How Kids Sea Camp changed my life
Growing up Kids Sea Camp
As a kid, diving with my family kept me far away from the TV and video games for most of my summers. I made friends in many countries around the world, and I’ve kept in touch with most of them.
Growing up as a kid at Kids Sea Camp (KSC) shaped my life in so many ways. I’m close with my family, we all still dive together every year, and I hope to be a vital part of our company when I graduate from college.
Since I was six years old, I have experienced diving with marine animals in some of the world’s best dive destinations. I have learned to respect all marine life and that we need to take better care of our underwater world. I have learned first hand how fragile our coral reefs are and how fast they can die if we don’t start paying attention and doing our part. There are some reefs I have been diving on for 20 years, and I can see the damage, the difference in the health of those corals and lack of fish life. I have also experienced the opposite in places like Bonaire and Roatan and St. Lucia, where marine reserves have been created, and both human and environmental impacts have monitored and changed.
Through all my training and travels with Kids Sea Camp, I have not only learned that many endangered marine animals are ingesting plastic, and its a major cause of death because the plastic can’t be digested and causes them to starve, but now I can do my part in reducing plastics.
People enjoy diving because we are guests in a foreign world full of aliens; that are not on display in ours. There is quietness, no distractions, and limitless life to observe.
I started as a PADI SASY with Kids Sea Camp. That was the first program my mom included because Jen was four, and I was 6. SASY was cool because, as the littlest members of a family, you can have your very own BC, tank, regulator, and a full set of dive gear like your mom and dad. You feel like a little person doing big things. We loved the water, and mom had a harder time getting us out rather than putting us in the water.
By age eight, I was a PADI Master Seal diving Stingray City in the Cayman Islands, where I was born. A PADI Seal has a depth of 12 feet, but a Master Seal has a maximum depth of 20ft. I was the kind of kid to push limits and My mom loved Seal Team in the Cayman Islands because there was a sandy bottom in many dive sites at 12 feet and others at 20. So mom did not have to stress managing my depth. She once threatened to put a leash on me underwater. Let’s just say I was not the most obedient child and leave it at that.
Learning to dive as a Seal Team diver gave me confidence in myself. I was taught through Aquamissions, how to clear my mask, exchange snorkel to reg, navigation, and the best was learning to have great buoyancy before becoming an Open Water Diver. PADI Seal Team made me comfortable with a tank on my back and allowed me to get familiar with my dive gear. Seal Team also showed me how to be a good buddy, with other 8 and 9-year-olds that were diving.
My Jr. Open Water certification could not have come sooner. My birthday is in October, so I had to tolerate 3 years of PADI Seal Team. I had logged more than 40 dives as a PADI Seal. To say I was mad that mom would not allow me to get certified the summer before I turned 10 was an understatement. We were in Curacao in the summer of 2005, and mom signed me up with Tom Peyton for my long-awaited PADI Open Water Certification course. Tom was nervous and filled with uncertainty. Mom thought it would bond us together and make us better buddies. She was right.
Our Thanksgiving trips started because so many kids turn 10 in the fall and lots of kids want to get certified in the year of their 10th birthday. So mom put together the first Thanksgiving family scuba trip in 2006 because my sister Jen was not turning ten until the end of August. So spending Thanksgiving at awesome exotic destinations around the world has been our family tradition ever since. There are several families that travel with us every year too.
The cool thing about traveling with my family is that each destination is a new adventure, and I meet new people and get better at diving. Not to mention that traveling with other families is never dull.
As I was growing up, mom added new courses, activities, and sports to the trips. Kids Sea Camp creates more advanced itineraries to new destinations every year because we were getting older and demanding more fun, more challenging training courses, and more fun.
There is so much more offered now, and our family has grown over 20 years within Kids Sea Camp. New things that mom has added and loves to do like having spa days and advanced Pro courses, like DiveMaster and special needs training. I’ve invoked destinations with jungle biking, black water dives, Blow Karting and Tec training. Jen likes destinations Where she is with Woody assisting with Zombie dive training, horseback riding and beautiful beaches. Tom has added liveaboards and Citizen Science weeks as well as football, basketball, and fly fishing.
For 20 years, KSC has been teaching photography with Sea Life Cameras and Olympus, providing video and still Micro HD cameras along with in-depth photo classes. We document all the trips as I have grown up inside of Kids Sea Camp over the years.
My passion is diving, obviously inspired by my mom and childhood. I became a PADI OWSI instructor in 2014 with over a 1,000 logged dives. I completed my MSDT, Tec 40, 45, and 50 at Buddy Dive Bonaire in 2016. at 22, I completed my Tec 65 training. My specific passion is Technical diving.
Technical diving means going beyond recreational scuba diving limits. But I say that it’s really about the extreme challenges and excitement of exploring places that few people have ever seen.
In Bonaire at Buddy Dive, we now offer PADI PRO and Tec courses like I did. I am 25 now, in college, and I teach at Kids Sea Camps with my family during select trips in the summer. I enjoy teaching the next generation of divers.
People ask me all the time in which KSC destination is my favorite. I can’t answer that question because they are all great.
It’s the families who travel with us around the world that make each trip so unique and memorable. The Philippines, Indonesia, and Palau are a long way to travel for many families, but experiencing the people, food, history, culture, and diving make it so worth the travel. Diving deep wrecks, experiencing big sharks, mantas, and pristine rarely dived walls or reefs is living the dream.
My mom has been a dream maker for 30 years. She is in the Women Divers Hall of Fame for creating safe places for families to dive together. Kids Sea Camp is more than 7,000+ PADI certified kids and not a single dive accident. That is due impart to my mom’s fantastic tenacity.
My mom could not have created KSC by herself. She has had a little help from her friends. Mom has been close friends with Paul and Michelle Coolen from Buddy Dive, and Marc Bauman with Sam’s Tours is like a brother to her. When Carolyn Pascal was the publisher of Sport Diver Magazine, she loved mom’s idea so much, she told the whole world about it. Mom practically grew up in the Cayman Islands; where I was born. She has strong personal relationships with all the resort owners and dive operators she works with. She says they are her extended family, and they always have each other back.
My sister, Jen, is a PADI OWSI instructor, She is 23 years old now and in vet school. Jen and I have grown up traveling the world and it’s kept our family closer. I hate to take all the credit, but I’m sure we were 100% the inspiration for mom creating Kids Sea Camp. We have had the best life, growing up under the fins of so many amazing people.
One of my favorite parts of the trips is watching the talent presentation at the end. Listening to families sharing their experiences, parents, and kids read poems or do a skit or sing songs.
I am looking forward to running my own trips for Family Dive Adventures, a division of Kids Sea Camp, that caters more to custom trips. I want to take divers to the Sea of Cortez, Galapagos, Palau and many of the more advanced dive destinations. My favorite dives are black water night dives, shark dives, wreck and Tec dives. I am very grateful for all the international friendships and the incredible opportunities those friendships have afforded me over the past 20 years.
A special thank you to PADI for sponsoring me, to Buddy Dive Bonaire, Paul Coolen, Mr. G and most importantly, the biggest thank you to my parents for always having my back and for putting such inspiring people and places in my path.
By Robert Peyton, PADI OWSI #340202