We’re nearing Halloween – one of the worlds oldest holidays celebrated or recognized in more than 30 countries, and thanks to jack-o-lanterns, this is when many dive shops offer their PADI Underwater Pumpkin Carving Distinctive Specialty courses (yes, courses – it’s harder than it sounds), usually followed by a jack-o-lantern contest, costume gala or some other event  along these lines – a lot of fun regardless.

This reminded me that some divers have either heard of PADI Distinctive Specialty courses but don’t really know what they are, or have never heard of them. Either way, they’re sanctioned PADI specialties (they count toward PADI Master Scuba Diver) written by PADI Instructors to address a distinct (hence the name) purpose, need or interest that is so specific that there’s not much call for a broad specialty like the PADI Wreck Diver and PADI Underwater Navigator courses. The authoring instructor has to demonstrate appropriate topical experience and expertise, and it has to be related to diving and appropriate for recreational divers. After review and approval by their PADI Offices, the authoring instructor can certify divers who successfully complete the distinctive courses.

Beyond this, only “distinctive” can describe these courses together because they’re varied and all over the map, which is what makes them so cool – all 15,000+ of them. The range includes science-environment-Ocean Torchbearer-missions-skills (culling lionfish, monitoring sea turtles, coral restoration and nurseries, surveying, archaeology research, clownfish ID), technical-task and gear (relic hunting, BRAND computer, helmet, ice diving assistant), humanities (American Sign for diving, Zen, breathing and relaxation) and place or environment specific (reservoir, YOUNAMEIT Wreck, oyster bed, Texas oil platform, liveaboard, zero visibility) courses.

neutral buoyancy coral reefs

Author instructors can give permission for other PADI Instructors to use their distinctive courses (they have to apply and qualify like the author instructor, of course) so some, like Scuba Magician have become very well known and widely popular. But most, like Missile Silo Diver or Underwater Nodeology apply less broadly so they’re much more under the radar. Even those with the most whimsical sounding names (e.g. Zombie Apocalypse Diver, Chicken Instructor, Be My Valentine, Bubble Ring Photo) have genuine underlying dive skills and knowledge interwoven in them –not only fun and entertaining, but often more challenging than you might expect. They’re great ways to get more time diving, interact with other divers, develop self confidence and build skills that apply to you love doing underwater and being an ocean advocate. And while some are distinctives specialties are not known widely, you may be surprised at the strong following they have locally.

PADI Distinctive Specialty courses are rewarding learning and experience opportunities you won’t find just anywhere, so make a point to ask your local PADI Instructor and dive shop what distinctive specialties they offer, and do the same at the PADI operations you visit while traveling. You have no idea what cool courses you may be missing out on. You may find yourself monitoring and restoring coral, learning to dive in a public aquarium, looking for fossils in black water, kayak diving or doing something with whale sharks. Or even carving a pumpkin.

Seek adventure. Save the ocean.

Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO PADI Worldwide

Share This

Related Posts