Luca Hales | Building a Community for Kids That Scuba Dive
Luca Hales, at just 13 years old, is currently the youngest PADI Ambassadiver in the world. Luca earned the accolade in May, 2018 after qualifying as the youngest Junior Master Scuba Diver in the Middle East at the age of 12.
Having grown up in the famous Egyptian tourist resort of Sharm El Sheikh, where his father Kareem works as a PADI instructor, Luca's adventures in the water began at an early age. 'Growing up, my family encouraged me to love the sea,' he said in an e-mail interview with DIVE. 'When I was five years old I was jumping off dive decks into the Red Sea and snorkelling with my mother,' he said. 'This is when I knew I had a love and a passion for the ocean.'
At the age of eight, he took his first PADI Bubblemaker programme. 'After I got out of the pool I knew I loved it and this was something I wanted to pursue,' said Luca. 'So a few months later I took the PADI Seal Team course. That was when I knew I wanted to be a diver.' On his 10th birthday he took the PADI Open Water course. 'This was my ticket to freedom, underwater in the open sea,' he said, adding, 'I grew up in the water so I’m a true saltwater baby!'
With some of the best reefs in the world on his doorstep, and a diving community that has thrived for 40 years, Luca dives at every opportunity he can get. 'I try to dive most weekends and I join any Project AWARE events here in the Red Sea either in Sharm or Dahab,' he said. 'And of course my father, when he has a day off there is no relaxing and having a day in bed, we get our equipment and go diving!'
The experience does not stop with fun diving and standard training programmes, however. Luca is mentored by PADI Course Director Yahya Khiry. 'Yahya has many years of teaching, knowledge and experience,' said Luca. 'I participate in Yahya's PADI IDC as a victim, which I love; I get to meet and interact with future Instructors and it is really great! I sit in on the theory and absorb lots of knowledge and physics. Helping wherever I can.'
As a young diver, Luca is also very aware that there is a shortfall in the number of children that are taking to scuba diving, with many unwilling to get in the water and snorkel or swim. 'When I go on the boat diving, I'm surprised by how many children sit on the boat and don’t swim,' he said. 'Parents are scared or are not confident themselves, [but] when they see me and my love for the sea, this encourages people. I get invited along to dive centres to join them on the boat,' said Luca, '[it's] a great way to meet fellow divers and to show people that kids can scuba dive.'
To address the imbalance, in December 2018, Luca launched the Kids that Scuba website, managed and edited by himself. 'Kids that Scuba is a platform for kids to connect and make friends within the scuba diving community,' he said. 'Hopefully this year it will grow to a nice little community. The idea is to meet other junior divers and families and meet up here in Egypt to enjoy diving,' adding, 'From liveaboard holidays to daily diving, we can organize anything.'
In February this year, Luca was a guest speaker during a live PADI Q&A session, will be flying out to Canada in June to participate in the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, and then in August will be heading to the Caribbean island of Curaçao, where the dive community has been highly commended by Project AWARE for its commitment to ocean conservation. He's also involved with organising Project AWARE events in Egypt. 'Keeping our Red Sea [healthy] is very important,' he said, 'especially given the decline in tourism. The Red Sea is the beauty of Egypt and we must educate and share our love of it to make people understand just how important it is.'
Outside of diving, Luca is busy organising a charity cycle ride in memory of his grandfather, who died in January this year. 'It was the most devastating news ever,' said Luca. 'It turned out that the medical facility [in Alexandria] didn't have a ventilator. I can only think if they had a ventilator then he would be here today.
'I came up with the idea to do a sponsored bike ride, from Sharm to Dahab (around 95km),' said Luca. 'My aim is to raise money – £1,000 or more – to be able to buy a ventilator for the hospital who treated my grandfather and place it there by his name, I want to be able to help other families. After buying the ventilator I will donate remaining funds to Project Aware, another charity very close to my heart for all the exceptional work they do worldwide.'
You can find out more about Luca and how to get involved with Kids that Scuba at his website www.kidsthatscuba.com, or follow his progress on his Facebook page. Luca has set up a Go Fund Me page for donations to the charity bike ride at www.gofundme.com/cycling-to-give-something-back