It’s youth who can make a dif­fer­ence to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. But it will take our gov­ern­ment and gov­ern­ments around the world in­sist­ing on more marine-science ed­u­ca­tion.”

Unit­ing kids and adults to foster to­mor­row’s ocean stewards

Scuba Diving - - Ascend - SEA HERO: WAYNE HAS SON

Wayne Hasson, pres­i­dent of Ag­gres­sor Fleet, is leg­endary as the man who in­vented live­aboard div­ing as we know it to­day. He’s come a long way since teach­ing him­self to dive at 17 with equip­ment from Sears, Roe­buck — “ad­mit­tedly, I was not very good at this,” he says with a laugh. What hasn’t changed is Hasson’s child­like won­der at all things ocean, and his pas­sion for in­tro­duc­ing kids and adults to that world through the Oceans for Youth Foun­da­tion, a net­work of thou­sands of vol­un­teers who bring ocean ed­u­ca­tion to stu­dent and civic groups. For his drive to share and pro­tect the un­der­wa­ter realm, Hasson is our May Sea Hero.

Q: Oceans for Youth Foun­da­tion is about to hit 20 years. How did it start?

A: Oceans for Youth be­gan with the SASY, or “Supplied Air Snorke­l­ing for Youth” [a mod­i­fied scuba unit that al­lows users to breathe from a con­tin­u­ous air sup­ply while float­ing on the sur­face] de­vice. I in­vented it and re­ceived a patent that was li­censed to Scubapro, Aqua Lung and oth­ers. Within the first few years, there were hun­dreds of SASYS used in re­sorts, dive shops and even at Dis­ney parks.

Q: Why is it im­por­tant to in­tro­duce young peo­ple to the oceans?

A: It’s youth who can make a dif­fer­ence to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. But it takes more than a hand­ful of dive shops, in­struc­tors and train­ing agen­cies. It will take our gov­ern­ment and gov­ern­ments around the world in­sist­ing on more marine-science ed­u­ca­tion in pub­lic and pri­vate schools to en­able young peo­ple to re­ally un­der­stand the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing our oceans.

Oceans for Youth does not ex­clude adults — it has al­ways been our mis­sion to en­gage adults to ed­u­cate youth about aquatic life. From the start, we so­licited vol­un­teers to go into schools and show kids pro­grams that we pro­vided, many of which were donated by the Ocean Fu­tures So­ci­ety founded by Jean-michel Cousteau, who sits on the Oceans for Youth ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee.

Q: OFY spon­sors travel to Cuba’s Gar­dens of the Queen — why Cuba?

A: Gar­dens of the Queen is a prime

ex­am­ple of what our oceans would look like to­day if only we were al­lowed to pro­tect them as Cuba has so far. Cuba man­aged to do this by sim­ply not al­low­ing any out­siders to come into their waters and take their marine re­sources. They es­tab­lished marine pro­tec­tion pro­grams early on, with very lit­tle in the way of fi­nan­cial re­sources, pro­tect­ing and keep­ing this 75-mile stretch of flora and fauna healthy. Divers who do the Oceans for Youth pro­gram leave with a sense of re­spect; hope­fully many will tell oth­ers — in­clud­ing younger gen­er­a­tions — that they wit­nessed life un­der­wa­ter the way it should be ev­ery­where.

Q: What’s the big­gest chal­lenge you see in marine con­ser­va­tion?

A: Finding many more men and women who think alike and be­lieve in sav­ing what we still have left of our en­vi­ron­ment, peo­ple who will take the time to talk to our youth about the im­por­tance of aquatic life for the fu­ture of our planet. Over­fish­ing is the most crit­i­cal is­sue to­day, fol­lowed by the pol­lu­tion we put into our waters that ends up harm­ing or ac­tu­ally killing our nat­u­ral re­sources.

Q: What’s been your most sat­is­fy­ing mo­ment with Oceans for Youth Foun­da­tion?

A: The day the dive in­dus­try first said yes to low­er­ing the age to be­come cer­ti­fied [to 10 for ju­nior open-water divers]. I be­came a NAUI In­struc­tor in 1971 and have taught thou­sands to dive, and even to­day en­joy shar­ing any bit of knowl­edge I have about our sport and the en­vi­ron­ment we must all work to pro­tect. To be able to go into schools and give pre­sen­ta­tions that ex­cite our youth and in­spire them to take a look un­der­wa­ter is a plea­sure I have had so of­ten in my life, along with ever so many smiles, laughs and hugs.

Q: How can divers help?

A: Use your own pow­ers of per­sua­sion to en­cour­age our youth to take a look un­der­wa­ter.

“I’m just a big kid my­self,” says Hasson, seen here (cen­ter left) with lo­cal chil­dren in Fiji.

YEAR CER­TI­FIED 1969 AGE WHEN CER­TI­FIED 20 CER­TI­FI­CA­TION LEVEL SSI In­struc­tor Cer­ti­fier; PADI, SDI, TDI and NAUI In­struc­tor WORDS TO LIVE BY “I live to dive and en­joy be­ing un­der­wa­ter wher­ever I am.”

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