“My Sidemount Experience” by PADI Regional Manager, Neil Richards

Written by PADI Regional Manager for East Thailand, Neil Richards.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Stepping outside of your comfort zone, and trying new things, is the best way to grow.

Most of my friends in the diving industry (and myself included) started out as young travellers looking for new experiences and adventures. Maybe you did the same.

Do you remember when you made that decision to pack your ruck sack and go? With your new bag on your back stuffed with first aid kits, shoes for all occasions and a bar of soap, off you set not really knowing what to expect.

The excitement you felt getting on an overnight train in a completely different country. The new tastes, sounds and smells, experiencing a complete ‘culture shock’. You arrive at the jetty after a long journey to take your first look at the island you will be calling home for the next few months. It was such a change from your normal, comfortable life. However, after some time, the excitement of being in new territory subsided and life started to get comfortable again, some of the excitement was not there anymore. You still loved your new life, but something was missing.

I had a similar feeling when I started diving. Trying something completely new and out of my comfort zone was exciting and challenging. It was so awesome I decided that going home was no longer an option and I went on to become a PADI Instructor. 13 years later, after thousands of dives and a myriad of experience, I started to feel the itch to try something new. I wanted to get back that excitement that I had when I first started diving – I needed a new challenge. So I decided to take the PADI Sidemount course.

I have always had a desire to become a technical diver. This yearning came after some awe inspiring dives in the cenote caves in Mexico. They were some of the most amazing and adventurous dives I have ever experienced. I noticed two other divers had two of their tanks beside them instead of on their backs. They continued into the cave system and were soon out of sight. I became really curious and wanted to follow them but with a single cylinder on my back, and no specialised training, of course this was not an option. I later learned that this configuration is known as “Sidemount”.

The last few years for me have been very busy so only recently did I manage to get the time and opportunity to take my PADI Sidemount Specialty course. Even with all my years of experience, I felt completely out of my comfort zone and I was having a diving culture shock. It felt like the first time I went travelling again. Everything was new and unfamiliar. I had to start thinking about buoyancy again. I was unaccustomed to the trim and equipment configuration. Equipment set up was completely different. As for the in water skills, I almost felt like a complete beginner. Taking cylinders off and pushing them ahead of me whilst I tried to stay streamlined and neutrally buoyant must have looked almost comical, however after a bit of practice it became much easier. It was one of the most challenging and exciting courses I have taken.

The PADI Sidemount Specialty is not just for divers wanting to explore the more technical side of diving. It has become increasingly popular with recreational divers, some of whom find the configuration of having cylinders on the sides instead of on the back, more comfortable and easier to access.

Sidemount has now opened up a whole new avenue into diving I didn’t know existed. Be it technical or recreational, or whether experienced or new to diving, the PADI Sidemount Specialty is definitely for those who love a new adventure.

PADI Instructor Examinations for October, 2017

Congratulations to the many new PADI Instructors who completed their PADI Instructor Examinations in October.

01 October | Bali, Indonesia

03 October | Dumaguete, Philippines

04 October | Whitianga, New Zealand

06 October | El Nido, Philippines

09 October | Malapascua, Philippines

12 October | Boracay, Philippines

14 October | Cairns, Australia

14 October | Phuket, Thailand

17 October | Gold Coast, Australia

17 October | Koh Tao, Thailand

21 October | Melbourne, Australia

21 October | Sanya, China

21 October | Tioman Island, Malaysia

21 October | Singapore, Singapore

21 October | Jeju Island, South Korea

28 October | Nanning, China

28 October | Hong Kong

28 October | Uljin, South Korea

PADI MSD Challenge – Coming Soon

The PADI MSD Challenge is a contest for eligible PADI Dive Centres or Resorts in Asia Pacific and offers prizes for PADI Members. It is a PADI Member focused contest and tools are available to help you promote the PADI Master Scuba Diver rating to divers.

PADI MSD Challenge artwork available in the marketing toolkit

This contest is aimed to help grow interest in the PADI Master Scuba Diver rating and increase the sales of related PADI con-ed courses and student materials. PADI con-ed courses offer the perfect opportunity to widen the knowledge of your students, better understand their interests as divers, and make sure they come back to do more courses. You can also tie this in with the free PADI MSD Application available in the Asia Pacific region.

The goal of the Contest is for PADI Dive Centres or Resorts to increase their Continuing Education certifications and, specifically, their MSD certifications (rating) beginning 1st December 2017 to 31st May 2018, over the same calendar period for 2016/2017. Eligible entrants are automatically entered and will compete in one of two categories, which are based on the PADI MSD Challenge program;

  • Level 1: PADI Dive Centers with 0-4 MSD certifications during the Comparison Period
  • Level 2: PADI Dive Centers with 5+ MSD certifications during the Comparison Period


  • 1st place winner in level 1 and 2: 1 Free 2018 PADI Retailer & Resort Association Membership Renewal (Refunded)*. 5 PADI Gift Packs with backpack, polo shirt, t-shirt, cap and water bottle. 1 AU$300 PADI Gear Voucher. Total Retail Value: AU$900 plus 2018 Membership Renewal Fee* (AU$236.00 – AU$1513.00, excluding GST, depending on Membership Level).
  • 2nd place winner in level 1 and 2: 5 PADI Gift Packs with backpack, polo shirt, t-shirt, cap & water bottle. 1 AU$150 PADI Gear Voucher. Total Retail Value: AU$750.

Official Contest Rules – *Refer to official contest rules (Coming Soon). 2018 Renewal will be refunded for winner.

Important Note: The above information is subject to change. Official communication with rules will be sent via email and available via your PADI Regional Manager later in November.

Resources & tools: To help you promote the PADI Master Scuba Diver rating to divers you can download free digital marketing materials at the PADI Pros Site (Toolbox > Marketing > More Campaigns).

Questions? Contact your PADI Regional Manager or the PADI Asia Pacific marketing team; marketing@padi.com.au.

PADI Specialty of the Quarter – Coming Soon

Coming soon to PADI Asia Pacific, the PADI Specialty of the Quarter campaign will focus on different PADI specialties each quarter.

While officially launching for 2018 we have made the Q4 2017 resources and tools available to gather feedback from PADI Members on the campaign.

This marketing initiative will help you grow interest in continuing education and increase sales of PADI Specialty courses and student materials. PADI Specialty courses offer the perfect opportunity to widen the knowledge of your students, better understand their interests as divers and make sure they come back to do more courses. You can also tie this in with the free PADI MSD Application available in the Asia Pacific region.

Each quarter there will be two PADI Specialty courses promoted. This will provide flexibility to promote both or select the one which best suits your dive shop while still being a focused campaign. PADI Asia Pacific will also be promoting these specialty courses throughout Quarter 4.

Quarter 4 (Oct – Dec) 2017 Specialities:

  • PADI Wreck Diver Specialty course
  • PADI Digital Underwater Photographer Specialty course

2018 PADI Specialty of the Quarter: Q1 calendar will be released in early December 2017.

Resources and tools:  To help you promote the PADI “Specialty of the Quarter” you can download free digital marketing materials including web banners, headers, and more and the PADI Pros Site (Toolbox > Marketing > More Campaigns).

 Questions? Contact your PADI Regional Manager or the PADI Asia Pacific marketing team; marketing@padi.com.au.

New PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty

PADI® Professionals have a long and successful history of adapting training to meet individual needs. This includes accepting people with physical and mental challenges into courses and creatively finding techniques that allow them to master skills and meet course performance requirements.

The new PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course is designed to build on that foundation by broadening awareness and further exploring adaptive techniques. This specialty course is unique in that it’s designed for PADI Divemasters or Master Freedivers and higher.

The course consists of one knowledge development session that introduces the concept of holistic teaching and explores equipment and logistical considerations. It also includes a workshop that helps you look at dive centre accessibility from the perspective of people with various disabilities.

There are two confined water workshops that focus on transfers, entries, exits, assists and communication, along with demonstrating, adapting and practicing skills based on a student diver’s abilities and limitations. The two open water workshops focus on evaluating accessibility, organizing and pacing dives, and adapting skills to the open water environment.

When training people with physical and mental challenges, you learn to focus on what they can do rather than on what they can’t. You don’t have to take this specialty to work with divers with disabilities, but the knowledge and skills you gain can help you adapt course content to accommodate virtually any student diver. This specialty course will expand your ability to be student-centered and prescriptive in approach when adapting scuba or freediving techniques.

Adaptive Techniques Specialty Course Goals

To help PADI Pros:

  • Become more aware and mindful of individual considerations when introducing people with disabilities to diving or freediving.
  • Learn new adaptive techniques to use while supervising and training divers/freedivers with disabilities in PADI courses and programs.
  • Properly counsel and direct student divers, based on their abilities, toward PADI certification, PADI experience programs or toward a disabilities-dedicated diving organization.
  • Explore additional ways to motivate and encourage student divers with mental and/or physical challenges.

PADI Adaptive Support Diver

The subset course, PADI Adaptive Support Diver, is for divers who want to learn how to best support dive buddies who have a physical or mental disability. The course consists of the same knowledge development session as the full specialty, but only requires completion of one confined water workshop and one open water workshop. The prerequisites are PADI Open Water Diver or PADI Freediver™ (or higher), EFR®Primary and Secondary Care course completion within 24 months and to be at least 15 years old. Completion of the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy is recommended beforehand to give the diver firsthand awareness of proper trim.

Because the PADI Adaptive Support Diver course is a standardized specialty, divers can credit an Adventure Dive toward Advanced Open Water Diver certification, and can also credit the specialty toward PADI Master Scuba Diver™.

Becoming an Adaptive Techniques Specialty Instructor

To be authorized to teach the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course and subcourse, PADI Instructors and PADI Freediver Instructors have the usual two application paths:

  1. Complete a PADI Specialty Instructor Training Course with a PADI Course Director, or PADI Freediver Instructor Trainer who is authorized as a PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty Instructor Trainer.
  2. Apply directly to your PADI Regional Headquarters with proof of additional experience and training.

The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty Instructor Guide is used to support the course. Although the guide primarily addresses scuba diving, PADI Freediver Instructors who are Adaptive Techniques Specialty Instructors will find the guide inclusive of freedivers, with reminder notes about cross-referencing the PADI Freediver Program Instructor Guide.

The course launched at the 2017 DEMA Show in Orlando, Florida, USA, and is currently only available in English. For more information, contact your PADI Regional Training Consultant or go to the PADI Pros’ Site under Training Essentials for further resources about training divers with disabilities.

PADI Asia Pacific Quality Management Team Changes

The Quality Management team has undergone some changes in the last few years. Richard Evans retired from PADI in June this year after 27 years of service. Richard’s eminent career with PADI included establishing the PADI Middle East office, managing the PADI Bristol office and being Manager of Risk Management at PADI Asia Pacific. Richard received an award at OzTek in 2017 recognising his Exceptional Contributions to the Growth & Development of Recreational Diving and an award from DAN Asia Pacific for his Contribution to Diver Safety.

Richard Evans

In December this year the current Manager of Quality and Risk Management, Mike Holme, will retire after 17 years of distinguished service to PADI Members. Mike became a PADI Instructor in 1984 and worked as an instructor in Queensland, Australia where he ran several successful dive businesses. He later managed the Aqua Trek group of Dive Centres in Fiji and was formally recognised by PADI for his contribution to PADI Instructor Training in the region.

Mike Holme

Mike became the Manager of Training & Quality Management department for PADI Asia Pacific in May 2000. Initially, supervising the Educational Consultants, Risk Management and Instructor Development staff, in 2005 he was appointed as Director of Training & Quality Management. In 2015, Mike become responsible for managing the highly specialised Quality Management team delivering exceptional Quality and Risk Management for PADI Members.

Mike and Richard’s expertise in the industry and particularly in the area of training, quality and risk management are unsurpassed. While Richard and Mike will be sorely missed, the new Quality Management team is fresh and exciting and brings extensive experience from the field.

Donny McFadden joins the team in November 2017 as a Quality Management Consultant and brings significant field experience and an impressive technical diving CV. Donny joined PADI in January 2017 as a Regional Training Consultant, a role in which he has provided outstanding service to PADI Members.  Donny also acts as a PADI Technical Diving Consultant. He is a PADI MSDT and EFR instructor with many technical diving qualifications including Tec Deep Instructor, Tec Sidemount Instructor and Tec Trimix Instructor.

Don Mcfadden

Rebecca Wastall joined the team in mid 2017 direct from Koh Tao, Thailand and is a PADI Staff Instructor with extensive experience in the resort diving industry and IDC training. Rebecca is a PADI Staff Instructor with a legal background, having been called to the Bar in 2002, she has worked as a Criminal/Civil Barrister in the UK for 14 years. Rebecca’s extensive legal background coupled with her diving experience is a great addition to the Quality Management team.

Rebecca Wastall

Ming Chan has 10 years’ experience as a PADI Professional Member and successfully completed his Course Director qualification in Kota Kinabalu in September. Ming is based in Beijing and provides Quality and Risk Management services for members in the area speaking both Mandarin and Cantonese.

Ming Chan

Herman Wong is based in Hong Kong with 13 years’ experience as a PADI Member in Hong Kong, the Maldives, Thailand, Philippines, and Malaysia. Herman splits his efforts between Instructor Development, PADI Examiner work and Quality Management. Herman is an accomplished cave and technical diver who is a TecRec Trimix Instructor Trainer and was awarded the Silver Course Director rating in 2013 and 2014.

Herman Wong

Vanessa Henderson has been with PADI in various administrative roles for 7 years and continues to provide administrative support in the Quality Management department.

Vanessa Henderson

Michelle Brunton will become manager of Quality Management in 2018 and has over 20 years’ experience in the Diving Industry. Michelle holds a Master of Science and she is a PADI Course Director, Examiner and EFR Instructor Trainer.  Her recent experience includes Diving Safety Officer for Otago University for 4 years, Board Member and Internal Auditor for Academy of Diving Trust, and 10 years as General Manager and Course Director at Dive Otago where she won the PADI Instructor Development award. Michelle has been a safety supervisor and diver in the Antarctic and on active Volcanos for international research parties.

Michelle Brunton

The Quality Management team will follow in the footsteps of Mike and Richard in providing excellent services to the members in the area and look forward to working with PADI Members throughout Asia Pacific.

For Quality Management contact qa@padi.com.au and for incidents incident@padi.com.au