Dive Report: Pedigree Keys Kids

“Their dive instructor was a
bartenders from Key Colony Inn,
Melissa was her name. My children
were about 12-years old. Angela
may have been 13. Vince was
11, and we were here on a long
weekend.”

Key Colony Beach socialite,
mom, and April Tracy’s assistant at
Cabana Breezes, Denise DeCrow
started molding her precious pollywogs
into PADI certified divers
at a ripe age. She wanted diving
to become a family activity they
could do together; instead of
leaving their Italian offspring with
a baby-sitter or on the boat while
they dove into the Florida Keys
waters.

“They were snorkelers for years.
They were like little fish. When we
would go on dive trips the dive
master would follow them around.

They were seven and five-years
old and they would snorkel over
top of us. When they got older,
this meant we could all go diving
as a do it as a family.”

Owner of SCUBAnation.com
Billy Cattogio is also a dad on the
mainland. Jacob is 11-years old
and just plunged in to earn his
PADI this past week.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking,
and a lot of fun. I had the camera
on him and wanted him to do
well. He never took formal swim
lessons, but has always been a
little bit of a fish.”

For the open water certification
they hit Dania Beach for a
beach dive and then Barracuda
Reef, both times immersing the
children to 35’ of water.

DeCrow’s kids trained in a KCB
pool and then got certified in a
quarry off of Grassy Key.

“You should have seen the look
on their faces,” recalls DeCrow.

“The quarry is dark and full of
seaweed. It’s yucky, dark water.
But, that’s where they learned. In
a quarry.”

According to Angel Diaz,
assistant manager for Divers
Direct Greene Street store in Old
Town, any child 10-years or older
can earn their certification. The
decision should be made on their
abilities and comfort level in the
water and in the gear.

“Your best bet is to bring the
kid in. Sometimes they’ll fit into
the kids’ packages and sometimes
they’re big enough to fit into
adults. I’d rather they have that
then grow out of the kids stuff
right away,” affirms Angel.

Which is why Cattogio had his
boy Jacob try on a half dozen to
a dozen different fins, masks, and
snorkels.

Because they went through
Divers Direct for the certification,
top-of-the line dive gear was
provided for Jacob; an Aqualung
BCD with integrated weight
system, 3 mm Evos shorty wetsuit,
an Atomic Snorkel and Frameless
Mask, and Suunto Dive Computer.

“It took eight pounds to sink
him with the wetsuit on. Then,
when he came up, him and all the
kids were reading their gages. Kids
are automatic when it comes to
using technology, and computers
come in to play with safety as far
as gauging when to come up and
how much air they’ve used.”

This dad didn’t jump in like he
does off a dive boat during
the fitting process. He didn’t want
to influence how the equipment
could or should feel. Diaz reminds
parents a child’s face is generally
smaller than an adult’s so you have
to be in the store to try on all the
gear to see what works best. The
adult BCD’s come in XS, which will
generally fit a 10-year old.

“Go with the Aqualung,” recommends
Diaz “They have a better
warranty and they’re better made.”

Especially, if you’re like the
DeCrow’s who only hit the water
once a year with their decade old
gear, now that they two youngsters
are in college. Angela is a
senior studying psychology at
the University of Miami and her
brother is up in Ohio attending
Kent State University.

“Diving has always been something
no one else I knew growing
up on Ohio could do. We use
the same stuff as when we were
certified because we don’t go as
much. The best part is we don’t
fight because Vince and I can’t yell
at each other underwater, and taking
pictures with the underwater
camera!”

Despite having trouble clearing
his ears on the first certification
dive Cattogio’s boy, going into the
sixth grade this year, loved it.

“He was absolutely floored by
his experience,” claims dad. “During
the second dive he was doing
poses underwater, we got to see
a bunch of lobsters and a turtle
hung out with us for five minutes.

If a kid expresses an interest we
definitely want to get this next
generation certified and loving
the sport.”

Once you learn, it’s kind of like
riding a bike, Denise DeCrow is
convinced. We only have time to
go once a year now as a family
because we’re so busy, but it’s part
of their Keys’ pedigree. If you live
on the ocean, you have to know
how to live in the water!”

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