Something We All Need

Cody Unser - First Step - Foundation

In 2008, something happened to Leo Morales that most of us can’t even imagine – his leg was amputated to stop aggressive cancer. But what would be lifelong setback for some didn’t deter him. Already a passionate diver, Morales not only went back to diving, he became an instructor and a tec diver. Then he set two records (depth and distance) for divers with disabilities. Then he . . . well, he grew into an impressive and accomplished person by any standard: a PADI AmbassaDiver, Tedx presenter, author and inspiring mentor for hundreds – maybe thousands of people. Amazingly, Morales says that if he could change the past and keep his leg, that he would not. “Scuba diving gave me my life back,” he says. He actually took his life back using scuba, leveraging it to do more and now gives back more than many would expect. Amazing.

It’s a moving story, but only one example that diving, beyond its force for healing the oceans, heals people – and there are more stories than you can count. Paraplegic at age 12 from transerve myelitis, after the discovering freedom and therapy scuba gave her, PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Cody Unser now uses scuba to help people living with paralysis, and participates in related research, through her First Step Foundation. Losing his legs in a combat zone, PADI Divemaster Chris Middleton, U.K. similarly found the healing power of scuba when he started diving with Deptherapy, and now works with Deptherapy to get more people involved.

And it’s not just physical healing. After serving in Iraq combat and discharged in 2014, US Marine Juan Gonzales had diagnosed Post Tramautic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It impeded having healthy connections with people – particularly his family – but discovered diving through WAVES (Wounded American Veterans Experience Scuba), which uses diving’s healing power to help veterans with physical or psychological wounds. Gonzales says the peace he experiences diving has been a major help in his battle with PTSD.

PADI Course Director Thomas Koch can’t hear, but with scuba, his “disability” turns into an advantage. Why? When his daughter Claire got her Junior Open Water Scuba Diver certification with PADI Course Director Cristina Zenato, they talked as fluently and as much as they always do – underwater, using American Sign Language.

There are hundreds of stories – miracles really – about how, through diving, people have helped, healed and comforted. There are literally hundreds of dive professionals and divers who serve divers with disabilities, and you bring honor and meaning to the dive community as a Force for Good.

But, the truth is, scuba’s healing power goes beyond this because everyone needs healing at times. The dynamics of life can often hurt. There are times when it feels like the weight of the world got dumped on your back. Maybe you can’t sleep and you’re not much fun to be around. Maybe the people you care about most don’t get to see your best, and yet they worry about you. And you see it in their eyes.

Then you go diving . . . and something wonderful happens. The worry world stays at the surface as you descend into the underwater world. Your mind clears. What’s really important can finally break through. Your buddy signals, “okay?” And for the first time in a long time, you really mean it when you reply, “okay!” Maybe it takes a couple of “doses” (dives), but you become you again. It reflects in the faces of those you care about.

My point is this. We share diving because it’s a wonderful experience that we’re passionate about, but we should also share it because it’s a restoring, healing experience. Some of us need it more than others, but that’s something we all need.

Wishing you the happiest New Year,

Dr. Drew Richardson

PADI President & CEO

Our Unshakable Foundation

Bonaire- Diver- Happy - Scuba Diving

Amid everything the PADI® organization does in a rapidly changing world, we need to always build on the foundation for everything the PADI family does. It’s what John Cronin and Ralph Erickson laid down first when they established PADI in 1966, it’s our foundation today and it will carry us into the future. That foundation is, of course, education: diver training. What we teach and how we teach have, will and must continue to change. But, that we teach will never go away. It can’t, because it’s not what we do, but who we are.

Training is PADI’s foundation, but the heart of it is not the PADI System, eLearning, instructor cue cards and the like. These are powerful modern tools, but in 1966, several years before all of these existed, you could take PADI courses and earn PADI certifications because our training foundation was already there, entrusted where it is today – in the hands of you and your fellow PADI Instructors, Assistant Instructors and Divemasters. Without you, the PADI System – the best education system in diving by a long shot – can’t do what it does so well, much as a Steinway piano can’t sound like a Steinway without a master at its keys.

Even with all the innovations in instructional technology, such as the rise of artificial intelligence and dynamic online learning systems, human teachers still bear the weight of the best education. Innovations are important to keep PADI training relevant in today’s dynamic, personalized online world, but you still need great instructors to have great training. As American author William Arthur Ward explained it: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

That describes the PADI family – more than 130,000 people who inspire others to learn, to dive and to care. Together we motivate divers to rise to new challenges, to have underwater adventures, to heal and help others with scuba, and to protect our fragile world. PADI Course Directors shape the future by passing our collective -wisdom to a rising generation of dive leaders, who will in turn inspire divers to do things we have not even imagined yet. Everything the global PADI organization does today has its roots in training, and that training has its roots in you, me and the rest of the PADI family.

Aristotle said, around 2,300 years ago, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,” and that hasn’t changed – the PADI family doesn’t “teach diving”; we educate the heart and transform lives. That’s what makes PADI’s training foundation solid.

Good luck, good teaching and good diving,

Drew Richardson Ed.D.
PADI President and CEO

This article originally appeared in the 4th Quarter edition of The Undersea Journal.

How Can We Protect More of Our Oceans?

For more than two decades, scientists have been telling us that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the keys to long term ocean health. While some debated their worth early on, today there’s little dispute. As reported by Smithsonian Magazine, MPAs with full protection have four times as much life (biomass). Species grow larger and reproduce proportionately more. MPAs and the areas around them recover more quickly from environmental damage, and (along with fishery management) have higher fish catches — so much so that commercial fishing comes out ahead despite the loss of fishable area.

While established as big wins for everyone, global governments are not on track to meet a U.N. goal to have 10% of the world’s ocean under full protection by 2020. Officially, we’re at just under 6%, but some say it’s really under 4% because some declared MPAs have no enforcement and nothing’s changed.

(Caption: Moreton Bay Hope Spot Anemone Fish – Photo By Chis Roelfsema)

But thanks to Hope Spots, we can help catch up and get ahead of the curve. Hope Spots, if you’re not familiar, were conceived by Dr. Sylvia Earle, with coordination and oversight by Mission Blue, a not-for-profit organization Dr. Earle founded to unite people and organizations for this cause. Hope Spots are unique marine areas identified as particularly distinct due to the diversity of species found there, the habitat’s importance for reproduction, threats from human activity, community economic needs or any other attribute that makes a location central to marine environmental health.

The idea is to conserve and preserve Hope Spots by leveraging public perception and attention so they receive appropriate protection (not necessarily becoming MPAs, and some Hope Spots are already MPAs). As you’d expect, the PADI organization formally partnered with Mission Blue in 2017, adding the weight of 26 million+ PADI Diver voices to the Hope Spot cause. Thanks to Dr. Earle, Hope Spots are a conspicuous example of how one person with a great idea can inspire millions to unite across borders and cultures for a common purpose.

(Caption: Global Hope Spots map. Photo: Mission Blue)

Today, there are almost 100 existing and proposed Hope Spots, and they are important, even though preserving them will not, in itself, halt global climate change, clean up the oceans, stop overfishing, etc. These bigger problems call for big, broad and deep social changes (that are not impossible), but we still need Hope Spots for several reasons:

  • By creating areas with proven biological productivity, they help us buy time addressing some of these challenges. For example, Hope Spots won’t solve overfishing, but by providing areas in which fish reproduction functions unchecked, we prop up fish populations as we sort through the management issues.
  • Hope Spots help preserve biodiversity. Some scientists see this as helping the ocean bounce back with as many species as possible as we make positive changes. Others, accepting that some change is permanent, see biodiversity as central to marine ecology. That is, some coral species tolerate heat better than others; having a diverse genetic supply of such species may be important in a warmer ocean.
  • Hope Spots are inspirational and visible. Hope Spots draw attention. They remind communities just how close and personal ocean threats are, but that we can (and must) act to offset them. As a source of local pride, Hot Spots inspire area divers and ocean advocates to speak up for and fight for them. Mission Blue, PADI and other supporters use social media to highlight Hope Spot stories to make and keep them in the broad public eye.

As a diver, you can support the PADI organization, Mission Blue and others united behind Hope Spots. You can nominate a Hope Spot, and you can participate in events promoting/protecting a Hope Spot (many led by PADI dive shops or instructors, and may tie in Project AWARE as well). Of course, you can contribute to Hope Spot funding – check out mission-blue.org. If you live near or visit a Hope Spot, talk about it in person and on social media – especially with those who may not be aware of it. Finally, get involved with Project AWARE and your local PADI dive operation to make every dive count. Millions of people like you and me passionately preserving, conserving and restoring the ocean is the best hope there is.

Dr. Drew Richardson

PADI President & CEO