Dive Training Blogs
How Scuba Diving can help you overcome physical and mental challenges
This International Disabilities Day (December 3 2022) PADI is reminding the world of the healing aspects that the ocean (or any body of water) can provide us all and how important of a modality 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 is also healing.
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, launching their Adaptive Techniques Diving Course in the hopes that all of humanity can experience the full transformational power the ocean offers us.
While many are more familiar with traditional therapies, whether it be diving, mermaiding or freediving, people around the world have been forever changed by connecting with the water – conquering mental or physical perceived limitations.
There are an estimated one billion people on the planet that have a physical and/or mental disability – imagine the power that diving and immersion can have on this population if awarded the opportunity.
PADI’s history is replete with people whose lives have been transformed by connecting with the water because they were able to experience and explore the underwater world through PADI programme and certifications. PADI’s approach to diver education has always been inclusive and is a key pillar to their Pillars of Change. Everyone who meets prerequisites is welcome to join the global community of 29 million+ certified PADI Divers.
PADI created two courses that focus on increasing awareness of varying diver abilities and exploring adaptive teaching techniques to apply when training and diving with physically and mentally challenged divers: the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty and the PADI Adaptive Support Diver course.
These courses further expand Instructors’ and Divemasters’ abilities to be student-centered and prescriptive in approach when adapting techniques to meet diver needs. Here are the various ways PADI helps those with disabilities overcome all their challenges by connecting them with water:
1. Improved Muscular Movement, Light Sensitivity and PTSD Symptoms
A 2011 study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found, “veterans with spinal cord injuries who underwent a four-day scuba diving certification saw significant improvement in muscle movement, increased sensitivity to light touch and pinprick on the legs, and large reductions in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.”
2. Lifts Your Mental State and Mood
Did you know that the ocean air can literally lift your mood? “The sound and vision of the ocean lift our mood,” says consultant psychiatrist Dr Arghya Sarkhel. “The touch of sand and the smell of a seaside breeze leads to relaxation. On a biological level, this audio-visual stimulus incites our parasympathetic nervous system—that activates ‘rest and digest’, as opposed to ‘fight or flight’,” he says. Now scientists are quantifying the positive cognitive and physical effects of water and the improved sense of physical health and well-being.
Equally diving into the therapeutic benefits that diving can provide is Jeffery Puncher, Director for the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottowa. He is currently developing a virtual reality diving programme to help his patients find relief from stress and anxiety–using calming scenes of coral reefs and the swaying seas along with the soothing sounds of bubbles beneath the surface. This programme is currently being used with medical students, residents and faculty, with the goal of growing it to be adopted nationwide to help also support the psychological health of first responders.
3. Provides You with a Sense of Peace
Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, has done extensive research on the ocean’s unique ability to induce a state of what he calls the “Blue Mind” in human beings. Blue Mind is a mildly meditative state characterized by calmness, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. Nichols states that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and heal us on a deep level.
4. Enhanced Physical Movement
Being in the water allows you the opportunity to experience a feeling of flexibility and freedom that those with disabilities would rarely get to experience on land. This is because on land the muscles become restricted by the force of gravity. But in the water, that sensation drifts away and is replaced by the freedom to feel the freedom of movement.
5. Confidence and Control
The freedom of enhanced physical movement in the water also provides a sense of increased confidence and control. They can explore beneath the surface just like able-bodied people can do, which equally increases their own self-belief and feelings of empowerment.
6. Anxiety Relief
Those with disabilities who equally suffer from anxiety can find tranquility beneath the surface. By having to focus on your breath and being in the moment, all of the mental stress that can come with having a disability is no longer top of mind and instead allows for an escape in which you can truly enjoy the moment.
Find out more at www.padi.com
Dive Training Blogs
Divers making the Oceans more diverse
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.
Dive Training Blogs
Tips for… Refreshing Skills
A hugely important subject, and one that should be considered by any diver regardless of your training level. Just like anything, sometimes life gets in the way, we get sidetracked and before you know it, it’s been 2 months out of the water. It may not seem like a lot, but we naturally start to forget things when they are not used. We slow down our actions as we are out of practise and have to think a little more in order to retrieve the information to help make decisions.
There’s nothing wrong with this of course, we cannot always be diving! But it is important that we refresh before getting straight back into it. We obviously conduct a lot of refresher courses here at the dive centre, but we are also realistic, knowing that not everyone will want to pay to refresh their skills with an instructor. That’s also fine too, just be sensible.
Our tips for this would be the following; some will likely seem a little common sense… but it’s always good to have a reminder right?!
First off, when getting back to diving, choose a buddy that you usually dive with or someone that has a higher level of competency in diving. This will give you the reassurance in the water and not have to be worrying about the others person whilst getting back into it yourself.
Secondly, choose a site that you know. Don’t be jumping straight in having seen an amazing new site that you want to try out… that can wait for another time. You have already had a break in your actual diving, without having to then also consider navigating and a new dive plan.
Next, try to leave out the brand new equipment. It’s great that getting back into diving you have decided to buy yourself a new drysuit, fins and BCD, but it all might be a little bit much. Let’s concentrate on just getting back into the water and then move onto those new additions. This kind of change can make even the best of divers anxious.
Last but not least, there’s nothing wrong with staying shallow. Our first dive to get back into it, does not need to break our dive depth record. Stay shallow, enjoy the marine life at this depth, and keep the dive nice and easy. Practise those skills if you would like to, make sure you know where all your equipment is positioned and get comfortable. The ocean isn’t going anywhere… there’s always tomorrow to get in for another!
Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com
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