The Founding of PADI
By Thomas Tillman
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) is
the world's largest certifying agency. PADI was "born"
in 1966 and its parents are John Cronin and Ralph Erickson.
PADI's roots, however, go farther back.
Erickson was a champion swimmer, lifeguard, and respected diver.
As a Chicago diver, he was tempted to go through the Chicago
YMCA's instructor certification but for various reasons he never
went through the program. Then, in 1960, the National Association
of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) held its first course during
the Underwater Society of America convention in Houston, Texas.
He became one of only a few to pass the week long marathon ICC.
He returned to Chicago and began certifying divers under the
NAUI name. Many of his trainees were those who couldn't complete
the rigorous YMCA course.
Cronin was a manufacturers' representative for US Divers for
the Midwest and Canada. Cronin and Erickson became acquainted
through the Illinois Divers Association. They would discuss
the possibilities of staring their own certifying agency but
wanted to wait for the right time.
The night that the "time became right" was just after
Cronin had driven from Chicago to Peoria, Illinois to give a
lecture at a NAUI ICC. The trip was long, on bad roads, and
takes three hours. When Cronin arrived to give his presentation
he learned that the course had been cancelled. He was furious
and the first thing he did when he returned to Chicago was to
call Erickson and set up a time to meet.
On the following Tuesday night, they met at Erickson's apartment
and formulated the new agency. It would be the first "for-profit"
certifying agency. They bantered about names and formulated
the name PADI Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
After Cronin's experience, the word Professional was his main
requirement. Erickson had a background in mechanical drawing
so he drew the PADI logo with help from a friend of his.
The main new difference between the PADI program and that of
LACO and NAUI was that PADI went away from the single course
for certification. They developed the certification levels standard
in the industry today.
As with all of the major agencies, PADI was not founded in
a vacuum. They based some of their program on that used by other
agencies but also developed new and innovative programs that
would revolutionize the industry and help build them into the
largest agency in the world. Erickson has left the day-to-day
operations of PADI but Cronin remains at the helm of the agency.
For more information on the PADI program please visit their
website in the links section of the RDHC site.
copyright 1999 by Tom Tillman. All rights reserved.
More detailed information and behind-the-scenes stories will
be available in I Thought I Saw Atlantis