Six Secrets Behind Dive Center Hiring

By Brooke Morton

Being an in-demand scuba instructor is about more than just passing your IDC and IE. You’ve got to have a friendly, winning attitude, sure – but also bring more to the table. We spoke with a handful of PADI Course Directors and IDC Staff Instructors, asking them to open up their playbooks when it comes to hiring. Here’s what they revealed:

6. Be able to teach at least a couple specialties.

“We like instructors who can teach specialties – and it doesn’t necessarily matter which ones. We are open to whatever they bring. As long as you can up-sell classes – that is, when a student comes in for one course, you have the potential to get two or three classes out of that opportunity.”

— Neil Evans, PADI Course Director with Rainbow Reef IDC in Key Largo, Florida

5. Have a relationship with the store where you want to get hired.

“Don’t just walk in off the street asking for a job. If you walk in off the street, I’m pretty suspicious of you. Instead, do the fun dives with the dive center and show your interest in getting hired, then do your IDC with that dive center.”

— Kevin Barry, PADI IDC Staff Instructor with Any Water Sports in San Jose, California

4. Know the dive sites of the location where you want to work.

“The PADI Divemaster course is where you get to learn the dive sites of a location. I always suggest that someone do their divemaster course and IDC at the same place. We are always going to hire people who know the local dive sites well before we hire someone who doesn’t.”

— Will Welbourn, PADI Course Director at Coconut Tree Divers in Roatan, Honduras

3. Knowing more than one language is a plus.

2. Be able to talk about gear – not just your own.

“It’s such a plus to be good about talking about gear and why it’s good to have certain types of gear. To boost your knowledge about what’s out there, go to different gear manufacturer websites and look at specs for different gear. Learn why you would use one type of gear over another. It’s important to sell not just the top-of-the-line gear, but the pieces that fit a customer’s specific needs.”

— Neil Evans, PADI Course Director with Rainbow Reef in Key Largo, Florida

1. Demonstrate helpfulness during your IDC.

“Quite frankly, it’s about attitude. Be the one at your IDC who is as helpful as possible, volunteering to carry tanks and set up equipment – that’s who you want working around you.”

— Will Welbourn, PADI Course Director at Coconut Tree Divers in Roatan, Honduras

If you are a dive professional looking for a new job, take a look at the Employment Board at the PADI Pros’ Site for open job opportunities around the world.

Eight Tips for Rocking Your IDC

PADI Instructor

By Brooke Morton

Ready for your IDC? Don’t wait until the course starts to see where you stand. We talked with a handful of PADI Course Directors and IDC Staff Instructors about what it takes to pass an IDC with flying colors. Their best advice? Start now. Here’s how:

8. Spend time familiarizing yourself with the PADI Instructor Manual.

“Definitely be prepared to go through the Instructor Manual. You’ll need to know where certain things (such as standards and minimum ages for courses) are,” says Neil Evans, PADI Course Director with Rainbow Reef IDC in Key Largo, Florida.

padi instructor course

7. Work on your trim.

Get your weighting down for the pool, freshwater and saltwater. Says Evans, “People are so used to diving one way and they’re not used to, say, diving with no wetsuit. IDC candidates need to know their weighting for every scenario.”

6. Go through the Diving Knowledge Workbook.

Read over the materials. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask an instructor. Call your dive center or walk in for a visit.

“Go over it with someone early, as opposed to waiting until class starts,” says Michelle Pugh, PADI Master Scuba Diver™ Trainer with Dive Experience on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

5. Nail your buoyancy so that you can stay on your fin tips.

Can you hover and stay on your fin tips? If not, practice.

“You want to be as neutrally buoyant as possible—as opposed to planting down in the sand,” says Evans.

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4. Practice demonstrating skills as slowly as possible.

“There’s an IDC saying: ‘There’s slow, slower and a five.’ People tend to rush through their demonstrations of skills such as mask clearing, and that doesn’t get you a good score,” says Kevin Barry, IDC Staff Instructor with Any Water Sports in San Jose, CA.

Not sure which skills to practice? The list of 24 basic scuba skills you will need to model is listed in the PADI Instructor Manual.

3. Know dive theory.

“Find practice questions and sample exams online and have a go at them,” says Will Welbourn, PADI Course Director with Coconut Tree Divers in Roatan, Honduras.”

2. Spend time assisting instructors.

“Any instructor would love the help of an insured divemaster. Time with an instructor buys you hands-on learning, including gaining tricks for handling a lot of situations that can happen with beginner divers. Instructors can tell you what the most common things are that can happen with any skill, and what you need to do to handle those situations,” says Pugh.

1. Choose a good instructor to shadow.

“Take your time in finding an instructor to learn from,” says Pugh. Not all are created equal, and you want to be sure you’re gaining experience from someone who packs the skills, as well as patience.

If you are interested in taking the PADI Instructor Development Course, find more information here, register for IDC Online, and visit a PADI Five Star Instructor Development Center or Resort to sign up for a course.

Lastly, view the Instructor Development Calendar. 

AWARE Week Successes and Stories

Article by Tara Bradley

As AWARE Week wrapped up on 23 September, the amount of dive operators, instructors, and dive communities that participated in events throughout the world was impressive. From Project AWARE Specialty courses, to neighborhood barbecues to Dive Against Debris® events collecting over 22,000 pounds of trash, here’s how our fellow dive operators helped make AWARE Week a success.

United Arab Emirates: Divers Down UAE

Divers Down UAE collected over 110 pounds of marine debris during their Dive Against Debris event. As a way of creating shark awareness, they also conducted an AWARE Shark Conservation Specialty course for 14 of their PADI divers.

Thailand: Crystal Dive Koh Tao

The team at Crystal Dive Koh Tao spent the week conducting Dive Against Debris and AWARE Shark Conservation specialties. To finish off the event, they celebrated with a free barbecue night for all of the participants.

Curacao: Blue Bay on Curacao

A group of volunteers came together in Curacao for a beach clean-up at Hole 6. In addition to the two full boats of divers and snorkelers, participants signed up for the PADI Invasive Lion Fish Specialty Course to assist in catching the invasive species.

Australia: Dive Centre Manly

The group at Dive Centre Manly gathered 30 people for their “Blue Backyard Cleanup.” The majority of the items retrieved were plastic wrappers, single-use coffee cups, straws, cutlery, Styrofoam, and hundreds of unidentifiable pieces of plastic. As an added reward, the nearby Hawkesbury Brewing Co. gave the participants a very well-deserved free beer.

Spain: Balky Sub

In Spain, Balky Sub’s group were on one of the area’s cleaner dive sites and still recovered more than 11 pounds of plastic in one day – mostly consisting of plastic bottles and bags. And since every day is AWARE Week for this team, they make an effort to pick up trash from the ocean and beach on a daily basis.

Philippines: Dive Funatics

Before they conducted their monthly Dive Against Debris event on 22 September, Dive Funatics, located in the Philippines held a peak performance buoyancy clinic to ensure all of their divers had a chance to polish up their buoyancy. To thank their divers, participants received a T-shirt in addition to a bracelet made of upcycled debris collected from their August Dive Against Debris event.

Jordan: Deep Blue Dive Center

Deep Blue Dive Center teamed up with the Tala Bay Resort team by hosting a Dive Against Debris at Tala Bay marina on 12 September. The result: The crew cleaned up over 140 pounds of waste in 20 bags. But they didn’t stop there. The following week, a group of 15 divers conducted another clean-up.

Bonaire: Dive Friends Bonaire

From 15-21 September, Dive Friends Bonaire organized a range of activities to fight ocean pollution. With seven locations and five house reefs on-island, the group worked to promote conservation with Dive Against Debris dives on every house reef.

Florida: Rainbow Reef Divers

Since Rainbow Reef divers host a Dive Against Debris event every month, they were quick to jump into action for AWARE Week. In September, their boat removed and recorded over 2,000 pounds of marine debris.

 

AWARE Week may be over, but there are countless ways to keep your local community involved all year long. Here’s How to Make Every Week AWARE Week.

How Cold is Too Cold?

Written by DAN Staff

Whether you use a dry suit, a thick wet suit and/or warm thoughts to stay warm in cool water, it’s important to know how cold is too cold. Diving on a blustery winter morning can be fun, but pushing your body and your exposure protection to their limits can lead to serious consequences. Help your new divers and customers avoid putting themselves in harm’s way with guidance about how to stay comfortable underwater.

Letting one’s core temperature drop too low, leading to hypothermia or a near-hypothermic state, can affect dexterity, decision-making and the body’s ability to offgas. Because one of the first symptoms of serious hypothermia is diminished awareness, many individuals fail to recognize the symptoms until another diver draws attention to them. Know what to look for in yourself and your students to reduce the risk of mild hypothermia escalating into a life-threatening issue.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a drop in core body temperature. It can obviously occur in the arctic, but can also happen in warm tropical waters if divers have inadequate exposure protection and a long enough exposure. The condition is of particular concern for people lost at sea and those diving in extreme conditions.

A typical adult maintains a core body temperature of about 37°C/98.6°F. When this core temperature drops below 35°C/95°F, hypothermia begins to set in, and the body’s function begins to be impaired. To keep the vital organs warm, the body will shunt blood to the core. The initial symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, loss of coordination, dizziness, nausea and feelings of hunger. If the core temperature is allowed to continue dropping, at 30°C/86°F many people will stop shivering and their pupils will dilate. At 27.8°C/82°F, muscles become rigid and a serious risk of cardiac complications arises. These symptoms worsen as the core temperature drops, so it’s vital that people suffering from hypothermia are taken to qualified medical care as rapidly as possible.

Learn to Beat the Cold

Hypothermia can be serious, but it’s not something a well-prepared diver should have to contend with in all but the most extreme situations. Plan ahead with appropriate exposure protection, heat sources and a well thought-out emergency action plan if things get a little too chilly. Bring hot water to make a warm drink or warm water to pour into your wet suit between dives to make yourself more comfortable on a day that’s more winter wonderland than diver’s paradise outside. If you or a student begins shivering, terminate the dive in a safe manner and take time to warm up. Consider whether anyone who was shivering will be warm enough for another dive. If not, come back on a warmer day – there’s no sense in putting anyone at risk.

For more information on safe cold-water diving practices, visit DAN.org/Health.

Successful Promotion of Group Dive Travel

Want some tips on how to plan, organize and market the best group trips for your divers? Here’s the first of eight tips to help. Keep an eye out for more here shortly:

Destination

Where do your customers want to go? Somewhere far-flung and exotic or closer to home? Are they into marine life or are they more interested in wreck diving?

Distant, exotic destinations may require higher budgets. So, you’ll want to determine if your divers are willing to pay a premium for an unforgettable experience. If not, you may have to consider a closer or more affordable destination.

Keep in mind that the seasons strongly influence dive conditions and marine life sightings, so a suitable destination in June may not be so suitable in September.

You should consider all these questions when choosing your destination to make sure the trip is a good fit and your divers are excited about it.

One of the best ways to determine what your divers are interested in, where they want to go and even how much they’re willing to spend is to ask them. Survey your diver database to make sure you’re putting trips on the calendar that cater to their needs and interests.

PADI TRAVEL

Not a PADI Travel™ Affiliate yet? You can learn about the benefits and how to grow your business leveraging travel or activate your Affiliate account now.

How to Save on PADI Retail and Resort Membership Dues

Every year members ask, “How can I save more on my membership dues?”

Well it’s easy! Enroll in PADI Automatic Membership Renewal and you’ll receive the lowest rate for 2019. By enrolling before 5 November 2018, you will maintain uninterrupted access to PADI’s membership benefits including:

  • Online certification processing
  • Access to your dedicated regional Customer Service Team
  • PADI Pros’ Site marketing tools and more!

Sign up for Automatic Renewal before time runs out and the savings disappears.

Passion Equals Productive

Written by Dr. Drew Richardson, PADI President and CEO

Take a moment to think about what makes you productive. That is, what enables you to do things that benefit others – whether material, informational, spiritual or all three. Without productivity, success in anything can’t happen: it is, in effect, how we define success (and notice it’s not necessarily money or wealth). Some will tell you that productivity results from organization, luck and talent, but we’ve all seen disorganized, unlucky, ungifted people who produce and succeed extraordinarily. And sadly, sometimes we see the opposite. What’s the key element?

I think the musician Judy Collins put her finger on it. “Do what you love,” she said, “and you will find the way to get it out to the world.” That is, a passion for what you do is the one and only critical ingredient to high productivity. Zero in on what’s really important and productivity skyrockets, not because we do more things but because we do the right things. We stop wasting time on irrelevant (though often urgent) distractions that take us off task because we know where we’re going.

And, we work harder because we want to. Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, wrote, “Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress, working hard for something we love is called passion.” Passion turns failures into learning opportunities, delays into new directions and challenges into creativity. If you are truly passionate about something, you don’t have to motivate yourself to be productive with it. You only have to find the ways.

In the PADI® family, there’s no shortage of passion for diving and the underwater world, and for changing the world by sharing both. It’s why we dive and how we share diving combined. PADI’s larger purpose is changing the world for the better. Every person we bring to diving adds to the political leverage and wise consumer choices we need to protect the seas and marine animals. It adds to those healed or who are able to help heal, or both, through the power of scuba. A growing dive industry creates jobs and adds new opportunities to global and local economies. And it all happens because you and I are passionate about diving. It drives us to produce. When we can’t find a way, we make a way.

The point is to nurture and preserve your love for diving, the oceans and those who share this love. It’s the key to being productive as a dive professional. It’s the heart of making the world better with diving. If teaching becomes more about getting students through mask clearing than that gleam in their eyes when they breathe underwater for the first time (believe me, I’ve been there), step back and reconnect. Make that cool dive (trip!) you’ve been putting off. Spend an hour with a buddy listening to whales sing, watching an octopus assemble its “yard” or whatever captures your fascination. Try that new suit, CCR, regulator or computer if tech is your hot button, or chase down that person who you just know will have a burning love for diving and can’t wait to get in the water.

Put first and foremost whatever makes you genuinely passionate about diving, the ocean and sharing them, and you won’t have to worry about how to be productive. You won’t be able to help it.

15 Top Tips for Re-doing Your Website

According to a recent survey, 70-80 percent of potential customers will check out your website before phoning or visiting your dive shop. Having an attractive, informative, mobile-friendly website is more important than ever; unfortunately, many dive operations haven’t kept up with the times.

In addition to attracting new customers, a modern website can help retailers track the effectiveness of their online ad spend. Using a Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics and other tools, business owners can track which marketing efforts are driving sales and which are a waste of money.

Whether you need to update an outdated site or your free Wix/Weebly site no longer meets your needs, use the tips below to ensure your next website is the best it can be. In addition to the 15 top tips, there are three bonus ideas based upon evaluations of more than 50 dive center websites.

Evaluate Your Current Site Using a Website Grader
Not every website needs to be redesigned from scratch. Use a website grader such as Woorank to see what’s working on your existing page and what needs to be improved.

You’ll also be able to review backlinks (other sites that link to your webpage). If a prominent website such as a local TV station, newspaper or other large publication links to your Open Water page, you don’t want to lose that traffic because the URL changes and doesn’t redirect.

Check Your Search Engine Ranking
Open an incognito window in Google Chrome (this ensures your search history isn’t factored into the search results) and Google popular scuba-related searches such as:

scuba diving gear
scuba diving lessons
dive shop
PADI open water
scuba certification
scuba diving certification
padi elearning

Take note of where your current site ranks for individual keywords and where you’d like to rank higher. You’ll use this information when writing copy for your new site.

Establish Goals
Every business website should be designed around its core profit centers. For one dive center, that might be charters, for another it might be gear, or their IDC program. Also, jot down any new areas where you hope to grow (exotic travel, kids programs, etc.) to ensure there’s a home for these topics on your new site.

To prevent your new site from looking like a garage sale, create 3-5 sub-categories such as Equipment, Instruction and Travel. Give each sub-topic prominent placement on your homepage using a graphic so visitors looking for information on that topic can quickly navigate to what they need. In the example below, Project AWARE presents visitors with three images – each a portal to a different section of their website.

A recent study found 75% of website visitors form judgments about a business based on its web site and 94% of a user’s first impression is design-related.

In other words, even if dive equipment is your core business, don’t cover the homepage in pictures of dive gear. This is overwhelming to the eye and may confuse and intimidate new divers. Instead, use one attractive image on the homepage to act as a gateway to more information.

Who Are Your VIPs?
When deciding what content to put on your homepage, also consider who your core customers are and what they’re looking for. Here are a few ideas:

– People looking to get certified
– Travelers interested in booking boat dives
– Potential IDC candidates
– Certified divers who want to refresh or improve their skills
– Cruise ship guests
– Divers who need gear advice
– Parents interested in an summer activity for their kids

Size Up the Competition
Explore a handful of competitor websites. In addition to evaluating other dive operators, choose at least one non-scuba website. The non-scuba competitor might be a cycling store, a ski/snowboard shop or a yoga studio.

– Write down 2-3 things each website does well.
– Note 2-3 things the website does poorly (tip: check out their sites on a mobile device).
– Ask yourself, “if a competing dive center started running my business tomorrow, what would they change?”

Choose a Design That Promotes Your Profit Centers
After defining your goals, key customers, and what parts of your existing website you’d like to update, you’re ready to choose a design. Use the profit centers you’ve identified to narrow down the options. For example, a dive resort that caters to island guests and cruise ship passengers should choose a design that allows them to adequately address the needs of both website visitors.


A local dive center that wants to promote local diving and showcase activities should reserve space for both of those elements.

The site design should also be able to utilize Google Analytics and Facebook pixel code. If you’re not sure, do a quick Google search or ask your web designer.

Finally, responsive design (where the website content adjusts to the size of the user’s screen), is an absolute must. Design with mobile views in mind because there’s a greater than 50% chance your site will be viewed on a mobile device.

Customers should be able to easily navigate on a phone, tablet or desktop device. A mobile-friendly design also helps your business stay competitive; Google penalizes slow-loading, non-responsive pages with a low search ranking.

Compose Key Messages
According to a 2018 article in Inc, 70-80 of customers visit a small businesses’ website before contacting or visiting the store, so it’s critical your website 1) ranks highly in search 2) acts a 24/7 sales person.

Refer to your keyword research to identify the words or phrases where you’d like to rank at the top of Google search. Use keywords words in:

– Page titles and descriptions
– The page URL (ex. divecenter.com/learn-to-scuba-dive-your-city)
– As headlines

When a customer lands on your website, it should be 100% clear your dive operation is the #1 choice for dive equipment, instruction, charters, etc. Here are a few examples of key messages:

Small class sizes and all-inclusive pricing
Dive with the best! 5 Star ratings on Facebook, TripAdvisor and Yelp
The island’s most eco-friendly dive resort

Don’t Overbuild
There’s no way to fit all your knowledge and expertise into one website. Furthermore, the vast majority of visitors will only spend about 15 seconds scanning each page.

Make sure important info stands out by:

  • Using bullet points
  • Put key messages in bold
  • Using images or or sub-headers to break up long sections of text
    (long = 100 words or more).
  • Keep paragraphs short (2-3 sentences)
  • Avoid using industry jargon such as “confined water, knowledge development and acronyms DSD, RSTC, etc.)
  • Put important info “above the fold” in other words: don’t assume people will scroll down.

With websites, less is more. A flashy video can slow page load time and you should never assume a visitor will watch the whole thing.

That said, it’s a good idea to incorporate a few videos on your website. While only 25 percent of website visitors will read the majority of a webpage, 80 percent will watch a one-minute video in its entirety. Embed course promo videos from PADI’s YouTube channel, or create your own. In either case, make sure your webpage includes text with the same information the video provides, not everyone will watch the video, and if they do they might not have their sound on.

Make Contact Info and Hours Easy to Find
According to a study reported in Inc, 44 percent of visitors leave a website if they can’t find basic contact info such as an email address or phone number. The top right corner of the homepage is typically where a phone number should go. In the same corner, include a link to your Contact page.

The Contact Us page should include your store hours, all contact info and an embedded Google map. Your contact page is also a good place for social media icons and links if you don’t already have them in the website header or footer.

Connect and Be Compelling
Prevent website visits from being one-and-done by inviting visitors to start a relationship with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter and be the first to know about trips and special offers – in addition to linking to your Facebook/Instagram/YouTube account(s).  If you don’t connect with new visitors, it’s like they were never there.

Compel website visitors to take the next step. Tell them what you want them to do and include a large, bold text link or a CTA (call to action) button.

– Schedule a free, no-obligation equipment consultation [CONTACT US]
– Small class sizes for personal attention, Reserve your spot! [SEND BOOKING INQUIRY]
– Download our guide to the top 10 local dives [GET THE GUIDE]
– What’s on your dive travel bucket list? [LET US KNOW]

Don’t Expect Website Visitors to Call for Answers
After working hard to optimize your website, you can easily lose a customer by not including key information such as how much your class cost or when classes are offered.

The age of customers picking up the phone to get this information is over. In a Sep 2018 Google article on best practices, Google shared the following findings:

More than half of smartphone users purchased from a company other than the one they’d originally intended to use because the information provided by another brand was more useful

If you’re concerned about stating the price of the course because the “guy down the road” offers it cheaper, educate customers why your course is worth the extra cost. Maybe you have smaller classes sizes, include rental gear, have a on-site pool, etc. Also consider whether the bottom-dollar customer is one you want in the first place.

Use Images of Smiling Divers
In addition to showing underwater images of your local environment, help customers visualize the fun they’re going to have and the underwater life they’ll see. Use some of your most liked images from social media, or visit the Toolbox section of the PADI Pros site to download images and videos. Quality images of divers having fun help new customers understand one of the main reasons people fall in love with diving: the people!

Create an About Us Page That Turns Visitors into Friends

The About Us page is the second most-visited page by new customers and it should leave no doubt in the customer’s mind that you are THE dive shop they should work with.

  • Include links to reviews on Facebook, TripAdvisor, and/or Yelp
  • Showcase smiling photos of your staff, list their certifications and experience  
  • Talk about why you LOVE running a dive shop
  • Share a few details about your hobbies, alma mater, pets, anything to help a website visitor relate to you as a person.
  • Reassure nervous new divers that their scuba class will be safe and fun.
  • Include testimonials if you don’t have them elsewhere.

Find the Right Web Designer
Identify some websites you like and scroll to the bottom of the page. You may find a link to the person or company who built the site.

As part of the vetting process, ensure you’ll have access to update the site whenever you want. Also find out about after-hours support and what happens if the person who built the site gets hit by a bus.

Lastly, ask if they can set up your Google Analytics/Tags and install a Facebook Pixel. These essential tools require installing small snippets of code.

Test Drive Your New Site
Because your website is likely the consumer’s first encounter with your business, make sure it makes a good first impression. Invite friends, customer spouses, grandparents, etc. to evaluate your new site, in person if possible.

Ask them to first look at your site for no more than 15 seconds. What is their first impression of your business? Next, ask them to accomplish an important task like finding out how to get certified, or reserving space on your boat. Watch their mouse movements, and most importantly keep an open mind when they give you feedback.

Website Boosters:
The ideas below will help your new website rise above the competition:

A Dedicated eLearning page
Explain how eLearning saves time and also what the additional costs are. An eLearning page is also a good place to link to the medical form and eLearning student login.

Blog
A blog can help your business establish authority in a variety of areas and crush the competition in online search. It’s important that your blog be included under your domain (ex. yourdiveshop.com/blog or blog.yourdivehop.com).

Testimonial Page
Testimonials establish trust and breakdown skepticism for website visitors who are unsure about taking the next step. They’re also a way to put some of your best customers in the spotlight. Be sure you get permission and include a photo.

AWARE Week: Activities & Events Around the World

By Tara Bradley Connell

With AWARE Week, 15-23 September, quickly approaching, it’s never too late to get your dive community in the conservation game. Here are some unique activities and events to check out for inspiration.

THAILAND: Crystal Dive Koh Tao

The eco-minded dive operator, Crystal Dive Koh Tao, plans on hosting a different event each day. Already on the agenda: beach and underwater clean ups, coral restoration, scientific research projects, and Project AWARE specialties.

AUSTRALIA: Geo Divers

This Sydney PADI 5 Star IDCs has never been shy when it comes to promoting Project AWARE Specialties. This year, the team is conducting a Kids Aware program at their local school and inviting them and their parents to participate in the shop’s Dive Against Debris® event on Sunday, 23 September, followed by a barbecue.

NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand Sea Adventures

Wellington’s PADI 5 Star IDC has always had a strong focus on rebreather and technical diving as well as educating their divers on the importance of ocean awareness. During AWARE Week, they are offering free Project AWARE Specialty Courses to their local dive community.

BAHAMAS: Bimini Shark Girl

Shark Girl Jillian Morris has been educating youth on the importance of conservation since she was a kid herself. Today, she’s a shark advocate, camerawoman, and Executive Director, Education at Oceanicallstars. This year, she’s going to continue spreading the message during AWARE Week with Sharks 4 Kids, her shark education program.

FLORIDA: Rainbow Reef Dive Center

It’s no secret that the dive community in the Keys is passionate about protecting their reefs and coastline. Rainbow Reef Dive Center, located in Key Largo, is going to host a Dive Against Debris event on 21 September for guests and local divers.

UNITED KINGDOM: The Fifth Point

Located in Northumberland, The Fifth Point has been incorporating conservation into their dive programs since they opened up shop four years ago. This year, they’re taking full advantage of AWARE Week with a beach clean up, snorkel clean, egg case hunt, Dive Against Debris, lobster release, marine talk and Dive Against Debris Specialty course.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Divers Down

We all know shark populations are rapidly declining, so Divers Down Fujairah is inviting its divers to take part in the Shark Conservation Specialty course on 22 September, in hopes of raising awareness of shark conservation issues.

 

Interested in bringing a unique event to your local dive community? For more info, or to download the AWARE Week Toolkit for help hosting an event in your area, visit the AWARE Week website.

Changing the Lives of Marines Through Diving

kathy peper at get wet scuba

By Tara Bradley Connell

As an instructor in Palm Springs, California, Kathy Peper had no idea that one day her future dive students would be some of the toughest people in the country – the men and women of the U.S. Marines Corp.

“I met some Marines that were interested in scuba diving, and for about six years I pursued the idea to the marine base, but it didn’t seem like it was going to happen,” she said. “Out of the blue, I got a call from the base asking me to teach. A week later I received a contract, and the rest is history.”

Without her dive shop on base, Peper started recruiting students at the PX – a common area on the base. Four years later, the 29 Palms Marine Base gave her a permanent location where she had access to everyone from just-out-of-boot camp to seasoned Marines and their families. To date, Peper estimates that the Marines make up 98% of her divers.

kathy peper at get wet scuba

“My goal is to service the Marines and to get them out of the barracks as a way of giving them something to do that they wouldn’t normally do,” she says. “We are a resource for the Marines but also a family. They come here and talk to me about everything.”

And she’s right. From engagement ring shopping and wedding invitations to career counseling and car repairs – with help from Peper’s boyfriend – Peper’s students tend to stick around long after their C-Card is signed. For Peper, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We keep in touch with a lot of our Marines, and many come back to dive with us for our Catalina trips,” she says. “When they’re away we stay in touch by texting or Facebook. When they’re back in town, we’ll do anything we can from storing their stuff to letting them stay with us while they get situated. It’s a community more than a dive shop.”

That family atmosphere has made such an impact that one Marine changed his last name to Peper, saying she was like a mother to him. Another credits her with saving his life by using diving to help him get out of a dark place. It’s that sense of community that has turned the base’s community of divers into a family.

With such a great response from Marines wanting to try diving, Peper was inspired to host a weekly Try Scuba event – a program that introduces Marines to diving.

How it works: After signing up online, 20 Marines are scheduled every hour for an academics overview and quiz followed by pool work to familiarize them with the gear and introductory skills.

But it’s not just about diving for this group. Peper and her team also give their Marines a little bit of old-fashioned love. Whether it’s having a peanut butter and jelly station during class or a lesson on how to make killer breakfast burritos in the barrack’s microwaves, the Get Wet Scuba team makes it their mission that the Marines feel at home. And with a 50% sign-up ratio for PADI Open Water certifications after each event, they’re making an impact.

“I could do this every month, but we have to limit the amount of students we can accept,” Peper says. “I could have 100 or 50 students a month if we had enough instructors.”

With such a high demand for instructors, Peper notes the need for other dive operators to consider reaching out and creating a positive diving community among their local Marine bases. And while it didn’t happen overnight for Peper, she couldn’t be prouder of the extended dive family she’s built through her journey.

“Once I got here I realized these people are up on the base and a lot of the guys are confined to it because they don’t have vehicles,” she says. “Many are right out of boot camp with nothing to do and away from home. They are looking for stuff to do.”

When asked how others can follow in her footsteps, Peper’s motherly advice resembles a pep talk for one of her Marines.

“You just have to reach out and find out what the opportunities are,” she says. “This is a job for someone that wants to make life better for the Marines, not just to collect a paycheck. If that’s what you want, don’t give up.”

It’s that never-give-up attitude which is why Peper has become somewhat of a matriarch for her little dive shop in Palm Springs – and been able to create a place many Marines can call home.

For more on Peper and her Try Scuba program, visit getwetscubadivers.com.