Cosimo, Emma, and I just got our PADI Open Water Certification and still cannot believe it!
In this post, we want to share our experience with you. If you were thinking of doing it with your kids but had doubts. We thought this might be helpful in your decision-making!
How did this scuba diving experience come up? Was it something we planned to do? Or did we just decide last minute? It was not programmed to happen during our trip to Mexico. The outcome was a success, although, in the beginning, I wasn’t as optimistic about myself. Now I’m incredibly proud of the three of us!
But let me start from the beginning.
When did we come up with this new idea?
Three years ago, we were in Gili Trawangan in Indonesia. We had been snorkeling for a few days and loving what we saw underwater. As we were walking down the street, we saw many scuba diving schools. At one point, Cosimo asked Mass if he could get his certification and scuba dive like him. In case you didn’t know, Mass has an Advanced PADI Certification, which he completed many years ago while doing lots of diving. You can imagine how excited he was about Cosimo’s newfound interest. He immediately approached one of the schools to ask for more information.
Unfortunately, kids had to be 10 years old to get their Junior PADI Open Water Certification. So we still had to wait at least a year. Cosimo was a bit disappointed because, at the time, he had just turned 9. However, we promised him we would take him back as soon as possible. On the other hand, at the time, Emma didn’t seem at all interested; snorkeling was enough for her! We loved that they might like doing it together, but it didn’t seem possible then.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. We were walking on the beach in Cancun, Mexico. We stopped at the PADI-authorized center Pro Dive International to ask for some information. Our resort, Catalonia Costa Mujeres All-Suite, and Spa, included a trial scuba lesson. We thought giving our kids a taste of what this was all about would be fun. We also wanted to see if there was still interest in pursuing the actual PADI Open Water Certification for Cosimo and maybe Emma. It was great that they had a chance to try before committing to doing it, especially if they might not like it. Needless to say, after the demo was over, they were thrilled and excited!!! All they wanted to do was start diving immediately!
While they were doing their demo around the pool, I took some photos and shot some videos. As I looked at them, I thought, “Why don’t I join them in this new adventure? Why don’t I leave my comfort zone and learn something new with my kids?” Usually, I want Mass to be with them. He knows what he is doing. He already has the Advanced PADI Open Water Certification. I always feel that everything will be ok if he is with them.
However, this time I thought I could keep them safe as well. It was my chance to learn with them. Isn’t this what our worldschooling lifestyle is all about?! It was time to put myself out of my comfort zone and at their level since this was a new skill. For once, maybe my kids can take care of me as well.
How does the PADI Open Water certification work?
In order to get your PADI Open Water Certification, you must read their online book. It is divided into five chapters, and there is a review test (which you can make mistakes and learn from) and an official test (which you get graded on) at the end of each chapter. The final chapter has a more extended test which covers a little bit of everything from the whole book; there are about 50 questions. It isn’t hard at all. Some questions are very intuitive. As you read the book, you are also doing the dives where much of this information is explained to you. So by the time you complete your final test, you feel much more prepared, and many more things make sense.
In the meantime, we did two pool dives in 2 days and learned the basics. How to set up your gear. How to breathe underwater. This might seem easy, but the truth is that it can feel overwhelming until you don’t adjust to breathing with your mouth. I freaked out for a few minutes because I had difficulty adjusting. However, our instructor was able to help me calm down. He reminded me to take my time, and I was going to be okay shortly after I adjusted perfectly.
On the other hand, my kids were completely comfortable doing every skill. It was truly inspiring to watch them. It is also why I didn’t let fear take the best of me. They were inspiring throughout the whole process.
During the pool dives, you also practice many safety skills, for example, sharing air with a buddy, stretching in case of cramps, or taking off your gear while underwater. You might think that this will never happen to you, but believe me, it does! So it is essential to be prepared!
The final step for PADI Open Water Certification is four dives in the sea. Here you will show all the skills you learned in the pool and demonstrate that you mastered them. The challenge here is doing all this deeper in the water. In the pool, you can’t simply swim up if anything feels like too much. However, in the open water, you must problem-solve many meters deeper or swim up slowly.
We managed to complete everything in 4 days, including the test!
Our takeaway from the PADI Open Water Certification course
Cosimo and Emma were exceptional. They never doubted themselves and pushed through the whole course without any fear. We were in a beautiful place and enjoying time off from everything but they still managed to be focused and work hard to complete the course. They made mistakes and learned from them. It was an extremely formative experience for all of us.
It initially challenged me to adapt to breathing only with my mouth. It felt extremely uncomfortable and unnatural. I believe it wasn’t only about learning a new skill. I was putting myself to the test and doing something new to me. I had to learn something carefully because, at that moment, my life could be at risk if you don’t focus on what you was doing. However, if you can overcome this initial uncomfortable feeling, you can explore a unique and magical part of the earth: under the sea!
Throughout this process, I truly appreciated my kids. I was a bit nervous before our first dive into open water, and they comforted me, made me laugh, and forgot the fear. You can learn so much from your kids!
During our last two dives, we had a few different issues. Our tanks kept on coming off. However, we all managed to assist each other in reattaching them. Cosimo went down too fast and didn’t equalize; since then, he still has ear pain; he now knows best not to rush down! Our masks were terrible, and water kept coming in. So we constantly practiced how to clear our masks from water. Our diving gear was very uncomfortable. You cannot do much about that since you are renting it, but you learn to adjust. Cosimo also lost a mask while passing the tanks to the boat guy. We had to pay for that, so now he knows he has to wrap that mask around his wrist! There is always something important to learn!
During the course, they also teach you the importance of respecting the environment you are exploring. So no touching or taking away anything. It was highly frustrating to see people doing a one-day dive, which doesn’t require a license, and all they did was touch and sit at the bottom of the sea, something else you shouldn’t do! Now we understand another reason why it is essential to get this certification; they constantly remind you of the importance of respecting the underwater world.
My whole point is that anything you think might not be that important or useful probably will be at one point. So make sure to take your time to take it all in. If you feel uncomfortable, take a deep breath, slow down, and try again. It is such a magical world underwater that you don’t want to miss a moment!
Our first family dive
A month after completing our PADI Open Water Certification, we finally decided to go back under to enjoy the underwater world as divers! No more skill testing but a simply pure exploration of the underwater world!
We were still in Mexico, but we moved to the Pacific coast. More precisely, in the town of Zihuatanejo, we thought it would be a great time to put our newly acquired skills to the test! Walking around town, we found Dive Zihua; we walked in and started chatting with the owner and instructor, Maude. We liked her instantly. She is so excited and happy with what she does; of course, she is our type of person!
We booked two dives when the weather and visibility seemed to be at their best for this time of year, and we were successful. What made me even happier was that she let us bring Luca along. We could dive together but still manage this new adventure with him. It was a fantastic experience!
We did two dives. On the first one, while we were exploring underwater, Luca convinced a fisherman to let him borrow his fishing pole. He didn’t catch anything but still found a way to have fun while waiting for us! On our second dive, which was even more magical than the first. We saw lots of marine life, including a beautiful octopus trying to escape us! As we came out of the water, we found Luca in the water with fins and a mask. He would swim as deep as he could and come back up. Luca was very proud of himself because he had dived too!
I want to transmit through this post the importance of never holding back. Don’t use your kids as an excuse, don’t use yourself as an excuse. If you feel drawn to some activity, try it! If your kids are drawn to it, let them try it! Don’t let fear take over! When you learn something new, a different part of the world opens up, new opportunities arise, and new experiences become possible. What about if some of your kids are not the right age yet? Share as much as you can with them; this will inspire them, and who knows, that may be their true calling one day!
Luca was so thrilled with his “diving experience” that he now wants to go again. Cosimo, Emma, and I loved being underwater so much that we are already planning our next dive. Just a month ago, I never thought we would feel so excited about this! Go out and explore, get out of your comfort zone, and share a new experience with your family!!!