The PADI Professionals featured here embody what it means to be a positive force for people and planet. Nominated by PADI Regional Headquarters, each Ocean Torchbearer Award Winner has created a positive impact in their community in one (or more) of PADI’s Pillars of Change: Ocean Conservation, Dive Industry Sustainability, and People & Humanity. We’d like to congratulate each Ocean Torchbearer Award Winner for their work in making our ocean planet a better place to work, play, and live.
Syed Abd Raman
Training the Next Generation of Scuba Divers
PADI® IDC Staff Instructor and founder of PADI Five Star Dive Center Kids Scuba in Malaysia, Syed Abd Raman’s mission is to introduce the next generation to the underwater world. Abd Raman’s work with kids, teens, and youth communities has left a lasting impact, transforming lives and fostering a sense of environmental responsibility. His dedication to water therapy and dive therapy for individuals with spinal-cord injuries showcases the profound impact scuba diving can have on physical and emotional wellbeing. As a trailblazing PADI Pro, Abd Raman’s initiatives are inspiring fellow professionals and the entire diving community to make a positive difference, emphasizing the importance of conservation and inclusivity in protecting our oceans.
Community Leader for Clean Oceans
A PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer based in Tenerife, Spain, Michelle Holland is the founder of conservation foundation Ocean Angel and is passionately committed to keeping her local environment clean and healthy, above and below the surface. As a dive professional and ocean advocate for her community, Holland is committed to instilling sustainable values in every diver who comes through the door. PADI AWARE programs and ocean-first principles are woven throughout all her dive courses starting from entry level up through her year-round conservation-themed internships. The result of this pioneering culture of conservation is her team at PADI Five Star IDC Resort Excel Scuba has earned recognition as one of Europe’s first PADI Eco Centers.
Community Leader & Ocean Ambassador
PADI Course Director and owner of PADI Five Star Resort Bucea Hoy, Pato Cartelli is committed to environmental conservation and impact reduction. He has promoted a number of local conservation events to further that effort. A longtime champion of PADI AWARE and its various projects, Cartelli is also a major advocate of adaptive diving services. He’s even founded Fundacion Bucea Hoy dedicated to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the aquatic environment and diving.
Community Leadership for a Better Future
Born in Switzerland, Simon Wenk is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer now based in Phuket, Thailand. Together with his partner and fellow PADI Professional, Alice Voneschen, they own and operate the sustainability-centric PADI Five Star Dive Center Aloha Diving. As a PADI Green Star Award recipient, early adopter of Green Fins and supporter of swimming education, turtle conservation and seagrass restoration, Wenk and his team proudly claim they can offer the most carbon dioxide-neutral diving excursions in Phuket.
Carsten Schultz is a PADI IDC Staff Instructor based in Aalborg, Denmark. Along with his dive center, Aalborg Dykkerskole, and charitable foundation, diving360.dk, he helps break down barriers to scuba diving. A belief in the “art of possible” has driven Carsten and his team of instructors, divers and support divers to reach hundreds of individuals with mental and/or physical disabilities, prompting incredible tales of recovery and wellness. Diving360.dk continues to expand the possibilities of healing through diving, and is an inspiring example of how scuba diving has the potential to provide life-changing interventions for those in need.
Sandra Lopera Barreneche
Based in Medellin, Colombia, Lopera Barreneche is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer who has been exploring the ocean since 1995. Because of this, she has witnessed the impact humanity has had on ocean ecosystems, and made it her mission as a dive educator to champion environmental awareness among the diving community. Lopera Barreneche created her own PADI Distinctive Specialty, Underwater Waste Management, which engages all of her students in responsible diving practices and challenges them to understand the power they have to contribute to the recovery and maintenance of healthy marine ecosystems.
Conservation Game Changer
PADI Course Director, ocean advocate and manager of PADI Five Star IDC Resort Assava Dive Resort in Koh Tao, Thailand, Natalie Hunt is a force for good. Taking action alongside her students, community and fellow PADI Professionals, Hunt is making waves supporting and advancing marine conservation and dive industry sustainability initiatives.
Coral Reef Conservationist and Community Outreach Champion
As a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, marine biologist and owner of PADI Five Star Dive Resort Eco Dive Grenada, Christine Finney has dedicated herself to coral reefs in the Caribbean. She advocates for access for all so that more people may understand and respect these delicate ecosystems. “The better we treat the ocean, the better it will treat us all as PADI dive operators,” Finney says.
Through research partnerships, community projects, PADI Mission Hub program engagement and unrelenting commitment to a healthier ocean, Finney has admirably impacted both people and planet for the better.
Creating Connections for Conservation
PADI Freediver Instructor, Advanced Open Water Diver and founder of Black Mermaid Foundation, an organization that brings kids from ocean-facing communities into contact with the ocean, Zandile Ndhlovu is combatting negative cultural narratives about Black people and their relationship with the ocean, while supporting young South Africans in building a personal connection with the country’s conservation.
Kum Ok Park
Engaging Community in Conservation
As the founder of Skinscuba Association in Yuseong-gu, Kum Ok Park has worked closely with the Underwater Environmental Protection Association and Environmental Guard to lead a major project to clean up nearby waterways. In 2008, she developed the Skinscuba Federation for the Disabled, enabling hundreds of individuals to access the underwater world. Since then, she has grown her PADI Five Star IDC Neptune Dive Center into a hub for conservation awareness and action, coordinating various environmental events and campaigns to improve the health of the aquatic environment. More recently, she has focused her attention on nearby fishing villages and new ways to connect seniors with the aquatic world.
Gloria Giraldo didn’t wait for Hurricane Iota to hit the southwestern Caribbean islands of Providencia and San Andres before she sprang into action. As luck would have it, the PADI IDC Staff Instructor was already on San Andres with a group of nearly 40 divers ready to help with the recovery before Iota even made landfall on November 16, 2020.
After the hurricane moved on, she and her team spent days removing debris and helping people dig their lives out of the wreckage, even participating in a project to rebuild a fellow PADI Instructor’s house that had been decimated. To the north, Providencia was hit even harder, with some estimates putting the damage at 97% of the island. Giraldo’s work wasn’t done.
Upon returning to the Colombian mainland, Giraldo created a project called Juntos Por Providencia (“All together for Providencia”). Using word-of-mouth and social media, the project has collected millions of Colombian pesos that have been put toward construction materials, generators and fuel, fumigation supplies, power tools, and personal protection equipment, including gloves, boots, goggles and face masks to help more than 20 PADI families on Providencia and San Andres. She’s sent two boat loads of aid to the islands and continues to coordinate the distribution of supplies even as she runs travelandiving.com from her home in Medellin.
Saving Sharks and Rays
If Michel Guerrero could have one superpower, it might be the ability to stop time. Because the owner of PADI Five Star IDC Exploramar Diving has precious little free time with all the projects he’s involved in. Since 2008, Guerrero has dedicated his life to the study of oceanic manta rays in his backyard of Ecuador and the Galapagos – even writing a PADI Manta Ray Distinctive Specialty and participating in two international documentaries. The founder of Fundacion Megafauna Marina del Ecuador (FMME) and Proyecto Mantas Ecuador (PME), Guerrero and his team contributed valuable scientific information that directly led to manta and mobula rays being protected internationally under CITES (the Convention on International Trade for Endangered Species) Appendix II in 2013.
Teaching the Next Generation of Torchbearers
Christian Timmermann is passionate about teaching the world to dive, and he’s starting with kids. His PADI Five Star Dive Center, Dive Company, is a seven-time winner of PADI EMEA’s “Best Diving School for Kids,” and it’s clear why. Timmermann and his staff teach nearly 1,000 children on an annual basis in everything from Bubblemaker and Seal Team to Junior Open Water Diver. He runs special children’s trips at home and abroad, organizes beach cleanups for families, and offers child-friendly lectures about the importance of marine conservation. Not even the pandemic could stop Timmermann and Dive Company from teaching the next generation of PADI Torchbearers – in the early months of Austria’s lockdown, he created several kid-friendly videos on YouTube as part of his Dive Company Bubble TV series.
Gili Eco Trust Reef Preservation and Creation
Delphine Robbe has made it her mission to save the reefs of Indonesia’s Gili Islands. The French national has been a mainstay on Gili Trawangan since 2004, when she started work as PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer for Big Bubble Dive. In 2006 she joined the Gili Eco Trust, which helps the locals and tourists coexist – even thrive – with the environment.
Delphine’s accomplishments with the Trust are numerous. She is a coral propagation trainer and has taught the Biorock distinctive specialty – which she created in 2008 – to more than 250 students, conducts regular marine education workshops, and has helped establish coral-regeneration sites, place mooring buoys and run weekly island cleanups. Delphine is also an eco-advisor for businesses setting up on the three Gili Islands, and she has set up recycling and waste management programs that benefit Gili Trawangan’s local economy. She is helping to reduce the use of single-use plastics on the island, and she works alongside locals collecting and recycling glass bottles, which are then crushed into sand and made into bricks.
You, too, can make a difference to the future of our oceans. Sign up to become an Ocean Torchbearer, and start taking action just like the recipients of the Seiko Ocean Torchbearer Award.