PADI AmbassaDiver Cody Unser Gives Divers with Disabilities a New Perspective


Cody Unser First Step Foundation’s (CUFSF) quality of life motto is “Changing Lives One Dive at a Time.” Embodying the Health and Wellness Pillar of PADI’s Four Pillars of Change initiative, a short film showcasing the inspirational story of CUFSF founder and PADI AmbassaDiverTM Cody Unser was recently released. Unser and her CUFSF dive team provide participants with spinal cord-related paralysis with scuba instruction and PADI® Open Water certification to improve quality of life.

“Scuba is that catalyst that can transform people’s perceptions about what’s possible, and that people with disabilities want to not only live life, but thrive in it!” Unser says.

In June, CUFSF took their message to the No Barriers Summit in north Lake Tahoe, California, USA, where Unser’s My PADI video was filmed to share her story of transcending barriers through diving.

On 12-13 August, Unser and her volunteer dive team conducted a PADI Open Water Diver course for the physical and occupational therapists from the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, along with an introductory scuba event for the institute’s patients. Their goal: to integrate more medical professionals into the world of diving, while showing participants with spinal cord injuries that anything is possible.

“My hope is that the work that we do at the Cody Unser First Step Foundation with our Adaptive Scuba Program will help motivate and inspire the world to become more accepting and adapting for people with disabilities,” Unser says.

Adding support for Unser’s work, and other organizations like CUFSF, the new PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course will launch in November. This new program teaches PADI Pros to help people with varying abilities meet PADI course performance requirements. In addition, the program includes a PADI Adaptive Support Diver course for divers interested in learning how to support dive buddies using adaptive techniques. PADI’s approach to diver education has always been inclusive: Anyone who meets prerequisites is welcome to participate. This new program aims increase awareness of adaptive techniques that focus on what scuba participants can do rather than on what they can’t.

Since becoming paralyzed at the age of 12 due to transverse myelitis, Unser has worked to show others how powerful adaptive sports can be for the health and quality of life of people with paralyzing injuries and conditions. By convincing her doctors about the beneficial neurological and psychological effects of scuba diving on paralysis, Unser has demonstrated to the medical world that diving can promote healing.

“Having lost sensation and function in my lower body, diving made me feel whole again. It’s that feeling of freedom and independence that made me want to share it with others who, like me, doubted and feared life with a paralyzed body on land,” Unser says. “Now that doubt and fear doesn’t exist!”

Be Best. Be PADISM – The Way the World Learns to Dive®

Local Heroes – Make My PADI™ Stories Yours: Identify and honor local heroes

People love learning about people. Publications about popular people (the premier is probably People magazine) predominate on the newsstand. It’s a human interest thing, and it’s powerful.

Then there are PADI people. A quick flick through the My PADI Stories on introduces a number of inspiring people from all ranks of diving.

There’s PADI Open Water Diver Juan Gonzales, a retired US Marine Corps Sergeant. Scuba helps him cope with PTSD and reconnect with his family after active duty in the Middle East. Diving helps him “let go of the noise or the chaos that life brings about.”

At the other end of the PADI spectrum, another My PADI Story tells the tale of PADI Course Director Szilvia Gogh. She lived the scuba dream and forged a successful and creative career as an instructor in Thailand, only to be diagnosed with breast cancer. One way Szilvia copes is by looking forward to the next dive: “It is important to have things to look forward to,” she says. “Being underwater is my happy place. I could feel sorry for myself, and my family, but I choose to feel grateful.”

Don’t miss out on learning about any of the PADI Ambassadivers™. When she was 12 years old, Riley Hathaway completed a school project on turtles and plastic, which inspired “Young Ocean Explorers,” a television series she produces with her dad, Steve. They have created 20 episodes of the show featuring New Zealand, the Cook Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. Together, they get kids around the world enthused about the beauty and diversity of Earth’s marine life.

A hemisphere away in Sweden, PADI Divemaster and Ambassadiver Birgitta Mueck is also inspiring passion for the aquatic world as an accomplished underwater camera operator and guide. With her family, Birgitta runs Crystal Water Film Production, which produces underwater films in collaboration with Scandinavian National Television. “Through my work I want to share my immense passion for the wonderful planet we are living on, to inspirit life, raise awareness and inspire others,” Birgitta says

So what’s extraordinary about these stories? Nothing actually, and that’s the point. These stories are certainly inspirational, but fundamentally they’re about ordinary people who have found something extraordinary in diving. And it’s an almost sure bet that while reading this you’ve thought of a few divers who have found something equally special while diving with you.

There’s something else. There may be no better way to build a local or social dive community than to profile some of those people you just thought about. How about a few words about a particularly helpful divemaster? Can you think of a better way to promote becoming a PADI Professional? Who’s the driving force and the passion behind your Dive Against Debris®? A couple of words and a few images or videos will go a long way toward increasing participation in the next event. Writing a few of these simple pieces profiling some of your special divers is a great way to thank them for their contributions, keep the dive centric content flowing and drive interest in diving.

Make My PADI Stories yours: Identify and honor your local heroes.

My PADI Club Benefits for PADI Members


In the last My PADI Club blog article, you read about the new My PADI Club coming in 2017 and how it offers tools, expert advice and a community of like-minded divers to make it easier for people to explore, learn, and share their passion for diving.

But, My PADI Club is also packed with benefits for PADI Members. Here are just a few:

Grow Your Business –  Use diver savings on PADI courses and top gear as incentives to increase sales and certifications with Premium Club Members.

Advertising for Your Business –  Promote your business directly to potential customers by updating your profile with info and services.

Earn with Every Diver You Enroll –  PADI Dive Centers, Resorts, and Pros will earn commissions on registered Premium Club Members.

 Stronger Customer Relationships –  Leverage Club tools to search and connect

with customers to notify them of events and promotions.

To learn more, contact your PADI Regional Manager or Training Consultant and stay tuned to hear more about My PADI Club.

PADI Pro, Rocio Gajon, Sets Out to Save Our Ocean Planet – One Diver at a Time

PADI IDC Staff Instructor and AmbassaDiverTM Rocio Gajon shares her personal strategy for protecting our ocean planet and tells how her fellow PADI Professionals can do their part by capturing new customers – and keeping their divers diving.

PADI: When did you start diving?

Rocio: When I was 16 years old, I visited family on the coast of Baja California. The Mexican government had recently established Cabo Pulmo as a National Marine Reserve Park and many of the sons of former fisherman were becoming Divemasters so they could participate in protecting the ocean and beaches. They took me scuba diving and I was like, “This is it! This is for me!”


PADI: How did you come to be so passionate about ocean conservation?

Rocio: I grew up in La Paz, Mexico, on the Sea of Cortez. Many people who reside there cannot swim and are actually afraid of the ocean. But not me! Ever since I was a little girl, I was curious about all of those magical moving shapes and colors under the water’s surface. From the first time I put on a little mask and snorkel, my mom couldn’t get me out of the water.

However, there came a time when the magical creatures I had enjoyed so much in childhood began to disappear from the sea, and I was compelled to do something about it.

PADI: Why did you move from PADI diver to PADI Divemaster?

Rocio: I wanted to be able to teach children to scuba dive so they could know what was under the waves and be motivated to protect the life there. This desire came to the forefront when I was 17 years old and I got hired to work at PADI’s Five Star Dive Center, The Cortez Club in La Paz, Mexico, on the coast of the Sea of Cortez. The store commissioned me to run their Kids’ Club program. I taught kids to swim and snorkel. We also did a lot of Project AWARE® activities, such as runs and beach clean-ups. I loved every minute of it!

I became a PADI Divemaster because I wanted to take a more active role in turning these kids into scuba divers — so I could say, “Let’s go see all the marine animals we’ve been talking about!” Also, the dive shop offered PADI Discover Scuba® Diving events – and I really wanted to participate! So I got my PADI Divemaster rating.


PADI: What precipitated your move up to PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI)?

Rocio: Nine years ago, I came to the United States and landed a job at a sporting goods retailer in Southern California called Sports Chalet. I was originally hired as a Sales Associate, but soon I was working there as a Divemaster on the weekends, too, conducting PADI Discover Scuba® Diving events and helping with dive classes. Becoming a PADI Instructor was the logical next step for me, because I want to pass my knowledge on to other people — and I cannot take on conservation alone! By teaching people to dive, I show them what there is to protect, so they will love it and want to protect it too.

The Course Director for my IDC was Graham Hufford – and he was instrumental my success. Because English was my second language, I had to study twice as hard as the other candidates. Nevertheless, I refused to take the course in Spanish because I was going to be teaching it in English. Graham was so supportive; he spent extra time making sure I understood everything. He also encouraged me and never gave up on me.

PADI: Why did you become an IDC Staff Instructor?

Rocio: I had already been promoted to Scuba Department Manager at Sports Chalet and I had a lot of instructors working under my supervision. I felt I needed this extra knowledge to be an effective coach for them.

Also, whenever we conducted an IDC, I noticed there was a crew of people at the back of the room to coach the candidates. I asked, “Who are they?” and the answer was, “IDC Staff Instructors”. I saw my future pass before my eyes: I instantly knew that I wanted to be one, too – to help people become scuba instructors.



Advice for PADI Pros

PADI: Do you have any advice for PADI Pros on how to encourage people to try diving?

Rocio: The best way to encourage others to dive is to be a diver. Never lose your spirit. Continue learning and sharing your knowledge. Remember, when you find the job you love, you’ll never ‘work’ again.

PADI: How can PADI Pros motivate their student divers to keep diving / take continuing education courses?

Rocio: Praise them for their achievements – never let an achievement go unnoticed. Also, point them in the direction that suits them best, whether that is to continue as recreational divers or to become PADI Pros.

PADI: Do you have any suggestions for how to be successful as PADI Divemaster?

Rocio: Learn a lot, dive a lot and share a lot – and continue your professional education. Remember, it is your unique style and experience that will make you a great instructor.

PADI: Do you have any suggestions for how to be successful as PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor?

Rocio: Always remember the day you started diving. Empathize with students’ fears and help them overcome them through knowledge, practice and patience!

PADI: How can PADI Instructors and Course Directors motivate their Divemasters to continue on to Open Water Scuba Instructor?

Rocio:  Remind them that this is not just about diving! It is about the future of our planet and conservation of our oceans – because the more people who see what we see in the aquatic realm, the more awareness is spread. The sooner we make people aware, the sooner we can change the world!

PADI: What does “My PADI” mean to you?

Rocio: My PADI means structure – functional, reliable, enduring structure. I have a passion for diving and I can talk about it all day, but PADI gives me the structure I need to convert my enthusiasm into something other people can use to meet their personal goals, and then brag about it –  ‘I got my PADI certification!’

My PADI means I can inspire others to explore the oceans.

My PADI means living the scuba life of my dreams!

To learn more about Rocio, visit the My PADI website.

Announcing the 2016 Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge Winners


Congratulations to the instructors who won the second annual Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge! These 15 PADI Professionals certified more people the past four months than they did during the same four-month period last year. Thank you all for your amazing achievements and dedication in teaching the world to dive, and for creating more ambassadors for the ocean.

To read about the Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge and incentives, visit

2016 Winners 

300 Level*:
PADI Master Instructor, Michael Berry

200 Level: 
PADI IDC Staff Instructor, Cathy Sytsma
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Sophie Gaze

150 Level: 
PADI Master Instructor, Paul Flower
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Madison Heffernan
PADI Master Instructor, Joshua Sprinkle

100 Level: 
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Akira Koizumi
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, James Vincent
PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor, Richard Clough
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Nicolas Laatsch

50 Level: 
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Mark Dugger|
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Ron Willis
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Rodrigo Masmela
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Serena Stean
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, James Peebles

*Minimum number of certifications achieved in 2015.

PADI Master Instructor “Scuba Zac”: Living the Dive Life He Loves

Guest Blogger: Jo Walters

PADI Elite Instructors are among the most accomplished PADI Professionals in the world. This blog series explores what it means to be an Elite Instructor; what drives their passion for diving and how they inspire others to “keep diving”.

“Scuba Zac” Araneta – so popular a PADI Member that his students added “scuba” to his moniker – recently achieved the PADI Master Instructor rating and has earned Elite Instructor status for the past two years. Today, he lives the dive life he loves as he inspires divers to keep on diving.

Scuba Zac’s Backstory

Originally from the Philippines, Scuba Zac, grew up with an enduring love for outdoor adventures and a fascination with the creatures that inhabit the aquatic realm. So, it’s no surprise that he became a diver and then chose a career as a PADI Pro. “I was inspired to become a diver because I loved exploring the underwater world and I was amazed by the discoveries I made there. The possibility for travel was also part of the attraction.” His decision to become a PADI Instructor was simply a continuation along the same path. “I grew passionate about the Pro lifestyle and developed a burning desire to live the dive life – to do what I love for a living!”

Eventually, Zac came to own his own dive shop in the Philippines – an experience he found both challenging and rewarding. He learned to ensure customer satisfaction by consistently exceeding their expectations. His favorite aspect of the business was the time he spent diving with his customers – and camping, hiking and cycling, too! “Through these experiences, I formed an amazing bond with my customers – relationships that went beyond mere business transactions; many turned into true friends and all became loyal customers.”


Zac has lived and dived in many places around the world, but he now calls California home. He simply loves it. “California offers divers so much: amazing kelp forests, an abundance of wildlife (including my personal favorite, nudibranchs) as well as the California sea lions, who enjoy scuba divers and ‘play’ with us when we’re underwater.” He has also found a new family in California among the network of PADI Pros and student divers he now calls friends.

However, the move to California wasn’t all sunshine and orange groves. Zac had to overcome many obstacles. “My biggest challenge was immigration. Also, I was separated from my family back in the Philippines and I had the financial hurdle of supporting myself while advancing my career as a PADI Pro.”

…And advance it he did, eventually climbing the ladder from PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor all the way to PADI Master Instructor! PADI Pros who earn the Master Instructor rating are recognized as top dive educators who have proven to be dive industry leaders through dedication and hard work. Compounding this great accomplishment is Zac’s recognition as a PADI Elite Instructor – two years in a row!

Zac is honored – and thrilled – that he earned PADI Elite Instructor status for his accomplishments in the years 2014 and 2015. The Elite Instructor Award brought him recognition from his fellow PADI Pros, many of whom look at him as the kind of leader they aspire to become. “The Elite Instructor recognition has established my credentials within the diving community worldwide,” says Zac. “Many former students who have become PADI Professionals themselves contact me for advice on teaching and on managing their careers,” he says.


The Secret to His Success

One of the traits Elite Instructors have in common is their deep love for teaching diving. Scuba Zac is no exception. He loves seeing the transformation that takes place when a person learns to dive. “At the beginning, student divers are often nervous, excited, and anxious – all at the same time. Then, throughout their PADI Open Water Diver course, I see them slowly transform into confident divers with big smiles on their faces. This fuels my passion for teaching and keeps me coming back time and time again to introducing people to the sport!”

The secret to Zac’s success as a dive instructor is simple: “When I teach, I put the most emphasis on fun, safety, and maintaining neutral buoyancy.  When these three ingredients are combined, I know I am going to turn out divers who truly love the sport and will come back for more!”

Zac also loves seeing his student divers climb the PADI certification ladder. “I am so happy when my students continue their diving courses. Taking them from Open Water Diver all the way through to PADI Professional makes me so proud! Throughout my career, I have certified more than 40 PADI Divemasters, who are now living their own dive life dreams… wherever they are!”


Transformative Power of Diving

Zac has such big dreams that he sometimes has a hard time choosing which to follow first. He definitely plans to pursue his PADI Course Director rating, but deep down he harbors a heartfelt goal to return to the Philippines – not to live, but to share the wealth of knowledge he has gained as a PADI Professional. “I want to organize a trip to train local people to become PADI Divemasters, so they can support their families and save their dive sites.” Fueling this goal is the knowledge of just how transformative diving can be:  Before he left the Philippines, Zac took three local fishermen from Open Water Diver through to the PADI Divemaster rating. Now all three are employed as Divemasters at a local dive shop and their families have been elevated from poverty.

This isn’t the only time Zac has witnessed the transformative effects of diving firsthand. Another notable case is a former student diver who became a best friend – Jason Jue. When Jason discovered his true twin passions, diving and underwater photography, he quit his office job in the US, sold all of his belongings and moved to Bohol, Philippines to work at the dive shop where Zac used to work. Jason lived the dive life he loved for many years until he passed away from Leukemia last year. “Jason lived a fulfilled life, following his heart and taking the risk to do what he loved for a living,” says Zac. “Looking back, I believe I was the one that influenced him to live his life to the fullest, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do so. None of it would ever have happened if I weren’t a PADI Pro.”



“Diving has changed my life, allowing me to develop an independent, flexible and fulfilling career and bringing an amazing group of people into my life – both divers and pros. The accomplishments I am most proud of are achieving my PADI Master Instructor rating, becoming a PADI Elite Instructor and taking so many of my students through continuing education courses all the way to PADI Professional. But more than anything, I am honored to be a leader within this amazing organization. After all, PADI Professionals are truly the best in the world because they create the best divers in the world!

To me, My PADI means…  My passion… My lifestyle…..for life.

Visit to hear more My PADI Stories.


“My PADI. My Ocean. My Hope” Showcases Diver Achievements

To commemorate its 50th anniversary and recognize the important contributions of divers over the past half-century, PADI is releasing a series of short documentary videos entitled My PADI. My Ocean. My Hope.TM The series brings together stories of the human experience in which diving is the foundation for transformation, human connection and purpose.

My PADI. My Ocean. My Hope features a handful of passionate divers and PADI Professionals focused on educating others about environmental, social and humanitarian issues. Here’s a look at three:

  • Leo Morales – In 2008, Morales was diagnosed with aggressive cancer in his right leg, which led to its amputation. After a friend’s recommendation, Morales turned to scuba diving as a way to heal and gain a new outlook on life, and has since set two world records. Now a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor and motivational speaker, Morales hopes that others can be inspired to what is possible. “Under the water you don’t have any limitations,” Morales says. “You don’t have any disability. You are able to fly.”
  • Andre Miller – Having first worked in a dive shop and then in a marine lab, Andre Miller naturally gravitated toward a career as a marine biologist and PADI Instructor. He was integral in establishing a marine sanctuary in Carlisle Bay, Barbados, and today teaches youth about marine life and diving. “My ocean is my life. My ocean is also your ocean. We need it to survive and we need more people in the water. The more people we get certified as divers and free divers the easier it is to protect what we have,” Miller says.
  • Jennifer Idol – After witnessing the Gulf of Mexico in flames after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, Idol set out on a mission to dive all 50 states, inspired by a goal to help others to love and protect our waters by revealing their true beauty. “I could have never foreseen that I would eventually take the giant leap to make diving a full-time career,” Idol says. “As a PADI instructor and underwater photographer, I want to help others love diving, become good divers, and love the underwater world so that we may all enjoy it for generations to come.”

“We at PADI are thankful for our Members and the millions of divers who have helped to make this 50th anniversary possible,” said Drew Richardson, president and CEO of PADI Worldwide. “It’s an honor to play a role in the transformational journey diving offers to anyone willing to embrace it. Which is why, as we mark this milestone anniversary, the PADI organization is celebrating the people scuba diving has touched in significant and profound ways. We’re recognizing and applauding their actions, which in turn infuses others with the optimism, courage, determination and inspiration to live a better life and make the world a better place.”

The PADI organization invites you to seek out stories from your divers, friends and communities. Encourage them to share what My PADI. My Ocean. My Hope means to them and how diving has transformed their lives.

Watch the stories, learn how you can share yours and spark conversation at

My PADI Interview: Margo Peyton, Family Dive Adventures


Interview conducted by: Brooke Morton

Margo Peyton initially started Kids Sea Camp as a one-week getaway designed to introduce her own kids to diving. Now, nearly two decades later, it has snowballed into a global community: She and her family run 15 weeks in 13 countries, including the Cayman Islands, Bonaire, Honduras, Fiji, Palau, Yap and more.

What’s the secret behind Kids Sea Camp?
Kids Sea Camp creates the avenue for us to have multi-generational travel — that’s one of the things KSC has been majorly successful at. We have 5-year-olds in the water doing SASY and 70-year-olds taking Divemaster courses. We offer activities, programs and education for every member of the family. And it’s place where everyone can feel welcome.

What defines a family? At KSC, we have two moms, we have two dads; we have every race and every religion at our events. We have families with adopted children; we have families who bring nieces and nephews. It’s a fun, relaxing, peaceful place to be — which, in our world, is growing increasingly important.


How’d it all start for you?
I grew up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with a father who was a diver. When I was 6, he would put me in a tidal pool breathing from his regulator. I spent my childhood in the ocean, and was a freediver first. It was never a question of if I would get PADI certified, but when.

It happened when I turned 22. My dad gifted me my Open Water Diver certification for my birthday. One thing led to another, and I moved to the Cayman Islands, working first as a Divemaster for Bob Soto’s Diving. Then I transitioned to a career as an international travel consultant.


How have PADI and Kids Sea Camp changed your life?
For a while, I was a single mom, and I didn’t want to leave my kids behind when I traveled. My whole career up to that point had been about dive and travel. I had to figure out a way to include my two kids — so I started Kids Sea Camp because of them.

And now, it feels like the family-dive-and-travel business is growing in leaps and bounds. I feel like I am running a fine dining restaurant using just an Easy Bake oven. I have created something that nobody else has even touched, that nobody else has been able to recreate.

What makes KSC so successful is that it’s not just a business, it’s personal. It’s about family ties and creating connections about the world. It’s not about money.

How do you keep kids diving?
Try asking your kids to journal their dives together, and then put them on Facebook. This helps create lasting memories for them. One of the most memorable things I did with my daughter was during her first night dive. I made sure to spend extra time debriefing – asking her what she saw and looking up the marine life in books together.

For parents or instructors working with kids, try using an underwater slate or the ScubaPro Waterproof Wet Notes – both good tools. Kids have the desire to come to the surface to tell you what they saw; they can’t hold it in—they want to tell you immediately! The notes let them do that, and continue the dive safely.


What’s your secret to getting younger kids diving?
For any age, it’s very important to openly discuss and address fears. Kids have fears, but they may be afraid to tell you. A kid knows if he tells you that his ear is hurting, he can’t dive. But if he is questioned later, you may learn he actually had a fear of sharks or jellyfish. It’s important to address those fears immediately. The most important thing for a scuba family is for everyone to enjoy it safely.

Do you have any advice for PADI Dive Centers and Resorts?
I love when resorts offer youth programs and courses, like SASY. There is also Junior Advanced Open Water Diver and Junior Rescue Diver courses. A lot of people don’t even know that these courses exist or that there are so many opportunities in diving for kids.

What’s next for KSC?

I am elated that KSC is growing by such leaps and bounds. I’m very excited about the Instructor Development Course that we are running in Bonaire, August 5 – 19, 2017. It’s the first time that we have ever offered professional courses — and the majority of candidates have been with us since they were SASY students!

Next year, we are also adding Indonesia’s Wakatobi Dive Resort, one of PADI’s newest Five Star Dive Resorts, as a new destination. We will also be introducing a week in Dominica.

Lastly, through Ocean Wishes, we are certifying more and more local children in the communities we go to, including Fiji and the Philippines. In Fiji, we raised money for floors in the schools and brought over loads of school supplies. In the Philippines, we are supplying clothes and shoes. KSC is much more than just diving. It’s about outreach and connecting humanity.

Learn more about Kids Sea Camp and Family Dive Adventures at

2016 Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge


Were you an Elite Instructor in 2015? If so, hope you are ready for a little friendly competition!

Take the second annual, Elite Instructor my PADI® Challenge from 1 July through 31 October and you can win a 2017 PADI Membership Renewal, personalized PADI Gear and recognition at DEMA Show 2016. You’ll also be featured in the My PADI marketing campaign!

You’ll compete against others in your same 2015 Elite Instructor category and there’s no need to enter or apply because your PADI Regional Headquarters will track your growth for you. Those showing the most percentage growth in certifications (as compared to the same time frame last year) will win. Simple as that!

Get the full details – including the official contest rules – at the Elite Instructor my PADI Challenge page.

Now, get certifying and good luck!

2015 Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge Winner Jerry Lawson Leads with Laughter

Guest Blogger: Jo Walters

The 2015 Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge winners share the secrets to their success in this monthly interview series. Read on to discover how Master Scuba Diver Trainer Jerry Lawson turned his fascination for the ocean into a flourishing professional diving career. Along the way, he met and married a fellow PADI Pro, found fulfillment in certifying young people and discovered that laughter is an excellent teacher – learning to dive should be fun!

Describe your inspiration to become a diver. Gear Assembly at Windmill Beach, GTMO
The ocean inspired me ever since I was a child. I loved watching Jacques Cousteau on television and reading articles about the ocean in National Geographic magazine.

Please talk about your decision to become a PADI Professional. What or who inspired you?
When I got my PADI Open Water Diver certification, I was so excited I wanted to proceed straight though all of the levels to become a PADI Pro, but I decided to wait a while. Unfortunately, that “while” turned into 20 years! Finally, as I approached retirement from the military, my PADI instructor, Master Scuba Diver Trainer Alex Bravo, encouraged me to proceed from Master Scuba Diver to PADI Professional.

How do you think you’ve changed personally and professionally as you’ve moved up the ranks from Open Water to Elite Instructor?
I am better at interacting with other people and at balancing teaching time with family time.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your diving career?
I certified my step-son as a Junior Open Water Diver.

What is your next goal related to scuba diving?
I have so many goals, it’s hard to prioritize! However, my next professional goal is to become an IDC Staff Instructor – on my way to PADI Master Instructor. My next ‘just for fun’ goal is to start technical diving.

Everyone has a certain style of teaching. When you’re teaching someone to dive, what do you put the most emphasis on?
I put the most emphasis on the students having fun. After all, they are in class to do something fun. I try to keep them laughing; it eases their anxiety and promotes better skill retention.

Did you have to overcome any fears, challenges or obstacles to get where you are now with your diving career?
The Instructor Examination was a big challenge for me. I don’t test well and have a fear of failure.

Tell me what you enjoy most about teaching people to dive.
Seeing the students’ sense of accomplishment upon finishing their Open Water Diver certification is great. But it’s even better when I see them go out and dive on their own. Then I know that I have truly succeeded.

Describe some of the encounters you have had along the way that inspire you to keep teaching.
I’ve had many encounters that inspired me, but the most inspiring one was teaching my first Junior Open Water Diver course – watching the student divers progress through the training and finish the course was great. I had a lot of fun with that class!

What does diving give you that nothing else does?
I have never found an activity that gives me a deeper sense of relaxation than diving. To keep it that way, my dive buddies and I try to keep one day free for our ‘Zen’ dives, to de-stress from rest of the week.

Jerry LawsonHow has diving changed your life?
Diving has changed my life in many ways. First and foremost, diving introduced me to my wife, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer Maria Blanchard. Diving also led me to live a healthier lifestyle and take better care of myself.

Do you believe that you change others’ lives through diving?
Yes. I try to impart my own passion for diving when I teach and then I see that passion in my students as they progress through the ranks and – in some instances, “Go PRO” – become PADI Professionals!

Describe in a few sentences how you would convince a non-diver to learn to dive?
I would tell them how wonderful it is underwater. If they were still uncertain, I would suggest they try PADI Discover Scuba® Diving, so they could experience it without the time and financial investment of the PADI Open Water Diver course. I have had several folks who were uncertain go on to become open water divers after participating in the Discover Scuba Diving experience.

Walk me though your most memorable dive experience.
It was my first dive with my wife after we were married. Being able to dive together made it fun and special – and we had sharks. Sharks always make a great dive!

What does ‘My PADI’ mean to you?
To me, My PADI, means that we, as PADI Professionals ‘are’ PADI and in turn, PADI is ours.

Check back next month to follow along with us as we continue to share the insights of MY PADI Elite Instructor Challenge winners in this series.