Teenage sisters start diving with Dad
In the group with whom I completed my Open Water qualification, there was a father and daughter - Tony and Emma. I remember them well because I thought it would be great to dive with my own daughters.
Mine were only five and eight - a little too young but I decided then that they could give it a try when, and if, they ever wanted a go. They soon got a chance and completed a Bubblemaker course while on holiday in the Canary Islands, which gave them a taste of what it was like to breathe underwater. It was only done in a swimming pool, but they enjoyed it. There were no dramas, nor tears, but equally no overwhelming enthusiasm either. But my dream was still alive.
My wife had no interest in diving and, despite my efforts, there was no way she was going to take the plunge. My daughters were a little more interested and were happy to indulge my stories. We loved to go snorkelling and used treat each snorkelling session like a proper dive, conducting briefings, looking at our fish guides and practising hand singles. We even sketched out the reefs and coastline we had snorkelled on.
My youngest daughter (Nia) was fearless but my eldest (Jasmin) was a little more cautious and feared the deep blue and the drop-off. Who could blame her, I had spent many a dive looking into the blue for that promised manta or shark with a mix of excitement tinged with fear.
But we were all determined to give it a go. This wasn’t going to be cheap - diving isn’t. When I told my friends they’d take a deep breath, sucking in their cheeks saying 'That’ll cost you'.
Before going straight for the full Open Water Course they first did some Discover Scuba dives just to be sure they wanted to dive.
Jasmin’s first Discover dive was amazing, possibly too good. It was a shore dive from Naama Bay in Sharm El Sheikh, not deeper than 8m. Within minutes we saw a blue spotted ray, then anemone fish, followed by followed by lionfish, and the biggest giant moray I had seen.
This was topped by a close encounter with a green turtle grazing on some sea grass and as we swam back to shore we had a fly-by from a pair of huge eagle rays.
I’d say possibly too good because I didn’t want her to think that every dive was like that. My first open water was in Stoney Cove. It was 7ºC and I only had a close encounter with a perch (no offence to perch).
The following year we went Thailand and dived off Koh Tao, this time Nia came diving and despite the visibility being lower and there being more of a current she coped very well. She thought it was the norm. Nia loved it and was determined to become qualified.
The following year during our regular Egypt holiday, Nia made another Discover dive and Jasmin completed her Open Water course and on her last dive we dived together as qualified divers. A great moment!
Another year followed and another holiday, this time back to Lanzarote, to the place where they had first experienced breathing underwater. This time Jasmin completed her Advanced Open Water and Nia her Open Water.
For the first time, the three of us dived together, father and daughters. They seemed pretty laid back about the whole affair, I was far more excited. I tried to be 'cool' about it but failed miserably.
After the holiday I visited my local dive centre and discussed the experience with the owner and my original instructor. I was expecting congratulations but he took a more cautious view. He thought it’s was a bad idea diving with the family.
'You’ll smother them, worry too much, and forget about your own safety.' he warned.
Pondering what he said made me think about our dives. Had I fussed too much? Wasn’t that what being a buddy was all about - checking to make sure your partner was safe?
But he had a point. I remember swimming very close to them, checking air, constantly seeing if they were okay, looking directly into their eyes, occasionally adjusting their buoyancy and swimming around them trying to get that great photo.
Okay, they appreciated having the photo to post on social media. But, as I type this, I’m cringing realising I had fussed too much.
I did smother them at times and they needed to practise the skills themselves in order to learn. It was the instructor’s job, not mine.
I took a step back and didn’t suggest diving for a while, but despite my 'fussing' they still wanted to further their diving (hey, Dad’s paying). So it seems that my interventions didn’t put them off.
Jasmin, now 20, has plans to go abroad and is looking for an internship or work for a conservation charity and Nia is keen to dive more too.
What I had managed to do was what I initially set out to do and that was to introduce my girls to the amazing underwater world.
There were unexpected benefits as well. The sense of achievement they gained, the confidence it built and it was a qualification that was added to their CVs. Don’t underestimate these.
Ultimately it was an experience that gave them another skill and the knowledge that their Dad wasn’t just some mad old fool that jumped into freezing quarries for no reason.