The Inspirational Diving Journey of PADI Professional Jamie Hull

Written by PADI Regional Manager, Neil Richards

Many people have found hope for their future through their journey of becoming a PADI Professional. We all have had different life experiences and come from different cultures which impact on these experiences. However, we can all testify to diving’s healing power even when nothing else works. This is the structure of PADI’s ethos with one of PADI’s Pillars of Change being ‘Healing + Wellness’. The Healing + Wellness pillar focuses on highlighting how individuals can reach their goals and aspirations when triumphing over adversity, illness or hardships. We have all decided to become PADI Professionals but each of our journeys were different. For some the journey was relatively easy and straightforward, whereas for others it was difficult and full of challenges. Someone who experienced a more challenging journey was Jamie Hull, a former UK Special Forces Reserve.

Jamie Hull- PADI Professional

I recently had the pleasure of sharing time with Jamie, one the most inspirational human beings, who has had to overcome huge adversities, challenges and roadblocks to reach his goal of becoming a PADI Instructor. His extraordinary courage, drive and passion came about after a life changing plane crash which left him with third degree burns on over half of his body. Jamie has had to rebuild his life after several years of hospital treatment, skin grafts and countless operations. He is currently applying for his PADI Course Director rating, committed to teaching divers who are also experiencing challenges. He hopes to help these divers overcome their physical and mental hurdles to become PADI Instructors, just like he did.

Back in October, PADI staff conducted a PADI Adaptive Techniques Instructor course in Thailand, which Jamie joined. Jamie was asked to share his experience with the group of PADI Course Directors. He was able to help everyone understand the type of compassion, empathy and patience that is required to teach the course.

We have asked Jamie a few questions so that you, as a PADI Professional, might also adapt the way you teach your various diving courses when you feel needed.

How did diving affect your recovery?

 Following a 60 percent third-degree burns injury in 2007, my skin was far too damaged to contemplate going back into open water as a diver, let alone to teach others again. I was terrified that the salt water would have a further damaging effect upon my skin, so I naturally avoided taking any such risk. In fact, it would be five long years of recovery and rehabilitation before I entertained the idea of giving it another go. I felt like I had lost all my former confidence to dive again, so it took a lot of courage for me to don a wetsuit and full scuba kit and take that big giant-stride off the back of a Liveaboard in the Red Sea. However, to my absolute joy and astonishment I quickly realised that my skills remained in-tact and, moreover the salt water soon became my saviour: it helped to accelerate my physiological and skin-cellular healing in ways that I had never imagined. The quality of my skin soon began to improve with every subsequent dive, exhibiting less dryness immediately.  Any tender areas of my skin were soon rewarded with stronger integrity and steadily began to feel more dexterous, and supple. On a psychological level, this was all the evidence I needed.  Through diving, I began to feel more confident in myself and it definitely improved my self-esteem following injury.

What does diving give you that other sports do not?

There is something entirely different about scuba diving regarding the effect that is has on my whole being. For starters, I find a tremendous sense of peace and tranquillity from diving in the ocean: just to experience the unique and unequivocal sensation of breathing underwater helps me to feel somewhat more relaxed every time I make the descent. I feel it can be greatly therapeutic in helping to cleanse the mind of stress. For me, it could be described as spiritual, whereby the ocean helps me feel at peace and at one with the world.

What are your future plans in diving?

 Diving with PADI has actually been a focus and passion of mine from an early age, having initially tried it as a young backpacker on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.  I knew then, that I wanted to maintain an interest in diving for the rest of my life.  Following the injury, and with regard to the benefits that I experienced first-hand from diving, I then decided that I wanted to develop myself further as an Instructor.  My personal goal now is to become a PADI Course Director, as I have an underlying wish to be involved with and help others to achieve professional diver ratings within the industry.  Specifically, I would like to work with other wounded service personnel and people with physical or psychological disabilities, in order to help them achieve as diving professionals and experience the benefits of working within the diving industry as I have been able to.

What can others learn from what has happened to you?

By sharing my own story and testimonial, my hope is that people who have sustained injuries, or perhaps acquired disabilities in life, may feel inspired to give diving a go – by realising how accessible and inclusive a sport it really can be. Others can learn by embracing the challenge, by following a safe and structured approach to learning, utilising adaptive techniques, in order to achieve the required standards to become divers themselves. For some – as was certainly the case for me – they may well require a little more time to practice skills and learn techniques that will best suit them as individuals. For in my personal experience, as someone that sustained severe muscle loss and nerve damage to both lower limbs, but was still able to continue diving, what I do know is this, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’. So for others, that may be considering the sport, although perhaps unsure whether it’s possible for them due to injury or disability, they might just be pleasantly surprised what the sport of diving can do for them. Many can therefore choose to embrace diving in their lives and experience the remarkable healing benefits of the ocean environment.

We can all learn from Jamie’s story; ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. Part of what we do as PADI Instructors is help people realise their dreams and then we help them achieve them. With perseverance and determination, goals can be achieved and new compelling stories can be born.

For more information on the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course or the PADI Adaptive Support Diver course contact your PADI Regional Training Consultant.


PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty & Women’s Dive Day

Written by John Kinsella

It’s five thirty on a Costa Rican morning and Georgia King is talking to me about the PADI® Adaptive Techniques Specialty. It’s quiet, she says, before the rest of the family wakes. I can almost hear the tropical dawn chorus. Georgia is a PADI Platinum Course Director in Costa Rica and her time is precious, but she’s absolutely committed to helping people with disabilities benefit from diving and happy to share her wisdom. Georgia was an advisor during course development and has extensive experience and expertise. In fact, before we finish, Georgia has made another significant time and energy commitment: She’s decided to run an adaptive techniques workshop for PADI Women’s Dive Day.

Georgia’s commitment is such that since the program launched she has run two Adaptive Techniques Specialty courses right after two IDCs. It was a natural fit. “I think it’s fantastic to be able to incorporate the training with the IDC,” she says quietly. “It makes sense to integrate it naturally with the various course elements. New instructors coming out of the IDC are super excited because we’ve been talking about it. It inspires them to take that next step.”

I ask what she’d say to PADI Pros with no prior experience, who may never have thought of taking or teaching the Adaptive Techniques Specialty.

“Get involved,” she advises, pointing out that one of the major benefits, even if you are not immediately going out and teaching people with disabilities, is that it will open your mind to various teaching techniques and ways to approach all PADI programs. This can completely change the way you teach. “It really does open your eyes to a whole world of possibilities,” Georgia says. “Even in something as simple as demonstrating a skill in the skill circuit, you really just think differently. You are not set in one way of doing something. A lot of people think, ‘You have to do it this way.’ You know? You don’t.”

Georgia feels that a lot of people may be apprehensive about getting involved and offers this encouragement: “It’s kind of like the EFR® program when people worry about helping others. They don’t think they’ll be able to manage it. But everybody who has done the Adaptive Techniques Specialty is absolutely blown away and amazed by it. There’s more to it than people realize. Sure, it’s helping someone in a wheelchair, but that’s just a tiny part of it. The program talks about the attitudes, and how you treat people.”

And the confidence that insight brings opens up the most significant benefit of the Adaptive Techniques Specialty: It’s so rewarding for everyone. “Just giving people the opportunity, that’s one of the biggest things,” Georgia believes. “In any teaching there’s opportunity for reward, but sometimes I find more so with this. I shed tears after my first Discover Scuba® Diving experience with a guy who was born without legs. It completely amazed him how he felt underwater. He came up and just cried. I was so overwhelmed. It’s an amazing thing.”

Be a Better Person

Written by John Kinsella

The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty program really just makes a good thing better. It builds on the foundational traits of inclusiveness and adaptability, common to all PADI Instructors, Assistant Instructors and Divemasters. It has detailed insights into considerations and techniques that apply specifically when training and guiding divers with disabilities and generally when working with any diver.

The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty helps PADI Pros become more aware and mindful of individual considerations when introducing people with disabilities to diving. It covers adaptive techniques that apply while supervising and training divers with disabilities in PADI courses and programs. It teaches how to properly counsel and direct student divers, based on their abilities, toward certification, experience programs, or toward a disabilities-dedicated diving organisation for limited certification options.

I believe this course will get PADI Members thinking outside the box when it comes to skills and get them looking at different ways to teach skills” says Fraser Bathgate, Advisor Adaptive Techniques PADI Worldwide. “Teaching divers with disabilities is a very enabling and rewarding experience and it will help open up a new client base to divemasters, instructors, dive centres and resorts. It kick starts a new way for PADI Members to fulfill more people’s dreams.”

The Adaptive Techniques Specialty course helps PADI Pros learn additional techniques to motivate and encourage not just divers with mental or physical challenges, but all divers. There’s also an associated subcourse, the PADI Adaptive Support Diver, which helps interested divers, from Open Water Diver on up, learn how to be better buddies to divers with physical or mental challenges.

The course looks at techniques that will help PADI Pros build confidence in their divers through a holistic approach that focuses on improving self image, building trust, setting goals, managing stress and having fun while solving problems. It emphasizes bringing the diver personally into the solution and looks at specific equipment adaptations and helpful confined and open water considerations.

Confined water workshops let dive pros demonstrate and practice skills to assist divers with disabilities, both in training and non-training situations. They build confidence before the open water workshops where dive pros apply the skills learned with an emphasis on assisting divers in/out of water, trim and comfort in the first workshop, and through scenario-based skills practice in the second.

But the real value of the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty must be that, in some small way, it’s the distilled essence of the skill, experience and goodwill of an international advisory team who has collectively brought diving to thousands of people with disabilities and witnessed first hand the powerful and often life changing results. Now that experience and good will is ready to spread. Find out how you can help by contacting your PADI Regional Manager.

New PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty

PADI® Professionals have a long and successful history of adapting training to meet individual needs. This includes accepting people with physical and mental challenges into courses and creatively finding techniques that allow them to master skills and meet course performance requirements.

The new PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course is designed to build on that foundation by broadening awareness and further exploring adaptive techniques. This specialty course is unique in that it’s designed for PADI Divemasters or Master Freedivers and higher.

The course consists of one knowledge development session that introduces the concept of holistic teaching and explores equipment and logistical considerations. It also includes a workshop that helps you look at dive centre accessibility from the perspective of people with various disabilities.

There are two confined water workshops that focus on transfers, entries, exits, assists and communication, along with demonstrating, adapting and practicing skills based on a student diver’s abilities and limitations. The two open water workshops focus on evaluating accessibility, organizing and pacing dives, and adapting skills to the open water environment.

When training people with physical and mental challenges, you learn to focus on what they can do rather than on what they can’t. You don’t have to take this specialty to work with divers with disabilities, but the knowledge and skills you gain can help you adapt course content to accommodate virtually any student diver. This specialty course will expand your ability to be student-centered and prescriptive in approach when adapting scuba or freediving techniques.

Adaptive Techniques Specialty Course Goals

To help PADI Pros:

  • Become more aware and mindful of individual considerations when introducing people with disabilities to diving or freediving.
  • Learn new adaptive techniques to use while supervising and training divers/freedivers with disabilities in PADI courses and programs.
  • Properly counsel and direct student divers, based on their abilities, toward PADI certification, PADI experience programs or toward a disabilities-dedicated diving organization.
  • Explore additional ways to motivate and encourage student divers with mental and/or physical challenges.

PADI Adaptive Support Diver

The subset course, PADI Adaptive Support Diver, is for divers who want to learn how to best support dive buddies who have a physical or mental disability. The course consists of the same knowledge development session as the full specialty, but only requires completion of one confined water workshop and one open water workshop. The prerequisites are PADI Open Water Diver or PADI Freediver™ (or higher), EFR®Primary and Secondary Care course completion within 24 months and to be at least 15 years old. Completion of the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy is recommended beforehand to give the diver firsthand awareness of proper trim.

Because the PADI Adaptive Support Diver course is a standardized specialty, divers can credit an Adventure Dive toward Advanced Open Water Diver certification, and can also credit the specialty toward PADI Master Scuba Diver™.

Becoming an Adaptive Techniques Specialty Instructor

To be authorized to teach the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course and subcourse, PADI Instructors and PADI Freediver Instructors have the usual two application paths:

  1. Complete a PADI Specialty Instructor Training Course with a PADI Course Director, or PADI Freediver Instructor Trainer who is authorized as a PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty Instructor Trainer.
  2. Apply directly to your PADI Regional Headquarters with proof of additional experience and training.

The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty Instructor Guide is used to support the course. Although the guide primarily addresses scuba diving, PADI Freediver Instructors who are Adaptive Techniques Specialty Instructors will find the guide inclusive of freedivers, with reminder notes about cross-referencing the PADI Freediver Program Instructor Guide.

The course launched at the 2017 DEMA Show in Orlando, Florida, USA, and is currently only available in English. For more information, contact your PADI Regional Training Consultant or go to the PADI Pros’ Site under Training Essentials for further resources about training divers with disabilities.