Our PADI Open Water Certification experience

In the sea dive

Cosimo, Emma, and I just got our PADI Open Water Certification and I still cannot believe it!

In this post, we want to share our experience with you. In case you were thinking of doing it with your kids but had some 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 for myself. Now I’m extremely 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 on 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 when he was doing lots of diving. You can imagine how excited he was about Cosimo’s newfound interest. He immediately walked up to 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 the possibility that they might like doing it together, but it didn’t seem possible at the time.

snorkling on Gili
Snorkling on Gili Trabajan

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 it would be fun to give our kids a taste of what this was all about. We also wanted to see if there still was interest in pursuing the actual PADI Open Water Certification for Cosimo and maybe Emma as well. It was great that they had a chance to to try before commiting to doing it, specially 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!

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Trial lesson

While they were doing their demo around the pool, I was taking some photos and shooting some videos. As I looked at them I thought to myself, “Why don’t I join them in this new adventure? Why don’t I get out of 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 to myself that 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?! I felt it was time to put myself out of my comfort zone and at their level since this a new skill for me too. 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 have to read their online book. It is divided into 5 chapters and there is a review test (where 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 longer 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. Plus as you are reading 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 so much more prepared and many more things make sense.

In the meantime, we did 2 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 a hard time adjusting. However, our instructor was able to help me calm down. He reminded me to take my time and I was going to be fine. Shortly after I adjusted perfectly.

On the other hand, my kids were completely comfortable in doing every skill. It was truly inspiring to watch them. It is also the reason why I didn’t let fear take the best of me. They were inspiring throughout the whole process.

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In pool dives

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 important to be prepared!

The final step for PADI Open Water Certification is 4 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, if anything feels like too much you can’t simply swim up. However, in the open water, you have to problem-solve many meters deeper or anyway 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 we were enjoying time off from everything but they still managed to be focused and work hard to complete the course. They did mistakes and learned from them. It was an extremely constructive experience for all of us.

For me, Sarah, it was an initial challenge 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. Doing something that was new to me. Something I had to learn carefully because at that moment your life can be at risk if you don’t focus on what you are doing. However, if you are able to overcome this initial uncomfortable feeling, you have the opportunity to explore an amazing 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 in open water and they comforted me, made me laugh, and forget the fear. You can learn so much from your kids!

paddling lessons

During our last 2 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 on coming in. So we practiced constantly how to clear our mask 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 he was 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 extremely 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 important to get this certification, they constantly remind you throughout the course of the importance of respecting the underwater world.

My whole point is that anything you think might not be that important or useful, it probably will 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 of it!

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Luca will be next?

Our first family dive

A month after completing our PADI Open Water Certification we decided to go back under to finally enjoy the underwater world as divers! No more skill testing but simply pure exploration of the udnerwater world!

suba diving

We were still in Mexico but we moved to the Pacific coast. More precisely in the town of Zihuatanejo and we thought it would be a great time to put our newly acquired skills to the test! As we were 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 2 dives when the weather and visibility seemed to be at its best, for this time of year and we were successful. What made me even happier was the fact that she let us bring Luca along. We could dive together but still manage to do this new adventure with him too. It was an amazing experience!

We did 2 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 that was trying to escape from us! As we came out of the water we found Luca in the water with fins and mask. He would swim as deep as he could and come back up. Luca was very proud of himself because he dived too!

What I want to transmit through this post is the importance to never holding back. Don’t use your kids as an excuse, don’t use yourself as an excuse. If you feel drawn to some type of 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 world opens up for you, new opportunities come up and new type of 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 so much being underwater that we are already planning our next dive. Just a month ago I never thought that 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!!!

world explorers

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