Friends, couples, children, parents — even grandparents — can learn how to build connections through scuba diving. From childhood dreams or first dates to the benefits of blue health and marine life encounters, sharing underwater experiences undeniably creates stronger bonds that bring families closer together.
We interviewed three couples and families who regularly explore the underwater world together. They share what it means to Live Unfiltered and the ways in which scuba diving has shown them how to build connections that will last a lifetime.
Gage and Joanne: Falling in Love with Diving (and Each Other)
How to Build Connections in a Relationship
From her first ‘dive date’ with her now-fiancé, PADI Dive Instructor Gage Veridiano, and a school of yellowfin barracudas, fitness professional and model Joanne Villablanca was hooked.
“We had a boat all to ourselves where he took me to one of his favorite sites. I saw this massive school of yellowfin barracudas—imagine my amazement seeing this for the first time!” Joanne recalled, along with stories of an anniversary liveaboard trip in Apo Reef and diving with Thresher sharks in Malapascua.
Indeed, couples like Gage and Joanne know how to build connections by creating and sharing lifelong memories through scuba diving. This underwater connection also nurtures a stronger future together. Believing that proper communication is key, Gage explained how diving has been an integral part of their relationship.
“Our first dates were underwater,” he said. “We had so much fun being able to ‘talk’ to each other while diving. It essentially played a big part to how we’re able to communicate to each other topside.”
Balance and Blue Health
Joanne also advocates the physical and mental health benefits of scuba diving. She explains that its meditative qualities and the way we move (above and below the water) bring self-awareness similar to yoga. After completing her PADI Rescue Diver certification, Joanne realized this self-awareness helps with everyday life, too.
“I understand the pressures of the modern world. Living Unfiltered to me means that I remain true to myself, not put on a show, don’t pretend to be someone I’m not, and be proud of who I really am.” — Joanne Villablanca
Similarly, Gage sees diving as a way to Live Unfiltered. It’s the chance to get away from the connected world and be as close to nature as possible. “I find that not only does it get you back in shape, be mentally sharper and more aware,” he explained, “but it’s also a great way to spend quality time with the family.”
Sure enough, despite busy schedules, professional commitments, and family life, the newly engaged couple finds balance in exploring their home reef in Batangas, Philippines, together. “When I’m not working, I’d like to find any excuse to be next to the water (or under it),” said Joanne.
Diving is a Life-Changing Experience
Having “caught the dive bug” from his father, Gage has enjoyed the wonders of the underwater world for as long as he can remember. It’s an experience he says is priceless for kids. The feeling of visiting a “whole new world, a new frontier” is one of the main reasons Gage loves diving.
“In a fast-pace modern society, it’s such a treat being able to slow down, breathe slower and be one with yourself and nature,” he said. “Now imagine being able to teach that to students and potentially offering them a life-changing experience.”
Today, Gage has over 16 years’ experience as a PADI Dive Instructor. His passion for teaching and the ocean is evident through his underwater photographs and films that make people fall in love with diving all over again. Not to mention, of course, the smiles on his students’ faces.
Miranda and Ollie: A Dream of Living Unfiltered as a Family
A Deep Connection With Nature
Miranda Krestovnikoff is an author, radio and television presenter, PADI AmbassaDiver™, and Vice-President of the UK’s largest nature conservation charity. Her connection with nature goes deep, and her appreciation of the underwater world is undeniable.
“Life underwater is peaceful. It’s just me and the water. The feeling of weightlessness, meditating on the sound of my own breathing and the calm of the gentle crackle of the water and its inhabitants,” she said. “It’s addictive!”
In fact, the calming effect of water is so important to Miranda that she had water births at home for her two children. “That is where I feel most relaxed and the feeling that their first experience after birth was being in water was also really important to me.”
It worked, because both children are now PADI Advanced Open Water Divers and aim to become instructors one day. Ollie, who is 14 years old and a dry suit diver, started six years ago with a PADI Bubblemaker course in Gozo. He now hopes to complete his PADI Rescue Diver this year.
Live Unfiltered with Shared Experiences
Miranda and Ollie regularly dive around the UK, and a recent trip gave Ollie his first grey seal encounter. “On the boat trip out to Lundy Island, we were accompanied by a pod of common dolphins. When we arrived, the seals were there waiting for us!” recalled Miranda. After a few hours of playing with the curious grey seals, they headed home. “It was a real joy to be able to share a unique experience like this with each other,” she said.
Although he says diving with seals was “incredible”, Ollie also loves the variety of warmer waters. “Last year we went to Grenada and the Red Sea which was awesome!” he said. However, he’s also quick to mention that not every dive has to be ‘spectacular’.
“It’s just enough being there and interacting with the life underwater—so much better than looking at it on a TV screen! It’s so different from school and life in general,” explained Ollie. “Sometimes it’s relaxing and other times it’s a real adrenalin rush, but always I exit from a dive feeling refreshed and happy.”
“Rarely do we have an hour of our time on the surface which is uninterrupted by a mobile call, email or a demand on our time in some way. Underwater, that time is mine—it’s precious and it is special.” — Miranda Krestovnikoff
Make the Underwater Connection as a Family
Ollie’s sister Amelie (aged 17) recently completed her PADI Advanced Open Water. She’s now looking forward to joining Miranda and Ollie on their dives.
“It’s so great that we can all dive together now. I find it more fun diving with a buddy that I know rather than someone you are just paired up with. After the dive we have lots to talk about,” said Ollie, who is also looking forward to turning 15 years old when he’ll be able to dive to 30 meters/100 feet. Then, he says, they’ll be able to “discover some great wrecks around the UK together as a family.”
Miranda always dreamed of diving as a family, but it took time. “Covid got in the way and diving in the UK is quite challenging for teenagers as you need to have a dry suit.”
Fortunately, that dream has now become a reality, and a reward that will last a lifetime. As Miranda points out, diving is something you never really stop doing. “Once you’ve learnt and trained, it will always be with you however long you leave it before going back into the water,” she said.
Thomas and Claire: How to Build Connections That Are Inclusive
Making connections together through learning
PADI AmbassaDiver™ and Course Director Thomas Koch is a business owner and father to two daughters. Both are keen divers, including 14-year-old Claire.
One of their favorite memories comes from the Bahamas, where Claire completed her certification with shark whisperer Cristina Zenato. There, she learned not only scuba skills but all about sharks, too. “When Claire first leaped into the water and she saw sharks just right in front of her. It was great that I could help Claire to understand sharks are harmless,” said Thomas.
“In my eyes, Living Unfiltered is being honest and truthful about your experiences. It took hard work to achieve my certification level, and to dive with ease and confidence.” — Claire Koch
For Thomas, discovery and learning can also mean exploring new places. “Technology nowadays takes away from what’s important in life,” he explained. “Taking my kids scuba diving is a good way to see what’s out there in the world.”
Everyone Should Be Able to Live Unfiltered
Thomas is also the founder of Florida-based Aqua Hands. The team uses American Sign Language (ASL) during dive instruction and dive travel, catering to deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
“I Live Unfiltered every time I get on a dive boat,” said Thomas. “I do not share that I am deaf and I need assistance.” While other divers might question his diving abilities, that soon disappears once they see him underwater. “They go from concerned to awesomeness—and want to know more about how they can dive better!”
To date, Thomas has certified ten deaf dive instructors and numerous Hearing instructors. In his own words, it’s a way to open the door for more people to explore and protect the ocean.
(Re)start Underwater Connections With Family
Thomas recommends PADI ReActivate as a way to have fun and rekindle underwater connections with family members who haven’t been diving in a while. “It can easily get certified divers back in the water in a heartbeat and feel being a confident diver again,” he said.
Meanwhile, as a Junior Master Scuba Diver, Claire wants more teenagers to learn to scuba dive. “Do it because if you don’t do it soon, you could never do it,” she said, also pointing out that the sooner they learn to dive, the more experience they’ll have under their belt in the future.
For those who might be struggling with their certification, Claire encourages them not to give up, offering some valuable advice. “It’s not, ‘you can’t do it’; it’s, ‘you can do it’. You don’t want to miss out on 72% of the world!”
How to Build Connections Through Scuba Diving
Are you ready to create a lasting connection with your family, friends and the blue planet? Want to swap the distractions of everyday life for the ultimate unfiltered experience? Start your PADI Open Water Diver course today, or learn more about PADI’s youth programs.
When you become a diver, you join the largest community of ocean lovers in the world. You’ll know how to build connections underwater before you know it!