Posts By john

How Scuba Signals Change the way we Communicate on Land

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Written by Guest Blogger Alexandra Dimitriou

Ok scuba signal

Scuba signals keep us safe underwater. They help divers share the rare treasures they find, like a small nudibranch or a giant hammerhead, with barely more than a flick of the wrist.  Humorous hand signals are constantly evolving and keep a smile on our faces when we think of a new one.

But wait, there’s more.

Divers can’t stop signaling on land too!

Scuba diving is so vital to those of us who partake regularly that I have found that scuba signals are rarely left behind after we surface. It’s quite the opposite in fact. We can’t stop talking with our hands! From fingers which elaborate a favorite dive tale, to whole arms that flap about to get your point across, divers hands are never still.

It’s hilarious, it’s fun and it makes you feel like you’re in a secret club. Hand signals make us instantly identifiable to a fellow divers, I’ve made loads of friends this way, have you?

Non-diving diving lingo:

“Ok?”

Yep! – do the full two arm one meant for “ok” at a distance in a busy nightclub after spotting someone you have lost in the crowd for a while. It’s a quick way to keep your group together from afar while you’re strutting your stuff on the dance floor.

“Fancy a beer?”

A modified “awesome” signal moves towards your mouth repeatedly to signal that’s it’s beer o’clock. Great if the noise from a nearby compressor is making talking impossible.

“Hungry?”

Squeeze your fingers together like an excited Italian and point at your mouth a few times. Then gesture towards your favorite post dive food spot and raise your eyebrows.  Most divers will nod enthusiastically with very little encouragement – scuba builds one hell of an appetite after all!

“I’m going home”

Two hands above your head to look like a house is a quick nonverbal way to tell people that you’re going to make a move. It may seem rude to non-divers, but we love talking without talking and this will often be acknowledged by a gentle nod from your group.

“Look Look!”

Index and middle finger form a “v” pointing from your eyes towards the point of interest is a great signal both above and below the waves. On land however it’s an awesome way to point to something funny or a wicked sports car. I use this so much in my non-diving life it’s a wonder I don’t forget how to speak!

These are just a few signals that I use and have seen being used. Have you seen more? Do you use more? Tell us the how, what and why of your non-diving diver signals in the comments. I bet they’ll make us giggle!

Top Dive Sites in Barbados – According to a PADI Pro

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Photo: Kiera Bloom

Born and raised in Barbados, PADI® Master Scuba Diver Trainer™, Andre Miller, knows these dive sites like the back of his hand. His very first job was in a dive shop where he learned to dive, sail, and navigate a wide range of vessels. Today, Miller is a Marine Biologist and owner of Barbados Blue where he leads conservation efforts to help protect our ocean planet. Seeking expert advice, we reached out to our AmbassaDiver for a list of the top dive sites in Barbados and this is what he shared:

1.   Carlisle Bay

Carlisle Bay Barbados

Photo: Kiera Bloom

This is a scuba divers dream. The bay is a shallow dive site that has something for every diver, beginners to advanced. With over 7 shipwrecks, some as old as World War 1 and 2, this artificial reef has become a nursery for fish, turtles, seahorses and all kind of creatures.

2.   Stavronikita

Photo: Kiera Bloom

Photo: Kiera Bloom

Stavronikita is the largest shipwreck in Barbados. The Stav was towed to Barbados after burning out at sea for 4 days. It sits in 100 – 130ft of water on the west coast and has developed some of the most beautiful coral growth of all our shipwrecks.

3.   The Boot

Photo: Kiera Bloom

Photo: Kiera Bloom

This is a boot shaped, fringing reef about 40-60ft deep. It has a mixture of gorgeous soft and hard coral, and is famous for being a turtle hot spot. On a good day you can find over 10 green and hawksbill turtles during just one dive.

4.   Cement Plant Piers 

Cement Plant Piers is the most popular dive site on the northern coast. The pier has lots of coral growth and gives the effect of tall trees underwater. It is home to many different creatures, and has been known to hold lots of long snout seahorses.

5.   Consett Bay

Photo: Kiera Bloom

Photo: Kiera Bloom

This location can only be dived in the summer when the waters are calm. Few divers are given this privilege, so we are using one day of Dive Fest Barbados to provide an opportunity to dive on the wild side! The east coast of Barbados does not get much diving attention, so we will be bringing lionfish spears as well. The east coast coral formations include lots of hard corals and caverns to peak into. It has also been known for shark sightings!

Watch Andre Miller’s My PADI story here to learn more about his conservation efforts on the island and life in Barbados. Looking to plan your next dive trip? Register for the first Dive Fest Barbados on July 5th to July 9th!

5 Types of Diving You Can Do in the Philippines

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Written by PADI AmbassaDiver, Justin Carmack

My entire life right now revolves around traveling the world in search of the best dive locations. In fact, I am actively trying to experience and film all of the top 100 scuba diving locations in the world, one at a time, and as difficult as it is to get to them all, I’ve somehow become a sort of authority on where to dive, what to see, unique places and so on. My readers ask me on a daily basis things like, where do I go to see whale sharks, where do I go for ship wrecks, and so on. When it comes to the Philippines, there is a very good reason I am based here now, and that is because it is basically the go-to for not only world-class diving, but many different types as well.

Here is a list of just some of the great things you can expect in the Philippines, and what areas you would need to go to dive them.

1. Wreck diving lots of WW2 wrecks in Coron Bay

There are dozens of world class wrecks around Coron, and it is definitely worth a visit. Each of these wrecks are WW2 Japanese battle ships that were sunk by American aircraft during the war. You can also see a few of those planes that were either shot down or ran out of fuel during their attack. Each of these massive wrecks are completely covered in corals and macro critters (I’ve never seen so many nudibranchs in one spot). One of my favorite highlights was an upturned oil tanker thats so big you can swim through the massive oil tanks, with pocks of oil still stuck to the ceiling. Theres really only one way to get to Coron besides long haul private boats, and thats a really short (and cheap) flight from Manila. I did take a 12+ hour boat from El Nino once, but it was a nightmare. Be sure to check out Barracuda Lake, for a very unique dive.

2. The Macro wonders of Anilao

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I would go as far to name Anilao as the nudibranch capital of the world. Diving the various locations around Anilao, I had never seen so many different types of nudis as I did there. I also ran into loads of tiny shrimp, ornate ghost pipe fish, frogfish and much much more. This is the best location closest to Manila, and an underwater photographer’s dream. I wrote a comprehensive guide to all of the dive locations in the Philippines, and Anilao was definitely a highlight. To get to Anilao, most resort will arrange a car for you from Manila, for the 2ish hour drive.

3. Rare critter muck diving in Dauin

Anytime I feel like hunting for rare and weird species, some of which you can only see in a few countries in the world, I head over to Dauin for some of the best muck diving in the world. No where else have I ran into so many different types of frogfish, as well as wonderpus, blue ring octopus, flamboyant cuttle fish, bob tail squid and tons more stuff you’ve never seen. These are not the most pretty dives, reef wise, but if you are like me and just love finding exotic species, I don’t know of another location in the Philippines where you can see more. To get to Dauin from Manila, it is only a 45 minute flight from Manila, or a even shorter flight from Cebu City. If you are already on the island of Cebu somewhere, you can also head down to Santander, and take the 20 minute ferry to Dumaguete. From both the ferry terminal and the airport, its about an hour by trike to most Dauin dive resorts.

4. Thresher sharks in Malapascua

Malapascua is a very beautiful little island off the north end of Cebu, and an amazing dive location. The highlight though, is the crazy looking thresher sharks at a cleaning station. The dive shops all but guarantee the sharks each morning, and I saw 3 both time I went. If you’ve never seen the torpedo shaped shark with their crazy long tail, you are in for a treat. They are definitely one of the coolest looking sharks I have ever seen, and its definitely worth the trip. To get to Malapascua you have to fly to Cebu, and either take a bus or a taxi or car the 3-4 hours to the north, then a 30 – 60 minute boat to the island.

Thresher Shark

5. Whale sharks of Donsol

According to some sources, the whale shark schools around Donsol are the biggest in the world, and all but a guarantee in peak season. Actually the sites around Donsol are known for being able to see mantas and hammerheads, and other big palagics. To get to Donsol, jut drive north from Manila, and its located in Luzon.

6. A world class live aboard to the insane Tubbataha

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a world heritage site and marine and bird sanctuary, consisting of atoms and untouched reef out in the Sulu Sea. Only accessible by a long haul live aboard, Tubbataha is considered one of the greatest and most pristine dive locations on earth. There are lots of great reefs, as well as tons of big pelagic, huge schools of barracuda and much more. This is an underwater photographers dream, and for many, the pinnacle of most diver’s experiences. If you have to choose one location in Philippines, or even in the whole world, head here.

Photo: Justin Carmack

Photo: Justin Carmack

Philippines is one of my favorite countries for all around amazing diving, and I tell people all the time they need to experience it. It is my job to find the best dive locations around the world, and its so easy to sing the praises of Philippines. You can never leave disappointed.

Getto

My PADI Story: PADI Instructor Joydev Paik

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Guest article by Joydev Paik 

In 2005, I was studying at the Bengali-medium school on Havelock Island, and Barefoot Scuba was organising an ecology-quiz for the local students. The winners were to be presented with the opportunity to go for a free Discover Scuba dive. I won. That is where my story starts.

My family of farmers hails from a settlement of just five huts and farms in the interior part of Govindanagar village on the island. The house is connected to the nearest road by a 2 km (1.2 miles) dirt path. It can’t be accessed by any motor vehicle. I would walk this same path every day, starting at 5am, followed by a 1.5 km bicycle ride to Barefoot Scuba during my training to become a PADI Professional later in my career.

The first few years after my first dive, I had my mind set on doing more of it, but I had neither the resources nor the time  to pursue it further. After completing my schooling, I worked as a construction labourer and helped out at my family’s farms for years trying to save enough money to go diving again. At this time locals were mostly involved in the dive industry as boat staff or other in the form of other labour resources.

Growing up in a family that wasn’t financially secure led me to be socially reserved. All throughout my schooling there was a girl I like but I didn’t have the confidence to approach her.

It took me seven years to save the money I would need for all my training from PADI Open Water Diver  to Divemaster. At the age of 27, I did my Open Water Course at the same dive centre that took me for my first dive. To my surprise, the girl I liked since school worked here as a staff member in the office.

I had the luck of having an instructor that spoke my local language. This helped me substantially since I barely spoke English at the time. Not being fluent in English often restricted me from openly interacting with guests and many of the staff that didn’t speak Bengali or Hindi, the two languages I was fluent in.

During my Divemaster course I started improving my communication skills. Seeing my enthusiasm and effort I was encouraged by the senior instructors to start my Instructor Development Course. It seemed like a great idea to me since I could imagine myself bridging the gap between the local youth and diving.

I have now certified and trained 6 more local boys to become divers in Havelock along with many tourists and guests. I am also now in charge of many diving activities at Ocean Dive Centre.

I didn’t speak English fluently but now that doesn’t restrict me from communicating with divers from around the world. I have had the support of the entire staff and my wife – Yes, I asked the girl that I liked since school to marry me last year.

As you can see, becoming a PADI Instructor has completely changed my life – and it can change yours too.

Learn how to become a PADI Instructor here.

Disabled Veterans Find Relief from Pain, PTSD Through Scuba Diving

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Erin S.


“Learning to dive has been a dream come true. When I am underwater, I am weightless. I am free; free of my injuries, free of sorrows, free to dream. The men and women of Patriots for Disabled Divers immediately made me feel comfortable, accepted, as part of their family. Their continued support and friendship has been unbelievable.” – Ernie S.

Patriots for Disabled Divers (PfDD) is a charity organization for disabled veterans that offers therapeutic scuba training and experiences to people with disabilities. Founded in 2009 by Jeff Currer, a retired US Navy Captain and his wife Merial, Patriots for Disabled Divers has trained more than 600 wounded military veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, amputations and other injuries.

Therapeutic Benefits of Scuba
Underwater, the human body is nearly weightless – which reduces swelling, takes pressure off joints, and reduces back and neck pain. 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.”

In 2016, The New York Times reported on the benefits of scuba diving for veterans suffering from PTSD: “Traditional medical approaches generally rely on drugs and controlled re-experiencing of trauma, called exposure therapy. But this combination has proved so unpopular that many veterans quit before finishing or avoid it altogether.”

PfDD co-founder Jeff Currer has seen firsthand the therapeutic benefits described by researchers. Our divers tell us being underwater helps them filter everything out and just breathe. We’ve seen vets with PTSD change from emotionally shut down and compartmentalized to open and engaged. For disabled veterans, scuba reduces their anxiety, reduces headaches, and provides a feeling of freedom that was previously missing from their life,” says Currer.

Patriots for Disabled Divers

How Scuba Diving Heals
– Participants interact with others experiencing similar issues. Those suffering from PTSD often feel isolated with no one to turn to. Sadly, 20 veterans lose their battle every day according to The Department of Veterans Affairs.

– Friends and family can get involved – as gear handlers, a dive buddy, or whatever role they want to play.

Completing a scuba certification is a big confidence boost. Once you learn to breathe underwater – what else is possible?

Ron k of Patriots for Disabled Divers

Ron K.


“This program was phenomenal. It was more than just diving. The diving provided an ice-breaker…that ultimately led to discussions over the dinner table regarding our experiences down range and how we deal with the long term effects of those experiences now. This was the beginning of the healing process.” – Ron K.

In recent years, Patriots for Disabled Divers has expanded its reach by partnering with PADI dive shops in California, Georgia, Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. The organization’s goal is to pay 100% of the training costs and help a spouse, partner, or relative learn to dive as well so all divers have built-in dive buddies.

Assistance for veterans and others seeking relief from physical or psychological trauma is funded solely through donations from caring individuals the diving and military community.

Patriots for Disabled Divers offers scuba training to participants with disabilities across the United States. Learn more about Patriots for Disabled Divers by visiting patriotsfordisableddivers.org. Meet some of the men and women who’ve participated in their program, or search for a PfDD affiliate dive center near you.

PADI® is committed to supporting global efforts and to being a catalyst for change through its Four Pillars of Change corporate social responsibility program.  We will continue to spotlight amazing stories of triumph over adversity, illness and hardships that testify to diving’s healing power. In diving, many people have found hope for their futures and we aim to inspire others to find similar personal transformation and healing, both mentally and physically.

Underwater divers contend with mud, chemicals and ‘nastiness all mixed together’

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Meet PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Alison Smallwood

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As a new diver in 2005, Alison Smallwood was just in it to prove that she could do it.

“I only had a try dive to showcase girl power as my husband had been a diver for years. I was an early seventies child, so I grew up with the film Jaws. I was petrified of sharks and open water,” Alison told us. “I used to go to dive club meetings with him every month. He used to be a divemaster for a local dive center and one day, I thought, “I can do this.”

Now, twelve years later, Alison is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and one of the winners of our Inspiring PADI Women contest for Healing and Wellness.

“I believe Stacey nominated me as I gave her my time and understanding throughout her PADI adventures, praising and nurturing her along the way to give her the confidence and skill base needed to fulfill her dreams,” she said.

Stacey Gill and Alison Smallwood

Stacey Gill nominated Alison Smallwood in the Inspiring PADI Women contest.

Working with the United Kingdom’s Royal Marines, she discovered the healing power of scuba diving first had.

She explained, “I worked in Egypt for three months teaching our Royal Marines who were flying in straight from Afghanistan to be taught the PADI Open Water course, and the healing power in that chapter of my life was unbelievable. Some of these guys had scars and were mentally wounded, but to see the power of diving embrace them was amazing and an experience that I am very proud of and I will never forget.”

Alison also recognizes the everyday healing power of scuba diving from the stresses of life, and how it transforms people into being advocates for the health of our oceans.

“We all suffer from different stress levels throughout modern day living and with diving those stresses take a back seat as you begin to discover a whole new world waiting for you to explore. It shows us the beauty of marine life and the importance of coral reefs and the environment and how we can play our part in marine conservation,” Alison said. “It empowers us to be advocates and educate others and how they can help in everyday life.”

As a Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Alison cherishes her role in helping others discover the underwater world and mobilize them to be a force for good.

“I knew I could make the world better through diving once I became a PADI Professional as it gave me the materials and the platform to do so. I left my job in retail, my husband and I opened Dreamdivers 5 star PADI IDC Dive Center in Feb 2006 in Rotherham, United Kingdom,” she told us. “I have worked there ever since, passing on and sharing my enthusiasm for diving and training individuals so that they get to see what I have had the privilege of enjoying for the last twelve years. I love being a PADI Instructor, and I will never forget the day I qualified. I was so proud and I still am.”

Alison Smallwood of Dream Divers

As a diver, her passion for the ocean, goes beyond just herself:

“I am so passionate about the underwater world, it’s my life. I feel alive when I am in the water and I am constantly passing on my enthusiasm to others as I manage a dive club with around 60 members who I arrange trips for every year in the UK and abroad, so that I can help them discover and enjoy different experiences and become as passionate as I am,” she explained. “We also carry out beach cleanups and continue to educate everyone around us in terms of marine conservation and the importance of preserving our oceans.”

When asked about her active role in inspiring other women to get involved in diving, she mentioned her plans for PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 15th:

“For the last few years we have celebrated PADI Women’s Dive Day by hosting Discover Scuba® Diving sessions for females only, and also, this year, we have an event at Capernwray on 15th July. Plus, we are offering 20% off all non-professional courses for females in a four week period up to the event itself, plus half price DSD sessions in July to inspire more females to dive.”

Over the the next five to ten years, Alison hopes to explore various dive environments, starting with South Africa next year, and to continue to empower others to dive and continue to learn.

“In my role as a diver I have learned to not be afraid and that it’s okay to be out of your comfort zone now and you will gain the rewards from doing so.  Everyday is a school day, and you learn something new all the time in which you can then pass on to others.”

Alison earning her PADI Sidemount Certification.

Alison becoming a PADI Sidemount Diver.

My PADI means everything to me. My Hope is to continue to inspire more females to dive. My Ocean is my world.” – Alison Smallwood, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer.

Learn more about PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 15th and find an event near you.

Who designed world’s first diving suit?

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It’s just gotten easier to dive on this sunken Civil War ship

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Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2017

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Since 1988 the Discovery Channel has been scheduling an annual, week long programming of shark related content. Falling in July or early August over the years it has gained in popularity to be the longest-running cable television event in history. The name? Shark Week.

Not heard of it?

As a mainly American concept it’s only really taken off in the rest of the world in the last few years. And then only if you have access to the Discovery channel. Shark week 2017 will be running from the 23rd to 30th July.

Early History

Shark week started out as a TV programming block created by Tom Golden. The original programming had just 10 programmes in the line-up and was scheduled to co-inside with August’s ‘beach season’. This content was mainly focused on shark conservation and creating a positive view of sharks, which had been demonised in the blockbuster Jaws in 1975.

Shark week 2017 Jaws_Book_1975_Cover

*not to scale

The rise of the Mockumentary

From the late 1990s however, the tone of shark week started to change – enter the ‘Mockumentary’. In 2013 they debuted ‘Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives’. With 4.8 million viewers it ranks as the most watched Shark Week episode but there was backlash in the scientific and fan communities; The Discovery Channel markets itself as the Worlds #1 Nonfiction Media Company, yet had started showing content that was, at best, dramatized.

Conservation focus

Maybe due to this back lash, Shark Week has started to work its programming back to a more realistic level. They also promote becoming a Shark Finbassador, with tips on how to encourage shark conservation online and off. Prominent Shark Finbassadors include Emmy award-winning wildlife cinematographer Andy Brandy and Jacques Cousteau grandson, Phillipe Cousteau.

Throughout Shark Week 2017 we will be publishing shark focused content to continue the conversation into these magnificent apex predators. As divers and ambassadors to our ocean planet we believe we can inspire change through education and our Four Pillars of Change. With our Marine Animal Protection and Ocean Health pillars in mind we will be focusing on the work that Project AWARE does to protect sharks and rays, as well as producing original content to highlight the need for humans to help these beautiful creatures that are so vital to the health of our oceans.