By Kirk Krack and Mandy Rae Krack
Being water people, it was always a given that our child would grow up in and around the water. But would she grow to love it and be as comfortable in it as we are? So far, she does. What a relief! But how did that come to be? Did she inherit it? Was it because she was always around people in the water? Or was it how we have raised her?
Because Kirk and I were raised around water and because we are both professional divers (first scuba and then freediving), we respect the water but we don’t fear it. I think that makes a big difference. Fear of the water can be passed on to kids. In many cases it means that kids aren’t taken to pools very often, if ever; and kids can hear about the fears of their parents and take them on to be their fears, too.
Right from birth we kept her in the water. At first that meant baths. Kirk would fill a deep bath and get in with her. She would suck on his finger while floating on her back. Just her face out of the water, so peaceful and relaxed. Then he would start helping her kick. So cute to watch.
At three months of age we got her into her first swim class at the local pool. We practiced proper safety as well as how to get your child comfortable going fully underwater, along side many other first-time parents. The key, we quickly found, was to balance skill building with fun. LOTS of fun! So we went to the pool as often as possible.
I would notice other parents with similar-aged children, who put them in life jackets when they were around water. And if they fell in, the parents would quickly pick up and console the child. It was very different for us. If Kaila was walking in shallow water and fell in the water, we would give her a little time to find her footing and try to get up on her own. If she wasn’t getting it, we would of course help her up but then we would cheer and clap. We acted like it was fun to have been underwater, rather than scary. We were always within arms reach but wanted her to have fun and learn how to help herself.
Every year around May we would travel to Grand Cayman for our Performance Freediving International Deja Blue Freediving Competition. This was always where we would see her biggest improvements in swimming. How could she not when she would spend almost every waking hour during our three to four week trip, in a pool or in the ocean with us? She would see the older kids swimming and playing and want to be part of it all. It was the year just after she had turned two, that she did it. Her swimming was getting really good but she didn’t want to go swimming without the little blow up vest she had been wearing that trip. That was until one day, near the end of the trip, when she was playing with Kirk and the other kids in the pool. She had on the vest and swam away from him to the ladder and got out. Then she asked him to take the vest off of her. Once it was off, she turned and jumped towards him in the pool and swam. And she hasn’t stopped since.
As she gets older we put more emphasis on safety. She has learnt about how to do a proper breathe up and how to do recovery breathing after a freedive. We have tried to make sure that she knows how to be a good buddy; always one person up on the surface being the safety while the other dives. From a young age we would play games where we would have her rescue us. She would grab us by our heads while we were floating on our backs, and she would swim us to shore. She would have fun practicing how to do the “Blow-Tap-Talk” method of helping someone recover from a blackout. As she gets older, this emphasis on safety will be reinforced. She will continue to gain new skills and reach new depths as a Freediver and, as she does, she will need to respect the dangers that this can bring if she doesn’t practice proper safety. We hear all too often how divers see their young teenagers getting to depths they themselves can’t dive to and they do it with no formal training or safety training. It is our job as parents to make sure that our kids are given the skills to not only have fun and enjoy the water, but also to ensure they are as safe as possible.
So what gear do you start your child off with? We started Kaila with goggles. We kept a pair by the bathtub so she could use them and play during bath time. Once she was big enough to fit a child’s snorkel we started to introduce her to that. We found that it was easiest to do while she wore the goggles, which she was already comfortable wearing. Then we started looking for a mask that would fit her. Her first mask was a youth Aqua Sphere mask. The mask took a while for her to get used to, as she wanted to breath through her nose and you just can’t do that when you have a mask on! One tip, get a silicone mask. They cost a bit more but seal much better than the cheaper PVC ones.
For her, adding the snorkel to the mask made the difference, as she was used to breathing though the snorkel. We did find that a dry snorkel worked best for her. She kept wanting to dive under but didn’t quite have the power to blast clear the snorkel when she came back up. A dry snorkel meant she could go under and still breathe when she came back up.
Start them off in adjustable fins and aqua shoes. Eventually, when their feet are big enough, you can find then full foot fins. A wetsuit is one piece of equipment that not only helps in their enjoyment by keeping them warm and protecting them from the elements, but also adds an extra level of safety by giving them some added buoyancy.
The Next Generation
Being freedivers, we always looked for ways to allow the whole family to enjoy it together. Many of our customers have families with kids who have grown up in and under the water with their parents. So it was a natural progression to add a kids event to our Deja Blue Freediving competition. It was headed up and organized by one of the kids, Zan Lapp. She grew up at Deja Blue with her parents competing and has grown into quite a good freediver herself. She arranges prizes and even developed some unique disciplines for the kids. One of their favourites is Stynamic. In this discipline the child breathes up in the arms of their parent, takes their final breath, then tucks into a ball. The parent then starts to spin them around in circles for as long as the child can hold their breath. They also compete in regular disciplines such as static, dynamic and constant weight. The kids have a blast and we all enjoy watching the next generation of freedivers developing a love of and healthy respect for the sport we all love so much.
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