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Speculation surrounding PADI's new owners ends as it is revealed that Richard Branson's Virgin Group has taken over

scubanautsVirgin Open Water Scubaonauts Training on the International Space Station (vicspacewalker / Shutterstock.com)

After a week of speculation as to who the new owners of PADI – the Professional Association of Dive Instructors – might be, sources have announced the shock revelation that it has been bought by Richard Branson’s Virgin group.

Noted philanthropist, conservationist, scuba diver, airline hostess, Caribbean vacationer and director of one of the world’s largest corporations, Branson has acquired the dive training agency to complement Virgin Galactic, the project which he hopes will bring space tourism to the world.

‘The parallels between space exploration and scuba diving are self evident ,’ said a source, who wishes to remain unnamed. ‘The concept of weightlessness is important both underwater and in outer space. Knowing how to move effectively, breathe appropriately, and anticipate the possible directional complications of using the lavatory in a weightless environment are essential to training.’

Although nothing has been set in stone, it is expected that diver training programs will be restructured towards training that includes both sub-aqua and super-atmospheric concepts. The re-branded ‘Virgin Open Water Scubanaut’ program will provide basic training; the ‘Astronautical Open Water’ course will teach divers more advanced concepts such as ‘Peak Performance Weightlessness’, and the Navigation dive will be modified to include use of the stars along with the traditional compass.

Programmes which include the use of mixed gases such as nitrox and trimix will be refined to include the practice of breathing pure oxygen in a vacuum, and the drysuit program will be extended to accommodate the use of space-suits. ‘It’s very important,’ said our source, ‘that divers learn to appreciate the deleterious effects of passing wind inside their drysuit. Not only can doing so potentially affect the overall buoyancy characteristics of the suit by increasing the internal gas volume of the equipment, unzipping your drysuit in the changing rooms of a dive centre afterwards is no laughing matter. When it comes to using a space suit, in the confines of the International Space Station (ISS), there is, quite literally, nowhere to run,’ adding, ‘it’s not like you can step outside and take a breath of fresh air.’

How this change will affect the current crop of dive professionals is, at this stage, unclear. Will Divemasters – or Masters of the Void of Time and Space, potentially – be required to undergo further training in order to retain their membership, or will the ‘Astronomical’ renewal fees have them hang up their booties and return to the surface of the planet.

When asked if Richard Branson himself might be available for comment, our source simply said ‘no-hic-comment’ and sauntered off to the bar for what appeared to be a form of pan-galactic trimix of their own. With ice and lemon.

The situation remains unclear, however perhaps by 1 April 2018, we shall be further illuminated.

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