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.


2015 Elite Instructor Christopher Adams Finds Inspiration in Teaching Diving

Guest Blogger: Jo Walters

2015 Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge winners share the secrets to their success in this series. Read on to see how PADI Course Director Christopher Adams went from a child listening to his dad’s diving adventures to living his dream as a PADI Pro, why he loves teaching people to dive and how he finds fun, adventure and a spiritual connection to our ocean planet through diving.


Describe your inspiration to become a diver.

My father has been a PADI diver since 1981. He was in the Navy for 28 years and traveled to exotic locations all over the world, returning home with stories of diving and seeing all the beauties of the marine environment, such as turtles, sharks, mantas and coral reefs. Eventually, I was able to obtain my own certification, and since then my father has been my dive buddy as often as our schedules will allow.

Tell me about your decision to become a PADI Professional. What or who inspired you?

I took a trip to Key Largo with my father in 2006 and received my Advanced Open Water Diver and Enriched Air Diver certifications through PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Center Rainbow Reef. From then on, I wanted to become a scuba instructor, but went home to finish my degree in Marine Biology first. My father and my daughter, who is also a now PADI Instructor, pushed me to follow through with my plan to become a PADI Pro.

How do you think you’ve changed personally and professionally as you’ve moved up the ranks from Open Water to Elite Instructor?

I have always had a strong personal and professional drive to achieve whatever I set my mind to. I also believe in having fun in life – and I have had fun! As an Elite Instructor, I crave the satisfaction of seeing the achievements and accomplishments in my student divers as they, too, climb the ranks of PADI.

What do you consider your greatest achievements in your diving career?

My greatest achievements were obtaining my PADI Course Director rating and also creating VA programs at Rainbow Reef, so our United States military servicemen and women can use their hard-earned and well-deserved educational benefits to become PADI Instructors.

What is your next goal related to scuba diving?

I am determined to obtain my PADI Platinum Course Director rating!

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Everyone has a certain style of teaching. When you’re teaching someone to dive, what do you put the most emphasis on?

Fun and enjoyment is my absolute number two priority for my student divers. Safety is always paramount for me. I teach my students how to be safe divers by teaching them to read conditions, giving them proper training and building their confidence.

Tell me what you enjoy most about teaching people to dive.

The thing I enjoy most about teaching people to dive is that it changes them. Body image goes out the window, self esteem and confidence goes through the roof. It creates an inner drive and a huge sense of accomplishment that allows them to tackle other obstacles in their lives. Also, when we teach people to dive, we create more conservation-minded stewards of our ocean planet who want to protect and save the things that they love… that I love.

Describe some of the encounters you have had along the way that inspire you to keep teaching.

There are many encounters that inspire me, most have come in the form of letters and thank you cards from students. I also created the VA programs that we now offer at Rainbow Reef. The gratitude I receive from our veterans is immeasurable — and truly satisfying.

What does diving give you that nothing else does?

Diving is my meditation; it is my church, my fortress of solitude. Diving creates within me not only the sense of adventure, but of peace. Diving also brings me a sense of oneness, a spiritual connection to our planet and a keeps me in a constant state of awe of all the amazement that is our ocean.

How has diving changed your life?

I was in school to become a pediatric internal surgeon when I visited Rainbow Reef in 2006 and got my Advanced Open Water Diver certification; I left there intent on a degree in Marine Biology and a desire to become a PADI Instructor.  Now, I live a life that most people only dream about as a full time PADI professional. I get to travel to exotic locations all over the world and see the amazing creatures that share this planet with us.

Do you believe that you change others’ lives through diving?

I certainly believe that I change others’ lives through diving. Not only are they acquiring this wonderful skill that allows them access to our sport and our planet, but I see the sense of wonderment that crosses their faces when they have their first encounter – whether it’s a sea turtle, octopus, hammerhead, eagle ray or a historic wreck.

Describe in a few sentences how you would convince a non-diver about why they should learn to dive?

Have you ever wondered what mysteries lie beneath the sea’s surface? Imagine moving in three dimensional space – like flying– through water. You see fish, rays and turtles you have never experienced, except for those few glimpses on your television.  Would you enjoy an adventure encompassing your whole body? Dive, as adrenaline courses through your body with the excitement of the sport all while being fully relaxed in a personal space of meditation and tranquility. The stresses of life slide off your body as you slip beneath the waves, and you are free – to explore, to enjoy, to wonder, to be a child again, at heart and in spirit. Unencumbered by weight, you move freely through the water while being tantalized by the amazing two thirds of the planet beneath the waves.  Come dive with me.

Walk me though your most memorable dive experience.

I was doing my Master Scuba Diver Trainer preparation training with Rainbow Reef and my Course Director, Ken Wilhelm in 2008.  We were diving on “Hens and Chickens” in Islamorada with my dive buddy, Eric Billips. When we dropped down, we found a nurse shark. So we followed the nurse shark. The nurse shark took us to a sea turtle so we followed the turtle. The sea turtle took us to a reef shark, so we followed the reef shark. The reef shark took us to an eagle ray, so we followed the eagle ray.  Then, in the distance I saw a thick grey mass coming towards us. It made me nervous at first because it was a large unknown. Then, all of a sudden, there was a pod of 12 wild dolphins swimming and playing with us; from little juveniles to large bull males, all the members of the pod were playing with us! They stayed for about 45 minutes. It was amazing!

What does ‘My PADI’ mean to you?

PADI has changed my life and provided me with a very enjoyable, comfortable career in an amazing industry that I dearly enjoy. PADI has always been there with a very personal touch to assist me in ensuring the very best training for my students. PADI feels like my scuba family – especially since my fiancée, my father and my daughter are all PADI professionals! “My PADI” feels like mine. It is the personal touch that we PADI Pros put into our industry and our sport.

Don’t Miss the PADI Freediver Webinar


The PADI Freediver™ program, released in late 2015, is quickly gaining popularity worldwide. To help you start your next underwater adventure, PADI is conducting a webinar for all Members who want to learn how freediving can benefit you both personally and professionally through the PADI Freediver series of courses. Attending this webinar will prepare you with the information needed to take the next big step in the dive industry. Don’t miss out! Click on the Register Now link to sign up and reserve your spot today.

20 October 2016 from 9:00 – 10:00 am (PDT)


If you are unable to attend the webcast at this time, a recorded version will be posted shortly.  Be sure to check the Freediver Training Essentials page under the Freediver tab at the PADI Pros’ Site or contact Eric Albinsson at


Victory for Sharks & Rays at CITES CoP


After 13 Species Listed in Plenary, NGOs look to implementation, remaining threats

Conservationists are delighted that CITES* Parties have officially listed devil rays, thresher sharks, and the silky shark under CITES Appendix II. The listing proposals were supported by more than the two-thirds majority required for adoption in Committee on Monday, and finalized today in Plenary.

“This is a big win for all these species of sharks and rays as governments around the world will now have to act to ensure that trade is from sustainable and legal fisheries,” said Andy Cornish of the WWF.

Nine devil rays, the three thresher sharks, and the silky shark were proposed by countries all over the globe for listing under CITES Appendix II, which obligates Parties to put in place international trade restrictions to ensure exports are sustainable and legal.

“We are elated by the resounding support for safeguarding the devil rays, some of the oceans’ most vulnerable animals,” said Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates International.  Devil rays have just one pup every two or three years, leaving them exceptionally susceptible to overfishing.

Ali Hood of the Shark Trust noted, “While we’re pleased by this important decision to regulate trade in silky sharks, we stress that complementary fishing limits and measures to reduce incidental catch are key to the effective conservation of this species.”

“We are grateful that governments recognize the value of healthy thresher shark populations for both fisheries and tourism,” said Ania Budziak of Project AWARE.


CITES Parties now have six months to implement the new international trade obligations for devil rays, and one year to do the same for silky and thresher sharks.

“We urge governments to put in place these vital international trade controls, as a matter of priority,” added Amie Brautigam of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Earlier in the meeting, Parties agreed steps aimed at improving the traceability of shark and ray products, which is fundamental to CITES implementation. Countries’ interventions reflected a growing recognition of the vital role CITES can play in shark and ray conservation by enhancing data, improving management, and ensuring sustainable international trade.

Project AWARE, Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, TRAFFIC, Wildlife Conservation Society, and WWF are working in partnership to promote the ray and shark listing proposals, with support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

Media contact: Brittney Francis: +44 07508 979958 (UK)

For species factsheets see:

Spreadsheet Improves Student Divers’ Air Consumption

Con-Ed; Grenada

By John Kinsella

What hasn’t been said about air consumption? It’s one of the first questions non-divers ask. (How many times have you answered the infamous “How long does your oxygen last, mister” question?) It’s a nearly mandatory post-dive topic thereafter. There are many articles written on the subject. There are thousands of blogs, vlogs and calculators devoted to it. If you delve into air consumption theory and calculations, things quickly start to get a bit complex. If you look at the subject from both a metric and imperial point of view, even the way fundamental baseline measurements are made change. It’s enough to make the less mathematically inclined run for cover.

But leaving all that aside, there’s one easy thing an instructor I know does to help his student divers reduce their air consumption. He simply keeps a spreadsheet with the start and finish air pressure for every student on every dive (He also tracks names, contact info, training dives, certs and so on). With a simple formula, he can track an individual diver’s air consumption in bar (he works in a metric region) over the course of all their training dives. Admittedly, there are tons of details this approach ignores (in particular cylinder capacity) but in a way that’s the whole point. Helping divers manage their air consumption doesn’t have to be complex.

More than anything, it’s the simple act of asking divers for the information that prompts the insightful post-dive conversations. The spreadsheet is readily accessible on the instructor’s mobile device. A quick comparison of a diver’s current to previous air consumption provides a talking point: “I see you used a lot less air on this dive, why do you think that’s the case?” The discussions lead to opportunities to explain some of the finer details and methods for more advanced gas management strategies (and this in turn is a great way to promote related Con Ed such as Enriched Air Diver, Sidemount, Tec and Rebreather courses).

As the old adage goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Here’s a simple, interesting and effective way to help divers do both.

Do you use any other methods to help your divers manage their air consumption? Share in the comments.

Last Chance to Participate in the Elite Instructor Challenge


Attention 2015 PADI Elite Instructors!

There is less than one month left to compete in the Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge! Don’t forget, 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!

pg_jacket2Contest ends 31 October 2016 and winners will be announced mid-November. Be sure to check back and see if your name is announced.

If you missed out this year, there is still time to strive for the 2016 Elite Instructor Award.

Review the full details – including the official contest rules – at the Elite Instructor My PADI Challenge page.

Good luck!

ReMember: Support Ocean Protection with your PADI Member Renewal


The diving community, especially PADI® Professional Members play a critical role in leading ocean protection.

There are so many significant problems facing mankind, but as divers this is truly our cause. If scuba divers do not take an active role in preserving the aquatic realm, who will?” – John Cronin, PADI Co-Founder

Your renewed commitment to ocean protection with your PADI Member Renewal continues to give the ocean a voice, help secure important policy advancements to keep shark and ray populations healthy and protect marine life from the onslaught of marine debris.

Project AWARE®, PADI’s environmental partner, is dedicated to providing PADI Pros like you with the tools and resources to take action, advancing the health of the ocean for future generations. Your donation supports hands-on citizen science, education and local marine conservation actions tailored for the dive community across the globe.

Go to the PADI Pros’ Site to update your credit or debit card details and add your donation* to support Project AWARE’s critical conservation work today!

*Donations of $25 USD or more received during PADI Member Renewals will receive a new limited edition Project AWARE silky shark mask strap pad as a special thank you for your renewed support.