PADI Through the Decades: The 1960s

8 Feb



2016 marks an exciting year for PADI— our 50th Anniversary!

In 1966, two passionate divers created the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, hoping to revolutionize the dive industry. Fifty years later, their hopes more than materialized and the PADI organization stands firmly as the world leader in diver training. As we reflect on our organization’s history, a special thanks to the dive community’s continued support, which stands behind the standard of excellence upheld by each PADI Divemaster, Assistant Instructor, Instructor, Dive Center and Resort.

So how did we get here? As part of our 50th Anniversary celebration, we’re taking a walk through PADI’s history decade-by-decade. Let’s begin where it all started, the 1960s:

1966: Beginnings
In 1966, John Cronin had driven three hours on bad roads to give a presentation at an instructor certification course, only to find out the class had been cancelled. Angry at the lack of professionalism in the diving industry, he picked up a bottle of Johnnie Walker and called his friend, Ralph Erickson, to discuss a new direction. Together they agreed that diving needed a new organization to improve educational and business standards.

“We only agreed on one thing that evening,” Cronin was fond of saying, “and that was that ‘professional’ would be in the name.”

Before the two separated that night, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors – PADI – was born.

Something's missing...1966: The PADI Logo
Erickson designed the first PADI logo after Cronin expressed his desire for a “classy” image, similar to that of National Geographic. Erickson later stated that the process of creating this logo helped him see beyond their two-man operation and envision a bigger future for PADI. Drawing inspiration from a photo in Cousteau’s Silent World, Erickson sketched the diver-with-torch motif. Weary after hours of arranging the stick-on letters for the logo, Erickson accidentally left out the “e” in “professional.” The error remained for two years until a PADI member pointed out the mistake. Some of the misspelled originals are still on display at PADI’s California office.

1967: A New Approach to Diver Training
Expanded diver education had always been one of Erickson’s dreams for the scuba industry. Well before it became the industry norm it is today, Erickson believed that a focus on continuing education would allow divers to “gain full enjoyment in this watery world.” By the end of the 1960s, he had designed courses ranging from Skin Diver all the way to Master Instructor.

1967: The Undersea Journal
In 1967 The Undersea Journal was created, producing the industry’s first trade magazine for scuba instructors. Many of the early issues were written mostly or entirely by Ralph Erickson. The first issue was completely penned by him, with his articles featuring various pen names. Within a few issues PADI Instructors and other industry players soon joined in with submitted content.

1968: Photo ID
PADI’s Positive Identification Card was diving’s first card to include diver photos alongside their certification information – an idea John Cronin got at a trade show from Paul Tzimoulis, future editor and publisher of Skin Diver Magazine. The Positive Identification Card simplified cylinder fills and gear rentals by eliminating the need for secondary identification.

In just a few years of existence, PADI had ignited the spark that would change the diving industry. These crucial early years laid the foundation that would enable the PADI family to earn the trust of millions of divers worldwide, and set the stage for the organization’s explosive growth.

Follow along with us this year, as we’ll be sharing PADI’s story through the decades. Continuing with the next installment – the 1970s.


Meet Alan Keller – Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge Winner

5 Feb

PADI will be recognizing the outstanding achievements of the 2015 Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge winners through an interview series, to find out where they started and how they elevated through the ranks to become a PADI Elite Instructor.

Alan Keller_myPADIAlan Keller, a PADI IDC Staff Instructor in Alberta, Canada, is one of the fifteen PADI Professionals who won the Elite Instructor Challenge in 2015, and certified more divers during July-September 2015 than he did during the same three-month period in 2014.

Let’s learn how Alan’s path to become a PADI Instructor led him to this terrific achievement.

Describe your inspiration to become a diver.
I did a PADI Discover Scuba® Diving experience in St. Maarten when I was on vacation with three friends… and I was hooked!

Tell us about your decision to become a PADI Professional. What or who inspired you?
When I attended a Go PRO Night at my local dive shop and saw the employment board at the PADI Pros’ Site, I realized that becoming a PADI Pro would give me the opportunity to work in a warmer climate.

How do you think you’ve changed personally and professionally as you’ve moved up the ranks from Open Water to Elite Instructor?
Professionally, I have changed in that I am much more adaptive in my technique. I’ve learned how it to make things work based upon dive conditions, student experience, and my own limitations.

Personally, I’ve realized what’s important in life.  Before becoming a PADI Pro, I was an accountant in the downtown office towers of a busy city. After 15 years, I had enough and went into scuba diving. While the pay is definitely not the same, the quality of life I have is so much more.  Happiness is defined differently for each person—and that’s been the big lesson for me – learning what makes me happy.

Alan Keller PicWhat do you consider your greatest achievement in your diving career?
Working with students who have a fear of water and getting them to the point where they get certified on their once-in-a-lifetime vacation.

What is your next goal related to scuba diving?
My next goal professionally is Master Instructor and personally it is to complete my Tec 45 and Tec 50.

Everyone has a certain style of teaching. When you’re teaching someone to dive, what do you put the most emphasis on?
Making the scuba diving as much as a transformative experience as possible. To make that happen, I adopted the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs: I make sure their physiological needs are met, then safety, followed by self-esteem and belonging. By adopting this philosophy, my students have a greater opportunity to get to that transformative experience and we all have fun while diving!

Did you have to overcome any fears, challenges or obstacles to get where you are now with your diving career?
The biggest challenge where I live is the limited dive season, so it became important to teach many different courses, be familiar with the various dive sites and take advantage of the best times to deliver courses over the course of the season.

Tell us what you enjoy most about teaching people to dive.
I love that it is different every time, with every individual, at each dive site and each and every day—it’s never the same!

Describe some of the encounters you have had along the way that inspire you to keep teaching.
I did a PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience with two hearing-impaired teenage – twin boys.  They were able to hear me with their electronic aids in the classroom but as soon we went into the pool, they had to remove them.  With the assistance of their translator, they could understand me at the surface. Then, when we got under the water, we were still able to communicate directly.

The wife of a local diver was going on a trip to Fiji with her husband and she thought it would be a shame for her not to try diving while she was there.  She was afraid of deep water: jumping into it and looking down into deep water while snorkeling.  After working through her fear, she got her pool work done and got certified on her trip!  She was so excited!

What does diving give you that nothing else does?
It’s a chance to escape—whether I am looking at something new or familiar; diving with a long-time buddy or a new diver; diving the same profiles or learning something new.  Diving is what you make of it.

myPADI_challenge_badge_vv_1Do you believe that you change others’ lives through diving?
Yes, I do. I have seen families bond, fears conquered, and excitement ignited.  It’s pretty cool when someone says that they don’t want to stop scuba diving!

How would you persuade a nondiver why they should learn to dive?
Learning to dive is more than about diving.  Do things you didn’t think you could do. Witness things few other people will ever witness. Meet people you never would meet any other way.

Walk us though your most memorable dive experience.
My first ice diving experience. Initially, it was intimidating, descending past the thick sheet of ice, but cool to see the support crew on the ice. The underside of the ice was so smooth and clear that it looked like the exhaust bubbles were going up nothing as I watched them track their way to the vent holes. During the rescue scenarios, it was a unique feeling to be right under the ice sheet and have someone standing right on top of you… so close, yet so far away. I continue to ice dive and have become an ice instructor. Ice diving is a lot of work… and a lot of fun!

What does ‘My PADI’ mean to you?
‘My PADI’ is a two-fold ticket to a new world: showing people how to access the other two-thirds of the planet by showing them how to access a new part of themselves – one that was never reachable before.

Check back and follow along with us, as we’ll continue to share stories of PADI Elite Instructor Challenge winners.

PADI Offices Revamp Service to Boost Diving’s Best-In-Class Member Experience

2 Feb

PADI_50th_logoOne-stop-shop specialized support teams are only the beginning in helping PADI Members succeed in 2016.

If you’ve heard change is in the air at PADI, you are correct! The PADI organization revamped the global Regional Headquarters to upgrade its already unparalleled service and support for PADI Members. As part of a dynamic initiative to super-charge diver acquisition in 2016, changes include streamlining departments to allow for one-stop member service through the creation of dedicated regional teams to offer you area-tailored consultation and support.

Territory and Regional Specialists – One Call Does It All
Suppose you want to add PADI Freediver™ to your course offerings. You have questions about obtaining your Freediver Instructor rating, you need to order some Freediver training materials, and you’re looking for tips on how to reach potential Freediver customers. To meet these needs in the past, you would have talked with three different PADI departments — but not anymore. With restructured PADI Territory teams, now you can do it all with one call. PADI Territories are led by Territory Directors – industry veterans with years of dive industry experience empowered to deliver the prescriptive support you need to succeed. Each territory is also supported by multiple teams of Regional Managers and Regional Training Consultants. Your regional team is highly familiar with your local area’s unique successes and challenges, is knowledgeable in both PADI training standards and the latest products and services, and is dedicated to helping your business grow.

PADI also redefines member service with the introduction of the PADI Customer Relations department. PADI Customer Relations unifies support for business-critical services such as diver certification inquiries, membership status updates, digital product support, and other customer service needs. Formerly handled by multiple departments with overlapping responsibilities, merging these services increases efficiency and simplifies getting special service and help when you need it.

Investing in Industry Growth and Prosperity – Now Here’s Something to Talk About
As PADI kicks-off its 50th anniversary celebration, the organization’s focus is not on its past successes, but on you and your fellow PADI Members’ prosperity for the next 50 years. To this end, the PADI Offices are investing more than ever before in unprecedented market research to increase diver acquisition and retention, and improve the diver experience. As just one example, PADI has McKinsey & Company, a highly recognized, multinational consulting firm, assisting with qualitative and quantitative research to identify new opportunities for industry growth. Stay tuned as PADI turns research into action to help drive more divers to you.

PADI Members – The Way the World Learns to Dive
For five decades, the PADI family has continuously evolved the dive experience to deliver unrivaled diver education backed by best-in-class instructor and dive operation support. Enjoying its yearlong golden anniversary celebration, PADI continues to evolve both member and diver experiences, showcase you and your fellow PADI Professionals as diving’s leading edge, and demonstrate why PADI is the way the world learns to dive.

Dive Community Mourns the Passing of Jack Lavanchy

29 Jan

JackLvncy0905_12rdJack Lavanchy, cofounder and President Emeritus of PADI Europe, passed away 27 January at age 87. One of the forerunners and pioneers of the European dive community, with Jürg Beeli, Lavanchy was a primary force behind PADI’s double-digit growth in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s.

A native of Switzerland, Lavanchy’s interest in diving began when he saw people skin diving off of Cannes, France, in 1947. He completed his first scuba course in 1952 and was active with Glaukos, Switzerland’s oldest dive club, serving as vice-president, president, secretary and delegate to the Swiss Diving Federation. Lavanchy become an instructor in the early 1960s, and inspired by seeing Cousteau’s The Silent World, became Switzerland’s exclusive agent for the Spirotechnique scuba gear line in 1965, and Germany’s in 1968.

In 1978, Lavanchy visited PADI in the United States and returned to Switzerland and his business partner Jürg Beeli with PADI training materials. Recognizing the potential for PADI to improve diver training and promote industry growth in Europe, he and Beeli founded PADI European Services in 1983, followed by founding the PADI European College in 1984. In 1988, PADI European Services transitioned into PADI Europe, which was one of the forerunners of today’s PADI EMEA.

Lavanchy served as PADI Europe’s CEO and president in the 1980s and 1990s. Under his leadership, PADI experienced double-digit growth and grew into the region’s leading and largest diver training organization. In 1996, Lavanchy launched the Project AWARE Foundation in Europe, establishing a new growth base and diver participation for the organization’s marine preservation initiatives. Over his career, Lavanchy received numerous honors and titles, including:

  • Historical Diving Society Advisory Board
  • International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame
  • Tauchen Lifetime Achievement Award
  • European Underwater Federation Honorary Vice President

The PADI family joins our industry colleagues around the world in mourning Jack’s passing and extend our condolences and sympathies to his family. His contributions will be missed, but Jack himself will be missed the most.

Member Forum 2016

28 Jan


Find the event nearest you – you won’t want to miss this!

Member Forum 2016 promises to be an exciting and informative journey through the new, cutting-edge educational tools added to the PADI digital library. The seminar features a risk management presentation along with an interactive Q&A session about PADI Standards.

You’ll also get a preview into the new PADI marketing campaigns, including: My PADI, AmbassaDiver™, Discover Scuba® Diving Days, and changes within Emergency First Response® and Project AWARE®. Find the event nearest you below. Registration is free but pre-registration is recommended. Click the link to register!

*Dates and locations are subject to change. Please note there are more Member Forums to be confirmed – continue to check the links for updates.

Location Registration Information
United States & Caribbean  Register Now
Latin America  Register Now
Canada  Register Now

Dick Bonin – In Memoriam

15 Jan

DickBonin01237Dive industry icon and pioneer Dick Bonin passed away on 8 December 2015. Bonin grew up in Chicago, Illinois, USA where he excelled in school and, as an accomplished swimmer and boxer, earned an athletic college scholarship. On graduation, he joined the United States Navy and served as an officer during the 1950s and was involved with the early Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT), the forerunners of the US Navy SEALs.

Bonin left the Navy in 1956 and started work back in Chicago in the fledgling recreational dive industry. Here he met Gustav Dalla Valle with whom he founded Scubapro in 1963. This partnership significantly accelerated dive equipment manufacturing innovation and the growth of both the Scubapro brand and the dive industry as a whole.

With Bonin’s leadership, Scubapro became a leading equipment manufacturer responsible for many dive industry innovations. The Mark V single hose regulator, with a “balanced” flow-through piston first stage, earned a deserved reputation as a rugged and reliable performer; derivatives of this design are on the market today. The Scubapro stabilizer (or “stab”) jacket was among the industry’s first jacket style BCDs and weathered real controversy, driven by critics who claimed it was not a “life jacket,” to ultimately define a new industry standard.

Bonin had a flair for marketing too and was responsible for some extremely successful product placement. The release of Scubapro’s hypoallergenic mask, the industry’s first translucent silicone mask, got a major boost when Jacqueline Bisset wore one in the 1977 motion picture The Deep. The filmmakers loved it because it allowed more light to reach her face. Silicone masks would become a de facto recreational dive industry standard.

Ever on the look out for ways to help the dive industry grow, Bonin felt that scuba manufacturers were not adequately represented at the US Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association trade show. Taking action, he was instrumental in helping to set up the Underwater Manufacturers Association, which later became DEMA.

Johnson Worldwide bought Scubapro in 1974 and Bonin continued as President until his retirement in 1993. After his retirement from Scubapro, he served as interim executive director of DEMA during a critical growth period as the association expanded to include members from all recreational dive industry business segments.

Bonin was honored with many dive industry awards during his career, including the Reaching Out Award, NOGI Distinguished Service, and he was inducted into the Diving Hall of Fame. He lived in Huntington Beach, California, USA for more than forty years with his wife and family.

Calling All Ambassadors!

13 Jan


Do you have the desire to inspire others to start diving, keep diving or teach diving? PADI® is establishing a program of dive ambassadors to help grow the pool of divers, ocean advocates and explorers, and we need your help! If you want to leverage you leadership abilities in new ways, fill out and submit the AmbassaDiverTM application and let PADI know why you’re passionate about serving as a brand ambassador.

As a PADI AmbassaDiver, participants are expected to act positively and professionally as:

  • a representative of the PADI brand.
  • a voice of PADI within their community and spheres of influence.
  • a positive influence for PADI’s audience to start, keep or teach diving.
  • a brand advocate of PADI  through social platforms, events and relevant engagements.
  • a safe, responsible diver who respects marine life and the environment

Application Procedures:

Applicants for the PADI AmbassaDiver program should be certified by PADI and able to show a strong social media following and/or significant contributions to scuba diving or related areas. Download the application here. Instructors meeting the criteria can send an email to, or submit the application via fax +1 949 267 1291; email should include contact information, PADI Instructor level and number, a brief biography and reasons why the instructor should be considered for a PADI AmbassaDiver role.


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