How I got my start with Kids Sea Camp

By Lord Woodrow Tinsley, 2020

One of the most common questions asked of me by families, is how did I find Kids Sea Camp (KSC)? It’s actually a fascinating story that encompasses a series of fortuitous events.

I started diving in 1998 and considered myself still a rookie diver in 2004 when I first bumped into KSC. The event was dominating the island of Curacao for 4 weeks every summer. I just happened to be on my first dive vacation and as I tried to book some diving at Ocean Encounters, I was told that there was a big family dive event going on and the diving was fully booked for the next 4 weeks. I liked kids but KSC had chartered the resort, restaurants, and fully booked the dive shop. So I dove with another operator but watched from a distance thinking how much fun KSC divers were having and how cool it would be to bring my future kids on a Kids Sea Camp trip.

Woody Tinsley, Kids Sea Camp, Kids and scuba diving, Family Dive Adventures

Fast forward two years later, I spent a great deal of time out fossil shark tooth diving. I had written two articles for Shark Diver Magazine and also became a PADI SCUBA instructor. After writing my articles, I was invited to give a presentation at the annual Boston Sea Rovers Clinic.  And years later I would be accepted into their ranks which was the proudest personal accomplishment of my life. I threw together a presentation about ethical souvenir buying; you know dead Seahorses, and sharks in jars, etc. I created it to a PowerPoint nursery rhyme though. Cristina Zenato attended, you know the now-famous “shark whisper”. She was The Shark Lady and instructor at UNNEXSO in the Bahamas. Christina loved my presentation and invited me down to be a staff member at UNEXSO’s first Kids Sea Camp event. I couldn’t believe it! My future kids had been born but were not old enough just yet to join.

My first Kids Sea Camp

So I alone departed the US for my first KSC adventure in 2007. Christina put me in charge of the PADI Seal Team. I was on an island paradise and teaching Aqua Missions to kids in a 17-foot deep pool. Now if you know me now, you know I’m not a “pool” guy. But honestly, it was the most rewarding and fun week of my life until later when I brought my own kids. That trip, I certified five little Seals, including Natasha and Nay Nay two 9-year-old local girls who won the Kids Sea Camp scholarship.

At the end of the week before the KSC poetry and Junkanoo celebration, I won my first Sealife camera in the talent show pulling off an especially fantastic lip-sync rendition of the Thriller dance. My first KSC week was amazing, truth be told, it actually took Margo until Thursday to ask me to come to work for Kids Sea Camp.

I’ve been to 40+ kids Sea Camp events over the last 14 years.

My favorites are obviously the trips I shared with my own 2 kids Rowan and Brison Bell. However, the best one ever was at Buddy Dive in Bonaire in July of 2019. Owners Paul & Michelle Coolen along with Margo & Tom Peyton helped me put together a special Woody family moment in the middle of KSC. I brought my mom Barbara, girlfriend Sally, her two kids Olivia and Mason, myself, and my two kids. I planned to ask Sally to marry me underwater during the camp. Yep, during a KSC dive week and everyone had a hand in making happen. 

Woody Tinsley, Kids Sea Camp, Family Dive Adventures, kids and scuba diving
Woody Tinsley

Sally was just certified so I took her on our first couples dive just off the house reef, my mom age 72 had not been diving in 10 years, So Robbie had to help with her and Rowan. Both Sally’s kids had just completed the Jr. Open Water course and this was like their first dive. Margo jumped in to shoot photos with Tom and on July 25th, 2019, I proposed to my now wife Sally Tinsley at Kids Sea Camp, Buddy Dive underwater. I had the whole family underwater with my mom and it was so fantastic. I wrote on my slate to Sally “the question”, and only hoped she would circle the YES instead of the NO, and she did.

Why I love Kids Sea Camp

I’ve watched my children grow up at Kids Sea Camp. I have also taught over 600 kids about our underwater world and certified them at Kids Sea Camps. According to a statistic I made up, one out of every three Kids Sea Camp divers will have been certified by me in the year 2035. I have loved watching kids from all around the globe grow as divers, and I am always inspired at how much diving has impacted their lives in such a positive way with their families, and friends. Some of my first Zombie Apocalypse Diver Students are now instructors! Addie Benz, Lilly Blakey, Jen Peyton, Rob Peyton, Ryan Seltz, Max Lavinsky, and Grant Smith.

My own family is the number one reason I love Kids Sea Camp. You and I all know why Margo Peyton started her company. The exhilarating feeling of diving with your kids at any age is untouchable. Then add in ubiquitous parrotfish, a flounder, brain coral, the things you and I find banal, and take for granted become exciting again when you experience them through your children’s eyes. That purposely sunk rowboat to make an artificial reef is like diving the Titanic to them.

For me, sharing this sport with my own children and hearing them talk about diving with zeal — melts my heart every time. As I’m sure it does yours. I love Kids Sea Camp because I am apart of something much greater than myself, which allows me to share life in a way I never imagined was possible with my family and yours.

So what’s next for my Kids Sea Camp story? To be honest I have no idea. But it will probably involve years of fun in the sea with Family Dive Adventures and Kids Sea Camp See you there! I’m planning on it! Join me in Dominica, Palau, The Cayman Islands Roatan, and Fiji for 2021.

A note from Margo and Tom: It is unquestionable that Woody Tinsley has made our company and our lives better. Kids Sea Camp would not be the wonderful fun-loving company of today without Woody’s larger than life influence. Woody reminds us every day to laugh out loud at the bizarre world we live in, to embrace and love each other without limits, and to be gentle and kind as much as you can with everyone you meet. Thank you, Lord Doctor, Woody Tinsley, for the years of pouring in your heart and soul making Kids Sea Camp that much better.