Thinking Like a Diver: Learning for Life

PADI Digital Underwater Photography Course

By John Kinsella

It’s easy to underestimate this: The skills and attitudes divers learn during the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course really can help them lead better lives overall.

The Thinking Like a Diver section, for example, encourages divers to think about what they’re doing before, during and after every Adventure Dive in the same way more experienced divers do. It focuses on principles such as gas management, situational awareness and buddy communications. It helps divers better understand how to improve their dives and manage risks.

It’s important stuff, and PADI Pros diligently help their charges “think like a diver” by discussing how it applies to each Adventure Dive. It helps the dive go smoothly; divers think through the dive in advance, dive the plan, and consider what went well (and what didn’t) after. It’s a great skill, and a great attitude, and it has applications far beyond the particular dive and scuba diving itself.

Make a point of thinking like a dive pro by taking a minute or two to relate how the knowledge, skills and attitudes developed during the Advanced Open Water Diver course apply to people’s daily lives. Show them that the approach and process they learn to use while planning the Deep dive is just as relevant to a hike up the side of a mountain or a first subway trip across a new city. Make a point of mentioning that what they get out of the Digital Underwater Imaging dive will apply to, and may even improve, every subsequent image they make, either under or above water.

It doesn’t take much. Even a brief mention that relates the immediate dive activity to a similar situation in a broader life context will add great value to your course and will get people thinking. It will help them realize that their investment in dive training has benefits they might not have realized. And you’ll find it’s a great way to get divers interested in the related Specialty Course too.

5 Reasons to Start Your Holiday Promotions Now

According to the National Retail Federation, the average shopper will spend $935.58 on holiday gifts this year. Read on for our 2016 holiday marketing game plan for dive retailers.

Start NOW
To ensure you capture the maximum amount of holiday dollars – don’t wait to start your holiday promotions.

Step One: Put On Your Santa Hat*
*Or applicable holiday apparel

Look around your store and identify what would make a great gift:

  • For someone with a $20 budget, $50 budget, $100 budget, etc.
  • For divers who have kids.
  • For a new diver, experienced diver, traveller, etc.
  • For someone who doesn’t know a thing about diving.

Write down all your ideas. Then, consider what items could be bundled together and how you might create a unique package. For example:

A tropical travel package might include items you already carry: a mesh bag, spring straps, defog, gear marking pen, but why not some reef safe sunscreen or a rash guard? Or a portable luggage scale? A specially-priced bundle of items is both convenient and nearly impossible to comparison shop.


Step Two: Make Their List and Check It Twice
A dive shop won’t be top-of-mind for the average holiday shopper. They will, however, be looking online for ideas.

Last year, PADI’s blog received nearly 7,000 visits from divers Googling scuba diver gift ideas. Thousands more page views came from social media followers who clicked on our holiday gift idea post and forwarded it to their friends.


Promote your great gift ideas online early and often. Shoppers want to give the perfect gift… but they don’t want to work too hard to find it. Moreover, studies have shown: people who shop both in person and online spend 66% more than those who only go to stores.

Inspire customers to buy from you.

  • Post the gift idea list you made in step one as a page on your website or blog.
  • Promote one item or bundle each day on social media.
  • Include the gift idea list in your email newsletter.
  • Use the list to create a flyer for your store.

If you don’t have time to create a comprehensive gift idea list, ask your staff for their favorite items in the shop and share that “Staff Favorites” list with customers (hey, maybe they’ll get something). You could also create a list of “best selling items for 2016.”

Whatever list you make, it’s critical to create a “Best Scuba Diver Gift Ideas” page on your website or blog to take advantage of online shopping searches. Include an eLearning link on your page to profit from holiday shoppers who are ready to buy now.

Step Three: Offer An “Amazing” Deal

What looks like a grand bargain to shoppers doesn’t have to kill your profit margins. Consider what value-added services you could bundle with a camera purchase or equipment package.

Include a one-hour pool session, equipment specialist course, airfill card, etc with purchase. Then add the value to the “regular” price of the package. Lastly, price the package to preserve your profit margins, using the value-added service as padding.

For example, an $1800 equipment package plus an Equipment Specialist course might retail for $1900. Since your cost to conduct this class should be fairly low, you might offer the whole package for $1800 – a $100 savings!!! The customer receives valuable information about their gear, and you get them back in the store after the holidays.

No matter the offer, it’s important to create special holiday deals. According to the National Retail Federation:

  • 73% of shoppers say they will choose a retailer based on sales or special offers.
  • 58% of consumers plan to take advantage of holiday discounts for non-holiday purchases – spending an average of $140 per person.

Step Four: Promote Your Deal Via Email… Really.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your inbox, someone starts another 12 days of Christmas email series, amiright? Alas, research indicates email is the #1 way to target holiday shoppers, even millennials.


Subject Lines Matter
Your email will be duking it out with hundreds of others in the user’s inbox. Make it count, get crazy if you have to, for example: WE’RE GIVING AWAY A PONY…who wouldn’t click on that?

Even if the pony giveaway is actually a drawing for a pony bottle, you got the user to open your email. Mission accomplished. Here are some additional Tips for Holiday Marketing Emails from MailChimp.

Include Buy Now options
Always include an option and incentive for readers to buy now. You can’t know what “amazing” deal is up next in the customer’s inbox.

If you don’t have online checkout on your website, there’s always eLearning. Customers can buy an eLearning gift pass from you for any PADI online course including Open Water, ReActivate and Scuba Tune-Up.


Make A Holiday eCard
All you need to make a great holiday eCard is a handful of photos. Grab some from your 2016 Facebook albums, and use a popular tool like JibJab or Elf Yourself.

Not into goofy cards? Invite customers to submit their best topside and underwater images from 2016. Put together a slideshow using Animoto, it’s free, easy, and the result is remarkably professional. Your customers will look forward to receiving your eCard to find out if their images made the cut.

You can also use Animoto to create a custom holiday greeting. A local car dealership made a fun, shareable video with just a few images shot on a mobile device.

A holiday eCard will stand out from the typical holiday promotional emails, but it’s still a marketing piece. Create something your customers will want to share, and you’ve got instant word of mouth advertising!

STEP FIVE: Make Shopping an Event
Give shoppers a reason to visit your store by creating a memorable shopping experience:

  • If you have a pool, offer an Underwater Santa holiday card photo opp. or run a Bubblemaker session to keep kids occupied while parents go shopping.
  • Host an after-hours night with special deals for your best customers. For the average retailer:  5% of customers account for 35% of sales.
  • Choose a day where a portion of sales will be donated to Project AWARE or other non-profit.

Use in-store signage
If things get busy and a customer is left to browse on their own, they will appreciate you’ve put the defog next to the masks with a sign that says “don’t forget the defog!”

Simple signs like, “customer favorite” or “staff pick” can help guide customer decisions. There’s no doubt they’re looking for help: a 2016 Google study found: 71% of shoppers who use smartphones for research while in-store say that it’s become an important part of their experience.

Customer and staff appreciation night
Sometimes a great way to sell things is by not overtly selling things. Invite your best customers and staff to an evening event with drinks and snacks. A raffle, awards, and an evening of talking story strengthens the bonds between your business and the people who make it what it is. Browse PADI Gear for staff recognition and customer appreciation gift ideas.


If you’ve already implemented all the ideas above. Kudos! Here are a few more ideas from the field that might not work for everyone, but are worth considering.

Offer delivery – some people have more money than time. Others want to avoid having boxes delivered to their home. Consider offering free delivery for purchases over a certain amount, or within a certain distance from the store.

Layaway – for customers wanting to get a little something for themselves, layway can be a good option. Do your research before implementing this program.

Promotional credit – offer customers credit based on how much they buy. For example: spend $1000 or more, get 10% credit towards a purchase in 2017.

AOW: Search and Recovery Dive Helps People Find Themselves


By John Kinsella

We were waiting excitedly on the dock for the lead Course Director to arrive. We were a bunch of newly-trained OWSIs and this was a dive for our Search and Recovery Specialty Instructor course; we were looking forward to it after an intensive IDC together. This was quite the dive site for a search and recovery dive too. It was inside a marina in an area about the size of football pitch that had been cordoned off especially for our use. We had spent the last 15 minutes hypothesizing as to the actual bottom content: murder weapons and worse were the latest thoughts. One thing we all agreed was that there’d be a ton of miscellaneous rubbish down there.

As the CD walked down the gangway towards us, he wriggled his wedding ring from his hand and tossed it casually into the middle of the open water while explaining that he had so much confidence in us that he wasn’t worried about having to mention this to his wife.

Talk about an attention getter. I remember the moment in perfect clarity to this day. There was a collective gasp as we realized that we were now staring at the expanding rings that marked the last know location of the first object we were to recover that day.

In my view, the Search and Recovery Adventure Dive and Specialty are right up there with Rescue Diver as the most rewarding courses in the PADI System. There’s something bordering on pure magic when divers spot a long lost object underwater and bring it to the surface. Successful search and recovery takes discipline, effort and careful planning in addition to solid dive skills.

Much of this comes in handy other times too. Lost your keys? Figure out where you last saw them and start there. Search each area you look thoroughly so you don’t have to search it again. Have you more than one searcher? Divide up the search areas. It’s basically the same approach we took that day to finding the wedding ring in the marina.

Make sure your Advanced Open Water Divers get to know the rewards of Search and Recovery Diving, in addition to enjoying some rewarding diving, they’ll build skills that will stay with them forever. And find the ring we did, only to discover it was a cheap plastic substitute.

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.

Nominate Your Fellow PADI Pro to Win Prizes


Over the past 50 years, PADI has been The Way the World Learns to Dive – and we couldn’t do this without our PADI Pros.

PADI Pros change countless lives each year by inspiring divers and teaching the skills required to explore the underwater world.

We want YOU to nominate a fellow PADI Instructor, Divemaster or Assistant Instructor who has had a significant impact on your path to becoming a PADI Pro. We want to hear how they inspired you, mentored you and developed your skills – and what makes them such a special part of your professional journey. Enter today and you could be in with a chance of winning top prizes from Suunto, Zeagle, BARE and Atomic Aquatics.

How to enter:

Complete the form on our contest entry page. We’ll need a few details about you and your chosen PADI Pro, and your written nomination (in 600 characters or less). You can also (optionally) upload a photo/video of you and your chosen PADI Pro. All entries must be received no later than 23:59 UTC on 11th December 2016 (visit the contest page for full terms and conditions).

The Prizes:

We’ll choose 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place Winners, and both the entrant AND their chosen PADI Pro will receive top prizes:

1stplace 2ndplace

1st Place: The entrant wins a Suunto EON Steel Dive Computer and their Pro wins a Zeagle F8 Regulator!

2nd Place: The entrant wins a BARE Reactive Wetsuit and their Pro wins a set of Atomic X1 BladeFins!

3rd Place: The entrant and PADI Pro each win PADI Swag worth up to $100 each!


Stay up to date with your PADI Pro Benefits

Remember, being a PADI Pro is more than just a certification – it’s being part of a worldwide community with access to exclusive PADI Member benefits, including the PADI Pros’ Site, business and teaching support, and members-only promotions. If you haven’t already renewed your membership for 2017, visit this link to get started.

The Case of the Goliath Grouper


The fishing of goliath groupers is a really big issue. Because goliath groupers are really big.

In fact, as fishes go, Atlantic goliath groupers (Epinephelus itajara) are whoppers: They grow to massive proportions and can weigh up to 455 kilograms/800 pounds. Because of this, they have unquestionably become one of the most desirable “trophy” fish on the planet.

They are also delicious. And vulnerable, for two main reasons: First, goliaths live in shallow tropical waters, at depths from 5-50 metres/16-165 feet, from the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, throughout the Caribbean and along much of the South American coast, sometimes venturing as far north as Maine and across the Atlantic to Africa. Second, they spawn in large aggregations – large numbers of groupers turn up in the same location at the same time to get on with the business of creating the next generation.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, the goliath grouper population (along with many fish populations) plummeted due to pressure from commercial and recreational fishermen, including divers and spearfishermen. As a result, taking – harvesting or killing – goliath groupers was prohibited throughout the United States in 1990; their population is recovering in certain areas, and now the pressure from some corners is on to reopen the fishery. Many others oppose this.

Photo by Bill Goodwin, Florida Keys National Marine SanctuaryPADI submitted an official position statement opposing proposals to reopen the goliath grouper fishery in Florida, USA, and backed this up by supporting research on the financial impact of goliath grouper dive tourism. As you can imagine, spawning aggregations are a big draw for divers from not only the immediate locale but from around the world, and they are worth protecting. The real issue is how to achieve this. The answer may well lie in divers’ relatively deep pockets. Money talks (and helps sway decision makers) and the research findings are clear: While recreational fisherman are willing to spend $34-$79 US to harvest a goliath grouper, in-state divers are willing to spend $103-$202 US for goliath grouper encounters; out-of-state divers are willing to pay around $336 US.

That’s pretty significant. It’s great for Florida, which benefits economically. It’s great for divers, who get to dive with dozens of goliath grouper. It’s great for most fishermen, who just have to carefully release any goliath grouper caught (they just can’t “harvest or possess” them). And it’s really good for goliath groupers.

Last Chance for Exclusive 50th Anniversary Member Cards

Some things come around only once in a lifetime: Halley’s Comet and PADI 50th Anniversary certification cards for example. Only PADI Members with a reasonable expectation of being alive in 2061 have a chance of seeing the comet, but everyone reading this can get an exclusive, members-only black 50th Anniversary card, as long as they act before the end of the year. In addition to the card’s unquestionable cachet there are a number of other reasons to replace your current card.


First (those few who expect to see the comet can skip this one), if you’ve received a reminder from Facebook to update your profile pic because it’s been five years since you uploaded it, it’s time to do the same with the picture you have on file for your cards. This helps make sure you’re recognized when asked for proof of certification, and avoids potential embarrassment when leading groups to remote destinations. If you haven’t received such a notification, hold up your card and look in a mirror to see if you can recognize yourself.


Second, lead by example: If you update your card, and let people know, customers will tend to do likewise. In particular, make sure you have and use your eCard (renewed members have access to free eCards if they have a ScubaEarth account). Don’t forget that there’s a revenue stream associated with replacement cards if you process the card request.

Third, do something good for the aquatic environment – there’s a special 50th Anniversary Project AWARE card too, and you know the donation associated with each one goes to good use.

The black 50th Anniversary PADI Member cards have been so popular that they ran out of inventory three months ahead of schedule; a new order should make sure there are enough for the rest of the year, but this is really your last chance to get these special cards. Go to the PADI Pros’ Site for more information and to order.