A Force for Good: the Reachers and Teachers

The planet’s environmental health is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Looking at the innovation, initiatives and social ground swell happening on all fronts, we know we can rise to the challenge through dedication, focus, tenacity and importantly, by working on hearts and minds as well as preservation and restoration. Involving kids – the coming generations who will inherit the Earth – is crucial for our future. Global conservation is making great strides, but a sustainable future demand that it becomes an ongoing mindset that expands and gets passed on.

And, it’s happening, thanks to divers who reach and teach youngsters to share a passion that goes beyond diving to protecting and restoring the underwater world. In Tahiti, the Moorea Coral Gardeners – a growing team of youngsters (and some not-so-youngsters) – freedives to replant coral to reverse damage to Moorea, Tahiti’s incredible reefs (still awesome, by the way). But, they go further, educating local youth about why all the world’s coral reefs are environmentally and economically important, and need preservation. The Gardeners started as a local youth coral restoration project and now, through social media, they touch lives everywhere with an age-spanning team of international professional athletes, actors, and media stars.

The U.S.-based Kids Sea Camp, founded by PADI Instructor Margo Peyton, involves youngsters starting at age 4 (snorkeling) at some of diving’s best and most popular south Pacific and Caribbean destinations. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at Kids Scuba Syed Abd Rahman is on a parallel mission, bringing new talent into diving’s ranks by uniting ocean and coral conservation with diver training. Both groups introduce youth to wonderous, eye-opening underwater adventures while embracing diving’s higher purpose as the underwater world’s ambassadors and protectors. Still other divers reach kids wherever they are; in Koh Tao, Guy Corsellis talks with kids at the Koh Tao International Primary School about marine life, how it behaves, why it’s important and how to be kind to the environment.

There are many examples like these, and there need to be more because through involvement, engagement and example, young divers learn that the ocean and coral reefs are not just awesome, but threatened. They learn why and, most importantly, what we can all do about it – and we’re talking about more than coral. Showing our youth the underwater world and coral reefs is the best place to start in building a global culture that lives harmoniously with the global environment. People who experience coral reefs come to care about them quickly – and because these are the world’s environmental barometers, it’s often where we see subtle changes first. People focused in preserving this fragile environment will take on the bigger environmental issues because almost all of them ultimately affect the coral reefs. In other words, to preserve and restore the coral, we really have to preserve and restore the world environment.

Let’s applaud the reachers and teachers who motivate young people to embrace the underwater world, but I challenge all of us to also be one of them. Share your diving experiences with the kids in your life – at schools, youth centers, clubs, neighborhood, home — anywhere you cross paths. Explain why the oceans, reefs and the creatures living there are special and important, and how choices like reusing and recycling make a difference. Offer to introduce them to a dive instructor if you’re not one yet, or teach them to dive if you are.

Then, watch their eyes light up when they see, hear, and feel what you and I have come to love so much. It’s one of the most rewarding ways to contribute to a better future.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

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.

A Force for Good: the Restorers

One thing about divers and the tenacity of the human spirit is that when we face a challenge, we size it up and then find a way over it, around it or through it. We’re handling coral stress and decline the same way. Today divers, partnering with scientists, have been at the heart of dozens of coral restoration initiatives, with research and practice in coral farming and transplanting growing and spreading. In my last blog post, I linked to the Coral Restoration Project, birthed by diver Dr. David Vaughan of Mote Marine Laboratory, who in starting some of the first coral nurseries, discovered how to grow coral 25 to 40 times faster than before. His discovery is one of the major breakthroughs we needed to start replacing coral on a large scale, and is just one example.

Jump to PADI Ambassadiver™ Andre Miller MSc in Barbados. Recognizing that documenting coral damage is important but not a solution, Andre spearheaded a local effort to relocate endangered corals and to repopulate damaged heads. With a 90+% survival rate, this effort has already spread to several destinations in the Caribbean. Check out this link for locations and some amazing before and after images.

Photo: Coral Restoration Foundation™

One more example, the Coral Restoration Foundation™,  Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire and Curacao, with extensive participation by local PADI Dive Centers, visiting divers and the local dive community, their emphasis is staghorn and elkhorn corals, which are important because they provide structure and habitat, yet are listed as threatened by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Today, the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo, Florida, has the capacity to grow more than 22,000 corals to a reef-ready size in one year, and has, to date, planted more than 74,000 corals back onto the Florida Reef Tract.

All the ways divers are central to restoring and reviving the underwater world could go on for pages, but three important points:

First, there’s a place for you in coral restoration. Head to tropical water and chances are the dive community’s doing it or getting it going – and needs your help because coral restoration requires divers. There is a lot of caretaking and routine maintenance to grow and transplant coral and to do this properly. Several dive operators teach PADI Coral Restoration distinctive specialties or host experiences that get you involved hands on. If you’re local and can participate regularly, even better. And, the coral colony you plant tomorrow could still be there — and much larger — when your descendants swim by on some dive in the distant future. Pretty cool.

Second, preservation is pivotal part to coral restoration. Although restoration is accelerating, globally, coral decline is ahead. We have to address the drivers that accelerate coral loss as well as replant more to close this gap. Besides, replanting ultimately fails if new coral can’t survive anyway. So, every time you reduce your carbon footprint, recycle plastic, reduce debris, choose sustainable seafood, vote for the protection and conservation of aquatic resources and the marine environment and so on, you are helping to restore coral.

Third, we need to be realistic but also optimistic. Twenty-five million plus divers is an overwhelming force – with more than ten times the world’s largest military force, and an allegiance to a healthy, livable planet, it is a positive force that can change things. So, as I said before, the seas are in trouble, but the situation is far from hopeless because you’re on their side. We’re already moving, but let’s do more, faster. If you’re not sure where you fit in best, start your own journey and informed discussions with others.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Divers Already Make a Difference

When you hear reports about overfishing, global climate change, coral bleaching, shark finning . . . and the list goes on . . . it’s tempting to question whether the situation is hopeless. Will we have coral reefs in 30 years? Will anything be living in the seas in 50 years?

Yes, and yes. The seas face formidable challenges, but they have formidable allies – you, me and more than 25 million other divers around the world among them. It’s not just that you and your fellow divers can make difference, but that you’re already making a difference through personal efforts like recycling, responsibly consuming only sustainable seafood, reducing our carbon footprints and campaigning to protect endangered marine animals. These are vital efforts, none of which are wasted, with millions (and growing) of divers and nondivers doing these – which is great. But, compared to some outdoor groups, divers raise the bar for environmental stewardship and leadership. Beyond the forefront of conservation and preservation, divers are at the forefront of restoration.

Did you know that, working alongside scientists, divers help grow and replace coral? Use 3D printing to create artificial structures where real coral and coral species can live? Remove debris (like plastics!) from almost every dive site? Replant mangroves, sea grasses and other vegetation vital to coral and oceanic health? Use different methods to protect and repopulate turtles, fish and other species? Gather data we need to identify and implement ongoing and new solutions? Teach kids and cultures what we’re learning and that we do make a difference so that saving and restoring the planet continues, expands and strengthens? These are not small local experiments – these are fins-on-the-ground, proven-results initiatives in action.

The truth is, we face a much bigger threat than the issues facing the seas, and it is this: loss of hope. We don’t want our heads in the sand, but let’s not lose perspective amid the doom and gloom. There are thousands of healthy coral reefs and other dive sites around the world. By staying informed, innovative and engaged, we can not only visit these, but preserve them, learn from them and leverage them to rebuild and restore.

I believe in realistic optimism and hopeful future, partly because the data support them, but also because really, we have no choice. With hopelessness comes inaction, resignation and surrender, which solve nothing. Hope anchors our souls to what’s possible, to action, and to doing what needs to be done. This isn’t Pollyanna – no one expects the global environment to be like it was in 1618 – but it can be vibrant, healthy and growing. A healthy Earth with healthy seas can be the ultimate heritage we leave our children and theirs.

Literally every dive you and I make can be a step towards that goal — with that in mind, remember that 15-23 September is AWARE Week. Please join the 25 million (and growing) divers who are fighting to restore our ocean planet. If you’re not yet involved with an AWARE event, please click the link and join in: http://www.padi.com/aware-week/join.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Riding a Whale Shark? Outrageous and Unacceptable!

Unbelievable! Maybe you’ve seen the viral video of scuba divers in Indonesia riding a whale shark? In this day and age, someone has the nerve to do something like this? It makes me furious!

This kind of behavior is not okay for anyone, anywhere, anytime, but especially unacceptable for us divers. It’s a big deal – not just for the poor animal being mugged to exhaustion by divers amid its survival struggles (though that is a supreme part of it), but for the entire dive community. We’re supposed to be the ambassadors of the underwater world – the collective voice of care and concern that speaks up to protect our endangered seas from abuses like overfishing, plastic debris, shark finning and wide-scale pollution. Marine Animal Protection is one of PADI’s Pillars of Change, and I know the vast majority – probably more than 99.9% – of divers would never do something like this, and actively support what the dive community’s doing to protect the oceans.

But, this video paints us as hypocrites who exploit marine animals for our own entertainment – but not only that, these divers were breaking international and local laws (whale sharks have been protected by Indonesian law since 2013) that the dive community has been breaking its back to help put in place. Researchers think that whale sharks have declined 63% in the Indo-Pacific in the last 75 years, around 30% in the Atlantic, with a 50% reduction overall in the last decade. This is why IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) considers the whale shark endangered.

Whale Sharks are intelligent marine animals, seeing one suffering at the hands of joy riding scuba divers is outrageous! You should be outraged too – and I know many of you are as evidenced  by the thousands of enraged posts this video prompted and continues to prompt. I’ve noted reports that the divers (or some of them) have been arrested, and we’ll trust Indonesian law to be just. The arrests themselves show that the issue and law are taken seriously – as they should be.

Please speak up if you have not yet. The world needs to know that this isn’t us. This isn’t diving. Your voice matters – as Irish statesman Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good [people] to do nothing.” Silence is often taken as acceptance – and that cannot stand! If any nondivers you know saw the video, tell them it shows unacceptable, irresponsible behavior. Your personal contact delivering the message makes a big difference – it is a voice of authority because you’re a scuba diver, freediver or both. We can all help turn this negative incident into positive change by educating divers and nondivers about the Responsible Shark and Ray Tourism Guide jointly produced by Project AWARE, WWF and Manta Trust.

Like Dr. Seuss’ Lorax – speaking for the trees, we are divers, speaking for the seas. We are champions of our ocean planet, so let’s act like it. Please help spread the word that the diving family is a force for good in the world, and we don’t and won’t tolerate these kinds of behaviors.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Dive Shops: The Heart of the Dive Industry

Scuba diving shops are the heart of the dive community. Owned and operated by good folks who have dedicated their lives to keeping the porch light on for all of us in diving, they ensure that we always have the service, training, travel, equipment and advice we want and need as divers. It’s the dive shop around the corner that establishes and nurtures long-term relationships with divers and the same shops we go back to time and time again because they’ve earned our trust and we see them as our neighbors. They best embody the diving lifestyle, having sacrificed a great deal to be there for us at a local level across the world, and they deserve our support and loyalty.

These days, it’s not easy to be a specialty retailer, with many stresses and threats to their survival and prosperity. What separates those who do survive and prosper? A million variations, but basically its embracing the eworld coupled with products/services/customer experiences that are impossible or substantially disadvantageous online. Easy example – Starbucks. You order your iced Macchiato online, but do you have it shipped? No, you pick it up – central to the Starbucks experience. You can buy their coffee online, but it’s not the same at home, nor likely would you without your prior in-store experiences.

Dive shops are the same. Like diving itself, learning to dive, investing in dive gear, interacting with other divers and getting ready for a group dive trip are personal experiences, not online experiences. You can start courses, set up schedules, order equipment and do a lot of other things online with your retail dive shop. But eventually you end up there because you want to. The people there are fun, they know their stuff and they make your dive experiences personal, rewarding adventures. They hook you up with the best gear for you, tailored to you (again, personal), and show you the best diving for what you love about diving (personal yet again). Diving is way better because of them.

The bottom line is that dive shops are the center of the diver experience where everything comes together. That’s not changing, and neither is the PADI philosophy of keeping divers connected to them. Dive retailers need our support and loyalty as they stand against ever-changing threats and pressures.

I don’t want to see a world where the local dive shops cannot survive. They are the stewards of local diving lifestyle and culture. In my book, that is precious and rare. It is supremely worth protecting.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Diving’s Finest Hour

Over the last weeks, the world watched drama unfold in Thailand with the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave. It was an awe inspiring example of humanity at its best, focused on a single noble purpose. Setting aside titles and differences, some of the world’s top cave divers and other international experts selflessly converged there with their skills and resources. The Thai government wisely leveraged this, mobilizing its SEALs and internal resources, enabling the best-of-the-best to collaborate and apply their respective skills creatively and effectively in a difficult, dynamic situation.

To say that I take pride in what the dive community did is an understatement – this was diving’s “Apollo 13” – action and focus propelled by the unshakeable conviction that those boys would not die on diving’s watch. But, unlike Apollo 13, the rescuers had to go into “space” themselves, and the tragic loss of the Thai SEAL, Saman Kunan, highlights the difficulties, dangers and risks the rescuers faced and accepted. On behalf of the global PADI family, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who was part of this – whether you hazarded the cave with the boys, or hauled cylinders to and from the site. To borrow from the Apollo 13 movie, it was diving’s finest hour. And, it took all of you to make it happen.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

A Message from Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide

American author Mark Twain popularized a saying about innuendo, assumptions and conjectured numbers used to prop up slander:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.

Twain’s words certainly apply to a recent internet rumor that PADI is up for sale again. It is not. There are no discussions anywhere at any level to sell or buy PADI. The news on this is that there is no news.

Normally, I ignore PADI hate-mongering and chitchat flitting about in social media. The internet spreads gossip faster and wider than at any time in history, but most of us know propaganda and lies when we see them. Lacking substance to stand on, these typically erode quickly, so there’s no need to let them distract us. But in this case, speculation and perjure masqueraded as news (complete with “secret sources” – bless their hearts) so I’m setting the record straight.

As most in the dive industry knows, in 2017 the PADI organization secured support from a strong international consortium of long-term individual and group North American and European investors. This group does not involve itself in PADI’s day-to-day decisions or operations, but fully supports the PADI family’s missions to lead the dive industry and help shape a positive future for our oceans. We’re blessed with a growing group of exceptional managers and employees in international offices, but final authority and responsibility stops on my desk.

The PADI organization will continue to invest in the right products, people and programs that enable PADI Members to succeed by fulfilling divers’ interests, dreams and desires, and that support the PADI Four Pillars of Change, PADI Foundation and Project AWARE and other initiatives that make the world a better place.

For those interested, here’s some nonfiction (I won’t call it news because it’s been true for quite awhile): PADI Members make PADI the strongest brand in diving, and personally leverage the power of divers as a force for strong, positive change in ocean health, conservation and education in more than 183 countries and territories. Honestly, I’m humbled to serve the PADI membership – a positive, proactive family of individuals, retailers, resort operators and divers around the world who are the real stewards, and hands and feet of PADI’s missions. They exemplify where all of us in the industry really need to be putting our effort.

Thank you.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO