Arguably, diving is the most inclusive sport in the world. At the time of writing this, PADI professionals teach, lead and support diving in 185+ countries and territories, and by best estimate, more than 90% of people have access to dive instruction in a first and/or second language.
PADI is on a mission to create a billion torchbearers to unify for a collective purpose to create positive ocean change. Supporting this is PADI’s Pillars of Change and a collective effort in fostering diversity and inclusion in the dive industry and supporting local communities.
As PADI CEO and President Drew Richardson says:
“Diving is a unifying force that bridges cultures through a common passion, purpose and language. Our interpersonal contact and shared experiences promote understanding and reduce prejudice, making diving a unifying force across national and regional boundaries and differing values – something that the world badly needs”
PADI is committed to delving into diversity, including what it means to be black in the diving world, today – and every day. Several PADI AmbassaDivers and PADI Professionals guide us through these conversations – and are blazing a path for new explorers, scientists, advocates and ocean change makers.
From around the world, each has had a different experience breaking through barriers, challenging cultural “norms”, and paving a new path as a purpose-driven diver and ocean ambassador. Their stories both inspire us, regardless of our race, and help us understand and reconcile with painful truths from the past. Additionally, they offer suggestions on how we can support BIPOC and underrepresented communities.
7 PADI Divers making the Oceans more inclusive
1. The Black Mermaid: Zandile Ndhlovu
Zandile Ndhlovu is PADI Freediving Instructor, PADI Mermaid and the founder of The Black Mermaid Foundation, an organization seeking to create diverse representation in the ocean arena. Zandile’s work centers around creating the first encounter that exposes the youth to the ocean. As an ocean conservationist, diversity and inclusion specialist, and avid speaker and storyteller, she uses these skills to advocate for diversely represented and inclusive oceans while working to reshape incomplete narratives.
“I’ve always loved nature… and have journeyed her differently at different times. When I found Freediving, I knew I wanted to go all the way with it! Black Mermaid is where I found solace in this journey. Being the first Black African PADI Instructor in South Africa, I’m determined to share my passion for the ocean with the world and explore how our deepest beliefs about the deep ocean can coexist with Freediving and perhaps even bring us closer to the knowledge of self.
“I’m an advocate of wonder, exploration and awe – beginning with self. I’ve always dreamt of making a positive impact in the lives of others, and am made happiest when inspiring, motivating and challenging people from all different backgrounds by simply being. With a strategic approach combined with an outside-the-box perspective, Black Mermaid helps people break through barriers and challenges, overcome doubts and take a large stride towards achieving their goals.”
2. Using Education to Break Barriers: Dr. Nevada Winrow
Dr.Nevada Winrow is a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine-trained pediatric neuropsychologist, PADI Master Scuba Diver, and founder of Black Girls Dive Foundation. Her foundation runs a program that helps underserved and under-resourced girls learn to swim, scuba dive and participate in hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities.
Participants in Dr. Winrow’s program can earn PADI® Open Water Diver certifications during their first year. With each new semester, the girls can earn additional certifications such as Advanced Open Water and PADI Specialties. The goal is for each participant to earn their PADI Master Scuba Diver rating by the end of their time in the program – as well as having an educational foundation that gives them both high school and college credits.
“The purpose of our organization is to help young women develop their STEM identify, be nerdy and feel comfortable about it,” said Winrow. “We tell the girls, you can pursue any career you want, but we’re going to teach you how to think like a scientist.”
3. The Godfather of Black Scuba Diving: Dr Albert Jose Jones
Dr Albert José Jones is considered the godfather of Black scuba diving in the U.S. He founded the country’s oldest Black diving club, Underwater Adventure Seekers in Washington, D.C., in 1959, and co-founded the National Association of Black Scuba Divers, in 1991. Earning his certification in a Howard University Pool, he changed scuba diving forever. A diver, explorer and scientist, he opened the door for so many other black divers to explore the ocean as well as their own history.
After 51 years as an esteemed PADI Professional, Dr Albert Jose Jones has an impressive resume with accomplishments that many divers only dream of achieving. A lifelong marine educator and leader protecting our ocean, Dr Jones is a PADI Master Scuba Instructor with over 6,000 dives logged in 50 countries around the world. He has taught marine biology for over 25 years at the University of the District of Colombia and is a U.S Army Purple Heart Veteran, having learned diving while training in the army. He is also responsible for certifying over 2,000 divers, the majority of whom were children at the time.
When Dr Jones reflects back at his first breaths beneath the surface, he smiles and fondly recalls it being one of the most exciting times of his life. “I’ve always had a connection to the water and been a competent swimmer. So putting a tank on my back and getting to stay under for longer was an extremely powerful experience,” says Dr Jones.
Dr Jones was announced as the recipient of the 2022 NOGI Distinguished Service Award from the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences, an “oscar worthy” accolade that he says is one of the biggest honors of his entire career.
But topping the award, he says, is the fulfillment he gets teaching children in his community the art of confidence through scuba diving.
4. Diving to Research the Past and Our Future: Alannah Vellecot
Alannah Vellecot is a PADI AmbassaDiver from the Bahamas who is also a marine ecologist, science communicator and ocean advocate with 12 years of experience working in marine research, conservation and education. She’s led a variety of marine research and outreach projects that include sharks, conch, reef health, shipwreck mapping, and blue hole ethnography. She was also the principal diver in a 6-part documentary, ‘Enslaved’ starring Samuel L Jackson and Afua Hirsch, telling the untold stories of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade by diving shipwrecked slave ships around the world.
“I want to be a reflection for women and girls of color who dare to follow their passion and to remind the world that the ocean is their home too, ” she says.
5. Working for the Animals: Dr.Dayne Buddo
Dr. Dayne Buddo, born and raised in Jamaica grew up with a fear of the ocean – like so many others in his community. He overcame a fear of the ocean at age 20 to follow his passion.
Buddo went on to earn his PhD in Marine Sciences and is proud of all his accomplishments, especially being invited to address the UN on Ocean Conservation. He has become an extremely accomplished researcher, scientist and ocean change maker. He is a certified PADI Master Scuba Instructor who serves on the boards of The Ocean Foundation, Fisheries Development Management Fund, National Conservation Trust Fund Grant Committee and continues to support several delegations to major United Nations Conferences on climate change and ocean conservation. He is currently the Director of External Engagement at the Georgia Aquarium, where he is responsible for deepening Georgia Aquarium’s service ties to the community at the local, state, national and international levels to further their mission of ocean conservation. He adores working with local communities and seeing that spark on other children’s faces, when they realize they too belong to the ocean.
He also uses marine science to protect biodiversity on our blue planet and has designed extremely successful programs including working with local fishermen in Jamaica to address invasive species and overfishing.
“There is no point in science if it is not applied to solving problems, or better yet, avoiding issues that would negatively affect ocean health. Having everyone involved in solving a problem, especially local communities which are mostly impacted, is the key to the success.
“We are all connected ecologically to the ocean, so we must be connected in solving the issues… so get involved. Science does not only belong to scientists, as citizens who simply love the ocean, you can also do your part. There is no shortage of need, only a shortage of hands, so dive with a purpose in mind.”
6. Diversity Advocate for Diving: Dr. Tiara Moore
Dr. Tiara Moore is the founder of Black in Marine Science (BIMS), which she started after she realized she was the only black person on her marine science teams and was determined to change the stereotypes of who can dive.
“Programs like BIMS are also critical to help heal the “history and trauma of black people and water,” Moore shares. “Black people don’t want to jump into the water with millions of our ancestors literally at the bottom of the ocean… It’s like we’re to blame that we’re not there, but there are so many barriers and so much trauma”
Dr. Moore’s BIMS program is aimed at getting more PADI certified black divers and helping her community feel more confident and connected in the water.
7. Telling Stories of the Ocean: Xochitl Clare
Xochitl Clare is a PADI AmbassaDiver, marine biologist and performing artist who is dedicated to telling stories of the environment to inspire others in her community to connect with the ocean. As a first generation Latina Afriacan American, she uses her culture’s deep roots to storyrtelling to inspire aquatic dreams through books and media. As an equally accomplished ballroom daner, Xochitl is known as the dancing biologist.
“This work [of increasing diversity in diving] allows us to meet our history with the sea firsthand to contend with the past—to then charter a new future for African American communities in generations to come.”
Read more on the PADI Blog at HERE.
The healing powers of adaptive diving
PADI highlights how scuba diving helps enrich and heal lives
This International Disabilities Day (3rd December) PADI is reminding the world of the healing aspects that the ocean (or any body of water) can provide and how important it is for helping those with physical or mental challenges improve their wellbeing. From simply being within close proximity of it or diving beneath the salty surface for an underwater adventure, the ocean has the power to heal.
Regardless of your age, ability, or even limitations, the ocean can benefit us physically, emotionally and even spiritually. This is why PADI is on a mission to make those benefits accessible to all, with their Adaptive Techniques Diving Course in the hope that all of humanity can experience the full transformational power of the ocean.
While many are more familiar with traditional therapies, diving, mermaiding or freediving, has changed the lives of those around the world by connecting with the water and enabled them to conquer mental or physical perceived limitations.
The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course is unique in that it’s a pro-level specialty designed to educate and empower PADI Professionals who wish to make scuba and freediver training more accessible.
Through classroom, confined water and open water workshops, dive professionals further cultivate their ability to be student-centered and prescriptive in approach when adapting techniques to meet diver needs. This hands-on training increases awareness of differing abilities and explores adaptive teaching techniques to apply when training divers with physical and mental challenges. PADI Pros learn to adapt course content to accommodate virtually any student diver.
PADI Members Helping those with Disabilities
This International Disabilities Day PADI highlights a shining example of a member who is championing teaching those with disabilities how to dive.
DiveHeart Empowers Individuals Worldwide Through Adaptive Scuba Programmes
DiveHeart, a PADI Dive Centre founded by PADI Scuba Instructor Jim Elliott in 2001, continues to revolutionise the world of adaptive scuba. Using zero gravity and adaptive scuba, DiveHeart aims to instil confidence, foster independence, and elevate self-esteem among individuals facing physical and cognitive challenges.
DiveHeart has established Adaptive Scuba programmes across North America and the Caribbean and reaches global destinations including Malaysia, Australia, China, Israel, and the UK. Through a combination of donations, grants, and strategic partnerships, DiveHeart ensures inclusivity by providing services to children, veterans, individuals with ALS, autism, and others, irrespective of their abilities or financial means.
A significant milestone in DiveHeart’s journey was the hosting of the inaugural Adaptive Scuba Symposium in 2009, held at the prestigious Our World Underwater event in the Midwest. This pioneering symposium attracted a diverse array of experts, including researchers, physicians, professors, therapists, adaptive dive professionals, and participants from across the globe. The event delved into the current state and the future of adaptive scuba, scuba therapy, the adaptive scuba market, the latest in adaptive scuba training techniques and the latest in scuba therapy research.
At the forefront of adaptive scuba initiatives, DiveHeart offers specialised training courses for certified scuba divers to become adaptive dive buddies. Every diver with a disability is paired with two dive buddies to form a cohesive dive team, ensuring a safe and empowering experience.
DiveHeart further hosts regular pool diving programmes catering to divers of all skill levels nationwide and organises immersive week-long adaptive diving trips to ocean locations like Cozumel, Roatán, and others at least three times annually.
Jim Elliot, the Founder and President of DiveHeart, a scuba diving instructor since 1997, recognised the transformative potential of adaptive diving for individuals with physical disabilities. Witnessing firsthand the holistic benefits encompassing physical fitness, emotional well-being, and mental health, Elliot embarked on a mission to make scuba diving accessible and empowering for all.
DiveHeart remains committed to breaking barriers and creating opportunities for individuals facing challenges, enabling them to explore the vast wonders of the underwater world while unlocking their true potential. For more information on DiveHeart and its impactful initiatives, visit www.diveheart.org
People Who Have Healed from Diving
For people with disabilities—whether they use a wheelchair, have a sight impairment or a neurological condition like cerebral palsy—scuba diving can be a fun activity that offers freedom and mobility in the weightlessness of the water. PADI’s Adaptive Support Diver specialty is a course designed to teach friends and family adaptive techniques for diving with a buddy who has a disability. Many students take the course to support a particular person in their life, and the instructor can work with them on the specific skills they require.
Ryan Chen: Diving to Heal the Mind, Body and Spirit
Ryan is a PADI Open Water Scuba Diver who was in a tragic accident as a teenager that left him paralysed. He found healing and clarity through scuba diving with his dive buddy Kent Yoshimura – so much so that during one scuba diving trip he and Kent ended up creating their current company Neuro Gum – a collection of functional gum and mints that help you get energised, calm or focused that has now led him to be named on Forbes 30 under 30.
“Scuba diving was one of the ways I learned that I can do anything, I just have to do it differently,” Chen says, “Scuba diving is one of those things that can change your whole framework. There’s no cooler feeling than taking that first breath underwater. All of a sudden you have this superpower, to breathe underwater and explore.”
Scuba diving continues to be his physical and mental therapy he continually seeks out amidst his busy entrepreneurial life. Now, with Neuro a national success and leading wellness brand in the United States, Chen has kept up his diving, and remained close to PADI as an organisation. Neuro even has a collaboration with PADI’s coral reef restoration project coming up—a special pack of Neuro, with proceeds going to PADI’s non-profit foundation.
CCMI alumni learn to freedive from world record holder Tanya Streeter
CCMI’s 25th anniversary celebrations included Tanya Streeter leading a freediving clinic for CCMI alumni, giving Festival of Seas keynote address
To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI), the organisation enlisted the help of world record holding freediver and former Cayman resident Tanya Streeter. Invited to give the keynote speech at the annual Festival of Seas gala on 4 November 2023, Tanya eagerly agreed to also host a freediving clinic for young Caymanians who participated in education programmes at CCMI to give back to the Cayman community.
Returning to the island where she was born and raised, Tanya led a half-day freediving clinic at Sunset House with the support of Sunset Divers. CCMI education programme alumni were invited to register, and 11 Caymanians, ages 16-26 representing a span of 10 years of taking part in the range of CCMI education programmes, attended the clinic. Some of the alumni participated in more than one CCMI programme over the years, and several are now employed in a related industry in the Cayman Islands, a testament to the importance of CCMI’s scholarship opportunities for Caymanian students.
When asked what it meant to Tanya to host this freediving clinic in Grand Cayman, she said, “I cannot overstate what a huge personal impact it has on me to come back to have this opportunity to work with young Caymanians. They are associated with CCMI, so they know about the ocean and about how important ocean health is here for us. But to be able to connect with young people in a realm that I’m good at and is important to me, and to see them grow a little bit personally, is huge. It’s my absolute favourite thing to do!”
Called ‘the world’s most perfect athlete’ in 2002 by Sports Illustrated, Tanya discovered her record-breaking gift for freediving in 1997, and in the following decade broke 10 world records, many of them previously held by men. To this day, she still holds the longest-standing world record in the sport, having dived on a single breath to a depth of 525ft/160m in the No Limits discipline off the coast of the Turks and Caicos Islands in August 2002. If anyone is qualified to help others begin their journey into freediving, Tanya Streeter is at the top of the list.
The clinic started with a briefing and a meditation session, led by Tanya, to get the mind and body ready to freedive. Participants practiced meditation exercises, breathing techniques to help open the diaphragm and work the lungs and muscles, and important stretches. Next, Tanya gave an in-water safety briefing, which emphasized buddy pairs, proper in-water breathing techniques, and not pushing oneself too hard. In total the group spent about 90 minutes in the water in selected buddy pairs practicing freediving while under the watchful eye of CCMI’s in water safety teams. Tanya spent several moments with each freediver individually, observing them, and offering underwater support and topside coaching. After everyone had one-on-one coaching time with Tanya, the group snorkeled to the famous Sunset House mermaid statue, practicing their new, finely tuned freediving skills to dive to the mermaid (a depth of about 45-50 ft).
Before the clinic, participants had a wide range of skills and experiences in the water. Tanya provided one-on-one coaching, speaking to each person’s comfort level. One participant said it felt like it was only the two of them in the ocean. Tanya’s constructive corrections in the water helped participants realize instant success in their form and dives!
The following night, Tanya gave the keynote address to the more than 350 attendees at CCMI’s Festival of Seas gala at the Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa. A passionate voice for the preservation of the marine environment, Tanya announced she would serve as a CCMI ambassador, focusing her energy on engaging the youth and young people in efforts to protect the ocean. She left attendees with the realization that the connection we have with the ocean is meaningful, and it paves the way to create protections and policies that will sustain the marine environment for the future.
While Tanya enjoys using her platform to communicate about the importance of marine conservation, she is very passionate about working with youth and introducing them to the ocean through freediving. “To see those barriers people are facing and to push through and grow even in a hour, and hour and a half. That’s huge. It’s absolutely my favourite thing to do.”
For more information about CCMI, please visit www.reefresearch.org.
CCMI is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1998 to protect the future of coral reefs, envisioning a world with vibrant oceans and healthy coral reef ecosystems. We seek to be the Caribbean’s premier marine research institute by delivering cutting edge research, transforming conservation strategy and developing education programmes of excellence – discovering and promoting real solutions to declining ocean health. Our plan is to invigorate key species and understand key ocean processes that drive reef resilience. We support early career scientists who are INNOVATING ways to improve coral reef health. We are TRANSFORMING conservation strategy and work to inspire the CHANGE that is needed to achieve our mission. CCMI are PIONEERS in the region working to reverse the declines of coral reefs.
Blogs2 months ago
Discover Peace and Tranquillity in Egypt’s Eastern Desert and its Amazing Red Sea
News1 month ago
Emperor Echo liveaboard sustains “irreversible damage” in lightning storm at Fury Shoals
Blogs3 months ago
A Flying Visit to Nusa Penida, Bali
Blogs2 weeks ago
My week on Scuba Scene: simply the best Red Sea liveaboard experience
News2 months ago
2023 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition Announced
Marine Life & Conservation2 months ago
Book Review: The Lives of Octopuses and Their Relatives
Blogs1 week ago
Unveiling Indonesia’s Dive Gem: Welcome to Bunaken Oasis, Where Adventure Meets Luxury
Equipment2 months ago
Oceanic+ Now Has Freedive Mode on Apple Watch Ultra