In Depth with Pro Dive's Greg Mackay

By Greg Johnston

There’s nothing like getting a little real-life experience to prepare you for the trials and tribulations of a chosen career. For some of us, following our dreams has been a ride down a wonderful road. Sure it’s hard work, but the satisfaction of fulfilling your passion can really pay off.

If you had known Greg Mackay 25 years ago, you would have thought of him much like any young man with a quick smile and a desire to live the lifestyle of an undersea explorer. But destiny would prove different. Like many who have made a career in diving, Greg’s love for the ocean quickly became a desire to pass along his enthusiasm and knowledge to others.

While attending college in Florida, Greg became a diving instructor and two years later, at 20 years old, established Professional Diving Schools of Florida, better known as Pro Dive.

Mackay quickly saw the industry experience a steady growth in certifications and resort travel, and recognized the future need for trained industry professionals.

In 1984, he established Pro Dive’s Scuba Career Development Program, becoming one of PADl’s first Instructor Development Centers, and then one of the first PADI Career Development Centers in 1996. On the eve of Pro Dive’s 25-year anniversary, it’s probably a sure bet that Mackay and his staff have helped change the way we learn our sport.

When we caught up with Greg, we had a few questions on his longevity and thoughts about the industry.

SD: What has kept you so motivated all these years?

GM: I follow a simple philosophy and belief that we can do it better than the other guy. The 1990s brought us the satisfaction of having achieved many goals. As for the new millennium? For as long as we can be presented with opportunities and have the resources to pursue them, it keeps my adrenaline flowing.

SD: What must the dive industry do to attract new professionals?

GM: First, we need to eliminate the one year waiting period the Recreational Scuba Training Council has adopted to restrict new divers from becoming dive professionals. As an industry yearning to expand, I don’t believe this sends a good message. I hope the RSTC will vote to eliminate this restriction or it will continue to be a major stumbling block toward growth.

SD: What is the source of your success?

GM: We are constantly striving to develop training that is on the cutting edge, creating programs that soon become industry standards. Much of Pro Dive’s success has come from the dive industry relationships that I have developed. But mostly, it stems from the highly motivated, creative and dedicated staff I have had the privilege to work with who deliver the best service to our customers.

SD: Pro Dive is recognized as having one of the best locations for instructor training in the world. Why?

GM: I have been fortunate to locate and build the finest facility in what I believe is the ideal location. Our tropical facilities are situated on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale at the Hall of Fame Marina, making this a convenient all-in-one location. We have four pools and four classrooms, a 60-foot custom glass bottom dive vessel docked just a few feet away and a new state-of-the-art retail store. Our location is a mere 10 minutes from the international airport and in the center of some of the most exciting beach and nightlife in the U.S.

SD: Tell us about your latest project, www.prodivezone.com.

GM: Our vision was to create a website with a multitude of resources for the dive industry professional. This website is unique because membership is open to all dive pros regardless of certifying agency affiliation. The benefits to members are a source of information, convenience and price. Sections include: Training Tips, Industry News, Discussion Forums, Service Center, Travel Services, Weather and Tides, Job Placement, Dive Center Management, IRAs and a Pro Shop for training materials, sportswear and equipment.

SD: Can you help a graduate instructor successfully start his own diving business or make an already existing one more profitable?

GM: Yes, our instructors learn from our 25 years of experience as a dive retailer, dive charter operator and trainer of more diving professionals than any school in the diving industry. Through our website workshop at www.prodive usa.com we can advise with many of these issues. In fact, some of the material has been developed exclusively for the higher levels of training given at Pro Dive. Every month new material will be added to the workshop.

SD: What is needed to get the most desirable dive instructor job offering advancement and good benefits?

GM: Being a successful instructor has always required much more than just knowing how to teach basic diving skills. As we enter the new millennium, a mastery of new applied technology and an in-depth understanding of ecology will be needed. In a survey conducted by Pro Dive of dive resorts and live-aboards worldwide, the additional skills that were found to be necessary to get the desirable instructor jobs were the ability to teach specialty diving, including nitrox and underwater photography, boating experience, mechanical and computer skills. But most of all and not surprisingly, language and speaking skills, because to a certain degree instructors are in the entertainment business.

SD: How successful are you at helping graduates of Pro Dive find a job in the dive industry?

GM: Since the introduction of Pro Dive’s “Fast-Track” Scuba Career Training Program, all graduates have received an offer of employment within 60 days of graduation. We are so confident of this continuing success, that if for some reason a candidate does not get an offer of employment within the 60 days, we will give him or her $200 a week for up to four weeks.

SD: What do you think the future holds for the dive industry and Pro Dive?

GM: The dive industry’s biggest threat is all of the other recreational sport activities that are easily accessible to the outdoor enthusiast. The good news is that the potential for real growth is, I believe, obtainable. The web will play a much greater role in the way we teach, communicate, advertise and sell diving. Will Pro Dive play a part? You bet! We have some very aggressive plans for the next five to 10 years.

SD: Where can our readers get more information on Pro Dive?

GM: Look us up at www.prodiveusa.com or call in the U.S. (800) PRO-DIVE, in the U.K. 0800-068-9034, or locally (954) PRO-DIVE, our fax is (954) 761-8624.