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What’s the Right Age to Certify My Kids?



By: Stephanie Miele & Sean Harrison

“What is the best age to certify my kid?” This is a question we hear quite often SDI, and as you can imagine, it’s a pretty loaded question. So, to help shed some light on this topic, we wanted to get two perspectives to weigh in, so we asked a mother to give us her opinion about certifying her kid and then we asked a father for his opinion. Below is their response.



I’m a parent, therefore, I worry.  I’m constantly trying to toe the line of being protective of my son, but still allowing him to have experiences that will shape his life for years to come (not an easy balance as many of you know).  I must admit that when I had him, I thought that the first few years were the toughest with just trying to survive the sleepless nights, and the life style that comes with having a very active toddler.  I was in for quite the shock as he got older and more adventurous that the balance of worry vs. experience intensified.

As he got out of the toddler years, started listening and maturing our lives began to change.  I found myself not planning my day around naps or having to lug around a diaper bag full of stuff and we began to go on “adventures”.  I loved seeing the world through his eyes and we started to explore different things together albeit carefully.  He has been hiking at the Grand Canyon, kayaking with seals in Washington state, windsurfing in Bonaire, and snorkeling in Florida, but when the idea of scuba diving was broached I had to admit that I was the one that was hesitant.

My son just turned 8 and he was able to partake in the SDI Future Buddies program.  For his birthday, he specifically asked for a snorkeling party at a local dive site and the opportunity to learn how to scuba dive.  There was a request for a barracuda themed birthday cake, but that is a story for another time.  I knew he wanted to dive and the time was coming, but I could not believe he was actually old enough to do it.  I did have to ask myself if he was ready and make that judgment call on his behalf.

To see if he was ready I asked myself the following questions as I do with any new activity:

1. Is he mature enough to partake in the activity?

I have witnessed my child in many situations and for him to be able to scuba dive I had to make sure that he had the attention span and the physical ability to do it.   Jack has been swimming for many years and, at this point, he is a stronger swimmer than I am.  He naturally took to freediving to the bottom of the pool and last year, when we were on vacation, he was freediving to about 15 feet to the ocean bottom.  He is naturally at ease in the water so the physical comfort was easy for me to feel ok about.

Now, the attention span was a different story.  Since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, in this case, his attention span was something that I was hesitant about.  We started watching videos before he even got in the pool and we bought a fish identification chart so that we could identify what we were seeing in the videos.  His attention span for these videos and identification chart was amazing and it made me feel better about him getting in the pool.  This had a very positive effect on his attention span, allowing him to hold an interest in the activity and demonstrate to me that he was capable of retaining important information about it.  This made me feel much more at ease about him moving on to the practical pool sessions where the most crucial concepts are introduced.

2. Do I get a good feeling from the instructor taking him in the water?


Well, my husband was the instructor and he has his son’s best interests in mind.  There was a lot of pressure on him to make sure that the experience was positive.  That and if he messed it up, he would have to answer to me.  Nonetheless, my husband is an excellent instructor and has so much experience with teaching kids scuba programs that my mind was at ease that my son was in good hands.

Had I not known the instructor that was taking him diving, I would have taken a course with him/her to see if I liked their method of teaching and if they would be a right fit for my son.  Also, I would have asked to talk to his/her past students for feedback about their experiences.  Additionally, I would take my son with me and visit the facility where the training was taking place to see if he felt comfortable.  Choosing the instructor would have been an interview process and my son would have met the instructor so that I could see their interaction above the water first hand.

3. Is his interest genuine?

For me, I needed to know whether this is something he wanted to do or if he was doing it because of what mommy and daddy do for a living.  We offered him all sorts of other options for his birthday gift and he kept coming back to scuba.   He was so excited to try scuba because of his genuine interest and not doing it because he thought it would please me.  My mind was made up after I realized that he was mature enough, his attention span could be held and I felt very comfortable with the instructor.  It was worth a try.
Each child is different and as parents, we need to the research to make sure that we are making the best decisions for them.  I think there are some children that are naturally adventurous so having little mental checklists when deciding what may or may not be a fit for them can be helpful.

In the end, he was ready and honestly quite a natural at the sport.  I was beyond impressed with his skills in the water and …… Seeing him experience breathing underwater for the first few times was a memory that I will never forget.  Plus, now I can actually get back in the water without feeling guilty about leaving him behind.  As a parent, I am constantly second guessing myself with all of the choices that I have to make for him, but the one thing that I am certain of beyond doubt is what he is ready for.  In my heart, I knew he was ready but it was good to put the time in and really think if it was right for him.



Sitting in a marketing meeting, don’t you just love meetings! and the topic of articles comes up. Normally I turn off at this point. I have written plenty of articles in the past but I can’t hit deadlines and if I don’t do a massive brain dump while I am formulating the thoughts for what I just committed to, it probably won’t happen.   So here I am, 30 minutes outside the meeting and doing a brain dump.

My wife always said, if our sons did not like water, they were going to have a rough life

My perspective on when someone should be certified will certainly be different from others, being on and in the water has been my life. My wife, also a water person, always said, if our sons did not like the water, they were going to have a rough life. So here’s what we did to one, make sure they were safe around the water and two, make sure they had an appreciation for the water. Both of those create comfort.

We started our sons in the water shortly after birth, nothing major or crazy, but they were in pools, lakes, and the ocean whenever the opportunity presented itself, which was often. Both started swim lessons pretty early, for those parents that have done these “swim lessons” you know they are really more about getting the parent comfortable with their child in the water and retraining the child not to breath underwater. Eventually, our little guppies moved up to the point where they passed the basic swim test so they could swim in the deep end of the pool. The lessons were heavily supplemented by their mom swimming and teaching them even more. Okay…I will admit, mom did the majority work. Summers were and still are filled with swimming pool and ocean swim time, snorkeling,  and yes, the occasional ear infection.


The final test to ease up on some of the supervision (even though we are always within sight) while they were in or around the water, was the self-rescue fully clothed. Here is how we did it, although I am certain there are other (maybe even better) ways of doing this test. The boys were full dressed: long sleeve shirt, long pants, shoes, and socks, they jumped in the pool and had to swim to the other end and back, float for five or so minutes, then get out of the water without a ladder. Needless to say, both our boys passed with flying colors. Our youngest, he was three at the time, continued to swim fully dressed for the next 45 minutes. He thought it was fun.

It’s not just as simple as saying “my child wants to scuba dive, so I thought I would sign them up for dive lessons”

I write all of the above because I believe it’s not just as simple as saying “my child wants to scuba dive, so I thought I would sign them up for dive lessons”, they first need to have that comfort and respect for the water. The path we choose is of course not the only one: sailing, water skiing, surfing, boogie boarding, white water rafting, and the list goes on, all lead to a comfort and respect for the water. The final component and this one needs to be assessed by the parent (be honest) and the potential scuba instructor, is maturity.

SDI minimum age for scuba certification is 10 years old, but that does not mean all 10-year-olds are ready, it also doesn’t mean all 18-year-olds are ready

Scuba diving requires constant assessment and situational awareness. There are gauges to watch, buddies to keep track of, an exit point to find, and water conditions to deal with. Parents with kids that are interested in scuba diving should visit their local SDI dive center and speak with an SDI instructor, try to find an SDI instructor that enjoys teaching children. Make an appointment ahead of time so you, your child, and the instructor can really spend some time together. The SDI instructor can let your child try on gear, hold the equipment they will be using, and answer those questions rattling around in their head like: “Did they ever find Dory?” and “can I dive to the deepest part of the ocean?”.

I am happy to report that our oldest son is progressing well in his scuba class, rock solid in the water if we can just get him to do the homework! Good luck getting your children certified, it is a blast to share the sport with them and see the look of amazement in their eyes. It’s also very cool hearing them say to their classmates “I scuba dive” they quickly become the coolest kid in school.

To find out more about International Training, visit

From its humble beginning in 1994 to today, the group of training agencies Scuba Diving International (SDI), Technical Diving International (TDI), and Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI) form one of the largest diving certification agencies in the World – International Training. With 24 Regional Offices servicing more than 100 countries, the company today far exceeds the original vision the founders had when they conceived the idea on a napkin, sitting at a kitchen table in the early 1990’s.

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Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 7



Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for the final part of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Deptherapy expeditions do not just magically happen, they need planning and they need funding.  This expedition was funded by our long-term partners the Veterans’ Foundation.  The funding is part of a grant they awarded us for programmes this year, which were then put on hold because of COVID.

All charities in the Armed Forces’ Sector are struggling for funds. Deptherapy desperately needs support going forward and every penny counts.

We know what we do works and at the end of this blog you will find details of the research studies into Deptherapy’s programmes and how they impact on the lives of our beneficiaries.  This includes details that are hot off the press about the latest study that reports that what we offer through scuba diving and 24/7 support has benefits beyond those found in other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

Well tomorrow we fly home, late in the evening with the journey home for some of the guys who live up North taking around 15 hours after leaving Roots.

We want to make the most of today but with the tide running we are not going to be able to dive until later this morning which means only two dives today.

Oatsie and Swars about to start their sidemount dives

Things, however are really busy over at the dive centre with Swars and Oatsie putting their sidemount kit together for their training dives with Steve Rattle leading to their RAID sidemount qualification.  It has been nice to be able to offer the guys this extra training, given the amount of work they have put in this week.  They have needed to get through their theory quickly but given the RADI online learning system this has not been too arduous.

Steve came diving with us yesterday to get some more photos and was really amazed at the progress that Corey had made. He was quite open in his praise, as in his view Corey has gone from a non-diver to being a very competent OW diver capable of diving, unsupervised, with a buddy.  Praise indeed.

Other than the sidemount course we are diving as a group today: Corey, Keiron, Michael, Moudi and me. Corey has been given some tasks – SMB deployment on both dives and the afternoon dive will be a ‘naturalist dive’.  Guy Henderson has set Corey a task: ‘to identify three species of fish and record the time into the dive and the depth at which each one was spotted’.  Guy runs Marine Biology courses on the reef and knows where the fish are to be found, how long into the dive, and at what time.

The two Toms are getting put through their paces. They have walked their cylinders down to the entry point, but Steve sends them back to the dive centre to collect other kit they should have brought with them.

Our general dive goes well and the sidemount guys appear from their sidemount dive some 90 minutes after dipping their heads under the water.

Corey enjoying being a RAID OW20 Diver

Lots of bubbly chat at lunchtime, a group of really happy divers. Corey really has benefited from the week and over lunch thanked the team for making him a diver. He has very quickly become part of the family and after returning home he published an amazing post on Facebook about his experience.  Corey really gets Deptherapy and had soon realised that we see past mental and physical injuries and see the person inside and work with that person.  He also realised that we want beneficiaries to see their fellow beneficiaries in the same light.  He knows he now has another ‘family’ – a family of brothers in arms who have two things in common, they served their country and they have suffered life changing injuries or illnesses.

Back into the water for the afternoon dive and Corey identifies the fish and records the details on a slate.  The two Tom’s complete their second dive and qualify as RAID Sidemount Divers. Great!

Kit packed away and it is time to return to the camp for a few well-earned last night drinks.

I am often asked why we use Roots as our exclusive base for diving. I have mentioned before that it offers us an ideal retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We are secluded and there are no distractions such as late-night bars etc.

Roots Accessible Room

The second reason is the amazing welcome we receive from Steve, Clare, Moudi and the team.  We have been going to Roots since 2014 and many of the staff have become good friends, they understand our needs and are the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet.

The third reason is the huge investment Steve and Clare have made in making the resort and dive centre accessible for those with physical injuries including those who need to use wheelchairs.  All our beneficiaries can enjoy Roots and, in fact, love it here.  The reef is perfect for us and in non-COVID times we can travel to the Salem Express and other dive sites to enjoy more of the Red Sea experience.

Accessible toilet on the Roots beach

After discussions with the team I was very proud to be able to tell Corey that his progress had been such that we were inviting him on the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust sponsored two-week Marine Biology Course at Roots in June 2021. There is lots of homework to undertake under the guidance of Dr Debbie McNeill of Open Oceans and Corey will be sent the Red Sea Guide which is the basis for study.

While on that programme, Corey with fellow beneficiary Dale Mallin, will complete his RAID Advanced 35 course.  This all builds to a 10-day Red Sea liveaboard in 2022, onboard Roots’ new boat Big Blue where 18 beneficiaries will compare the coral and aquatic life on the wrecks of the SS Thistlegorm and the less known SS Turkia that is to be found in the Gulf of Suez and is rarely dived.

Paul Rose, our Vice President, is supporting the programme and is seeking the support of the UN and the Royal Geographical Society. A comprehensive report will be submitted to our partners in the project and to the Egyptian Authorities.

Last night and chill

What we do works:

In recent years there have been three academic studies into our work:

2018 – A study by a team from the University of Sheffield Medical School.

2019 – A study by The Centre of Trauma at Nottingham University.

Both these studies reported very positively on Deptherapy’s work both underwater but also in terms of the provision of 24/7 support.

The following is from our press release which was issued on 26th October:

‘A new study into Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy’s approach to supporting Armed Forces veterans with psychological injuries such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the medium of scuba diving has been carried out by Petra Walker in conjunction with Hanna Kampman of the Posttraumatic Growth Research Unit at the University of East London.

This study, which used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), demonstrates that scuba diving has rehabilitation benefits beyond those found in other forms of sporting rehabilitation exercise. IPA is a qualitative methodology that examines the experiences of participants and has been used in previous studies of Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) in para-athletes.

Petra is an experienced diver herself and was exploring the wellbeing aspects of scuba diving as part of her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology when she came across a previous study on Deptherapy. Past studies have mainly focused on the medical aspects of diving, so the opportunity to examine the mental health side of rehabilitative scuba diving was impossible to ignore. The full study is currently embargoed until it is published at a future date in an academic journal, but it follows similar academic research into the work of Deptherapy by the University of Sheffield Medical School (2018) and the University of Nottingham (2019).’

This is amazing news and sets us apart from other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

We are currently working with our VP Richard Castle who is a Consultant Psychologist and our Dive Medicine Advisor Mark Downs to identify further areas of psychological and physical dive related research.

We end the week on a happy note.  A young man who has learned to dive properly with a RAID OW 20 certification, a new RAID Master Rescue Diver, two new RAID Sidemount Divers, 5 new RAID O2 Providers, many assessments for our DMs but most of all a week of learning, of making new friendships, renewing old friendships, and building on our family ethos.

Until we meet again…

For us, Deptherapy is a journey, a journey that continues to push boundaries in the use of scuba diving in the rehabilitation of those suffering life changing mental and/or physical challenges.  On our journey we want to change the way the scuba diving industry views diving for those with disabilities.

In the new year, we will be launching, with our diver training agency partners RAID, a new and exciting adaptive teaching programme that will offer diving to the disabled community. We can’t wait to share it with you!

Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at

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Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 6



Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 6 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Thursday has dawned and it is down to the House Reef with an outgoing tide that is approaching slack so we can get in the water straight away.   Lots of chat about last night’s RAID O2 Provider session with Moudi.  Oatsie is talking about sidemounts and marine biology, Swars is looking forward to his first sidemount session this afternoon.

Moudi is supported by Oatsie this morning and doing some more skill work with Keiron.

Moudi running the guys through the RAID O2 Administrator Course

Corey was asking last night about what it is like at 30 metres, so I have decided that with Michael and Swars we will take him to 30 metres.  We are going to run a narcosis exercise so out comes the slate with the numbers 1 – 25 randomly placed in squares.  Corey’s task, in the dive centre, is as quickly as possible to touch each number in sequence.  He does it pretty quickly and Michael briefs him that he will need to do the same exercise at 30 metres.

Michael briefs the dive and we set off down the beach.  Corey has improved beyond measure and he is becoming a pleasure to dive with.  So we are off to follow the South reef to 30 metres where we will complete the second part of the exercise.

At 30 metres Michael hands Corey the slate; there is a considerable difference in the time to complete the exercise at the surface and at 30 metres.  There are lots of mitigating factors in how quickly you can identify the numbers and explaining a slower time at 30 metres than at the surface does not mean an individual is suffering from narcosis.  Identifying random numbers, if you run the exercise at the surface, several times with an individual over a number of hours can result in wide variations in the time taken to complete the exercise.

We finish the dive with Corey smiling from ear to ear and we have a discussion about depth and air consumption.  The second dive of the morning is a fun dive, then it is lunch in the beach restaurant.  After the burgers I am sure we will need to look at our weighting before the afternoon’s dive.

We will need to look at weighting after this lunch!

Corey and Keiron have got into the habit of recording their dives online using the RAID online log book which is a tremendous facility and as the instructor I can access that data.

Moudi and Keiron are going for a fun dive as are Corey, Oatsie, Michael and myself. Swars is getting kitted up for the first experience of sidemount with Guy Henderson.

Swars getting to grips with his sidemount cylinders

People often look at the relationships that exist between the dive team and our beneficiaries and try to extrapolate a similar relationship to disabled students they might have.  Our relationships are built up over a period of time, in some cases over many years.  We also provide 24/7 support and have chat groups etc on social media; we also meet up socially when we can.  It is somewhat different than a individual coming in to a dive centre and saying ‘I want to dive’. Your relationship is likely to be the same as any other student, you will teach them, they might stay with the dive centre or like many that will go on holiday to do some diving, you might never see them again.

Our main aim is to create a family atmosphere for our programme members, one where they feel secure and they are able to discuss freely with the team and fellow beneficiaries their feelings and needs.

Few dive centres are charities, and owners might want to consider costs of running a course for someone with a disability that might take more than the standard four pool sessions etc.  You may find the number of sessions and the staffing levels have to increase.  Many dive centres, because of their size and turnover are exempt from providing accessibility.  How will this affect someone who is a wheelchair user?  Can they gain access to the dive centre, the classroom, the toilet?  What are the changing facilities, can they get wheelchair access to the pool?

Lots of things to think about.

Roots’ beautiful reef

The reef is beautiful, so much aquatic life and the corals look splendid, especially the pinnacles.

A good day’s diving, Swars has really enjoyed his sidemount.

Lovely way to relax in the evening with the Roots BBQ, a fitting end to a great day.

Last day tomorrow and our final blog!

Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at

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