There are lots of ways children can experience fun in the water: sports such as sailing and diving have become more and more popular with families, with organizations offering specialized courses and sessions just for kids. Finding the right activity is important, and finding the right coach is essential, if you want to equip your child with new skills in the water. A key consideration for which water activities to choose will be your child’s confidence in the water and their swimming ability. Most watersports require children to be able to swim a certain distance.
“Diving is a relaxing experience I will never tire of. The thing I like most about it is exploring the magical undersea world ”
PADI (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors), is the world’s leading scuba diving training organization, offering a range of courses for children starting as young as eight years old. Carried out solely at accredited dive schools, under professional supervision, there are a range of different programs which introduce children and teenagers to scuba diving in safe surroundings.
Yunchong Xue (age 11) from Beijing attends Tuanjiehu No.2 School and first tried diving on holiday in Sanya when he was eight. He immediately fell in love with it. As soon as he reached the required age for PADI, he undertook and passed the open water test through PADI accredited dive center Beijing Dive Buddy (BDB). The center provides diving courses in Beijing, at venues including Ocean Park, and organizes diving trips to various islands in Asia.
The BDB center is close to Yunchong’s family home, and the club’s reputation for using quality coaches with flexible schedules, made it the perfect choice for his monthly training sessions. Within one year of obtaining his open water certificate, Yunchong already had more than 20 dives of experience. These dives were undertaken in Qinhuangdao, Anilao in the Philippines, and Phuket Island in Thailand.
“Diving is a relaxing experience I will never tire of. The thing I like most about it is exploring the magical undersea world,” says Yunchong. “Sea hares, pygmy seahorses, all kinds of coral, sharks, sea turtles, and lionfish; I had only seen these marine animals in the encyclopedia, but now they are alive and right in front of my eyes.”
This summer Yunchong and his family are going to Bali, to see manta ray and sunfish, “I’m excited just thinking about it!” he says.
“[It] was great for their confidence in the water”
Dinghy boating is one of the most family-friendly ways to get close to the water and experience the thrill of sailing in a more safe and cost-effective way. It’s the best form of sailing for children because it’s the fastest form to learn; dinghies are quick and simple to rig and are very responsive and easy to handle. They’re also well suited to gentle sailing on rivers and lakes. ‘Paddlesports’ such as canoeing and kayaking offer a great opportunity for kids to take to the water.
Clarence (age 8) and Samantha Tsang (9) are Hong Kong nationals, born in Beijing. They both attend The International School of Beijing (ISB) and tried water sports for the first time in 2014. Mom Estella Tsang explained, “My kids had done other activities with Peter Tupper before, and always had a great time. When we heard he had founded the multi-sports organization Imagine., we knew that his camps would be fun.”
Imagine. run a watersports camp on the Olympic Rowing Lake Shunyi. Kids are able to try a combination of activities, including kayaking, rafting, and paddle-boarding. For the sailing element of the camp program, kids work towards a ‘Learn to Sail Level 1’ Certificate, and are taught how to sail an Optimist dinghy boat single-handedly.
Tsang was impressed with how the girls had grasped how to maneuver a sailboat, with no assistance, from attending just one summer camp. “They were so proud of their achievements.” Imagine. will be hosting a family day at the Shunyi Lake in September, called Boat Race of International Schools in China (BRISC), with races for kids and parents on sailboats, rafts, and kayaks. “Clarence and Samantha are not exactly hardy sea captains, but loved spending time on the water. This is a good opportunity to give it a go with no pressure,” says Tsang. Sailing teaches a lot about coordination, concentration, and multi-tasking. “They loved to play around the paddle boards and rafts last summer, which was great for their confidence in the water,” she says.
“Swimming is great for flexibility, endurance, and my arm strength”
Jett (age 8) and Malia Pedersen (10) are students at The British School of Beijing
Sanlitun (BSB). From the USA, they have lived in Beijing since 2014. Jett started swimming at 18 months, Malia when she was just 9 months. “When we arrived in Beijing the pollution was bad, so my parents asked BSB for swim club recommendations, so that my brother and I could stay active,” explained Malia. BSB directed them to Dragon Fire Swim Club. Parents Chris and Molly then researched Dragon Fire on-line and met the coaches one afternoon during a swim session. “The other kids and the instructors looked like they were having fun, while also being serious about correct technique,” explained Jett.
Dragon Fire was started in 1994, and has over 300 swimmers hailing from more than 25 different countries. Swimmers range in age from 4 to 17, and most of them are students at international schools. They have a team that competes at international meets, and with local teams in China. Lessons take place at the Canadian International School of Beijing, Dulwich College Beijing, Western Academy of Beijing, and BSB and Dragon Fire also runs swim camps.
Last fall and winter, both kids went swimming twice a week for an hour each. Now they go once a week. “Swimming is fun and is good exercise for you,” says Jett. “My favorite strokes are freestyle and backstroke.” Malia agrees that swimming is fun. “I like to swim fast and I like to dive off the starting blocks. Freestyle is my favorite, it is the stroke that I know how to do best,” she says. Both kids have taken part in swimming competitions, competing in swim meets with Dragon Fire and with their school.
Swimming has obvious benefits to their overall fitness, which helps with other sports. “Swimming is great for flexibility, endurance, and my arm strength,” says Malia. In Beijing, they like to swim at the Keystone pool, and Malia enjoyed swimming at Harrow’s pool during FOBISEA. When on holiday, its hotel pools for Jett and the open ocean for Malia.
Tom Rodriguez (age 10) is French/English and has been living in Beijing for the past two years. He attends the Lycée Français
International de Pékin. Tom started swimming age 4, but began proper lessons through Sports Beijing when he moved to Beijing. “I now have technique and style thanks to my lessons,” he explains. “Lessons take place at ISB, which is close to our home, and Sports Beijing has a very good reputation regarding kids’ sports activities.”
Sports Beijing works with Aqua Warriors’ Swim Club to offer swim programs hosted at ISB. For intermediate level swimmers, coaches provide expert tuition and guidance to help kids become an all-round better swimmer, or to reach competition standard. For beginners there is a ‘Learn to Swim’ program where coaches focus on gaining water confidence and acquiring the basic skills of the various swimming strokes.
Tom has lessons once a week during term time, and there are lots of things he loves about swimming. “Being in the water, exercising, and having fun, all at the same time,” he says. He enjoys freestyle best and swimming helps with the two other sports that he plays – tennis and badminton.
When he’s not having lessons, Tom enjoys swimming in the indoor and outdoor pools of the compound where the family lives. They also have a small pool in the garden of their summer house in France. “There are no excuses for not swimming all year round!” he jokes. “When we’re on vacation I like the seaside very much, so the beach is really the best place to swim.”
Beijing Dive Buddy Club
B-328 Longyuan Wenhua Chuangyiyuan, Sihui (400 0287 778, 159 1054 2357 (English), email@example.com) www.vvdiving.com, www.divescover.com/dive-center/beijing-dive-buddy-s-23672/16684 朝阳四惠龙源文化创意园B-328
Dragon Fire Swim Club
49 Beisanhuan Xilu, Haidian District (136 0106 4534, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.dragonfire.com.cn 海淀区北三环西路49号
(5739 4933, email@example.com) www.imagine-china.com
2/F, Lido Country Club, 6 Jiang Tai Road, Chaoyang District (6430 1370/1176, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.sportsbj.org 北京朝阳区将台路6号丽都饭店丽都乡村俱乐部二层
Beijing AoFan Sailing Club 北京奥帆俱乐部
Offering sailing courses, kayak and raft rentals, school sailing programs, and summer camps.
Olympic Water Park, 19 Baima Lu, Shunyi District (5949 4599, 139 1046 5950, email@example.com)
Beijing Fishing Tour
A guided fishing trip agency offering tailor-made fishing trips around Beijing. Trips are suitable for tourists, beginners, or seasoned anglers.
(6716 0201 ext 1006, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.tour-beijing.com/fishing_tour
Opened in 1995, a PADI 5 star instructor development center and PADI 5 star diving center.
2/F, Yi Fang Yuan, 12 Cheng Shou Si Road, Fengtai District (8768 4700 / 8768 4780, email@example.com) www.dragondiving.com.cn/en 北京丰台区成寿寺路甲12号 颐方园体育健康城1层北侧
Founded in 2003, offers PADI scuba diving courses. Confined water dives take place at Blue Zoo Beijing, with fun dives available at Beijing Aquarium.
Workers’ Stadium South Gate, Chaoyang District (186 1113 3629, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.sinoscuba.com 朝阳区工人体育场南门
Photos: Sally Wilson, courtesy of Chris Pedersen, Imagine., Paul Rodriguez, and Beijing Dive Buddy
This article originally appeared on pages 60-61 of the beijingkids July 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email email@example.com.