Make a Life

scuba diving drew richardson make a life

How did you get into diving? Or more specifically, who got you into diving? You’re a diver either because someone took you by the hand and led you to an instructor, or you found an instructor who nurtured your interest. Maybe it was a bit of both or someone else helped you along, but no matter how you slice it, we’re all divers because someone shared diving with us. They opened the door, encouraged us and made us feel welcome. Even if we were already interested thanks to the internet, television, cinema or whatever, to some to extent (usually to a large one) diving was (and is) a gift.

padi divers

IMO, it’s a gift we should share. American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” I added the emphasis because this absolutely describes diving. As I’ve said here before, diving reshapes lives, alters perspectives and changes attitudes. Thanks to this, some of us become teachers who help shape a rising generation that will preserve the seas. Others of us combat climate change and restore coral damage. Through diving we experience healing, and last year, the world watched divers spearhead a massive effort to save 12 boys and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. Longfellow was right; when we give diving by inviting others into our ranks, we are often giving far more than we imagine.

And, unlike many things today, diving is uncontroversial. People are hungry for enlightening experiences, new friendships and ways to contribute meaningfully. Diving is a gift because it’s not just an invitation into a wonderous world that feeds this hunger, but because it’s inclusive, not divisive. We become divers without swinging our political outlook, joining a cult or endorsing a new world order. It brings us together regardless of differences, which makes sharing diving so easy I’m astounded when divers don’t do it. But, as Lemony Snicket says in the children’s book Shouldn’t You Be In School?, “Hungry people should be fed. It takes some people a long time to figure this out.”

learning to scuba dive

We don’t need to figure this out; we just need to make the effort to do it. When we wax eloquent about our dives at the water cooler, post underwater images on social media, update others on the latest AWARE event, etc., all we have to do is put it out there: “You’ll love it – come meet my instructor.” “Check out this link. Awesome underwater shots.” “How ’bout lunch? We can drop by my dive shop after.” If you’re already an instructor, it’s even easier: “What are you doing (whenever)? You can try it (or get started).” You get the idea.

English stateman Winston Churchill famously said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Or lives. Make a point of giving diving to others.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Share Your Vision

It’s estimated that every two minutes, humanity takes more pictures than were taken in all of the 1800s. As of 2018, they say we shoot at least 1 trillion images annually – 2.7 billion daily or 1.9 million every minute, posting about 300 million daily.

As amazing as these numbers are, what I find more amazing is that just as these words found you amid the approximately 9-quadrillion-plus words humanity uses daily, the images you and I take as divers do not get lost amid the trillions of others taken. In fact, they are more visible than in the past.

This is because while image volume is skyrocketing, how we use imagery is expanding. Not that long ago, the average person shared crude (by modern standards) snaps as prints or a slideshow with a few friends, and relived memories now and again by flipping through them. Reaching more than a handful of people with stills or video was almost exclusively the domain of serious enthusiasts and professionals.

But not anymore. Today we use mobile devices to capture about 90% of images, and imaging has grown into part of everyone’s communication. We all reach thousands-plus on social media. We can post in (or almost in) real time whenever we want, and our images transcend “pictures” because they’re messages sent to people with whom we have personal ties – that’s what gets your images (and words) through the staggering numbers to get seen, and it doesn’t end there. On the receiving end, your friends see them almost immediately and when they’re interesting and/or compelling, they broaden who you reach by reposting to others with whom they have personal ties. So, our imagery reaches more people, and it is more powerful because it is a universal communication that conveys our experiences, visions and perspectives across national borders and language barriers.

This is especially true for us divers. Thanks to its extraordinary ability to emotionally connect with the human experience of going into inner space, photography has always been close to the heart and soul of diving (the first underwater photos actually predate scuba). Today, divers easily snap images with color, sharpness and quality that the pros agonized to get in the 1960s and 70s. Applying these modern technologies to high end cameras and computer post-processing, today’s serious underwater shooters produce stills and video that were unimaginable, unimaginably difficult or even impossible two decades ago.

All this means that whether you’re passionate about serious imagery, or just snapping casual shots (and we need both), your images have power. They can influence. You can use them to communicate with others about the oceans and underwater world at a time in history when it matters most.

Stills and video of coral, kelp forests and reef-wrecks show that the underwater world is beautiful, worth experiencing and worth saving – we need these, but our messages must be wider. Ugly, but important, shots of dead/broken coral, adrift plastic, a litter-strewn beach or a sea lion drowned in a ghost net remind people that we have some urgent, serious problems that threaten life on Earth. Divers in an AWARE underwater clean up, restoring coral and staging a save-the-sharks outreach show that divers care and are doing something about these problems. Before-during-after dive moments with buddies, video of an Advanced Open Water Diver student triumphantly mastering navigation, and shots of a physically challenged person, an elderly person and a youngster diving together show that diving forges friendships, teaches us about ourselves, and embraces everyone.

It’s often said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Whether it’s your mobile device, a mask-mounted GoPro or a pro-quality camera, as a diver your posted images can be worth more than that. The right image may be worth a thousand fewer kilos of plastic contaminating the seas. A thousand more sharks still alive. A thousand more divers shoulder-to-shoulder with us as the seas’ ambassadors and a force for good.

So please, shoot, post and share. The world needs to see what you and I see.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

A Way to Pay It Forward and Make a Difference

Like most PADI® Members around the world, you’re probably aware that the 2017 hurricane season wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. And in 2018, other areas suffered from natural disasters: earthquakes in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Taiwan; Super Typhoon Mangkhut hit Guam, Marshall Islands, the Philippines and southern China; plus there were 11 other typhoons and a list of other disasters. Every year, natural catastrophes devastate -different parts of the world, including some of the most popular dive destinations. Each event costs hundreds of lives and billions in US dollars of damage.

If you live in an unaffected area you can help those affected – especially your fellow PADI Members. Here’s how: Go there, and go diving. Better yet, set up a group dive trip and take everyone you can there with you.

I don’t want to make light of the -tragedy wrought by storms and other natural disasters. Rather, I’m pointing out that economic damage from lost tourism can often have a lasting effect on dive operators in these regions. To use the Caribbean as an example, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reports that, overall, tourism accounts for 15 percent of the region’s gross economy – $56-plus billion US and 2.4 million jobs. But that’s the regional average – many islands’ economies are more than 25 percent tourism, with a few more than 90 percent! Lost tourism following the 2017 hurricanes is costing the Caribbean billions in US dollars beyond the physical damage costs.

Following a disaster, restoration has two stages: relief and recovery. Relief is the immediate aid to provide food, shelter, fresh water, medical supplies, etc., to the affected areas. Recovery is the much longer process of rebuilding businesses, structures, homes . . . and the economy, which is often the last to recover. That’s where dive travel comes in. The sooner tourism returns, the faster that part of the local economy rebounds, which also helps fund physical restoration. In many areas dive tourism is a significant part of tourism, and in some locations, it’s almost all of it. The more diving contributes to the tourist economy, the bigger diving’s role in recovery.

So, immediately after natural disasters, we can help by giving to relief organizations, and if able, by volunteering to go with these organizations to assist with relief. After, as things stabilize, we can help by restoring the diving portion of tourism. It’s important that we don’t stay away just because “everyone else is.” We find out what’s open and who’s still operating, and start going back as soon as possible. We spread the word.

Tourism and dive tourism often become functional again faster than the general public realizes. Using the Caribbean as an example again, although some areas and operators were and remain devastated, most of the top dive destinations are open and operational. Many dive operations that got hit hard are already back up. Others had very little or no damage and never really shut down, apart from the storms themselves. However, despite these facts, the WTTC predicts that it will be 2022 before visitor spending reaches pre-2017 levels.

Although I wish PADI and diving were big enough to knock down predictions like this single-handedly in every disaster-affected location, we’re not. But, with more than 130,000 professional members and millions of divers around the world we can sure make a difference and help recovery, just by going to these places to do what we love doing.

Good luck, good teaching and good diving.

Drew Richardson Ed.D.,  PADI President and CEO

 

Avoid the Trap

Apart from medical issues, what do you think most causes or contributes to serious dive incidents? Gear failure? Conditions? Panic? No, while these can all be factors, the number one cause or contributor in serious accidents is bad decisions. When we make good choices and follow accepted diving practices, unpleasant experiences are very rare, even when the unexpected happens. But, studies show that when divers make poor decisions, the probability of injury, death or a close call goes up disproportionately.

This shouldn’t be surprising, but here’s the important detail: It’s rarely errors, but violations that cause or contribute to these incidents. In this context, an error is unintentionally straying from accepted practices, whereas a violation is deliberately doing so.

In some dive incident reports, the violations are so extreme that we can only scratch our heads and ask, “What were they thinking?” But in others incidents, the violations are more understandable, at least in hindsight, and if we’re honest, we’ve all been there. It goes something like this: Pat Diver is on a boat about to splash, and, wouldn’t you know it, Pat has left the emergency whistle normally always attached to the BCD, at home, next to the sink after washing it. Pat can even see it mentally.  A quick check finds no spares onboard . . . and that’s when Pat decides to dive anyway. We’re not going far, it’s flat calm, my buddy has one, there’s no current etc. . . . And, Pat probably gets away with it because in truth, on most dives you don’t need your whistle, and the same is true for other things, like your alternate air source. More often than not, predive checks don’t find problems and reserve gas never leaves your cylinder. Many accepted diving practices we follow on every dive (or should) prove unnecessary on most of our dives.

And that’s the trap. Since nothing bad happened, next time Pat forgets a whistle, or alternate or doesn’t want to bother with a predive check, Pat dives and gets away with it again. After a while, not having required gear, pushing limits, skipping checks etc. is Pat’s new MO.  Pat even begins to say things like “you just need it for training,” since nothing bad has happened after all of these dives, they must be unnecessary, right? (The human factors term for this is normalization of deviance.) Logically, we know that eventually a whistle, alternate, reserve, predive check, etc. would make a big difference – maybe even a life-saving difference – and Pat has a bad day or worse. Problem is, it could be the next dive or next 200th; there’s no way to know.

Thinking Differently

Since the trap is that violations seem reasonable in the moment, the solution is a different mindset. Thinking like divers (remember that from your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course?), the mindset we want builds on the primary objective of every dive: for everyone to return safely. Then we:

Question the violation, not the dive practice. Violations assume that the dive practice is flawed under the circumstances. Because someone likely got hurt or died for us to learn a dive practice, and because there is usually no warning that this is the dive when it will keep us out of trouble, reject that assumption. The data show that violations are flawed, even if divers get away with them frequently.

Remove incentives. Many violations happen for convenience or not missing a dive, so have choices. Spare gear, reasonable time, alternative dive sites, etc. remove incentives. There’s no incentive to dive with a short fill if there’s full cylinder available. There’s no incentive to skip a proper predive check if there’s no rush to get in the water. There’s no incentive to dive in terrible conditions if there’s something else fun to do together.

Be firm. When we rationalize, it’s human nature to look for agreement, so we can help each other by politely not agreeing, ideally followed by a solution in keeping with accepted practices. “No, I disagree. Swimming back alone violates safe diving practices. How about this – we can all swim back together, then those who want to continue . . . ”

Be a role model. We’re less likely to violate safe diving practices when we dive with role model leaders and when we realize that we’re role models ourselves, whether we want to be or not. Role model divers continue their education, keep up with the latest data from sources like DAN, and keep first aid/CPR, Rescue Diver and oxygen skills current because they know that even without violations, incidents can still happen. As German theologian Albert Schweitzer said, “Setting an example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Education is Essential

Historian Daniel Boorstin once said, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know,” and that applies to the threats to our oceans and global environment. The threats are not always obvious. Before you protest that they are, let me put it this way. I agree that plastic debris are a major threat, but how can we educate our communities that this is the case? Many people on this planet may not have seen the plastic pollution in the world that we have. Maybe a littered beach, but how do folks learn that it’s a global, not local, problem? It is clear from data-driven temperature and climate graphs that average global temperatures are rising, but how do we help our communities accept that this is an urgent, very real problem – that the upward temperature change rate is unprecedented and has continued steadily since we’ve started measuring it? Similarly, we know that recycling helps, and dumping motor oil on the street hurts, but how do we know?

The reality is that it is difficult to see global problems and solutions alone because they’re too big. We make them visible together, communicating and consolidating what we learn locally into the worldwide mosaic that shows us what’s going on globally. It’s how we know the problems, their magnitude and what works or should work to solve them. The scale of global threats means that education isn’t merely important, but essential in bringing about the social changes needed to restore and protect the environment. Unless we’re taught, most of us can’t know about them, much less our roles in solving them.

Thankfully, education is happening and it works. In a previous blog, I highlighted PADI® Pros who educate youngsters about threats to the seas and teach rising generations to prioritize ocean health – after all, saving the seas is really saving us. And, studies find that teaching conservation can start effectively establishing these essential values as young as age four.

In 2015, the Global Education Monitoring report published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) found that “improving knowledge, instilling values, fostering beliefs and shifting attitudes, education has considerable power to help individual reconsider environmentally harmful lifestyles and behavior.” Educating across age ranges is particularly important amid cultures that have not traditionally needed to worry about the environment, but fortunately, recognizing that today we all have to worry about it, a growing number of countries require environmental education, and it’s working. Among them, India has environmental education programs targeted for learners from preschool through adult. It’s estimated that since 2003, in some form or other, these programs have reached 300 million students. The results have been varied and mixed, but generally good and trending positive, these programs are shaping attitudes about individual behaviors, choices and sustainability.

Admittedly, some have questioned the ability to reshape values past adolescence, but a 2017 study in People’s Republic of China studied the effect of environmental education on 287 older (college age) students at Minzu University, Beijing, and found “notable positive effects on environmental attitude.” Beyond this study, China has demonstrated the difference education can make when it supports, and is supported by, government efforts and policy. Formerly the number one consumer of shark fin soup (shark fin soup accounts for about 73 million sharks killed annually), a Wild Aid report says that since 2011 consumption has fallen 80 percent in China.

According to the report, declines in public shark fin demand in China resulted from awareness campaigns (education) coupled with the government’s ban on it for official functions and general discouragement of consuming shark fin. Retired pro basketball player Yao Ming is particularly credited with helping through a highly publicized public education outreach in his home country. Apparently, many people living in China didn’t even know what shark fin soup is (the translated name is “fish-wing-soup”), but now surveys show that more than 90 percent support banning it.

Although this is good news for sharks, the Wild Aid report also shows that shark fin consumption is still high and increasing in other countries. Why? As many as half of the consumers/potential consumers are unaware that shark consumption is threatening the animals and poses health hazards. The fix? China shows that education – similar campaigns in these countries – would likely be a great start.

This highlights a crucial point: We’re not all scuba instructors, college professors nor school teachers, but we are all educators. Whether it’s a dinner conversation with friends or gently correcting misconceptions in social media, it’s our responsibility as the oceans’ ambassadors to inform and influence others to see and understand the problems, and how we can make better choices to keep Earth sustainable.

Don’t underestimate your influence in doing this – as a diver, you’ve seen the underwater world’s wonder and fragility, and likely some of the damage, first-hand. What you can teach is compelling, and passes the sustainability imperative to our rising generation of educators. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

2019: Creating Real Resolutions

It’s almost a tradition. Each year in January, we resolve to “eat better,” “spend less time on YouTube,” “rotate the tires on time,” or whatever. But by February, we’ve forgotten it. Why? Because most resolutions are really wishes or things we’re told we “ought” to do, instead of commitments from our hearts. So, our daily grind easily pushes them into the back seat.

This year, let’s break from tradition and apply our passion for diving and the underwater world to find some real resolutions. You’ve probably noticed that when people commit to real, important resolutions that they genuinely care about, they get things done. They prove American philosopher William James right when he said, “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

Because we think differently and have different talents, perhaps exactly what you’re most passionate about differs from me – and that’s fine because there are many needs that call on us as a force for positive change. But ultimately, every struggle we passionately commit to either involves nature, other people, ourselves or often, a combination of these.

Nature

In previous blogs I’ve talked about how divers are already making a difference in the face of the numerous threats to our seas. Globe-wide problems can seem overwhelming, but these divers show that we can and do make a difference if we know their secret – they don’t think broad and wide. They think small and deep. They pick small, focused things that don’t overwhelm, like reducing plastic waste one straw at a time or campaigning to make a local reef a Hope Spot or marine protected area and passionately focus on them. Joining cleanups, volunteering as citizen scientists, coral farming . . . the list is long, definitely not always easy, but doable. So, while no one of us can save the oceans, together we will, working in millions of important ways at the same time. Need some ideas about where you fit in? Start here.

Other People

You know diving transforms lives, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this. It’s a powerful tool for positive social change. It inspires people creatively, helps overcome social barriers and importantly, creates active ocean advocates. As I talked about in my last blog, diving is a substantial healing force.

Diving is also a rare activity in which a seasoned pro can pair with a first-time novice and both have a genuinely great dive together (try that playing tennis). Diving brings families and friends together, bridges cultures (underwater, we all speak the same language) and teaches teamwork and self-discipline.

“You cannot change anyone,” American author Roy T. Bennett reminds us, “but you can be the reason someone changes.” Resolve to be that reason. Set a goal to tell someone every week (or day!) about why you love diving, and when they like what they hear, how to get started. Diving helps us be better people, and not sharing it is, in my opinion, a bit selfish.

Ourselves

Don’t dismiss continuing your diver education as a “real” resolution just because you’ll enjoy doing it. Look at it this way: If you’re committed to showing people underwater beauty – or damage – would learning underwater imaging help? If you’re removing debris in cooler water, can you do more if you learn to dive a dry suit? To document invasive and original species populations, would learning fish identification help? Adaptive support diving for sharing diving with people who have challenges? To be in the ultimate position to share diving, look at Divemaster, Assistant Instructor and PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor. And, think beyond diving – CPR and first aid can make a huge difference for someone wherever you are, and learning a new language allows you to be an underwater ambassador to more people and cultures. No matter how much we’ve accomplished or know, there’s always something more to do and learn. Master Spanish painter Pablo Picasso said, “I’m always doing that which I can’t do, so that I may learn how to do it.” Great advice.

As we replace flimsy traditional resolutions with genuine commitments to be a force for good, I’ll leave you with a favorite quote. Rob Siltanen, advertising executive behind some of Apple’s most successful campaigns, said this:

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world
are the ones who do.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Something We All Need

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

 

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.

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.

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

A Force for Good: The Researchers

Everyone knows that global environments in general, and the oceans in particular, are threatened. Climate change, coral bleaching, overfishing, runaway plastics – it’s a long list and every day, another study makes the list longer and more daunting. It may seem like everyone’s jumping on the bad news bandwagon, but I look at these reports in a positive, enabling way: the future we don’t want must be predicted to avoid it.

So, besides studying current issues, marine and environmental researchers show us problems before they arise. For example, in August marine scientists Wortman, Paytan and Yao (University of Toronto and University of California, Santa Cruz) released a study that suggests that, beyond warming, elevated atmospheric CO2 would reduce oceanic oxygen, making the deeper depths toxic and significantly damage fisheries through it effect on the food web. Yes, that’s bad news, but thanks to these researchers we know now, while we still have time to do something about it.

And, this leads to the second reason researchers are a crucial force for good. It’s about predicting problems, but also finding the solutions and sharing them. In a previous blog, I mentioned Dr. Vaughan’s breakthrough in coral restoration – shared research that directly addresses a massive global challenge that’s close to the heart of all divers. In Cuba’s Guanahacabibes National Marine Park, biologist Dr. Dorka Cobián Rojas teams with global scientists and “citizen scientist” divers to research causes and implement solutions to coral loss and the invasive lionfish. There also, Dr. Osmani Borrego similarly researches plastic pollution. These are critical research efforts because Guanahacabibes’ reefs are healthy, making them a biological resource oasis needed to find the problems and solutions we need to protect, preserve and restore the world’s reefs and fisheries.

Let’s not overlook “citizen scientist” involvement, because it is vital. Professional full-time researchers like Rojás and Borrego do not have the time or resources to gather all the data and trial the solutions. Solving massive, world-scale problems calls for massive, world-scale participation – in the ocean, that means you and me. As Project AWARE likes to say, don’t let your dives go to waste. Every dive we make can contribute to research. Dive Against Debris, for example, isn’t simply about picking up litter underwater or pointing fingers – it’s part of finding out how we can stop it.

Another effort is Reef Life Survey, founded by Dr. Graham Edgar, which trains volunteer divers to survey marine organisms. More than 200 RLS divers have already surveyed more than 2,000 sites in 44 countries, creating one of the largest global biological databases in existence. Using these data, researchers expect a shift in fish and invertebrate distribution as the oceans warm – a conclusion only possible thanks to these citizen scientist divers.  India.mongbay.com reports that in India, scientists train fishermen and other volunteers to dive (if they’re not already divers) as citizen scientists for involvement in multiple initiatives, and it has another benefit – public support. “The research also gets community buy-in when their people are involved,” the report quotes University of Kerala’s aquatic biology department head A. Biju Kuma. Go online and you can find literally dozens of ways scientists embrace divers like you and me in researching the solutions to environmental threats.

There’s a lot to do, so let’s make every dive count. Join Dive Against Debris if you haven’t already, and/or any other citizen scientist effort. We can be researchers while still making images, exploring or doing everything else we love about diving. And, let’s be restorers who use what we’re learning to rebuild, revitalize and recreate a healthy global environment. Let’s be reachers and teachers who use diving to spread what we’re learning and doing, and pass it to the next generations.

Regardless of what today’s trends are, the future is not inevitable. With 25 million PADI Professionals and Divers helping lead the way, and with a new generation of divers to come, we’re already changing course to a different tomorrow with a thriving, healthy global environment. When it comes to gazing into the crystal ball, I like what author-educator Peter Drucker said:

The best way to predict the future
is to create it.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Creating Advocates

Written by John Kinsella

It’s a damp and dreary morning, the traffic is horrendous and it’s backing up for a long way. Perfect. Clutching a handful of flyers promoting a two-for-the-price-of-one Discover Scuba® Diving (DSD®) experience, we move carefully between the rows of cars, making eye contact with the bored looking drivers. Most roll down their windows, curious no doubt about our colorful one-piece wet suits. We smile, hand them a flyer and give them a brief explanation: Forget about all the traffic, now’s the time to learn to dive. By the time we made it in to the dive shop at nine, the phone was hopping off the hook. It was the single most-effective promotion we had ever run.

For years, we made a point of finding out why new divers came in to the shop. Before the advent of high-end dive management software such as EVE, we kept a simple spreadsheet with the diver’s name and a couple of words describing how they heard about us and why they signed up. We tallied this up every month and, with only this one exception, every month the dominant reason was referrals. Running around in rush-hour traffic in wet suits, it appears, is the exception that proves the rule.

That was 30 years ago, and I doubt we’d get away with it today. So that leaves referrals squarely at the top of the list. And, to drive the point firmly home, during a recent Open Water Diver course, every single one of eight new divers was there because a friend or colleague had personally recommended the course. This is a great example of Word Of Mouth Marketing (or WOMM) at its best.

The importance of advocates – those people responsible for word-of-mouth marketing and referrals – for your business crosses all borders. PADI® Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) recently published a white paper titled, “Analysis of the UK Diving Industry.” This report summarizes the key findings of a comprehensive survey of PADI Dive Centers across the UK. It also offers advice, based on those findings, to help dive centers boost their business.

In the Marketing to New Divers section, the white paper points out that new divers are the lifeblood of your business. They are not just current customers, but future customers as well. It goes on to identify two pools of new divers: DSDs and potential trade.

For DSDs, the advice is to:

  1. Use the Discover Scuba Diving Participant Guide and system correctly.
  2. Include structured time during the experience to explain the benefits of full training and how to complete this.
  3. Give participants an incentive to sign up immediately.
  4. Make sure participants know that they can complete the skills from Confined Water Dive One during their DSD – they have already started the process.
  5. Incentivize your staff. The white paper notes that “Passionate PADI Professionals will convert students to the sport – be sure to support them and reward them for success.” If you can’t rely on staff to recommend your Open Water Diver course, and if you don’t help them do so and make it worth their while, you’re missing a cornerstone of new business development.

For potential trade (new business), the white paper advises to:

  1. Use the PADI logo.
  2. Make sure to use the dive center’s Facebook page effectively.
  3. Be innovative – reach out to your local community.
  4. Use your students – word of mouth is still the best way to attract new divers.

The white paper notes that “Personal recommendations are powerful recruitment tools.” Incentivize former students by offering them rewards for bringing you new trade. Examples include a free gift for each student they recruit; discount on their next course; or a discount on the course they persuade a friend to join.

Make sure to use tried and tested methods of creating advocates for your business and reap the rewards.