A serious topic became a fun activity when youngsters got their first taste of scuba diving at Tauranga's Oceanz Dive Conference and Exhibition held over the weekend.
The conference for dive enthusiasts included Earth2Ocean dive shop using the containers lost overboard from the Rena as inspiration for an interesting challenge in an inflatable pool outside Oceanz' venue at Baycourt.
Once kids were rigged up with an air tank, they were fitted with blacked-out goggles and told to feel around the floor of the pool to retrieve seven containers - actually lead weights. The reward for perserverance was a bag of lollies.
Tauranga Intermediate pupil Jack McLaren of Papamoa, an enthusiastic free diver who has explored the reefs of Fiji with his parents, needed no persuading to give it a go. A bag of lollies later and he was looking forward to enrolling in one of Earth2Ocean's 10-week introductory scuba diving courses early next year.
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Children from as young as 10 can take the plunge, graduating from Earth2Ocean's four-metre-deep pool to open water diving. The dive shop's co-owner Chris Munday said it was a chance for the kids to give it a try and if they liked it they could give it a go for real.
Jack, who can hold his breath for about 75 seconds, said he was really looking forward to not having to surface for lung-fulls of air when he was diving in pursuit of a fish or something else that was interesting. "By the time I have gone back down, the fish can be gone. I'm really looking forward to scuba diving."
Meanwhile, Oceanz organiser Shane Wasik said the event had been brilliant for the dive enthusiasts who travelled from as far afield as the top of the South Island to attend the rebirth of an event last held in the late-1990s.
The downside to Oceanz 2011 was the disappointing turnout from members of the public to see a fascinating array of exhibits and underwater photos. Mr Wasik, the president of the New Zealand Underwater Association, said they were a bit worried they might not cover their costs and could end up out of pocket. His fiancee Nikki Limond was the other organiser. "It has been a lot of work on top of our day jobs."