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Take Time To Savor Life’s Treats

Taking time to savor life’s treats is not something I did on a blazing summer day in Santa Monica, at a house party with a pool, and me a thirteen-year-old boy who had assembled his own gear. That’s how I experienced my very first dive. As I was sitting at the bottom of a pool on a J-valve tank, with a twin hose reg that I thought I had figured out poolside when adults started jumping into the water to ‘rescue’ me. This was not the way I had planned for my own kids to learn to dive now more than forty years and 2000 dives later.

Finding a very different kind of diving has revitalized my love of blowing bubbles and that is diving as a family with Kids Sea Camp. Officially I did learn to dive properly while an undergraduate and went all the way through the ranks to PASI OWSI at the PADI College in Sydney, Australia. After working as an instructor in Australia for several years, I then returned home to the USA to become a marine biologist. Along the way, there have been many memorable dives. But those dives pale in significance to the life changes I have experienced along the way. Sharalyn and I married in Belize. We have two children, and we moved to a small island north of Seattle to a marine station. 

Kids Sea Camp, Diving with kids, Family Diving, Family vacations, Adam Summers

A little moment, a shared sense of wonder, and an instant rapport gave me an unusual opportunity to get a completely new, and wholly transformative view of diving. With my good friend Dr. Bob Rubin, I voyaged on the Quino El Guardian (Booking the trip with Family Dive Adventures) to the manta ray soup of the Revillagigedo Islands. They dropped me, Tom Peyton, and 14 other dive fanatics into the water surrounding four little volcanic specks. Steep sided, battered by the swell, with a constant current, this dive site was not for the faint of heart. But when we dropped over the side the first time, there was a whale shark, 6 giant ocean mantas, a pod of dolphins, and more than 40 silky sharks, well, you get the idea.

 It was a Scuba diving paradise. I loved it, and I was getting interesting data on wing movements in the mantas. As I stripped out of my too-thin wetsuit I realized the guy standing next to me had paused, a silly grin on his face, wetsuit around his ankles and heel straps between his toes, eyes twinkling away. This bearded, blissed-out guy was just dumbstruck by that dive and was taking a few moments to really let it sink in. I don’t meet many people who take time to savor life’s treats as much as I do, and I was immediately drawn to this awesome dive character. 

Tom Peyton, co-owner of Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures. A friendship developed, he was as deeply touched by these dives as I was. And we shared many awesome dives, like-minded concepts about life, and a few good stories. 

Tom and I were both missing our families and wished we could have them share those daily adventures with us. Tom’s wish was more realistic than mine since his wife Margo a PADI instructor, a mermaid and in the Women Divers Hall of Fame, and both their kids Rob and Jen Peyton are PADI dive instructors. This was a very doable adventure for them to experience. At that time my kids were five and ten, and my wife is a PADI Rescue diver with 150 dives, and none since our son was born. The logistics were just too crazy to figure out diving, so I thought, with tiny kids. That’s where Tom lit up with delight and schooled me on his wife’s brilliant idea turned into a family business. Kids Sea Camp Inc. is the only kind of family camp I would even consider sending my kids to. Kids Sea Camp is for families who love the ocean and love to travel and scuba dive. I started a family late and I have no desire to have them hare off to neat places without me. I want to join them while experiencing the things we love. I want to share with my kid’s new places in completely different ways and provide them a unique perspective on the world through their eyes. Kids Sea Camp is designed to allow just that. Tom explained that the kids learn about the ocean, and they learn to dive. The older ones age 10+ get honest with golly PADI dive certifications. The younger ones age 5-9 gain experience with fun scuba games called Aqua Missions that teach them the beginning stages of the sport. Age 5-7 follows a SASY program geared on swimming and snorkeling. then there is a PADI Seal Team curriculum that sets them up for certification the moment they hit that magic decade mark. 

Kids Sea Camp, Diving with kids, Family vacations, scuba diving with kids, scuba diving
(From left to right) Adam and Ellie Summers prepared for a night dive at Anse Chastanet Resort, St. Lucia.

This sounded like a fabulous idea, and a set of fortuitous circumstances combined to open up our Thanksgiving holiday and leave us with close friends looking for an adventure. Margo and Tom pointed out that they would be serving a traditional turkey dinner at Buddy Dive Bonaire and all the diving we could possibly want. So, three adults, one of whom had never put her face into saltwater, and four kids (seven, eight, twelve, and twelve) took the plunge and headed to kids Sea Camp Bonaire to dive. My son Abel was a SASY, his friend Henry a SEAL, while Henry’s brother Ollie and my daughter Ellie were in the PADI jr open watercourse. Our friend Libby did an open water course and Sharalyn and I just signed up to dive. Together. What a concept. 

As it turned out the Kids Sea Camp idea was revolutionary in our understanding of family dive vacations. The drill is simple, the diving kids meet their friends and instructors each morning after breakfast. The diving adults are then free to head off to dive – with other adults. And dive at outstanding dive sites, with top-notch guides, lovely fellow divers, and wonderfully competent and entertaining dive boat crew. When two tanks have been sucked as dry as PADI allows we return to the resort to eat more good food than should be legal. Our offspring are very happy to learn and play in the ocean with their friends. We don’t see the younger set until mid-afternoon; a little scheduling magic with big implications for bonding with other adults, and allowing kids to own their newfound skills. Then, tired and victorious, we get our kids back, damp and bursting with tales, in time to rest up for a siege of the dinner buffet. After dinner, there are often some presentations – a couple of times it was me talking about marine research that is my day job. Then everyone passes out in preparation for doing it all again.

Kids Sea Camp, Family Dive adventures, Family vacations, 20 years

It is difficult to overstate how pleasantly unusual this family dive vacation was relative to all the other vacations I have taken. The diving was great. Buddy Dive in Bonaire was a joy, but the difference here was the structure and quality of the experience that I was able to share with my family. I watched my daughter conquer fear and physical difficulty to become a PADI certified diver, just like her mother. Ellie glowed with triumph when she came up from her final certification dive. She did a hard thing and did it with minimal support from hovering parents. That has proved to be an accomplishment that has shaped the subsequent months in significant ways. Abel cemented his certainty that the sea is the giver of all things good. From duck diving to 15 feet, to blasting on a tube across the azure waters of the Caribbean, he embraced the experience as hard as his little arms could squeeze. And, Sharalyn and I were able to connect underwater in ways we had not since before we had kids. It was such a simple joy to have her find me a young spotted drum and share again that giggle at its silly dorsal fin. It was a reaffirming delight to watch her strap on the gear, check it, and look out for all the other divers who were doing the same thing. 

https://familydivers.com/kids-sea-camp-event-calendar/My daughter left Buddy Dive Bonaire with one dive short of double digits. She made it to 18 dives on another trip, several with buddies who dive every day. They were so impressed with Ellie’s skill and her attention to safety. The Kids Sea Camp ethos of ‘safety over all things’ is deeply embedded in her, and I felt very good sending her off to dive with them. A second Kids Sea Camp family dive trip to Anse Chastanet St. Lucia, fell into our lap. Ellie has nearly 30 dives, Abel a PADI SEAL with 8 dives, and Sharalyn and I are hooked all over again on a sport that has given me everything. I live to see the expression on their faces when we talk about where we might all dive next as a family. Roatan? The Philippines? Fiji? Time will reveal all, but I am sure that more Kids Sea Camp is in our future.

Article by Dr. Adam Summers, Dr. Summers is a professor at the University of Washington in Biology and the School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences. He has written more than 150 scientific papers and was the fish guy for Pixar’s Finding Nemo.

Read more about Dr. Adam Summers

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