If it hasn’t already happened to you, it’s bound to at some point — you get on a dive boat, start putting your gear away and staking out a good spot for your dry bag, when they come crashing, banging and arguing onto the boat. It’s a diving family…with kids. (Cue the “Psycho” shower scene music). Or, maybe you’re the diving family — either way, teaching proper dive boat etiquette for kids (and keeping it in mind yourself) is absolutely vital when it comes to making sure everyone onboard enjoys the day.
Space is at a premium on dive boats, and it fills up fast with gear, water bottles, snacks, cameras, etc. That crowded feeling can extend to the water as well when divers don’t wait their turn to see the latest cool find or are unaware of their position in the water. Kids typically don’t need the personal space that adults do, and they don’t always understand boundaries. As the mother of a teenager, I can confidently say that they can also be… somewhat self-absorbed.
Teaching Good Dive Boat Etiquette for Kids
Because of these things, kids tend to spread out everywhere on a dive boat. One of the most important lessons you can teach them is to pull out only what they need as they need it. Show your kids how to pack their gear in order of what they’ll need first. Teach them to set up gear on their tank as it comes out of the bag. They can tuck their booties inside their fins and stack the fins underneath their tank or even put their booties on if that will not impede them from putting on a wetsuit later. Have them hang their mask and snorkel on the tank valve, stack them on top of their fins, or otherwise attach them to their BC with a clip.
Beside making a good neighbor to fellow divers, staying organized means kids will be ready when it’s time to dive. They’re also far less likely to lose gear. When returning from a dive, kids can reassemble their gear the same way. Or, if it was the last dive, they can stow it back in their gear bag so that it doesn’t get mixed in with someone else’s gear or inadvertently left on board.
Once the gear is properly set-up and stored, it’s time to talk to your kids about their position underwater. Children are generally less aware of where their bodies and equipment are in relation to others; add to this the excitement of a day spent diving and they may create a path of destruction underwater. “Repeat and remind” is a good rule of thumb, so go over the rules and especially discuss the buddy system before the dive. If you remind them that they must stay with you, you can monitor or control their movements.
Parents should also explain that when the divemaster taps his tank to get the divers’ attention, it does not mean to take off at warp speed and shove others out of the way to get a look at what he has found. Most DMs will work to ensure that everyone gets a look while also protecting the creature and the reef. Help your kids become more aware by explaining that they can help with this task by knowing where their fins, arms, tank, etc. are in relation to other divers, the divemaster and reef. No parent wants to hear that their child knocked someone’s mask off, kicked another diver in the head, or used another diver as a makeshift landing strip while coming in at Mach 10 to see the seahorse first.
Safe Surface Intervals
A successful surface interval is about not only safety, but courtesy as well. After completing a dive, it’s fun to watch other divers surfacing or jump in for a quick swim, but remind kids to keep the area around the ladder clear. This includes both the areas in the water and on the boat. Divers must be able to ascend when they’re ready without having to navigate through swimmers or people loitering in their way on the boat. Remind kids that the diver coming out of the water is still fully geared up and is not as nimble; they could fall off the ladder onto a swimmer or lose footing on the boat’s slippery deck.
When the boat is underway, either between dive sites or heading back to shore, tell your child find somewhere to sit and stay there for the duration of the trip. Once the boat starts moving, it’s much harder to move around safely, and since kids are usually lighter than we are, they bounce around more and may not have the reach or strength to hold onto something to steady themselves. Your fellow passengers will appreciate a calm, seated child far more than one who’s running around a moving boat as well.
Family diving can be a wonderful experience, and spending a day with someone else’s family on board needn’t cause waves of panic among other divers. A little extra guidance from mom and dad on dive boat etiquette for kids can help ensure that everyone on the boat has a good time. Most importantly, just as parents are responsible for raising their children to be good citizens on land, teaching them good diving habits early can ensure they grow up to be good citizens in the diving community and in the marine world as well.