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
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.
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