John's Journal...

"Dive, Dive, Dive!” with Mary Lynn Berzett

Ages and Types of Folks Who Scuba Dive

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: “I’ve been diving since Moby Dick was a guppy,” says Dennis “Skinny” Hallmark of Birmingham, Alabama. At the age of 15, Hallmark made his first scuba dive with a friend in the quarry near his home, and in his words, “I was hooked.” Over the past 35 years, Hallmark has taught thousands of first-time scuba divers and diving instructors and owned dive shops in three Alabama cities in the 1980s. Certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), Hallmark also teaches instructors how to teach firemen and police to perform rescue dives. The International Diving Educators’ Association (IDEA) of Jacksonville, Florida, honored Hallmark in 2002 as its Worldwide Instructor of the Year.

Night Hawk: Tell me about the oldest person you’ve taught to dive. Why did he decide to learn? How did he like it?

Click to enlargeHallmark: We called him Gramps. He told me he was 63, and he was in good physical shape. I later learned he was actually 79- or 80-years old. His stepson was a scuba diver and asked me to teach Gramps. I did private lessons for him. Gramps had sold cars all his life and was actually a general manager for a large automobile corporation. Gramps said he’d always wanted to dive but never had the time. He also used his diving experiences as a bonding time with his stepson.

Night Hawk: Tell me about the youngest person you’ve taught to scuba dive. Why did he decide to learn and how die he like it?

Hallmark: Off-hand, I don’t remember any specific young person I’ve taught. In years past, we could teach people to scuba dive as young as we wanted to, as long as the person had the knowledge and ability to comprehend everything. Then came the lawsuits, and a standard was created. IDEA’s standard is now a minimum of 12 years of Click to enlargeage. There are no height requirements, but there is a minimum requirement of an 80-cubic-feet tank. Under PADI rules, you can teach 10-and 11-year olds, but there are restrictions attached. For example, a10-year old can dive with a professional diver and is restricted to a maximum dive of 30 feet. An 11-year old can dive with a parent or a professional diver and is restricted to a dive maximum of 30 feet. Children love diving, and sometimes are more excited about diving than their parents are. Since children have no fear and are bulletproof, you have to slow them down.

Night Hawk: Have you ever taught a handicapped person to dive? Why did they want to dive, and how did they like it?

Hallmark: Yes, I have taught handicapped individuals to scuba dive. I’ve taught people with one arm and paraplegics who have use of their hands and arms. I’ve taught a legally-blind person to dive who lives in Israel and now is an underwater micro photographer. When we teach the handicapped individuals, we have restrictions and take them to a swimming pool or somewhere like Pelham’s Blue Water Park where there are platforms and rails. They also must have a dive master or an instructor with them to make sure the equipment is continuing to function Click to enlargeproperly. All the ones I have taught have enjoyed scuba diving and have wanted to go do something different.

To contact Skinny Hallmark for further information, call him at home, (205) 980-0008, call his cell phone, (205) 907-0824 or contact him at His website is currently being redone and is unavailable. He also has a DVD that he’ll be glad to send out.

Check back each day this week for more about "Dive, Dive, Dive!” with Mary Lynn Berzett

Day 1: Memorable Dives
Day 2: Who Scuba Dives, and What Do They Learn
Day 3: Costs of Scuba-Diving Trips
Day 4: Hallmark’s Favorite Type of Diving
Day 5: Ages and Types of Folks Who Scuba Dive



Entry 314, Day 5