As amazing as these numbers are, what I find more amazing is that just as these words found you amid the approximately 9-quadrillion-plus words humanity uses daily, the images you and I take as divers do not get lost amid the trillions of others taken. In fact, they are more visible than in the past.
It’s almost a tradition. Each year in January, we resolve to “eat better,” “spend less time on YouTube,” “rotate the tires on time,” or whatever. But by February, we’ve forgotten it. Why? Because most resolutions are really wishes or things we’re told we “ought” to do, instead of commitments from our hearts. So, our daily grind easily pushes them into the back seat.
This year, let’s break from tradition and apply our passion for diving and the underwater world to find some real resolutions. You’ve probably noticed that when people commit to real, importantresolutions that they genuinely care about, they get things done. They prove American philosopher William James right when he said, “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
Because we think differently and have different talents, perhaps exactly what you’re most passionate about differs from me – and that’s fine because there are many needs that call on us as a force for positive change. But ultimately, every struggle we passionately commit to either involves nature, other people, ourselves or often, a combination of these.
Diving is also a rare activity in which a seasoned pro can pair with a first-time novice and both have a genuinely great dive together (try that playing tennis). Diving brings families and friends together, bridges cultures (underwater, we all speak the same language) and teaches teamwork and self-discipline.
“You cannot change anyone,” American author Roy T. Bennett reminds us, “but you can be the reason someone changes.” Resolve to be that reason. Set a goal to tell someone every week (or day!) about why you love diving, and when they like what they hear, how to get started. Diving helps us be better people, and not sharing it is, in my opinion, a bit selfish.
Don’t dismiss continuing your diver education as a “real” resolution just because you’ll enjoy doing it. Look at it this way: If you’re committed to showing people underwater beauty – or damage – would learning underwater imaging help? If you’re removing debris in cooler water, can you do more if you learn to dive a dry suit? To document invasive and original species populations, would learning fish identification help? Adaptive support diving for sharing diving with people who have challenges? To be in the ultimate position to share diving, look at Divemaster, Assistant Instructor and PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor. And, think beyond diving – CPR and first aid can make a huge difference for someone wherever you are, and learning a new language allows you to be an underwater ambassador to more people and cultures. No matter how much we’ve accomplished or know, there’s always something more to do and learn. Master Spanish painter Pablo Picasso said, “I’m always doing that which I can’t do, so that I may learn how to do it.” Great advice.
As we replace flimsy traditional resolutions with genuine commitments to be a force for good, I’ll leave you with a favorite quote. Rob Siltanen, advertising executive behind some of Apple’s most successful campaigns, said this:
The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
It’s a damp and dreary morning, the traffic is horrendous and it’s backing up for a long way. Perfect. Clutching a handful of flyers promoting a two-for-the-price-of-one Discover Scuba® Diving (DSD®) experience, we move carefully between the rows of cars, making eye contact with the bored looking drivers. Most roll down their windows, curious no doubt about our colorful one-piece wet suits. We smile, hand them a flyer and give them a brief explanation: Forget about all the traffic, now’s the time to learn to dive. By the time we made it in to the dive shop at nine, the phone was hopping off the hook. It was the single most-effective promotion we had ever run.
For years, we made a point of finding out why new divers came in to the shop. Before the advent of high-end dive management software such as EVE, we kept a simple spreadsheet with the diver’s name and a couple of words describing how they heard about us and why they signed up. We tallied this up every month and, with only this one exception, every month the dominant reason was referrals. Running around in rush-hour traffic in wet suits, it appears, is the exception that proves the rule.
That was 30 years ago, and I doubt we’d get away with it today. So that leaves referrals squarely at the top of the list. And, to drive the point firmly home, during a recent Open Water Diver course, every single one of eight new divers was there because a friend or colleague had personally recommended the course. This is a great example of Word Of Mouth Marketing (or WOMM) at its best.
The importance of advocates – those people responsible for word-of-mouth marketing and referrals – for your business crosses all borders. PADI® Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) recently published a white paper titled, “Analysis of the UK Diving Industry.” This report summarizes the key findings of a comprehensive survey of PADI Dive Centers across the UK. It also offers advice, based on those findings, to help dive centers boost their business.
In the Marketing to New Divers section, the white paper points out that new divers are the lifeblood of your business. They are not just current customers, but future customers as well. It goes on to identify two pools of new divers: DSDs and potential trade.
For DSDs, the advice is to:
Use the Discover Scuba Diving Participant Guide and system correctly.
Include structured time during the experience to explain the benefits of full training and how to complete this.
Give participants an incentive to sign up immediately.
Make sure participants know that they can complete the skills from Confined Water Dive One during their DSD – they have already started the process.
Incentivize your staff. The white paper notes that “Passionate PADI Professionals will convert students to the sport – be sure to support them and reward them for success.” If you can’t rely on staff to recommend your Open Water Diver course, and if you don’t help them do so and make it worth their while, you’re missing a cornerstone of new business development.
For potential trade (new business), the white paper advises to:
Use the PADI logo.
Make sure to use the dive center’s Facebook page effectively.
Be innovative – reach out to your local community.
Use your students – word of mouth is still the best way to attract new divers.
The white paper notes that “Personal recommendations are powerful recruitment tools.” Incentivize former students by offering them rewards for bringing you new trade. Examples include a free gift for each student they recruit; discount on their next course; or a discount on the course they persuade a friend to join.
Make sure to use tried and tested methods of creating advocates for your business and reap the rewards.
Everyone knows that global environments in general, and the oceans in particular, are threatened. Climate change, coral bleaching, overfishing, runaway plastics – it’s a long list and every day, another study makes the list longer and more daunting. It may seem like everyone’s jumping on the bad news bandwagon, but I look at these reports in a positive, enabling way: the future we don’t want must be predicted to avoid it.
So, besides studying current issues, marine and environmental researchers show us problems before they arise. For example, in August marine scientists Wortman, Paytan and Yao (University of Toronto and University of California, Santa Cruz) released a study that suggests that, beyond warming, elevated atmospheric CO2 would reduce oceanic oxygen, making the deeper depths toxic and significantly damage fisheries through it effect on the food web. Yes, that’s bad news, but thanks to these researchers we know now, while we still have time to do something about it.
And, this leads to the second reason researchers are a crucial force for good. It’s about predicting problems, but also finding the solutions andsharing them. In a previous blog, I mentioned Dr. Vaughan’s breakthrough in coral restoration – shared research that directly addresses a massive global challenge that’s close to the heart of all divers. In Cuba’s Guanahacabibes National Marine Park, biologist Dr. Dorka Cobián Rojas teams with global scientists and “citizen scientist” divers to research causes and implement solutions to coral loss and the invasive lionfish. There also, Dr. Osmani Borrego similarly researches plastic pollution. These are critical research efforts because Guanahacabibes’ reefs are healthy, making them a biological resource oasis needed to find the problems and solutions we need to protect, preserve and restore the world’s reefs and fisheries.
Let’s not overlook “citizen scientist” involvement, because it is vital. Professional full-time researchers like Rojás and Borrego do not have the time or resources to gather all the data and trial the solutions. Solving massive, world-scale problems calls for massive, world-scale participation – in the ocean, that means you and me. As Project AWARE likes to say, don’t let your dives go to waste. Every dive we make can contribute to research. Dive Against Debris, for example, isn’t simply about picking up litter underwater or pointing fingers – it’s part of finding out how we can stop it.
Another effort is Reef Life Survey, founded by Dr. Graham Edgar, which trains volunteer divers to survey marine organisms. More than 200 RLS divers have already surveyed more than 2,000 sites in 44 countries, creating one of the largest global biological databases in existence. Using these data, researchers expect a shift in fish and invertebrate distribution as the oceans warm – a conclusion only possible thanks to these citizen scientist divers. India.mongbay.com reports that in India, scientists train fishermen and other volunteers to dive (if they’re not already divers) as citizen scientists for involvement in multiple initiatives, and it has another benefit – public support. “The research also gets community buy-in when their people are involved,” the report quotes University of Kerala’s aquatic biology department head A. Biju Kuma. Go online and you can find literally dozens of ways scientists embrace divers like you and me in researching the solutions to environmental threats.
There’s a lot to do, so let’s make every dive count. Join Dive Against Debris if you haven’t already, and/or any other citizen scientist effort. We can be researchers while still making images, exploring or doing everything else we love about diving. And, let’s be restorers who use what we’re learning to rebuild, revitalize and recreate a healthy global environment. Let’s be reachers and teachers who use diving to spread what we’re learning and doing, and pass it to the next generations.
Regardless of what today’s trends are, the future is not inevitable. With 25 million PADI Professionals and Divers helping lead the way, and with a new generation of divers to come, we’re already changing course to a different tomorrow with a thriving, healthy global environment. When it comes to gazing into the crystal ball, I like what author-educator Peter Drucker said:
The best way to predict the future is to create it.
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.
One more example, the Coral Restoration Foundation™ 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 a 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.
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.
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.
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.
Put “adaptive” and “PADI” together and it conjures images of people overcoming disabilities and challenges, and rightly so. Diving is one of those rare, rich experiences that can help heal the body, heart and soul, whether someone’s dealing with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), paraplegia, cerebral palsy, amputation – the list goes on, as you know. With its performance-based design focused on what people can do instead of what they can’t, the PADI® System’s adaptive approach has opened diving and the underwater world to thousands.
Thousands? I should say millions. The PADI System’s adaptability isn’t new, and it benefits 25 million of us and counting – that’s every single PADI Diver. It has made PADI the world’s dominating force in diving because we all have challenges, needs, interests, preferences and desires. Only a system that adapts to the infinite individuality of learning and teaching can address all of these distinct variables.
What makes the PADI System stand apart is its ability to fit a standardized diving instructional system to so many people individually, in so many ways. It is international, cross-cultural, multilingual and transgenerational, so that beyond accommodating varied learning needs and preferences it builds a bridge that makes us one amid our differences. Take five PADI Divers from China, Italy, Mexico, Russia and Vietnam and put them on a boat for a day. They share a language even if they don’t, because they “speak” diving and the ocean, thanks to the PADI System you and your fellow PADI Professionals apply every day.
The PADI System succeeds because it stands on a solid, unshakeable but adaptable philosophical and instructional foundation that retains our core values while evolving as emerging technologies and social trends change how we meet individual needs, one student at a time. As the PADI family stands up for ocean health and marine animal protection, and champions the power of diving in community, and health and wellness, we need to recognize that, hand in hand with tenacity, this is where our strength lies. Overcoming challenges requires adapting what we do, whether it’s to help one person with an individual need or one planet with a social need.
The Chinese philosopher Lao-tsu said, “An army that cannot yield will be defeated. A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind. The hard and stiff will be broken; the soft and supple will prevail.” The PADI family has emerged as a force for good because we don’t try to live in someone’s idealized version of what the world should be. Rather, we are supple. We adapt and change to meet what the real world blows our way. Together, we always have, and I expect, always will.