DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — Braeden Briggs took one more breath before doing something that goes against the very nature of the human survival instinct: He removed all his SCUBA gear while suspended several feet below the surface.
“Yeah, I was a bit nervous at first, but I had to do it,” Briggs said. After removing the equipment, he then began putting it all back on while still submerged.
It was all a part of earning his SCUBA certification. Briggs recently joined thousands, if not millions, of people who have completed SCUBA training.
But one thing makes Briggs unique.
He’s 10 years old, the youngest a person can be to earn a PADI SCUBA certification.
The Marble Falls Elementary School student shrugged when first asked about the reason behind tackling a training that many people much older than him would find unnerving.
“It just looked like something that would be fun,” he said. Briggs’ father, Brandon Briggs, already held a SCUBA certification. One day, Braeden told his dad he wanted to become a certified SCUBA diver.
Braeden enrolled in classes through Scubaland Adventures in Austin. The first part of the training took place in a classroom setting where instructors went over all the science and techniques associated with SCUBA diving. Eventually, Braeden and his classmates graduated to the pool.
It was in the pool the instructors told the 10-year old that, before he could continue, he must successfully shuck all his gear while underwater and successfully put it back on. Even with instructors nearby underwater, Braeden needed to remain calm and focused while completing the tasks.
“One of the challenges was when I took my (buoyancy control device) off in the pool, my body wanted to go up while my tank wanted to go down,” Braeden said with a smile.
From the pool, Scubaland Adventures instructors accompanied Braeden and several other students to an open-water dive at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet. The ranch has a spring-fed lake that reaches depths of up to 200 feet. Braeden and his fellow students didn’t have to go that deep during their dive but only to 25-30 feet below the surface.
“I’m not sure what I was expecting. I was probably a little nervous,” Braeden said. “It was like a gateway into another world.”
During the dives — they made several over a two-day period — Braeden came face to face with several fish, touching three.
On the third dive, Braeden completed a series of decompression stops while resurfacing. This, he explained, is a technique divers use when coming up from depths to give their bodies time to adjust to the changes in pressure.
Once he has his initial PADI certification in SCUBA diving in hand, Braeden said he hopes to pursue advanced training. But, for now, he just wants to enjoy diving.
As for other people considering SCUBA diving, Braeden recommended it, even if they might harbor some fears.
“It might seem scary at first, but once you get used to it, it’s really cool,” he said. “It opens up a whole new experience.”