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Scuba Diving for people with disabilities – Follow your dreams

PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors®) the world’s largest ocean exploration and diver organisation is highlighting the work of two Paralympians who are helping to inspire people with disabilities to take up Scuba Diving and show that having a disability shouldn’t hold you back from your dreams

Diving is an inclusive sport – Divers are all equal underwater and we all speak the same language. Through PADI’s Adaptive diving courses, divers and instructors learn how to better support their dive buddies and students with varying physical and mental abilities, so all can seek adventure and save the ocean. 

Becoming a PADI certified diver has helped veterans with PTSD and other life-altering injuries, Paralympians, individuals with spinal paralysis and countless others to find healing and transform their lives above the surface as much as it does below.  

Alana Nichols of the USA and Edina Müller from Germany have been competing at the Paralympics since 2008. Both have spinal injuries and require wheelchairs, but the two athletes have found freedom in the underwater world and are encouraging more people with disabilities to learn to dive.

On 24th August, the world is reuniting for the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics. This once in every four-year event brings the best athletes together for the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet with the goal of building a better world through sport.

But Paralympians past, present and future don’t just wait every four years to take action for a better planet. From every corner of the globe Paralympians are masking up as PADI Scuba Divers to create balance between humanity and the ocean and inspire others to follow in their footsteps once again.

Alana Nichols - Scuba diving Alana Nichols: American Paralympian (2008-2021), Wheelchair Basketball, Kayaking and Alpine Skiing

Alana Nichols has always been a competitive and motivated athlete. She was an up-and-coming snowboarder when she broke her back in a freak accident attempting a flip while snowboarding at 17, resulting in a spinal cord injury. But that didn’t stop her from becoming a Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball player, Sprint Kayaker and Alpine Skier—competing in six Paralympic Games and preparing to compete in her seventh in Tokyo this month. She has led by example, breaking down barriers for those that are disabled, becoming the first ever winner of the female adaptive surf competition and both a Winter and Summer Paralympic athlete and gold medalist. But she also continues to inspire others underwater, showing that being a PADI Open Water Diver is an inclusive sport, while mentoring other divers with disabilities.

What inspired Alana to take up diving:

“There were two reasons that I wanted to become a certified diver with PADI. Firstly, I love the ocean and have always had a nagging curiosity to know what’s below the surface! Secondly, I have a good friend that’s PADI certified and he and I are long time trash talkers. He bet me I couldn’t do it… I said, game on!” Alana received her PADI Open Water certification with Leo Morales, a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor from Cozumel who lost his leg due to cancer.

What skills has Alana acquired from diving:


“The skills I have learned from diving have helped me as a Paralympian, especially in managing feelings of anxiety and thinking critically and clearly, those skills absolutely transfer both ways! I would encourage other Paralympians to consider getting certified because diving is a great way to calm your mind and focus on your breath which is super helpful when competing at a high level.”

Edina Muller  scuba diving Edina Müller: German Paralympian, Wheelchair Basketball and Kayaking (2008, 2012, 2016, 2021)

On top of the water, Edina Müller is one of the fastest Paralympic kayakers in the world, having won Paralympic Gold and Silver, along with setting Paralympic and World Record for her specialty, the K1 200m sprint. Her sights are set on gold this month at the Tokyo Paralympics as well. But she is also a sports therapist, PADI Rescue Diver and PADI Freediver who is equally passionate about showing the therapeutic benefits of the ocean and diving with her patients. Edina was a competitive volleyball player who, as a teenager, developed a blood clot and was diagnosed with paraplegia. She tried a variety of para-sports and ultimately focused on wheelchair basketball. After being a two-time Olympic medalist at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympics, she switched over to para-canoe sprint and won a silver medal at the 2016 Paralympics. She got into diving because she wanted to take up an activity that would counterbalance the constant expectation for her to go higher, faster, farther.

2021 Tokyo Olympics:

Edina will be representing Germany at the Paralympics in Tokyo, competing in para-canoe sprint.

She tells us: “I wasn’t thinking about Tokyo at all until Rio was over. But at the Closing Ceremony in Rio, I heard that the next one would be in Tokyo, and I thought, ‘well, why not try for Tokyo too?’ My goal isn’t necessarily to win a gold medal. It’s just to accomplish all the little tasks I’ve set for myself, one by one. I think as I do that, I’ll be able to figure out what kind of goal I should set for myself two years from now.”

Diving Involvement:


Edina balances her time as a para-athlete with working as a sports therapist. She started a programme to get others facing injury to try diving and experience it for the first time. She is also an advocate for protecting the ocean and works to preserve local ecosystems for others to explore. “Water is barrier free, allowing you to feel weightless and experience the freedom of movement once again”

To follow in these Paralympians’ footsteps, join them as fellow PADI Torchbearers who protect and explore the ocean.

About PADI  PADI® 


(Professional Association of Diving Instructors®) is the world’s largest ocean exploration and diver organisation, operating in 186 countries and territories, with a global network of more than 6,600 dive centers and resorts and over 128,000 professional members worldwide. Issuing more than 1 million certifications each year, and with over 28 million certifications to date, PADI enables people around the world to seek adventure and save the ocean through underwater education, life-changing experiences and travel. For over 50 years, PADI is undeniably The Way the World Learns to Dive®, maintaining its high standards for dive training, safety and customer service, monitored for worldwide consistency and quality. With a longstanding commitment to environmental conservation, PADI is leading the way for millions of people to actively explore, steward and protect the ocean through its course offerings and partnerships with like-minded, mission-driven organisations. PADI embodies a global commitment to ocean health with its mission to create a billion torchbearers to explore and protect the ocean.  Seek Adventure. Save the Ocean.SM

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