Be Distinctive!

Tips for Preparing a PADI Distinctive Specialty Outline

Teaching your own distinctive specialty course has never been so popular. Since introducing the Dedicated Master Scuba Diver™ rating and PADI Freediver program distinctive specialties, PADI Regional Headquarters are receiving many new distinctive specialty outlines. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when developing a PADI distinctive specialty outline:

  • Take advantage of resources! Go to the Pros’ Site – Distinctive Specialty Course Templates for detailed information. Use the template provided as a guide when creating your outline.
  • Set learning objectives and performance requirements, then tell divers what they need to know and what they will do. Beyond information consistent to every dive, what learning objectives and performance requirements specifically relate to the distinctive course? Provide adequate information in the knowledge development section to educate the student diver in the subject matter and fulfill the learning objectives. Also provide sufficient information and descriptions of how to meet the performance requirements of the dives.
  • Stay standards-consistent. Follow ratios and supervision requirements from General Standards and Procedures for confined and open water sessions.
  • It’s all about the diving. Most outlines will be approved only if there are two to four required open water dives. Although there are a few distinctive specialties that may qualify for only one dive (for example, Pumpkin Carving, Easter Egg Collection and other unique specialty programs), and a few with no dives, the point of specialty diver courses is to introduce people to new areas of diving and increase their dive experience under supervision.
  • Identify why you qualify to teach. When you complete the Specialty Course Instructor Application (No. 10180), you must document your background and experience in the course subject matter on page three. Examples include your level of familiarity with a specific site (for example, logged dives on a specific wreck) or an educational background coupled with dive experience in the specific subject matter (for example, underwater archaeology or coral reef research).

EFR® Distinctive Specialties

You can submit an Emergency First Response distinctive specialty outline as well. Use the EFR dedicated application and specialty template for these subjects.

Freediver Distinctive Specialties

See related resources for the PADI Freediver program on the Pros’ Site and download the PADI Freediver Distinctive Specialty Course Application (No. 10338).

Take time to review PADI standardized specialty outlines for information on ratios, minimum age requirements, supervision, maximum depth limits and minimum dives required to meet performance requirements. This will help guide you in drafting this information for your course. If you need additional guidance on writing your distinctive specialty, please contact a Regional Training Consultant at your PADI Regional Headquarters.

Pro Tip – PADI® Membership Renewal

Don’t forget to mark your calendars!

PADI Professional Membership Renewal occurs every November and here’s  a few tips on how to save the most for 2019:

  • Lowest Renewal Rate – To secure the best annual renewal rate, enroll in Automatic Membership Renewal on the PADI Pros’ Site before 6 November 2018. You can find this feature on the My Account page or by using the Renewal button located on the Homepage.
  • Convenient and Cost Effective – You may renew your membership online by logging onto the PADI Pros’ Site and navigating to the Online Membership Renewal option under the My Account tab. Online Renewal provides you the ability to renew one year at a time and to enroll in Automatic Renewal for future years.
  • The Pen and Paper Method – Renewing with a paper form is still an option but why waste the paper and the time. If you are not enrolled in auto renewal or have not renewed online, a paper renewal form will be mailed to you prior to the renewal deadline. This method will cost you more than the online methods, so strongly consider saving money and time with automatic renewal.

Don’t waste time worrying about annual membership renewals. Enroll in 2019 PADI Automatic Membership Renewal now by accessing My Account page on the PADI Pros Site.

5 Tips for PADI Divemasters Looking to Become Instructors

Written by Guy Corsellis, PADI Regional Training Consultant for East Thailand

I recently received recognition for 20 years as a PADI Professional – a proud moment for me. Now, as a PADI Regional Training Consultant, I look back at two decades in the industry and am grateful for the journey I have been on. It has been a passion that becomes a wonderful career.

Prior to this role, as a Course Director, most of my career has been focused on instructor level training, which brings me to my question – have you thought about becoming a PADI Instructor?

Getting this ticket truly allows you to travel the world and meet some incredible industry colleagues. It is still the dream job for young and/or innovative people. If you feel comfortable helping others, if you love the ocean as much as I do and if you’re ready to be a student for life, you will have a bright future as a PADI Instructor.

Once you have decided to take this step, please allow me to share of few tips on how to become successful.

  1. Remain humble and stay positive. Being positive and optimistic and smiling by default, will motivate and inspire others around you. You will touch the lives of so many as a PADI Instructor, so make sure it’s a positive memory you leave them with. Be more than a role model – be a mentor. Remember, that the PADI system of diver education is student-centered. So display proper attitude at all times and leave your ego at the door.
  2. Persevere and expand your knowledge. Stay updated on new diving techniques, advancements in technology and equipment changes. Continue your own education and be a student yourself. That will help you understand how your students may feel under your tuition. Consider enrolling in programs that make you a stronger ambassador to the underwater environment. Divers today want to learn from those who care about something bigger than themselves.
  3. Be punctual, organized and adaptable. People depend on your choices. You are there to show our future divers proper attitude. Arrive early for classroom or confined sessions. Make sure everything is set up and ready to go when your divers arrive. Accept that logistics in your PADI Dive Centre do change and are dependent on many factors. Dive Center owners need flexible instructors that know how to adapt to unexpected situations or when under pressure.
  4. Be sociable and available. It is important to spend time with your diver students. Not just in a classroom or in the water, but during surface intervals and breaks. Remember that sociable and professional often go hand in hand (more on professionalism later). Take and make the time to have lunch with your divers. Your body and brain need food to perform at an optimum. Lunch with your students is the perfect moment in time to share experiences with your divers and become friends. At the end of the day don’t run home when the clock strikes 5:00pm, take the time to debrief and listen to your student’s needs.
  5. Be professional. You will be judged against expectations and standards. Your image and competence is important. Respect your students and pay attention to how you communicate with them. Be committed, courteous and supportive. We all learn differently, so listen to their needs.

I strongly believe that these few tips will help you to have a long and successful career. If you’re currently a part-time Divemaster, it may be a challenge for you to leave behind another career that you’re attached too. I made the choice to become a full time Instructor some time ago and never regretted it. Change is positive.

With the right attitude becoming a PADI Instructor will be a life changing event. Get out there and visit a PADI IDC or CDC near youand earn the most sought-after credential in the diving industry.

Best of success!

View the PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor landing page for more information and to research your next steps.

Increase Productivity with PADI Master Scuba Diver™

Written by John Kinsella

There’s an old saying about the first step in a famous recipe: First, catch your rabbit. There’s a useful parallel here for PADI® Professionals. If you’re looking for a simple recipe to increase your productivity and have a lot of fun while you do it, first become at least a Master Scuba Diver Trainer. Then you have what you need to train Master Scuba Divers, and that’s a recipe for success.

Back in 1973, PADI Master Scuba Diver (MSD) was introduced as the ultimate recreational diver certification. Fewer than two percent of divers ever achieve the rating. Master Scuba Divers are the best of the best, an elite group of respected divers who have earned the rating through extensive training and experience. As you know, the path to MSD starts with PADI Open Water Diver certification, followed by Advanced Open Water Diver and Rescue Diver and five PADI Specialty Diver certifications. Before earning the rating, divers also have to log 50 dives. It’s open to all divers, who must be at least 12 years old.

The odds are you don’t know a great number of Master Scuba Divers. Here’s why, in the words of a few PADI Members who do know MSDs because they’ve trained a lot of them. Increasing your MSD certifications is something you may want to change as a matter of urgency.

Making Specialty Training Mainstream

Natalie Hunt is a very active PADI Course Director with PADI Five Star IDC Assava Dive Resort on Koh Tao, Thailand. She first trained Master Scuba Divers while working in Florida, USA, for Action Quest, running sailing and scuba summer camps for teens. The groups would stay for three weeks and specialties were a big part of the program. While working in the Cayman Islands, she would routinely link Enriched Air Diver with Open Water Diver course Dive Four. Hunt brought this experience with her when she arrived on Koh Tao in 1997 and has since made a point of taking specialty training, and Master Scuba Diver, mainstream.

“I incentivize PADI Rescue Divers to learn more about the different specialty programs,” Hunt says. “Here at Assava, I’ve created a program where if students come as Rescue Divers, they can stay and do all their dives and five specialties for one cost and it’s a great incentive for them to become Master Scuba Divers. Some people stay and do MSD only, others choose to do MSD and PADI Divemaster combined. It really depends on the time they have here on Koh Tao. Many people have the time to complete the dives needed.”

Hunt packages specialties (a recurring theme while researching this article) in other ways too. “We have PADI Deep, Wreck and Enriched Air Diver courses that we offer as a Tri Spec,” she says. “If they do those as a package they get a discount and all the dives are included.”

Hunt also uses specialty training to keep things interesting for PADI Pros, herself included. “Some divers, especially divemasters, have shown real interest in sidemount diving. Instead of me personally teaching that, even though I’m qualified, I have other instructors who are experienced technical divers and I ask them to teach the Sidemount Diver courses,” she explains.

“We also teach Self-Reliant Diver courses and recently I took on DSMB, which was quite interesting when I taught it for the first time with one of my divemasters. It was a good challenge for both the DM and me personally.”

Any Experts on Staff?

Using experts to help with specialties is a great way to increase the pool of potential MSDs. Hunt has a marine biologist – a past student – who adds real value to Assava’s Coral Reef Conservation specialty. “Her background knowledge of marine science and biology adds more insight to that program,” she says.

Hunt’s experience in the resort -environment has some real commonalities with Lee Johnson’s experience at PADI Five Star CDC Perth Scuba in Western Australia. When Perth Scuba opened 14 years ago, most of the training was comprised of core courses: Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver. “We didn’t have a lot of time for the specialties,” Johnson says. “We were running on minimal staff.”

But Johnson always surveyed -customers and asked about their interests and their motivation to take up scuba. “The usual favorites, such as wreck and deep diving, came out prominently in the beginning. So we started running a lot more of those types of courses,” he says. But there was a problem – one which many PADI Pros will recognize. “We would schedule a course and only have two or three students on it; not really enough to make it cost effective,” he recalls. “But you have to run it or lose face. It’s a double-edged sword – you either run it and lose money or you don’t run it and lose customers who won’t sign up for other courses because they believe you won’t run them.”

From a business efficiency perspective, Johnson had to do something. One plan was to sell gear, as most of the specialties have some sort of associated equipment. Another plan was to increase the number of specialties people did. “The MSD program seemed to be the way to do it,” he says.

“We came up with our Master Scuba Diver Challenge. We advertised five specialties and a free rescue course as a package. Divers came in, put their credit cards on the counter and chose five specialties from three levels,” Johnson says. “For level one, they chose two of the more expensive courses to run, such as those that include boat dives. Then they’d pick two courses from level two, which were more knowledge based and often had shore dives. And they chose one course from level three, which is all knowledge-based, such as the Equipment Specialist course.”

After each course, divers get a Perth Scuba T-shirt with “Master Scuba Diver Challenge” on the back and the course they completed listed on the front. They collect all the different T-shirts and, once they complete everything, they get a limited edition T-shirt that lists all the specialties and says “Master Scuba Diver Challenge Mission Accomplished.” Johnson pointed out how effective this recognition was: “Divers loved them and we’d get to see them wearing the shirts all over the place.”

To top this off, Johnson introduced the Ultimate Master Scuba Diver Challenge Weekend competition. All students who completed the MSD challenge would be eligible for the competition. This was like a mini Olympics complete with quiz questions about general diving knowledge, a pool skills assessment and a stamina challenge (all basic stuff and fun focused). The winner got a trip to Sydney with an instructor, all expenses paid, and a brand-new scuba set (Johnson negotiated a great deal on this once-a-year event).

Do Rabbits Hop?

Was this a success?  “We ran the first challenge four years ago and we had 43 participants who came through that year. We were picking up students who had a few specialties under their belts from different dive shops as well. We let them enter as long as they did their last specialty with us,” he says.

Another major benefit of Perth Scuba’s MSD challenge is that many instructors started to really enjoy teaching specific specialty courses. “Now we have a group of instructors who have designed their own presentations with local content, such as videos and images of our divers on the wrecks they’ll dive,” says Johnson. “This works really well.”

The last word belongs to Jong-Moon Lee from PADI Five Star Dive Resort Ocean Player Dive in Cebu, Philippines. Ocean Player Dive is one of the largest PADI Dive Centers in the Philippines, with a continuing education ratio pushing 50 percent. Lee mentions the importance of linking specialties: Deep and Enriched Air Diver make a great combination. He makes great use of the facilities at hand: Easy access from shore makes for easy night dives; consequently, PADI Night Diver is the number three specialty at Ocean Player Dive.

But the main point Lee makes about creating Master Scuba Divers is fundamentally simple and an essential ingredient in the MSD success recipe: “Take the time after the Advanced Open Water Diver course to explain about the specialties and the MSD rating. Make sure students know that they have already completed dive one of the associated specialty,” he says.

One thing is for certain – divers will have no interest in something they know nothing about.

If you aren’t already a Master Scuba Diver Trainer or can’t yet teach all the PADI Specialty Diver courses you’d like, contact a PADI Course Director to enroll in a few Specialty Instructor Training courses or a Master Scuba Diver Trainer preparatory course.

The Secret to Increasing Certifications Every Successful Instructor Knows

written by Megan Denny

Certain PADI® courses may be taught at the same time to enhance student knowledge or improve diver comfort. For example, you can teach the PADI Dry Suit Diver Specialty as part of the Open Water Diver® course. In addition to helping student divers gain experience and confidence, the instructor can earn certifications twice as fast.

Selling one person two classes isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Today’s consumers are used to being offered upgrades and add-ons when making a purchase. Whether it’s a phone case, extra legroom on an airplane, or an upgrade to a larger rental vehicle, most people appreciate the option to tailor a purchase to their individual needs.

By combining PADI courses, you give students the opportunity to customize their dive experience. At the same time, you’ll quickly gain certifications to reach the Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) or Master Instructor rating. Even if you’re already a seasoned instructor, increasing your Master Scuba Diver certs can help you win a free 2019 PADI membership renewal.

PADI Open Water Diver + Specialties

By pairing a PADI Specialty with the PADI Open Water Diver course you can add value to your Open Water program and boost your certification numbers. Here are a few ways to go about it:

Open Water and Digital Underwater Photographer
Underwater photography consistently ranks as one of the top interests for new divers. Invite students to make their scuba experience #instaworthy by bundling the Digital Underwater Photographer Specialty Course with Open Water. Here’s how to link the two courses together:

  • Integrate the Digital Underwater Photographer knowledge development at any point during the Open Water course
  • Conduct the Digital Underwater Photographer Level One photo dive in confined water any time after Confined Water Dive 3, or in open water as part of the tour portion of Open Water Dive 4.
  • Complete the additional open water dive for Digital Underwater Photographer Level Two certification at any point after the student diver’s Open Water certification dive.


  • You must have the relevant PADI Specialty Instructor Rating
  • Do not conduct more than three training dives in one day

Open Water and Full Face Mask
One of the most-clicked PADI blog posts of all time is The Full Face Mask Diving Experience. Fulfill divers’ curiosity by combining the Full Face Mask Diver specialty with the Open Water Diver course. Here’s how:

  • Integrate knowledge development any time during the course
  • Conduct the Full Face Mask Confined Water Dive any time after Confined Water Dive 3.
  • Conduct Full Face Mask Dive 1 after Open Water Dive 3.
  • Integrate Full Face Mask Dive 2 with Dive 4, or complete both Full Face Mask Dives after Dive 4.

Open Water and Peak Performance Buoyancy
The most popular course combo we see is Open Water with the Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty course (PPB). Add PPB knowledge development whenever its convenient during the Open Water Diver course and conduct Peak Performance Buoyancy Dive 1 skills any time during Dive 2, 3 or 4. The student must complete one additional dive beyond their Open Water course dives to complete the Peak Performance Buoyancy Dive 2 skills.

Other specialties that may be linked to the Open Water Diver course include:

Altitude Diver– integrate knowledge development at any time and conduct all four Open Water Course dives at altitude. Complete Altitude Dive 1 skills during Dives 2, 3, and 4. Lastly, conduct one additional dive after the Open Water Course dives to complete the Altitude Dive 2 skills – and the specialty course.

Delayed Surface Marker Buoy Diver (DSMB) – integrate knowledge development any time during the Open Water course. Conduct DSMB Dive 1 skills any time during Dive 2, 3 and 4. Conduct another dive beyond the Open Water Course dives to complete DSMB Dive 2 skills, and the DSMB Specialty.

Dry Suit Diver – integrate knowledge development, confined water performance requirements and conduct all four course dives in a dry suit. Complete Dry Suit Dive 1 skills during Dives 2, 3, and 4. Conduct another dive after the Open Water Course dives dives to complete the Dry Suit Dive 2 skills, and the Dry Suit Specialty.

Sidemount Diver – integrate knowledge development, confined water requirements and practical application anytime during the Open Water course. Complete Sidemount Dive 1 skills during Dives 2, 3 or 4. Conduct Sidemount Dives 2 and 3 after Open Water Diver certification. Minimum student diver age is 15.

Specialties without Dives
Enriched Air Diver may be combined with any core PADI course, even Open Water.* Integrate Enriched Air knowledge development, the pre-dive simulation and practical application exercises at any time during a PADI scuba course. Enriched air dives are not required, however, the minimum student diver age is 12.

* The student must complete their Open Water Diver certification before being certified as an Enriched Air Diver, but you can plan dive 4 using Enriched Air.

The Project AWARE Specialist and AWARE Coral Reef Specialty courses do not require dives and may be added to any PADI course. Consider offering these certifications as part of an Eco Master Scuba Diver program.

Emergency Oxygen Provider + PADI Rescue Diver
The Emergency Oxygen Provider Specialty course can replace Rescue Exercise 9 in the PADI Rescue Diver course (first aid for pressure-related injuries and oxygen administration). Incorporate knowledge development at any point before or during your Rescue Diver course.

Bridging the Gap

Open Water to PADI Advanced Open Water
Divers often say they don’t feel ready to enroll in the Advanced Open Water course. But as every PADI Pro knows, Advanced Open Water is the ideal way for new divers to build confidence and improve their skills.

An easy way to help divers take the next step is to conduct an adventure dive following Open Water Dive 4. Dive Against Debris, Peak Performance Buoyancy and Underwater Naturalist are great options. Incorporate the knowledge development into your briefing, and when the dive is over, ask students if they had fun and what they learned. Then tell them that’s what the Advanced Open Water class is all about!


  • Students who choose to enroll in your Advanced Open Water class must complete the Continuing Education Administrative Document (10038 or EU 10541) before the second Adventure Dive.
  • Do not conduct more than three training dives in one day.

Advanced Open Water to Specialties
Each Adventure Dive from the Advanced Open Water Diver course may count toward Dive 1 of a standardized PADI/AWARE Specialty Diver course (or vice versa) if the diver has completed the relevant knowledge review. Your Advanced Open Water Divers may not realize they’ve completed half of a PADI Specialty course (see pages 32-33 of the 2018 PADI Instructor Manual to view the number of dives required for each specialty, most only require two dives, but some require three or four).

Exception: For the Digital Underwater Photography Specialty, Dive 1 may credit as an Adventure Dive only if it is conducted using scuba equipment in open water. If not, then credit Digital Underwater Photography Dive 2.

Discover Scuba® Diving to Open Water Diver
By conducting Confined Water Dive 1 skills during the Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) program, you can:

  • Add value to your DSD program
  • Help student divers build confidence
  • Award Confined Water Dive 1 credit to successful participants
  • Sell more Open Water classes

Students who successfully complete the confined water skills and participate in the optional open water dive may also earn credit towards Dive 1 of Open Water. Brief and conduct Open Water Dive 1 skills with DSD participants who have previously mastered Confined Water Dive 1 skills. Students who are successful earn credit towards Open Water Dive 1.
Open Water to Rescue Diver
PADI Open Water Divers can improve their confidence, become better buddies, and get a taste of the serious fun divers have in the PADI Rescue Diver course by participating in the confined water session. It’s also a great way to keep divers active during colder months when open water diving may not be possible.

Open Water Divers may participate in both Rescue Diver Knowledge Development and Rescue Exercises in confined water. They may also earn the Emergency Oxygen Provider Specialty which takes the place of Rescue Exercise 9 (see above).

IMPORTANT: Do not combine the performance requirements for two or more dives, such as Adventure Dives or specialty course dives, into one dive so that credit is received for more than one rating.

By linking PADI courses, you can become a MSDT, or Master Instructor much faster than teaching each course separately. Plus, you’ll help students work their way to the prestigious Master Scuba Diver rating. Last but not list, you might win a free 2019 renewal by participating in the PADI Master Scuba Diver Challenge.

Avoiding an Earful

Written by DAN Staff

In the first metre/three feet of a descent, a diver’s ears are subject to a 10 percent increase in ambient pressure. At two metres/six feet, it’s a 20 percent increase. At 3 metres/10 feet the pressure is sufficient to cause blood vessels to burst and fluid and blood to be drawn into the middle ears. Despite the noticeable change in pressure, many divers don’t equalize their ears earlier enough upon descent. Injury statistics show that ear injuries are one of the leading problems divers face – even though preventable with proper equalization. As an instructor, you have the opportunity to help divers avoid ear injuries by firmly establishing the importance of equalization early in their training.

Take a moment to brush up on your knowledge of ear injuries so that help improve your student divers’ comfort in the water – now and for the rest of their diving careers.

Perforated Eardrum

Rupture of a tympanic membrane (eardrum) is generally the result of a failure to equalize the air-filled middle-ear, or from a too-forceful Valsalva maneuver. The condition is often painful and vertigo may follow, although the rupture may relieve the feeling of pressure in the ear. Most perforations will heal spontaneously within a few weeks, although some cases may require surgical repair. Perforations allow water to enter the middle ear, which creates a significant risk of infection. Thus, evaluation by a doctor is crucial. Congestion, inadequate training and descending too fast can increase a diver’s risk of eardrum perforation.

Inner-Ear Barotrauma

Like an eardrum perforation, inner-ear barotrauma can be caused by a failure to equalize or by an aggressive Valsalva maneuver. A significant differential between the ambient pressure and the pressure in the middle ear can cause an outward bulging of the round window of the inner ear. This can lead to symptoms even in the absence of a rupture. Divers with inner-ear barotrauma may experience severe vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus, a sensation of fullness in their ear and involuntary eye movements known as nystagmus. Should the round window rupture, the loss of fluid in the inner ear can damage the hearing and balance organs and surgical repair may be required.

Middle-Ear Barotrauma

Middle-ear barotrauma is a condition in which pressure in the middle-ear space is significantly lower than the pressure outside of the ear. This results in a relative vacuum that causes the eardrum to bulge inward and the tissue of the ear to swell. Fluid and blood from ruptured vessels leak into the middle ear. This can be caused by a failure to equalize or an obstruction of the Eustachian tubes (usually by mucus) during descent. Divers with middle-ear barotrauma generally report initial discomfort, which can intensify to severe pain, and ears that feel clogged or stuffy.

Facial Baroparesis

Facial baroparesis is the reversible paralysis of the facial nerve due to increased pressure in the middle ear. In some people this pressure can impair circulation to a facial nerve that’s located close to the ear. This can happen while flying or diving, and symptoms usually include numbness, tingling, weakness and paralysis of the face. Facial droop can sometimes be seen and can cause concern, but facial baroparesis often resolves spontaneously. Divers who exhibit symptoms of facial baroparesis should seek medical attention to rule out other serious conditions.

For more information about ear injuries and safe diving practices, visit

Speak Loudly

Ever leave a cylinder standing unattended at a dive site? Surface from a dive and prop your mask atop your head like a pair of sunglasses? Leave your snorkel in your dive bag instead of wearing it?

If PADI® Pros do these things – things that are outside the practices we use to train divers – it sends a message that it’s okay and appropriate. The message is audibly silent, yet visually loud. You’ve heard the adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” If your actions ignore the training principles you teach, why would your student divers and others around you think they are important?

Let’s take the snorkel as an example. If snorkels weren’t an important piece of equipment for scuba kits, they wouldn’t be required for PADI courses (except where they clearly have no purpose or are contrary to good practices as noted in some course standards, such as for ice diving). When a PADI Pro’s mask isn’t equipped with a snorkel, in essence this action says, “I require you to have a snorkel when you are taking a course. I teach you how to reduce your risk while diving by following course standards when I train you. The training I provide you helps prepare you to dive independently. But, when you’re not in a course, you can follow my lead and pick and choose which safety practices you wish to follow.”

There are relevant values for all safe diving practices. The PADI Open Water Diver Manual outlines at least six reasons for having a snorkel when scuba diving. Realistically, though, snorkels just don’t compare with other equipment (like alternate air sources and dive computers) in terms of managing risk.

So, why should you bother wearing one?

The answer is simple: Because having and maintaining good diving habits directly correlates with what you do under stress. The ability to think clearly declines in an emergency, and people default to what has become habit. If you’ve always worn a snorkel on your mask, and suddenly you find yourself on the surface with no air supply and you need to get yourself out of an entanglement, you can look underwater without the added stress of having to hold your breath because your snorkel is available when you need it.

Realize that when some accepted diving practices begin to erode, others begin to lose value, too. Outside of training, divers make their own choices. However, they are influenced by those they perceive as experts. Be a role model during your everyday dives, and choose diving photos for your communications and social media that depict good diving practices; and you will speak loudly (in a good way).

Insider Tip: Writing a PADI Distinctive Specialty

diving the great lakes Photo: Courtesy of Kim Parker

By Tara Bradley Connell

scuba diving the great lakes
Photo: Thomas Rhoad

In order to share their love for diving the Great Lakes, PADI® Dive Instructors Kim Parker and her husband, Tom Rhoad, began training people out of their home. When they realized they needed more space, they opened up Aquatic Adventures of Michigan. For 17 years running, the husband-and-wife team has been catering to fellow divers in the Great Lakes area.

Wanting to give special attention to Michigan’s unique diving conditions, Parker noticed a need for some PADI Distinctive Specialties specific to the Great Lakes. And since nothing like that previously existed, she decided to write her own.

“We sometimes feel that the ‘Middle Coast’ gets forgotten when diving is discussed, and we want the diving community to recognize that there are wonderful diving opportunities in the Great Lakes,” Parker says. “If you enjoy diving shipwrecks, especially intact old wooden wrecks, there is no better place than the Great Lakes. The wrecks are preserved and protected as an important archeological resource by the surrounding communities.”

Requirements for each specialty include confined water training, finning techniques, reel work, rescue skills, and four dives on various shipwrecks specific to each lake. The mission: to empower divers by focusing on the wreck’s structure, local conditions and history.

“Each student is required to survey the wrecks, know the history of a wreck and cause of its sinking,” Parker says. “This is done by visiting local museums with dive buddies and the instructor to gather research information.”

diving the great lakes in michingan. Photo: Courtesy of Kim Parker
Photo: Thomas Rhoad

Research was also a key factor for Parker and her team when planning the structure of these specialties.

“A lot of research went into each of these specialties, and I can’t take all the credit for it,” Parker says. “Two of Aquatic Adventures of MI Instructors, Gary Flum and Thomas Rhoad, helped with the materials that created the specialties, too.”

Together, the group created a series of seven PADI Distinctive Specialties:

Lake Michigan Wreck Diver

Lake Huron Wreck Diver

Lake Superior Wreck Diver

Lake Erie Wreck Diver

Lake Ontario Wreck Diver

Great Lakes Invasive Species

Great Lakes Master Diver

In order to gain momentum among the dive community, Parker came up with the Great Lakes Master Dive program, making her the first person to be approved for a PADI Distinctive Master Scuba Diver™ certification.

“The concept behind the Great Lakes Master Diver was to provide diving goals to divers and expand their diving experience towards the Great Lakes,” Parker says. “These certifications give us the opportunity to educate and explore all five of the lakes and to understand what threatens them.”

From concept and research to training and certification, Parker notes that one of her biggest obstacles when writing these specialties was finding objectives to differentiate the unique aspects of each lake.

“Keep in mind what your students and your goals are,” Parker advises. “Figure out how can you challenge students to meet those goals while improving their dive skills. You want to be proud to have your instructor name on their certification card.”

But no matter what specialty Parker and her team are working on, the common goal is to promote diving in the Great Lakes.

diving the great lakes Photo: Courtesy of Kim Parker
Photo: Thomas Rhoad

“To keep people in the water, you have to challenge them,” Parker says. “What better way than to create a dive specialty that is challenging, fun and unique?”

Seven PADI Distinctive Specialties later and Parker has turned a passion for local diving into a PADI Great Lakes Master Diver Program that her dive community can be proud of.

If you’re interested in writing your own PADI Distinctive Specialty course, contact your Regional Training Consultant for more information.

PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty Course – What You Need to Know


Last year, PADI® launched a new pro-level specialty: The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course. This new program provides PADI Professionals with additional tools to help students of varied abilities meet course performance requirements. PADI’s Adaptive Techniques Specialty does not create a new set of standards for existing PADI programs. Instead, instructors learn how a simple technique change can allow many divers to meet performance requirements and earn a PADI certification.

PADI Course Director Jeff Currer was a member of the advisory group which developed the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course and he explains how every PADI Pro can benefit from learning adaptive techniques.

“We often get set in our teaching style over time, and the Adaptive Techniques Specialty course helps you see the standards in a fresh light. The course teaches how to adapt to the student, while still holding the line on performance requirements and expands the instructor’s tool box in ways that can be applied to all students.”

Brent George, a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) and adaptive techniques course participant said, “Learning how a paraplegic might perform the confined water CESA successfully will definitely help me teach that skill to all divers.”

Jeremy Wilton, a PADI Instructor Development Course Staff Instructor and course participant said, “I will use what I learned in every class I teach, including pro-level courses.”


Rob Currer, a PADI Master Instructor and PADI AmbassaDiver, was also part of the adaptive specialty advisory group. He notes: “According to the World Health Organization, there are around one billion people on the planet who are living with some sort of disability. So truthfully, most PADI Pros are already working with people who could benefit from adaptive techniques; they just don’t realize it.”

“Even people with a more typical ability range don’t all learn the same,” Rob continued. “Every diver is unique; they struggle with some skills and not with others. PADI’s Adaptive Techniques Specialty helps pros look at a PADI Standard and see the flexibility that already exists there. They learn how to easily implement techniques to capitalize on the strengths of their students and help each one overcome their unique challenges.”

The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty includes exercises to help PADI Pros gain a greater understanding of the physical limitations some students face. Course participant Jeff Pettigrew, a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI), described how he came to understand the tired diver tow in a new way.

“We have a hemiplegic divemaster candidate who cannot use one of her arms and has limited use of one leg. When I tried to do the fin push tired diver tow as a hemiplegic, I had new found respect for the challenges she faces, and overcomes!” said Pettigrew.

Rob echoed Pettigrew’s sentiments regarding the abilities of those who are considered disabled. “There will be skills in which your student divers need more assistance, but these people are not really ‘disabled.’  In fact, these students are incredibly able, they just approach certain tasks differently from a typical diver. Most instructors are really surprised at just how capable their adaptive students are.”

Course participant Roger Shields, a PADI OWSI and medic in the United States Army, described how the course helped him recognize his inherent adaptive teaching skills. “I have my own physical and cognitive issues, but taking the adaptive techniques specialty helped me realize I was already adapting my style for myself! When we practiced adaptive techniques to accomplish some of the skills, I realized that I had a lot to offer others who could benefit from my experience,” he said.

For instructors and divemasters interested in working with disabled divers, but hesitant to take the next step, Rob says, “Dive on in!” He advises PADI Pros to earn the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course certification first – to build a solid base of skills and knowledge. Next, team teach with an experienced pro to help build confidence in your skills. Then, when you feel comfortable, start setting up your own programs.

“It can definitely be intimidating at first. What if there’s a problem?” Rob said. “Well, what do you do if any student has a problem? You help them fix it. It’s the same with adaptive teaching, you problem solve, and as a PADI Pro you are already a pro at that!”

Jeff Currer, who is also the co-founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Patriots for Disabled Divers, shed some light on common misconceptions about working with individuals with disabilities. “In my experience, there are two common misconceptions: that there is more liability when working with those with disabilities, and that there is no business case for shops to provide the training.”

“Both are wrong,” Jeff said. “The liability does not change, you always have the duty to care. Training may take more pool time and require smaller classes, but there is no reason why you cannot cost the course appropriately. People will seek you out to get the experience and the opportunity to do something amazing. It will boost store credentials with the able-bodied community as well.”

There is enormous value for dive store staff as well. Jeremy Wilton, a PADI IDC Staff Instructor and course participant said, “I have a number of friends who are combat injured and this course opened my eyes on how to adapt my delivery and still meet standards. One of my friends is a paraplegic with limited arm strength, and the techniques we practiced to conduct the confined water CESA will definitely be applicable when I teach him! I cannot wait to get him in the water.”

For PADI Professionals who are already HSA Instructors, the two programs are very complimentary. Rob shared his perspective, “As both a PADI and HSA instructor, I can honestly say that carrying both ratings allows me to give the widest range of care to my adaptive divers. It allows me to have the flexibility to use the program that best meets a student diver’s individual needs.


If a diver can meet PADI Standards and earn their PADI card, they can be certified under the most recognized brand in diving and freed from some of the additional limitations that an HSA certification might place on them. There are going to be divers, like many quadriplegics, who are not physically capable of meeting PADI Open Water Diver standards and thus need a program like HSA to earn a dive certification,” Rob said.

“PADI has always been supportive of divers with disabilities, and the adaptive techniques course is there to bring that home,” added Jeff Currer. “The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course provides PADI Professionals with the credentials to work with divers who never thought they would be able to dive and earn a certification from the best known and respected certification agency in the world, and the confidence to provide that training with the backing of PADI. Very powerful.”

Learn More or Enroll

PADI Divemasters or PADI Master Freedivers who have completed EFR Primary and Secondary Care course within 24 months are eligible to take the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course. Learn more about the PADI Adaptive Techniques specialty for PADI Professionals, or view Patriot Scuba’s course schedule.

For divers, PADI offers the Adaptive Support Diver Specialty course. This course helps certified divers learn how to better assist a certified buddy who may have some form of challenge explore the underwater world. View Patriot Scuba’s Adaptive Support Diver course schedule.

Divers, pros and dive shop owners can support the efforts of Patriots for Disabled Divers. Learn how you can work with disabled veterans, become an affiliate store, and other ways to support their work.

Help Divers Avoid Injuries

Written by DAN Staff

In the Northern Hemisphere spring is a great time to maintain both equipment and skills in preparation for warmer weather and a busy dive season. As many divers make sure their gear is ready to get in the water, you can help them make sure they’re ready, too. By familiarizing yourself with the most common causes of diving accidents, you can offer tips for effective skills practice.

What causes the most accidents?

Accident analysis data has shown that there are five leading causes of preventable dive accidents and injuries:

  1. Uncontrolled ascents
  2. Ear and equalization problems
  3. Poor air management
  4. Diving beyond personal limits
  5. Failure to adequately plan and perform dives

At least one of these factors is present in the vast majority of reported incidents.

How can you help divers avoid incidents?

A great way to minimize problems is to get divers to practice foundational dive skills. Encourage your students and customers to consider which of their skills need improvement and suggest ways for them to practice these skills. Ascents, buoyancy control, ear equalization and emergency weight release at the surface can all be practiced in the pool. Divers can work on air management and dive planning by calculating their air consumption and planning practice dives with you or an experienced buddy.


What else can you do?

Some dive accidents are caused by unexpected equipment problems. Make sure divers know how to maintain, store and care for their gear. Also suggest they practice responding to different gear failures – regulator malfunction or stuck BCD inflators – by reviewing air sharing skills, freeflow regulator breathing and disconnecting their low pressure inflators underwater. Although not common issues, divers should feel comfortable responding to such events before they get in the water.

For more information about safe diving practices or preventing dive accidents, visit