Be­neath the sur­face II The scuba pro­fes­sional

Action Asia - - Q&A -

Based in Cal­i­for­nia, Drew Richard­son is global Pres­i­dent and CEO of the Pro­fes­sional As­so­ci­a­tion of Div­ing In­struc­tors (PADI).

How did you get into div­ing? I was born in the ‘Ocean State’ of Rhode Is­land and spent my early days in and around the wa­ter. My broth­ers and I were wa­ter­men – all com­pet­i­tive swim­mers, wa­ter polo play­ers a nd l i fe g ua rds. I was heav i ly i nvolved i n life­guard­ing, teach­ing life­sav­ing and swim­ming and also ma­rine res­cue and re­cov­ery. Ex­plor­ing un­der the sur­face of the wa­ter was an early and nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of my life-long pas­sion for the aquatic realm.

How long have you been with PADI and what in­spired you to join them? I have been with the PADI or­gan­i­sa­tion since 1985 when I was re­cruited from my ca­pac­ity as an As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor and Di­vi­sion head of the Un­der­wa­ter Tech­nol­ogy depart­ment at the Florida In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy. I saw an op­por­tu­nity to lever­age my div­ing train­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and ex­plo­ration pas­sions and aca­demic back­ground (BSC in Oceanog­ra­phy/ Ma­rine/ Env i ron­menta l S cience, MBA i n Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion, PHD in Ed­u­ca­tion) to help PADI build out its in­ter­na­tional train­ing and mem­ber­ship pro­grammes and cur­ricu­lum across the globe. At that time, I was in­volved wit h t he de­sign, test ing a nd launch of t he Recre­ational Diver Plan­ner and many other in­no­va­tive prod­uct and pro­gramme re­leases.

What does your job en­tail? What does busi­ness de­vel­op­ment mean for PADI? We are all about a fu­ture of en­gag­ing mil­lions of new divers, train­ing them well to be con­fi­dent a nd com­fort­able divers, en­cour­ag­ing a nd en­abling them to seek div­ing ad­ven­ture and ex­plo­ration of the planet’s un­der­wa­ter realm and pay­ing it for­ward as good stew­ards of ocean and ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment. In the wake of our 50th an­niver­sary, we have deep­ened our com­mit­ment to ocean health and con­ser­va­tion. We are pas­sion­ate about cre­at­ing a pre­ferred view of the fu­ture in health­ier oceans. As the largest diver train­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion in the world, PADI has the reach and in­flu­ence to mo­bilise divers to be cit­i­zen ac­tivists. We train one mil­lion new divers each year across the planet who can en­gage in strate­gic al­liances, have a pow­er­ful voice and get in­volved in real so­lu­tions to drive change. I’m a firm be­liever in en­gage­ment, prob­lem iden­tif ica­tion and mit­i­ga­tion. My life phi­los­o­phy is to re­main op­ti­mistic and fo­cused on a ‘fu­ture hope’. In my mind, there is no other op­tion. Hope is the an­chor to the soul. The dan­ger is that we lose hope, or we feel like there’s noth­ing to be done.

Chi­nese divers are trans­form­ing the in­dus­try in cer­tain places. How im­por­tant is Main­land China to fu­ture growth? Where’s next? In­dia? The trend of out­bound Chi­nese tourism around the planet is im­pres­sive and we are invit­ing many of th­ese peo­ple into the un­der­wa­ter planet un­der the PADI brand. At the same time, we are grow­ing div­ing un­der the PADI brand in Main­land China and im­prov­ing the com­fort and con­fi­dence of Chi­nese who are trained in or ex­pe­ri­ence div­ing. As for t he f ut ure of t he spor t of scuba div­ing, I feel there are strong tail­winds which will drive fu­ture growth in scuba div­ing. Th­ese in­clude coun­tries with a grow­ing mid­dle class (like In­dia and Korea among oth­ers), a strong in­ter­est in ad­ven­ture/ac­tion sports, strong global tourism trends, and en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious mil­len­ni­als to name a few.

Many would say that the newer growth mar­kets for dive train­ing are places with a less ma­ture un­der­stand­ing of en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues and be­hav­iour with re­spect to an­i­mal life. How does PADI man­age th­ese is­sues? Yes, for­tu­nately we are well down the road in do­ing so. Ma­rine con­ser­va­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal ethos with re­spect to scuba div­ing are baked into our train­ing pro­grams which are trans­lated into 28 of­fi­cial lan­guages. As a com­mu­nity, we have an amaz­ing and unique op­por­tu­nity to pos­i­tively in­flu­ence the peo­ple we train from the newer growth mar­kets. We should al­ways start with the ‘man in the mir­ror’, stay in­formed and do what we can to make the world a bet­ter place and be­come a cat­a­lyst for change. We al­ready are see­ing this in thou­sands of in­di­vid­u­als on a lo­cal level and we are help­ing to get their mes­sages out. All of us who care about th­ese is­sues can am­plify en­gage­ment ef­forts to sup­port life in the waters of this world and sup­port ini­tia­tives which pro­mote the sus­tain­able use of oceans, seas and ma­rine re­sources. We en­cour­age divers across the planet to align with like-minded busi­ness and or­gan­i­sa­tions. The div­ing com­mu­nity will be­come pow­er­ful change agents who share a like-minded love, mis­sion and pas­sion to be a force for good and tackle the prob­lems which threaten our ocean planet.


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