Helping change the view of sharks…

As divers we have the unique opportunity to have a voice for marine creatures who don’t have one. Most of us do our part for marine conservation but not many are as committed as the Friends for Sharks crew.

Shark enthusiasts Kathryn and Nicholas took a year off from their day to day routine and created Friends for Sharks which is a marine conservation cause working to support charities Project Aware and Shark Trust and increase worldwide awareness of the plight of sharks.

Kathryn and Nicholas decided to spend one year on the road and have recently spent 6 months in New Zealand where they spoke to approximately 6500 people across 78 events. New Zealand PADI Regional Manager Jen Clent recently interviewed them about their trip so far.

Their aim:

  • Use our voices to promote marine conservation and increase worldwide awareness of the threats to sharks and rays
  • Educate and encourage people to become Friends for Sharks themselves and protect the oceans around them
  • Inspire people to be the change they want to see in the world
  • Reach audiences worldwide, including people of all ages and social backgrounds
  • Raise money for nominated charities
  • Conduct voluntary work across the globe to contribute to the local communities we visit

06-Tauranga-03 Shark Papanui

  1. When did you decide to pack up and spend a year on the road?

Friends for Sharks was born on August 28th 2014. Kathryn had just suffered a split disk earlier in the month and was confined to bed. Our work was seasonal and on a boat, so not only was Kathryn unable to work, but my work was also ending soon. Kathryn came up with the idea of us spending a year travelling to promote shark conservation as a way to employ our time productively as she recovered from her back injury.

  1. What did you set out to achieve?

The aim of Friends for Sharks is two-fold. Firstly and most importantly in our mind, to educate people as to the importance and plights of sharks and to encourage a desire to help sharks by developing an emotional connection through story telling. Secondly we raise money throughout the Tour in support of two charities: The Shark Trust and Project AWARE. 

  1. Where does your passion for sharks come from?

K: I’ve loved sharks for as long as I can remember. I took a shark book in to school for show-and-tell at the age of four. It was a classic 80’s book: shark attacks, teeth, blood etc. It made the rest of the children cry for which I was made to stand in the corner! I’ve always stood up for the underdog and at that moment sharks really seemed to have few friends.

N: Sharks have been a growing passion since I developed a love of the oceans at a young age. They’re an iconic group of creatures with fearsome reputations that from my experiences are entirely unfounded. As a diver, the more sharks I saw, the more I appreciated their grace and beauty. I don’t think there are many people who can spend much time with sharks and not develop a passion for them to some extent.

  1. Where have you spent your time on the road so far?

We started around Cornwall in the UK at the start of 2015. The trip really got going after 6 days in London at the end of February when we then flew to Vancouver for a week. This was followed by two weeks in Rarotonga the first of which was spent doing events, then enjoying a week off to recover from the previous 6 months of planning and organising. The bulk of our tour has been spent in New Zealand – 3.5 months travelling around the South Island, then 2.5 months working our way up from Wellington to Auckland.

  1. Where to after New Zealand?

We are currently in Melbourne, Australia, for 2 weeks where we have a couple of events, but are also enjoying a break with family. The next portion of our tour takes us to Fiji, Cambodia and Thailand. We have teemed up with a group called Projects Abroad who have invited us to spend time with them to share our knowledge and skills with their marine projects and local communities in those three countries. This will take us up to just before Christmas and the end of our Tour.

  1. What has been the thing that surprised you most on your trip so far?

We have talked to all ages from kindergarten through to retirement homes and what we’ve found fascinating is that the youngest children have the greatest love and fascination with sharks. There is almost no fear at all. From around the age of 6 onwards, more people mention being scared of sharks despite the fact that next to none of those people have seen sharks in the wild. While we did expect that to be the case to an extent, we were surprised by just how little fear was expressed by the youngest children and it is clear that as children grow up, the media they encounter – and no doubt warnings from parents and others – has a huge impact on how they view sharks. We are in essence bringing up another ‘Jaws generation’. 

  1. How many people have you delivered your message to?

While we’ve had to guesstimate numbers at our larger events, our current figure stands at approximately 6500 people across 78 events. We have also raised close to £8000 so far!

  1. What do you believe are the top 3 misconceptions people have about sharks?

I think the most common ‘I had no idea sharks…’ comment we’ve received from our talks has been about how calm and characterful they are.

Close in line would be beliefs around shark attacks and how they’re out to get us when really all they do is ignore us or occasionally come close to see what we are.

Finally, a common misconception is linking old to stupid. Sharks have been around for hundreds of millions of years and many people equate old to primitive, and that to stupidity. They tend to believe that sharks are essentially tubes with teeth, governed by their sense of smell and will eat anything they can get hold of. The reality is that they have considerable intelligence and often surprise with their adaptability.

  1. What advice would you give to the Dive professionals to assist in changing the publics opinion of sharks?

Share stories. We’ve found that the best way to engage people’s interest is by describing our encounters with sharks. Not only does this educate and correct the misconceptions listed above, but it’s the stories that people will remember. I would also hope that any business fortunate enough to operate where sharks are common, uses them as a draw not for ‘high adrenaline, scary shark encounters’, but promotes the grace, calm and beauty of these animals and takes the chance to educate their clients as to the true nature of sharks. It’s these people sharing their experiences with their friends who will spread the message still further. 

  1. Would you do it again?

No. The experience has been incredible but also very tough. If we were taken back to where we were just over a year ago knowing how we feel about it, we would definitely do it all again due to the huge amounts we’ve learned both about ourselves and new skills, but we won’t be doing a second World Tour.

  1. Where to next?

Once the tour is complete Friends for Sharks will likely go in to hibernation for a short while. We’re moving from the UK to New Zealand and have to find jobs and set up new lives. Once we’re settled though we aim to continue the shark work with schools and similar in our local area. We’d also like to develop some trips combining shark diving with evening lectures so if you might be interested in joining us for those in the future, join our newsletter and social media to keep up to date!

If you would like to donate to their cause or get involved in any conservation events there are always many things we as divers can do, simply check out Project Aware or contact your Regional Manager or local Dive Centre to find out how.

Thomas J Koch – PADI Course Director with a mission

Thomas Koch IDC Florida
Thomas (right) with the 4 new deaf PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors from the Florida Instructor Development Course and Instructor Examination during August.

Following the PADI Course Director Training Course (CDTC) in the Dominican Republic which took place in June this year, Thomas J Koch became PADI’s very first deaf Course Director.

The CDTC trains experienced PADI Master Instructors from all over the world in the responsibilities and duties of a PADI Course Director. PADI Course Directors teach PADI Instructor Development Courses (IDCs) and other instructor-level training, and thus are the industry’s most influential leaders and role models. Candidates use what is a lifetime of experiences and knowledge to earn this rating.

Thomas began diving in the mid 90’s and after gaining Open Water and Advanced Open Water certifications with another agency and discovered his passion for the underwater world. In his early diving days, after much searching between dive shops to find someone who would teach him until the rescue course, he learned that PADI materials have subtitles for many of their training DVD’s which help him understand the material. Thomas made the switch to PADI.

While training to become a PADI Divemaster which took him several years, he made up his mind to become a dive instructor, realising he could give better direct communication to a deaf/signer student than any other instructor could.

“My biggest struggle was finding an instructor who would have enough patience with me,” Thomas explains, “I wanted to bring the deaf community to the scuba world without them having to experience what I did: frustration”.

Thomas became a PADI Divemaster in 2009 and in 2010, a PADI Instructor. That same year he established his own company, Aqua Hands in Florida specifically to train deaf divers, either in entry/beginner levels – or right through to becoming a PADI Instructor.

To date, he has taught and certified around 90% deaf students and 10% hearing and explains that the biggest challenge deaf divers come up against is being questioned whether or not they can dive.

“That’s why I always encourage avid deaf divers to take the PADI Master Scuba Diver program, so when they go to a dive shop they will respect them more!”  It’s sad that we have to be an MSD to prove we are great divers”, he adds. “I have seen situations and heard stories where most of them struggle to actually get to dive. It’s a big deal thing when the deaf divers achieve divemaster level and other divers just want to be their friends.  They’re always amazed how we can handle ourselves underwater.”

Thomas continues, “The main thing is – we do not use signals underwater – we have a conversation underwater.  One good example… deaf divers get back on the dive boat quietly and the hearing divers get back on the boat all excited and chattering. The hearing divers have had to hold all those amazing things they saw until after the dive and say, “Did you see that beautiful fish, did you see this, did you see that….”  As for the deaf divers, we’ve already talked about it while diving.”

On becoming a PADI Course Director, Thomas realised that a huge challenge was ahead of him. “I know that I am the one and only deaf Course Director in the PADI organization globally.”

“I want to empower more deaf instructors around the world to bring the deaf community to the PADI community. There have been many occasions where deaf people came to me saying “my dive shop won’t teach me” or “do you think I should go to the Handicapped Dive Organization”, etc. I do not want them to go through that experience. I took a tough path to get to PADI Divemaster. My mission is to have the deaf community see PADI as the deaf friendly community, and that PADI welcomes the deaf with open arms. I have taught over 400 diver certifications in 5 years and it wasn’t easy! I need to add more deaf instructors so the deaf community can take their classes with direct communication.

“I want the dive industry to see what a huge advantage it is having deaf/signer divers or deaf/signer professional divers in their industry.”

In August 2015, Thomas conducted his first PADI Instructor Development Course in Florida.  Among the group of 12 candidates who attended the IDC and subsequent PADI Instructor Exam, 4 new deaf PADI Open Water Scuba Instructors were born!

Thomas intends to travel around the world and teach more deaf instructors. He has plans to conduct more PADI Instructor Development Courses in the USA and the Asia Pacific region.

PADI 5 Star Instructor Development centres are welcome to contact Thomas Koch via email:  telephone: +1 (727) 551-4426 or visit:  Facebook:

Powering Up at the PADI Business Academy in Brisbane

business academy brisbane
Due to popular demand the PADI Business Academy returned to Brisbane on the 15th -16th September to assist PADI Members with tailored marketing and business strategies relevant to the industry and their region.

Members travelled from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and even Indonesia to attend this sold out programme, which included new content specific to the training opportunities available in Australia. Danny Dwyer, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at PADI Asia Pacific travelled specifically to deliver and discuss these new and unique prospects, which are reflective of upcoming changes and opportunities within the dive industry as a whole. This included a much anticipated section on the impending release of the PADI Free Diver program, scheduled for launch later in November at DEMA.

It was a great two days with all 30 participants who will now focus on completing their key action items and the take home strategies they identified and developed over the course of the Academy. With the PADI Marketing team’s commitment to post programme follow-ups, attendees will benefit from continued support and assistance well beyond the immediate conclusion of the academy.

Peak Performance Buoyancy & Deep Diver Specialty Materials in Chinese – Coming Soon

During October 2015, PADI will be releasing both the Peak Performance Buoyancy and Deep Diver Student and Instructor Materials in Traditional Chinese.

Below is a list of the PADI Product names and codes:

Product Name Product Code
Peak Performance Buoyancy Student Manual 79315C
Peak Performance Buoyancy Instructor Outline 70236C
Deep Diver Speciality Student Manual 79300C
Deep Diver Speciality Instructor Outline 70224C


peak performance buoyancydeep diver

Excellent buoyancy control is what defines skilled scuba divers. Your Chinese speaking students can now experience this too by undertaking the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty course which will improve their buoyancy skills they learnt as a new diver and elevate them to the next level.

It’s a rare diver who hasn’t felt the urge to dive deep. The PADI Deep Diver Specialty course will open up the mysteries of dive sites to your Chinese speaking Divers that may have until now been beyond their experience.

For more information and to order – contact the PADI Sales Department  (tel + 61 2 9454 2888)

Don`t forget you can order anytime from the PADI Online Shopping Cart – log onto the PADI Pros’ Site and click Shop Online.

Position Vacant: Regional Manager (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau & OCT)

PADI LogoVertColorPADI has a new opportunity for a Regional Manager to join the PADI Asia Pacific team.

Position Vacant: Regional Manager
Area: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau & Outbound Chinese Tourism

Based in Hong Kong, you will provide local support for PADI’s Mandarin speaking Members for Sales and Marketing, Customer Service, training consultation, and promote PADI education system and philosophy.

You must have minimum PADI IDC Staff Instructor rating with PADI Course Director preferred.

For further information, please see the job description in English.

To apply please send your CV and completed Applicant Questionnaire to:

Alison Vasek
Human Resources Manager
PADI Asia Pacific

Applications close: 15th October 2015.

Beneath the Waves with Project AWARE

beneath the waves project awareIn preparation for the Our Ocean 2015 international conference in Chile on October 5-6, US Secretary of State John Kerry has posed the question, “What will you do to protect the ocean?

Project AWARE’s answer? Taking action against trash through Dive Against Debris. Scuba divers everywhere are taking a stand against the onslaught of marine debris. With our underwater skill set, we’re uniquely positioned to shine light on what we see beneath the waves – the negative impacts of underwater debris on ocean ecosystems and wildlife.

Share your underwater marine debris photos on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #BeneathTheWaves. Project AWARE will add them to their global “Beneath the Waves” photo collage to show decision-makers your underwater perspective and urge for long-term, global solutions to the marine debris issue.

We have just 30 days to show what lurks beneath the waves – share your photos of trash underwater today!

The Our Ocean 2015 conference aims to promote voluntary governmental and institutional commitments to care for the ocean. Over 400 political, academic and civil society figures as well as industry, philanthropy and nonprofit leaders will discuss solutions to topics such as illegal fishing, marine plastic pollution, ocean acidification and climate change.

Through Dive Against Debris, Project AWARE divers remove and report marine debris found beneath the waves. The trash you remove during Dive Against Debris makes the ocean safer for marine life, and more importantly, the information you report helps inform policy change. Our Ocean 2015 offers divers the opportunity to use grassroots action to empower global change.

Effective sales skills – who needs them?

Last week I took the opportunity to be part of the Effective Sales Techniques course with John Le Mesurier from The University of Sydney. What a great course and what a thoroughly knowledgeable presenter John was, the course itself was over one day and John presented the topics that covered all the objectives we had listed at the beginning of the program.

We went through various topics that related to our objectives but started with the key mistakes made in sales:
1. Not listening to the buyer
2. Not asking for the order
3. Forgetting to sell to existing customers

I think the most important thing was that I was reminded of just how good it is to refresh my sales techniques and also to be again reminded of the influence we have when in front of our diving customers, students or potential divers.
Developing trust and rapport, defining needs and problems, describing features and benefits and closing the sale.
Selling is a skill that can always be practised, you can easily refresh your mind of the logical steps that make a good competent sales person even more skilled.
If you are working in a dive centre there are so many opportunities to provide customers with information that can lead them to making a purchase, signing up for a dive course as well as cementing your position as a valuable member of staff.

If you get the chance to attend a sales course take it! For our PADI Dive Centres owners and managers if you’d like some assistance with helping staff reach their sales potential please feel free to contact me, I’d be happy to assist.
Don’t miss a sales opportunity and most importantly give your staff the sales tools to help grow your business.

USA Tour