Bill Matthies in front of Minnesota School of Diving Brainerd

Early History

Highlights of Interview with John Cronin, PADI Founder (1999)

Bill: "I remember. John, you came into my store and wanted $15 for me to join your organization. I had just printed my own little personal certification cards, and I didn't have the $15. It was about two months later that you convinced me to become a member of PADI. I am really proud of my PADI Instructor of "79". I keep thinking I could have been PADI Instructor #15 or maybe even lower than that if I hadn't been such a cheapskate when you first told me about your plans for this organization."

John: "Well, you are still in the very beginning because we have had over a quarter of a million instructors. Right now, today, we have over 100,000 active professional members between instructors, assistant instructors, and Divemasters, so you are one of the founding members."

Bill: "I started teaching scuba in 1959. Didn't PADI start in 1966?"

John: "Well, you taught for several years, and we launched in 1966 and I moved to California with U.S. Divers, so I moved the PADI Headquarters there also. We've grown every year since then. This year we will certify over 1 million divers around the world. We have operations in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe. We presently have operations in 129 different countries, and our materials are translated into 27 languages."

Bill: "That is just amazing. I ams so proud to to be a member of this organization. As I recall you had a "Board of Instructors" the very first year, and you appointed me to that board which pleased me."

John: "You were on the original advisory board. We took some of the leading people in the business in the Midwest when we started. We needed people who, like yourself, were self made and knew where we had to go with this thing. You and the members of the Board of Advisors certainly served us well."

Read more of this interview and other stories in

"One Earth, Two Worlds" by Bill Matthies

Book available for purchase at either MSD Location for $19.95