Do you remember your first dive? I most certainly do. It was in the Bahamas, aged 16 and with - in hindsight - a distinctly cowboy dive outfit, but within five minutes of being down I'd seen a shark off in the distance, and after 20 minutes, a turtle considerably closer. As you can imagine, I was hooked for life.
Over the scarily large number of intervening years I've racked up a fair few dives (although not nearly as many as my illustrious colleagues here in Original Diving) and ever since I've had children of my own I've been excited about the prospect of diving with them and for them to experience that amazing buzz from exploring the underwater world.
I'd always known that you can do your PADI Open Water Diver course from the age of ten but what I hadn't appreciated until recently was the concept of PADI's Bubblemaker course, which children as young as eight can sign up for.
Fast forward a few months, and we were staying as a family at the Maldivian resort of Soneva Fushi - quite simply my favourite place in the world. We're fortunate enough to have four waterbabies as children, including a four year old who can't even swim without armbands yet but who was determined to come along for a family snorkel on the (fabulous) house reef. But the piece de resistance, at least for our nine year old twins, India and Siena, was the chance to try the Bubblemaker.
We headed over to the island's Soleni Dive Centre and as it turns out, Soneva Fushi is pretty much the perfect place to do your Bubblemaker, because a) Soleni are superb and b) there's no main pool on the island, so the aquatic part of the course is done on the sandy sea floor just a few feet deep and then diving along the house reef, populated as it is by tens of thousands of vivid tropical fish.
But before that, a little theory. The charming Italian instructor Fabio was on hand to explain the basics of breathing through the regulator and purging any water from the mouthpiece. Then he and fellow dive instructor Katya took India and Siena across to the beach and just 15 minutes after arriving at the dive centre the twins had their heads under water, breathing from the spare regulators from their instructors' tanks.
A few minutes spent practicing purging and clearing their masks and they were off to the edge of the reef, nursed gently along and two or three metres down spotting oriental sweetlips, parrotfish, bluefin trevally, Moorish idols and endless other species of reef fish in near perfect visibility. It was all rather emotional for their dad, snorkelling around and generally getting in the way with his new GoPro.
After a good half an hour below the surface the girls swam back to shore, now accompanied by their younger brother George (aka the Boy from Atlantis) who was diving down to wave at them and who vowed there and then to pretend to be eight so he could do the Bubblemaker course too.
As we walked back along the beach to our villa we all excitedly swapped stories about which variety of what we'd seen, and that evening two extremely smart certificates were lying on the girls' beds. These have since taken pride of place on the walls of their room back home, and they can't wait to give diving another go.
The Seal Team
It gets better, while Bubblemaker may not count towards completing their Open Water course, the PADI Seal Team - also available for eight year olds and up - very much does. India and Siena haven't yet been lucky enough to try out the Seal Team's ten so-called AquaMissions - which cover skills from recovering a regulator to search and recovery diving and marine creature identification - but they're desperate to complete the course and become PADI Master Seal Team Members.
All in all, I doff my mask to PADI. For any dive obsessed parents looking to get their youngsters hooked from an earlier age, this is the perfect introduction to a magical new world beneath the waves. Dive in!