A key element of the PADI membership’s strength is the inclusive nature and diversity of diving; something we celebrate and honor. Each individual Pro’s story is part of an amazing tapestry of action which positively impacts and uplifts our communities, whether that focuses on influencing, healing, connecting or inspiring – or something else…
PADI Members are committed to cultivating diversity, equality and inclusion across the dive industry while continuing to seek out new pathways for all to enjoy the ocean and the transformational power of diving – read on to learn more about the amazing stories coming to life around the world because of these incredible individuals.
A deaf child growing up in a deaf family, Thomas Koch went to deaf school, deaf university and lived in the deaf world. He made his first dive in Austin, Texas, USA in 1996 – that first course sparked Thomas’s passion for the water, so much so that he ultimately became the PADI’s first deaf Course Director, in 2015. “I love to dive with sharks and anywhere I can show others the beauty of the ocean – or any underwater environment I can find,” says Thomas.
Thomas has been instrumental in introducing people who are deaf to diving and has been growing the community of deaf divers since he became an instructor. To date, he has taught eight new deaf PADI Instructors around the United States. “It truly excites me when I am able to bring deaf people into the world of diving and educate them about the ocean as a certified diver,” he says. Thomas plans to continue training deaf instructors throughout the world so that all deaf people will have the opportunity to learn how to dive. Through his organization, Aqua Hands, deaf and signing hearing participants are always given full access to communication both underwater and above water.
Sacha Williamson has been working as a professional diver for over 22 years, starting out as a commercial diver and now holding the title of New Zealand’s first female PADI Freediver Instructor Trainer. Sacha is also a qualified PADI Mermaid Instructor. “I’ve always been on or in the ocean” she says, “I would spend days as a child, watching from the boat as my dad’s bubbles came up to the surface from the deep as he worked as a commercial diver. I’m drawn to the water, I feel my best self when I’m in there. It feels like home.”
No wonder then that her focus is now so firmly set on ensuring the healthy future of our blue planet. Sacha’s time is mainly divided between 4 major projects, each with an impressive record of education and encouraging young people to take the first step in their underwater journey.
“I have been volunteering for EFR (Experiencing Marine Reserves) over the past 5 years, training their instructors and volunteers yearly and running safety programs and training programs. EMR is a national programme of experiential learning about marine conservation. The EMR – Te Kura Moana programme empowers schools and communities by providing hands-on experience in the ocean. providing free experiences and education to the public.”
Sacha is also part of the team at Papa Taiao – where the core mission is to enable young people to make a living through enterprise, while regenerating the planet and its people. She is key in supporting local schools to grow their capacity to deliver sustainability programmes. And alongside this, she provides support and training to Mountains to Sea Wellington – an organisation which delivers inspiring freshwater and marine education programmes for schools and communities across the greater Wellington region.
“We connect people to nature, building understanding through science and exploration, and fostering kaitiakitanga (guardianship) for the environment.”
As if this isn’t enough, Sacha’s part of the team at Freedive Aotearoa, where the focus is on social, environmental and personal wellbeing.
“As a 100% AWARE dive school, we support the protection of the underwater world and fight the ocean’s greatest challenges. We have made the commitment to support marine conservation though making a donation on behalf of every student to the PADI AWARE foundation. When your certification is processed, a donation is sent to the AWARE Foundation on your behalf. By doing a course with us, you’re automatically contributing to the protection of our oceans, of the wildlife, of our planet.
But we also exist to help people get into the ocean, feel awe, find their why while being strong, resilient water(wo)men. We offer training and experiences through different activities, freediving, mermaiding and survival apnea. And it’s nature-based, to reconnect with yourself, one another and with our natural environment, in a playful way.”
Carsten Schultz is a PADI® IDC Staff Instructor based in Aalborg, Denmark. Along with his dive center, Aalborg Dykkerskole, and charitable foundation, diving360.dk, he helps break down barriers to scuba diving. A belief in the “art of possible” has driven Carsten and his team of instructors, divers and support divers to reach hundreds of individuals with mental and/or physical disabilities, prompting incredible tales of recovery and wellness. Diving360.dk continue to expand the possibilities of healing through diving and are an inspiring example of how scuba diving has the potential to provide life-changing interventions for those in need.
“After becoming a divemaster in 2004, I got into working with children in special care. I saw how diving benefitted them and gave them a belief in themselves and a sense of calmness that I recognized from my own diving experiences. I thought, what if the well-being effects of diving that I experience are actually much greater for people with, for instance, ADHD [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder]? I wanted to explore this more and see if diving could be used as therapy for those who needed it. We quickly found that by using adaptive techniques and the right gear we could benefit a lot of different people with different needs. However, as it mostly requires one-to-one sessions it’s expensive, and the people who would really benefit from diving as therapy often don’t have the money for it. By founding Diving360.dk we work to raise funds to pay for some or all the costs so that as many as possible can try diving therapy. The foundation also supports research and our next program is aimed at kids with ADHD to gain further insight on how diving can positively affect them.
We hope to unlock more about what diving can do for both mental and physical health, and work more closely with universities, hospitals, physiotherapists, and other Professionals. What if, in the future, your doctor orders diving lessons instead of a pill?”
Adam Sellars is an Australian freediver, who uses freediving as the instrument to help people deal with the pressures and stresses of everyday life through lessons he’s picked up from the deep, and all on one breath.
“I set up The Pressure Project in 2017” says Sellars. “And my goal has always been to help as many people reconnect with body and mind and give them the courage to explore the depths of the Ocean but also the power within to help them achieve their dreams and live a healthy calm life. I work with sporting teams, businesses, corporate, and individuals on a daily basis and love sharing my experience; something which took me from dealing with depression and anxiety to competing for Australia in the World championships within 12 months.
Freediving set me on the path of understanding how my brain worked under stress, and pressure, and through the union that this sport has with yoga and meditation I was able to control my emotional state to dive deep on one breath, but then also control my life on land. In deep Freediving we learn to control the nervous system before our dive in order to stay calm. So, in everyday life when we feel the negative emotional responses you can simply turn to your breath to regulate your nervous system and then your emotional response to it. The more you do this, the stronger you get at that control; and so you essentially control stress levels and can keep anxiety and depression at bay.”
Business SupportPADI Pros