abstract propositions and multiple hypotheses and assess their possible outcomes becomes evident. This development allows individuals to think about what might be, rather than just what is. The levels of cognitive ability evident when a child completes this stage are those most appropriate to safe scuba.

Behavioral Issues:

Children are notorious for being exuberant, impulsive and feeling invincible. These are normal childhood traits that typically aren’t mastered until the mid to late teens, or even later. This has obvious implications for the appreciation and avoidance of risk — and the ability to act as a responsible dive buddy.

Physical Issues:

Patent foramen ovale (PFO): During fetal development, blood flows through a small opening between the right and left upper chambers of the heart. The lungs are inoperative and the mother oxygenates blood. At birth, however, this opening is supposed to close, shunting blood to the now-functioning lungs. While this “hole in the heart” usually seals by the third month of life, it does not always. Estimates of incomplete closures in older children and younger teens run higher than 50 percent in certain groups. Whatever the exact figures, the research suggests an increased incidence of PFO as age decreases below 20.

Without complete closure, blood can flow from the right to the left side of the heart without passing through the lungs. Increases in right chamber pressure that occur with common equalization techniques like the Valsalva maneuver — squeezing your nose, closing your mouth, and blowing — can move blood through the hole and bypass the lungs. When this happens, nitrogen bubbles that can form in the bloodstream may pass directly into the arteries and not be filtered by the lungs. This of course can
lead to an embolism or DCS.

Possible retardation of bone growth: Long bones, like the humerus and femur, mature from growth plates, the active ends of bones where increases in length occur. The last of the growth plates generally do not cease activity until the late teens or early twenties. As these growth plates depend upon nearby blood vessels for oxygen and nutrition, physicians have long been concerned that nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream may result in damage to these critical tissues. In addition, the development of bone and connective tissue involves molecular oxygen, raising the possible adverse effects of the elevation of oxygen partial pressures occurring during diving.

****************CONTINUED ON NEXT POST********************

03-03-2007, 06:58 PM
**************CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST****************

Heat regulation: Due to a relatively large skin mass to body mass ratio, children do not regulate body heat as well as adults. Until the mid-teens or so, youth are far more vulnerable to hypothermia. And, alarmingly, a child may be hypothermic yet have no complaints, and still feel warm to the touch.

Eustachian tube development: In younger children, the Eustachian tube is narrower and more horizontal than later in development. While this is unlikely to be problematic in children over age 12, it has implications for equalizing, including potentially damaging reverse squeeze, for children closer to age 8.

Furthermore, young divers with immature Eustachian tubes may be subject to more frequent middle ear infections. Since a diver must be able to clear his ears safely and comfortably, a person with a middle ear infection should not dive. So, a child must recognize it, tell someone, and not dive.

The Response of the
Dive Training Community

The positions of several agencies are based on conclusions expressed by John Kinsella, Director, Training and Quality Management of PADI America, in his article entitled “Kids and Diving” (The PADI Undersea Journal — First Quarter, 2001).

After reviewing the evidence for potential medical concerns expressed by DAN, he concluded: “There is insufficient information available to make any evidence-based medical judgment for or against children in scuba diving.”

SSI allows children as young as age 8 to have a shallow water scuba experience in their “Scuba Rangers” program. Children 10 to 12 may receive a junior open water certification with certain limitations. Once they turn 12, they may upgrade to a regular open water diver. Those 12 and older are eligible to become a Nitrox specialty diver.

When we asked Dennis M. Pulley, SSI Director of Training , about their program, he told us that “SSI is aware of medical and psychological concerns in divers as young as 12.” However, he cited the RSTC position that medical experts are unable to provide any documentation or proof why an individual must be at least 12 years of age to begin scuba training.

Pulley also remarked that, “Psychologically, one could argue that many young males between the ages of16 and 30 could have the same attitude of being invincible.”

It is true that many theoretical medical and behavioral concerns have not been subjected to controlled studies on humans. And may never. The ethical issues are obvious. For those issues that may be studied, it will be a long and painstaking process, as evidenced by how difficult gathering useful data on DCS has been.

It seems, then, to drop the training age with no longitudinal, hard data about the effect on children is questionable at best.

Historically, the response of training agencies to incomplete knowledge has been to err on the side of safety.

Think about how the agencies have treated dive tables for all gases, how they fought against Nitrox because it was unsafe and unstudied, how conservative they have been on dive-to-fly estimations, depth limits, and clearance to dive for medical disorders that may pose a risk to scuba divers. Yet the leadership in this conservative industry has taken a “relaxed” attitude regarding the diving safety of children.

However, while there may be no formal studies of the effect of diving on children, PADI and European-based CMAS have long offered swimming pool scuba to children as young as age 4, and restricted open water certification for those to age 8. To date, the results cause no alarm. Even allowing for the extent to which good PR may influence disclosure of adverse events, if children were sustaining harm in significant numbers, liability issues would presumably force this information into the open.

To their credit, PADI and SSI have taken sensible steps to address medical and developmental concerns.

For example, the Seal Team, Bubblemaker and Scuba Rangers programs are restricted to a pool or pool-like environment. Both agencies require that certified divers ages 10-11 be accompanied by a certified parent, legal guardian, or professional dive leader, and limit maximum depth to 40 feet. We should note, however, that while these depth limits do control the partial pressures of nitrogen and oxygen, an embolism can occur in as little as four feet of water.

PADI has taken special educational efforts to alert instructors to the safety issues. And while current instructors haven’t been trained to certify children but still can, future instructors will find extensive material incorporated into upcoming revised Instructor Development Courses.

Nonetheless, not all agencies have been willing to embrace scuba experiences for kids.

Neither NAUI nor the YMCA — both nonprofit organizations in contrast with PADI and SSI — offer scuba programs for children less than 12 years of age.

Frank Toal, of the NAUI training office, told Undercurrent that the agency found the medical and developmental concerns sufficiently compelling to preclude consideration of scuba for those less than age 12. Additionally, NAUI’s junior scuba certification, for ages 12-14, imposes a 60-foot maximum depth limit and requires supervision by a certified diver age 18 or older.

Such reservations are not limited to these two training agencies and several experts have been outspoken in their opposition, most notably Larry “Harris” Taylor, Ph.D., a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. His throughts on the topic can be found at www.mindspring.com/~ divegeek.

World-recognized dive medicine expert Dr. Ernest Campbell has expressed misgivings about allowing his children to be certified at a young age, and said that he probably would have waited until their midteens if he had it to do again.

So, what’s a parent to do?

Admittedly the issues are complex. Yet it is clear, children face greater risks than adults. Parents or guardians must be thorough and responsible when considering whether to enroll in a PADI or SSI program. Any child being considered for a compressed air at depth experience or scuba certification should receive a pediatric examination with the expressed purpose of clearance for diving. The child’s psychological maturity for diving should be evaluated through open and honest discussions between the child, parent
or guardian, and a knowledgeable instructor.

If any party has substantial reservations, wait until these resolve. Under no circumstances should an unwilling child be coerced into scuba. If all signs are go, make sure the youngster has gear he or she can manage, wears adequate thermal protection, and is enrolled in a class of similar aged children.

Finally, for those children receiving certifications with restrictions, ensure that all conditions are scrupulously observed. Attend the classes with your child and if you have any doubts about the child, the instructor, or the class, work them out or consider other classes later.
—Doc Vikingo"


03-03-2007, 07:07 PM
Here is another informative article, long but intresting.
As the posts do not accept more than 10k characters at a time , I will have to divide this article into 4 posts. Apologies!


Maida Taylor, MD

Just as the rate of development, growth and maturity varies greatly, the age at which a young person, male or female, takes up sport diving is not uniform. One must weigh and balance a complex set of psychological, intellectual and physical factors to determine when to start training for this wonderful, but sometimes risky endeavor. Hopefully, this discussion will help define the physical and mental maturity required for youngsters to begin SCUBA diving. These guidelines apply to boys as well as girls. The physical limitation discussed herein pose a larger obstacle for girls, because of their generally lower weight, smaller body mass and shorter stature than boys of the same age.
Preparation for the sport requires the physical strength and skill to maneuver on and under the water, and the "smarts" to comprehend the danger of diving on compressed air. Before trying SCUBA, youngsters can learn a comprehensive set of skills that minimize risks. To dive safely, a person should possess good judgment, must act responsibly, and be attentive at all times. Diving safely requires attention to detail and respect for rules, traits that may be slow to develop in some teens.

Intellectual, Mental And Emotional Readiness To Dive
Drowning and compressed gas accidents including air embolism and decompression sickness constitute the core of dangerous and lethal events in diving. Before taking up diving, an individual must have the ability to understand the hazards of the marine environment, and the dynamics and physics of compressed gases. Introduction to the ecology of the underwater world also helps the novice diver to move carefully in this fragile world. If a child does not have the maturity or intellectual tools to master these ideas, delay diving instruction.
Discussion of the laws of compressed gas, and explanation the kind of physical damage done by gas embolism or decompression sickness may provoke a great deal of anxiety in some youngsters. Even adult diving students report feelings of fear and trepidation after hearing about diving accident injuries. One has to impart this kind of information to the student diver, despite the fear that may be evoked. Tables, gauges, meters and profile all have no meaning if you do not understand their utility. The entire science of diving has evolved to assure safety and to avoid injury. The young diver must have the maturity and judgment to be able to see safety instruction as a caution, rather than as a threat. The immature youth may become so fixated on the dangers of diving that anticipation of the underwater experience becomes a nightmare. Educational introduction to the open ocean should strive to balance positive images against the negative aspects and dangers. Early teens may not be able perceive the pros and cons in proportion. Rather than provoke undue fears in a timid, immature child, diving instruction perhaps should be delayed until greater maturity is evident.
The academic level of intellect necessary to understand gas dynamics probably develops at around the age that chemistry and physics instruction begins in high school. Most students can comprehend the physical science aspects of diving by the age of 16 or 17. A gifted and mature teen may possess these abilities sooner; but as a rule, age 16 is a good time to start instruction in most cases.
One of the most important issues in considering mental readiness to begin SCUBA diving is motivation. When teaching adult diving classes, we often see a wife who takes up diving to please her husband, even though she is afraid of the water. Many young women think that diving will be a great place to meet men. Situations like these represent disasters in the making. A pushy parent who drags a teenage child to the beach for an open water dive is committing a form of child abuse. Jefferson Davis, in his lectures on diving safety, always warned diving doctors and instructors to be on the lookout the "dragooned" diver; the person pushed, prodded or coerced into taking up the sport. Problem parents exist who force their children to participate in sports not for the child's benefit, but for the parents vicarious satisfaction. The stereotypic example is that of a man dragging his son into something the boy is not ready for or not interested in. More and more, educators and teachers demand that girls to have equal opportunity in the class room and on the sporting field. Parents are trying harder to treat girls equitably and are trying to avoid "sexist" limitations their activities, opportunities and achievements. A girl-child now is as likely as a boy to be "dragooned" into diving. A young woman may be told that she must take up diving in the interest of family togetherness, even if she is not interested in the sport. The person responsible for assessing readiness to dive must measure the sincerity of the level of interest of the novice diver. Instructors need to determine where the motivation resides: from within or from outside. Unless the interest in diving comes from a strong personal interest, scuba training is completely inappropriate activity for a young person. (see diving instructors, buddies and parents section below )

Physical Maturity and Size for Diving
Diving equipment is bulky, heavy and complicated. In order to use equipment safely and to be comfortable, diving requires a minimum skeletal and body mass. Most dive rental shops stock a mid to upper range of sizes of suits and vests, not well tailored to a smaller body size. For comfort as well as safety, experts feel that a diver should weigh at least 45 kg. (108 lb.) and measure at least 150 cm. (60 inches or 5 feet) in height. Custom gear has become available for smaller divers for many years, and can be adapted to teens and children. Custom gear is, however, expensive, and most families are reluctant to spend money on special equipment before determining if a novice diver really takes to the sport.
When comparing the size, shape and physiology of pre-adolescent girls to those of adult women, distinct differences emerge. Though few good studies exist, girls seem to incur a higher oxygen expenditure when walking or running than women do. This means that girls generate more metabolic heat and burn more energy than adult women during weight bearing exercise. Girls typically have a larger surface area to body mass ratio, thereby presenting a larger surface area to the environment for heat exchange. Thus, girls get colder more quickly than women do under similar environmental conditions. These characteristics, in combination with higher rates of peripheral blood flow in children, put pre-adolescent and early adolescent females at an increase risk of cold stress. In open water swims in water 20.3 degrees C, girls age 8 evidenced a 2.5-3 degree decline in core temperature, while girls age 16 to 19 showed little thermal stress. A poorly fitting wet suit is a great hazard. The adults on the dive will assume that the suit is protecting the new initiate. Since children get cold faster and lose heat more rapidly to the environment, the adults in the dive party may not understand or even vaguely perceive the youngster being at risk. A bad wet suit is almost worse than no wet suit for the young diver. Children need greater thermal protection than adults do. As most divers know, being cold ruins many otherwise delightful dives. Diving becomes a chore and a punishment rather than a pleasure. Early negative experiences for a young diver may dampen any future enthusiasm and enjoyment diving in the inexperienced and fledgling diver. The family diving adventures everyone has planned and anticipated will be over before they start. Poor fit gear also predisposes to accidents. It may be better to put off the diving experience for a young person, rather than provide a bad experience if no suitable equipment is available.
In terms of adolescent physical growth and development, girls reach 95% of their height by the time of their first menstrual cycle, usually at age 12 1/2 to 13. The phase of most rapid change in height occurs approximately 6 months before the start of menstrual periods. Girls then undergo a phase of rapid weight gain, and most attain adult size and body mass by age 14-15. When looking at factors that affect athletic performance, strength and aerobic capacity all increase during adolescent growth and development. According to studies of trained teenage athletes, these performance parameters level off and then plateau between age 13 and 15, and little gain occurs in physical performance later in adolescence. In other words, if a girl has reached puberty and has had periods for 6-12 months, she has completed most of her physical growth. Since most girls age 14-15 have essentially reach full physical size, strength and athletic potential, they possess the physical maturity to start diving. Girls who mature early will have more muscle mass and larger bone mass than girls who mature later, and may take up diving sooner, if they possess the mental and intellectual facility to do so. Remember, however, that girls have only 2/3 of the total body mass and muscle mass that boys have at the same age, and need to have training tailored specifically for them, taking into account their size, strength and body mass limitation.

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03-03-2007, 07:11 PM
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Special Equipment Problems for Children and Teen
Most diving accidents occur due to human error. Diving equipment occasionally causes or contributes to accidents risk. The equipment used in diving to avoid cold stress and to assist in buoyancy control. pose special problems for the person of smaller stature.
Cold represents a special threat for children and women. Children possess a larger surface area relative to total body mass, and lose heat much more quickly than adults. Women also have a larger relative surface area to mass than men, and have less muscle mass that also is a significant source of body insulation along with fat. Girls prior to puberty have less fat and muscle, and are very vulnerable to cold stress. Even in later teen years, after growth in height is over, continued maturation includes accumulating more fat and adding more muscle. Adolescents and children by virtue of their smaller size possess a smaller blood volume and lower total body water. Smaller blood and plasma volume predispose to dehydration which in turn increases the risk of hypothermia. Teens who dive need to be especially aware of how cold they feel. Instructors or parents should be very deliberate and remind teens to drink lots of fluids, Adults in charge and teens should recognize their exercise tolerance and limits. Cold and dehydration both contribute to increase rates of decompression sickness. Teens would appear to be a group particularly vulnerable to the combined adverse effects of these two diving perils.
Custom wet suits do not obviate all the difficulties encountered by smaller divers. In most climates except extreme tropical waters, divers wear wet suits or dive skins for protection from hypothermia and as a physical barrier against stinging ocean life forms. Most new divers learn to deal with changes in suit and tank buoyancy through the operation of a buoyancy compensator. The smaller diver may find that a suit makes her very buoyant on the surface. To compensate, she has to add a relatively larger amount of weighting than larger, denser divers use. As she descends, and the neoprene of the suit is compressed, the gas trapped in the suit that provides the flotation decreases. The weights then start to pull her down, often faster than she realizes. Divers need excellent skills to manage these rapid changes in buoyancy.
Similarly, at the end of the dive, as it empties, the tank becomes buoyant. An empty tank on a small person may exert a very profound positive pull to the surface, and as ascent continues, the air used in the buoyancy compensator also expands. Unaware of these changes, the diver risks a rapid, poorly controlled ascent. Air embolism may occur on surfacing, and if the dive was deep or long, decompression sickness may develop. In summary, the small diver is at risk for dropping too deep and too fast at the start, and at risk for coming up too fast at the end of a dive.
Another previously unrecognized and unreported risk for young divers relates directly to physical size and body conformation and buoyancy control. Early adolescent males and females have narrower hips than adults do. When you look at the conformation of a child, chest, waist and hip measurements are all very similar. In later adolescence, change in conformation with deposition of fat and growth of the hips provides a nice seating for a weight belt. As stated above, adolescent girls, because of their lighter bones and smaller muscle mass often need a lot of weight to offset the very buoyant effect of a full wet suit. During descent, suit volume reduces providing less flotation and the compressed material reduces the diameter of the waist and hip of the suit. The weight belt loosens and can inadvertently slip down over the hips and fall toward the feet. A young and relatively inexperienced diver, who is preoccupied with adding air to a buoyancy compensator as she "gets heavy" deeper on descent, suddenly realizes that her weight belt is slipping off. Worse still, she may find that the weight belt has dropped off completely, and now she suddenly is uncontrollably buoyant. Though no statistics are available, this type of buoyancy control crisis may be implicated in diving accidents in young girls or boys. One also might wonder how many times an unexpected happenstance like this leads to a double diving accident involving a parent and child. In later adolescence, when growth nears completion, and the body contour, composition and mass reach true adult measures, suit and gear problems and risk will lessen.
Adolescents should receive special training in advanced buoyancy control techniques if they are to dive at all. This issue takes us neatly to the matter of who should teach the teen to dive and who should be buddied with teenagers.

03-03-2007, 07:15 PM
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Diving instructors, diving buddies and parents
In order to develop confidence, teens who start diving should train with other adolescents. If all the persons in a class have the same basic intellectual, physical and experience level, they will attain a more balanced perspective of their relative strengths and weaknesses, skills and deficits, than they will in a class with a wider mix of students. Instructors can measure performance against other students of similar size and ability. The class progresses at a speed appropriate for age with teens learning some tasks and skills more quickly than adults and others more slowly. If the didactic material in the diving manuals seems too difficult, a teen may be less embarrassing to say so in a group of peers. When adults are present, particularly if the adults are the parents, a teen may feel inhibited about confessing that he or she does not understand the materials. No one wants to hold back the rest of the class.
All teen classes are not widely available and mixed age classes are the norm. Instructors should try to extend special consideration to see that teens have their concerns and needs addressed in a positive and reinforcing manner.
Diving instructors tend to be a pretty athletic, tough, "macho" group. Like athletic coaches, they are often demanding and occasionally harsh, and may even humiliate members of class in order to improve performance. Athletic coaches are notorious for using such provocative techniques. Teenagers who are members of sports teams may not find this kind of teaching unusual. Other teens experience great pain when humiliation and embarrassment are used as goads. They may give up on diving even before they "get their feet wet." Browbeating and insults damage self-esteem, and do not promote learning in teens or adults.
Try to find a certified instructor knowledgeable about teens, one with a supportive style. An instructor also should have a working knowledge of the physical and anatomic differences between adults and teens, between males and females, which may affect diving performance. A good instructor will tailor training to insure that the performance demands are appropriate and realistic for the age and size of the students. A good instructor should be tough enough to train hard, but fair enough to recognize and acknowledge limitations. The same may be said for any instructor of novice divers of any age.
Just as instructors can intimidate student divers, parents sometimes are guilty of pushing their children too hard for their own ego gratification and needs. Though guardianship of minor children resides with their parents, the father and mother may not be objective enough to determine if and when a teenager is ready for diving. The final decision resides with the diver instructor. After a few classes, the instructor reserves the right to say that a particular child is not ready for the sport. Parents should respect the judgment of the instructor in this matter. The opinion is based on many years of experience teaching this sport.
The schedule of instruction and training in the dive course must be strictly adhered to, and parents should not try to modify or skip parts of the planned curriculum. A zealous over enthusiastic parent can do great harm by trying to act as "the instructor." In a previous life, I taught swimming to preschool children. We developed a specific, progressive teaching plan to orient toddlers to the water. After a great week in the water, a child often returned on Monday morning fearful and regressed. Often, parents tried to teach their kids the swim with well intentioned, but often awkward, unplanned, and sometimes dangerous techniques. An ambitious parent often ruined several days of learning by throwing a kid into the deep end of the family pool, hoping he or she would swim. The child however rapidly learned to hate and fear the water. Parents should not be the dive instructor for their own children. As with driver's education, a professional teacher, with a well-planned curriculum and good teaching skills, can better serve a student's needs for order, patience and objectivity. Any adult who is contemplating teaching their own child to dive, should try to teach their own child to drive first.
Never let an uncertified minor child dive in the family pool with tanks just for fun. Such an act is misguided and dangerous. Gas bubbles change most in size in the last 4-6 feet of ascent to the surface, and lethal embolism can occur even in shallow backyard swimming pools. Never allow a child, free swimmer, or novice diver to take a single breath of compressed gas while free diving from the surface to a diver on the bottom of a pool. Even adults forget when free diving that a breath taken from a tank at the bottom of the pool is a breath of compressed gas. Experienced divers have made this error, taking a breath, swimming back up while breath holding, and dying on the surface Too many diving accident reports include tragic stories of a parent diving with a child, and one or both of them drowning. A parent, out of a sense of duty, with inadequate skills, air or judgment, may panic in an effort to rescue a child in trouble and both may be lost. Conversely, a child, witnessing a parent in trouble, and despite inadequate training and strength, tries intervene. Parent-child diving teams hold the potential for a massive family tragedy almost too awful to imagine. If an accident occurs, and one member of the duo survives, the residual shame and guilt are almost unthinkable and unbearable to consider, not unlike the death of a child in an auto accident with the parent driving or visa versa .
Teens often will heed the advice and counsel of adults in authority, but not their parents. This lack of regard for parental advice is an appropriate testing of limits and an attempt at separation, a normal component of adolescent psychological development. Such defiance, however, compromises communication between parent and child. Clearly, this kind of behavior enhances the risks of diving if parent and child are paired as buddies. When families are diving together, have the diver master or instructor define the dive plans and profiles. Allowing a third party to define the limits avoids issue of parent-child conflict.
Do not dive alone with your child unless you are an advanced diver. Always have a qualified instructor as part of your diving group for the first year or two of diving as a family. This advice probably should be followed until the minor child is over age 18. With the alternatives proposed below, there is no reason a family cannot share an ocean oriented vacation with young teens. To insure that the experience is safe and memorable, one-to-one buddying of parent and child should be omitted, or reserved for very experienced divers only.

Alternatives to diving and activities to prepare for diving
For teens who are too small to use dive equipment comfortably, or who are too young to understand the basics of the gas laws, several options exist to provide preliminary conditioning and training for diving.
Teens will greatly benefit from practicing and perfecting their swimming skills in open water. Swimming in waves and currents differs dramatically from being in a pool. Getting used to the splash and surge of open water decreases the tendency to panic in rough water, and builds confidence. Pool swimming is good too, since working in less buoyant fresh water strengthens muscles and promotes flotation skills. Underwater swimming helps develop breathe control and endurance. Swimming with fins aids in becoming an efficient diver later.
Snorkeling offers a great transition to diving for youngsters. The environment and its sights and inhabitants become familiar with no risk of gas accident. Teens, while snorkeling, learn to identify marine life, gaining an appreciation of the beauty of the plants and animals in the sea. They also learn how to avoid marine hazards like coral and stinging coelenterates on ropes and lines, and to move gently in the delicate ecosystem of the ocean. And as we all know, when your tanks are empty and your dive day is done, snorkeling is a wonderful way to get more out of a dive trip. Other skills to practice while snorkeling include surface diving, breathe hold diving, and swimming with snorkel only without a mask. Any good general diving instruction book will have a discussion of these basic snorkeling skills in its section on "watermanship."

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03-03-2007, 07:17 PM
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Youths who become proficient at snorkeling may then advance and practice skills for diving using all the regulation dive equipment except tanks. In wet suits, with buoyancy compensators, weight belts and snorkels, the incipient diver starts to learn buoyancy control, surface diving, gear positioning for comfort and safety, without the risks inherent in SCUBA. In fact, learning to work well with all the diving equipment in place except tanks provides a bedrock of skills that making SCUBA seem easy. The danger in SCUBA diving is that it seems so easy. The impression that diving is easy is just the thing that makes it so dangerous.
Good skills, good training and good judgment reduce the hidden dangers inherent in sport diving for anyone at any age. If any question exists about the mental or physical readiness of a teenager, please delay scuba diving until confidence and competence are readily apparent. Better to regret saying no and deal with a youngster's disappointment, than experience the trauma of an open water diving accident.
After a teenager evidences good diving skills and has logged an adequate number of dives, family members may then set out together sharing the adventure of the open ocean. As parents and children age and mature, diving can continue to be a family adventure, providing time together while appreciating the ocean's richness, nature's underwater artistry, and each other.


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Donahue P: Preparticipation Exams: How to detect a teenage crisis. Physic and sportsmed 1990; 18: 53-60

Drinkwater BL, Horvath SM, Wells CL: Aeroic power of females, ages 10-68 . J Gerontol 1975; 30:385

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03-04-2007, 05:39 AM
Age is very important. People mature as they age. One might be more mature at 15 than another at 20, but that same person is more mature at 20 than at 15. No one is mature enough to dive before 12. Damned few are mature enough to dive before 16.

That’s a rather arbitrary generality that penalizes the exceptional, and provides no incentive for the above average. It’s a good thing no one told Alexander Hamilton he was too young and immature at 13 to be the world’s expert on international commerce or he might not have made it to the Colonies to help write our Constitution.

I got certified the day before my 10th birthday and the only thing I consider myself lucky about that was we didn’t understand the danger to unformed long bones or I would have restricted myself to 60’ for a few years. Given the equipment of the day I’m glad my old UDT instructor forced us to get in excellent shape and those push ups and chin ups with a steel 72 were a little tough – even for a farm boy used to lugging hay bales.

While they may be in the minority I still see plenty of young people that break the average mold for maturity including the hundreds that solo aircraft on their 14th birthday and rather than hold them back we need to be honest to those not so gifted or motivated and tell them they aren’t yet ready rather than give them an excuse to continue being immature.

03-04-2007, 02:32 PM
My 12 year old niece just did her confined water portion two weeks. I was the Safety Diver for her instructor and got to help watch and evaluate her during her skills portion. Out of 12 people, she was the only female and the only one under the age of 22. What made me proud was hearing the guys come up from a skill and say "We're getting our butts kicked by a 12 year old!!" IMO, if the kids have the attitude to sit at home and do the home study portion of the O/W course on time and without prodding, they have the right attitude to learn to dive and dive safely. We'll see how she does on her check dives in a few weeks.

03-04-2007, 03:53 PM
where will she be doing her open water dives?

03-04-2007, 04:35 PM
where will she be doing her open water dives?

Unless Diver's Supply changes the current cert trip itinerary, she will be doing her dives at Blue Grotto and Rainbow River. (North Florida)

03-06-2007, 12:53 AM
Very cool, This past summer 3 members of my local Dive Club certified 3 girls under 16. The enthusism was intense!!

03-06-2007, 09:39 AM
Dalehall and 12 yo niece,
Divers Supply is just down the road from where I live.
Blue Grotto is a nice place.. A couple of large platforms for the students
to use. Awesome scenery for them too. For those who have not been there
the platforms are just outside the entrance to the cavern. THey will be able
to look into the cavern from their training location. The opening is very wide
and tall. I suspect Divers Supply will perform open water checkout 1-3 there,
then head to the river for the fourth and final checkout. Followed by that
is probably the drift dive. An Adventure dive. Make sure to get the student
to get drift dive checked off in their log book, if they maybe want to move on
to more advanced levels in the future. The drift dive they will do may be counted
toward the drift diver specialty certification.
Good luck on your OW cert. Glad to hear you'll be joining the ranks of the
elite. Going to places the majority of the world has only seen on TV.
What an exciting adventure you have ahead of you. I am very happy for you.
Have fun.

03-06-2007, 10:11 AM
Thanks Lars.. Yes, I think she is really going to like it.. Her mother (my sister), her dad and older brother are all certified, so she will round out her entire family. Unfortunately, I am the only one in my family. Wife isn't interested and baby is only 8 months old. (Only 9 years and 2 months until her certification!!!) :D
Diver's Supply has been great to me since the time I went up there before I was certified. They helped me in many of my choices along with any advice I ever needed. Never pointing me to the most expensive, just to the ones they thought would help me the best. Great Group of folks..
They used to use Ginnie Springs and Orange Grove for the check dives, but now they seem to bounce around from Ginnie, Orange Grove, Blue Grotto, Rainbow River and a couple more.. Nice for the instructors so they don't go the same place all the time.. And since I'm about to start my Divemaster training, I won't have to go to same places all the time either.:)
I'll come back and brag about my niece when she completes her dives 4-5 May.

03-29-2007, 04:08 AM
to several of the recent posters..

we are in key west now but will be moving back to our house in orange park soon...

my children are 13 and 10 and will be going through their junior certs after Easter. i have them do swims and basic skills (without scuba) in preparation. i make up pop quizes for them. sometimes i tell them there is a test, sometimes i don't. i want to make sure they know the things they need to know. i have them set up my gear before i go dive. all this and they have not had one "official" dive class. of course i'm in college for diving so that is what i think about 90% of the time and they hear me talk about partial pressures, rescue techniques, NDL's, MOD's bouyancy control etc... and they are understanding what i'm talking about. we were wacthing the video of david shaw's attempted rescue and they were asking questions like "could his twitching be from CO2?" or "is that what a CNS hit?" they don't understand fully, but they are aware of things and i think they will be great divers


04-05-2007, 12:08 AM
Neat teaching tool. Although you are into further than I am. My kids would watch videos and ask questions all the time when my wife and I were taking our ow class. That was 8 years ago. Last September my 11 year old earned her certification with little help from either one of us. Very proud Dad!

Sounds like you are heading in the right direction...

Keep up the good work!

04-05-2007, 12:15 AM
Awesome Dano.. I know you can't wait to get them certified.. My niece will do her check dive May 4-5.. Can't wait to do with her. I love to pass this stuff on to anyone that will listen to it.. By the way, I just earned my Rescue cert this past weekend.. Awesome class!!