The PADI Story
Two Friends, a Bottle of Scotch and an Idea
It’s hard to believe that the world’s largest scuba diving training organization was dreamt up by two friends in Illinois over a bottle of Johnny Walker in 1966.
John Cronin, a scuba equipment salesman for U.S. Divers, and Ralph Erickson, an educator and swimming instructor, were concerned about the scuba diving industry. They felt that the current scuba certification agencies were unprofessional, didn’t use state of the art instruction and made it unnecessarily difficult for people to enter the sport. John and Ralph knew there had to be a safer, easy way for people to learn to breathe underwater.
In 1966, John brought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label and thirty dollars to Ralph’s Illinois apartment in Morton Grove. They decided it was time to start a scuba training organization. John insisted that the word “professional” be in the name of the company. Ralph wanted an “association of diving instructors.” After a few scotches, the acronym PADI was born: Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
The Underground Office
The initial start-up meetings took place at several restaurants in Morton Grove and Niles, Illinois. In a few months, Cronin finished a portion of his basement in his home on Main St. in Niles, Illinois to become the headquarters for PADI. He eventually hired his next door neighbor to be a part time secretary. His son, Brian stuffed and sealed envelopes.
The goal: Give more people a chance to enjoy the underwater world by offering relevant, instructionally-valid scuba diving training to create confident scuba divers who dive regularly.
A Torched Logo
When they were struggling for a logo design, John mentioned he wanted something classy like the National Geographic look. Years later in an interview, Ralph said that idea changed the way he was looking at this small two-man operation. At that moment, he could see a big vision for PADI.
Ralph was responsible for putting together the first PADI Logos. After many long hours of working with stick-on letters, he inadvertently left out the word “Professional.” The documents went to print and were used for almost two years before enough people noticed the error. One of the original documents was missing the “e” in “Professional” and hangs in Founder’s Hall at the PADI Americas office in California.
In the early years, PADI grew slowly. By the late 1960s, PADI had 400 members and it was still a struggling entity. John Cronin had been promoted to Sales Manager at U.S. Divers and had moved the family to Huntington Beach, California.
Cronin went to a huge National Sporting Goods Association show in New York City. While he was there, he met with Paul Tzimoulis, who later became the editor of Skin Diver Magazine. Paul suggested that PADI put the diver’s picture on the certification card. That was a strategic move that helped PADI’s eventual global recognition.
Cronin and Erickson hired Nick Icorn from U.S. Divers’ engineering team, who worked with Erickson to develop a modular training program for the PADI Open Water Diver course. It started to catch on.
In the late 1970's and early 80's PADI began creating its own integrated, multi-media student and instructor educational materials for each course. This development spawned an incredible growth period for PADI and made it unique from other agencies.
By the late 1980s PADI was the leading scuba diving training organization in the world. With so many new people introduced to the activity, PADI felt a responsibility to teach divers about their interactions with the underwater environment. PADI had worked very hard over the years to keep the scuba diving industry as free from legislation as possible. Cronin knew the organization had a responsibility to protect the marine environment or risk the government doing so. John Cronin said:
"We want to feel that our children, their children and generations to come will be able to enjoy the underwater world that has given us so much. There are so many significant problems facing mankind, but as divers, this is truly our cause. If scuba divers do not take an active role in preserving the aquatic realm, who will?"
Out of a true concern for the environment, the Project AWARE Foundation was formed.
In 2003, John Cronin passed away. His friend and PADI co-founder, Ralph Erickson, also passed away three years later. They proudly carried PADI’s torch for many years before they confidently put it in the hands of today’s generation, who continues to introduce the world to scuba diving.
PADI has issued millions of scuba certifications worldwide. There are more than 6000 PADI Dive Shops and Resorts worldwide.
With close to 400 employees in PADI corporate offices around the world, PADI works hard to be the best partner to its members and is committed to:
1. Safe and responsible diver acquisition and retention
2. Quality member acquisition and retention
3. Financial prosperity
4. Worldwide alignment in message, products, systems and procedures
The PADI Worldwide Executive team ensures these promises are met and is led by
Drew Richardson, President and CEO
Gary Prenovost, CFO
PADI exists to develop programs that encourage and fulfill the public interest in recreational scuba diving and snorkeling worldwide.
PADI intends to be the world leader in the educational development of scuba diving professionals and enthusiasts.
PADI - The Way the World Learns to Dive.
We want to teach the world to scuba dive.
- Tasks, Goals and Purposes
PADI strives to be the world’s most respected and successful organization in recreational scuba diving and snorkeling. PADI is committed to product and service excellence, the professional growth and security of PADI Members and employees, healthy competition and partnership within the dive industry and to providing training and opportunity for all who seek to enjoy and safely explore and protect our planet’s oceans, lakes and waterways.