Meet the Team: Instructor Team for NAUI’s Southeast Leadership Conference 2024

The upcoming NAUI Southeast Leadership Conference, set to take place from September 16 to October 12, 2024, represents a significant milestone in diving education. Aimed at enhancing regional divemaster and instructor training, the conference combines traditional in-person instruction with virtual workshops to create a comprehensive learning experience. The program is being offered in both Kentucky and Florida. This groundbreaking initiative is led by a distinguished group of NAUI Course Directors and Technical Examiners: David Caldwell, Dave Ochs, Rusty Davis, Chad Crick, Mark Criasia, Vin Malkoski, Heison Chak, Frank Rakowski, Elaine Li, George Mills, Dwight Thrailkill and Tony Lantrip.

These experts bring a wealth of knowledge and experience, promising a transformative educational journey for NAUI members or crossover candidates across the Southeast United States and beyond. Whether you’re an aspiring Divemaster, a seasoned Instructor, or somewhere in between, this conference provides an invaluable opportunity to enhance your skills, expand your knowledge, and connect with a community driven by a passion for underwater exploration. Meet the esteemed conference instructor staff:

David Caldwell (NAUI# 42994)

Captain David J. Caldwell is a co-founder of Northern Atlantic Dive Expeditions, Inc. Dave is co-captain of the GAUNTLET and holds a commercial 100 Ton Near-Coastal Master’s license. Dave is the NAUI Worldwide Northeast Territory Manager, a NAUI Course Director Trainer (CDT) and Technical Instructor Examiner (TIE)with open circuit and CCR trimix qualifications. Dave is a Fellow Member of the Explorers Club. Additional, Dave is an Assistant Harbormaster for the City of Beverly, MA and is on the BOD for Salem Sound Coastwatch.

In addition to instructor-level certifications, Dave holds OC and CCR full-cave certifications. In addition to making shipwreck discoveries in his local waters, including the historically significant USS Nezinscot, Allentown among others, Dave has led and/or participated in collaborations with NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, as well as in expeditions to notable shipwrecks such as the Andrea Doria, Empress of Ireland, SS Republic, and shipwrecks from around the world including Prince of Whales, HMS Repulse, & Thistlegorm.

Dave spearheaded the first ever NAUI hybrid learning approach at a leadership conference in 2023 and is parlaying that experience into the Southeast Leadership Conference.


Dave Ochs (NAUI #15918)

Dave Ochs is the owner of Aqua Safari Adventures, Inc., a premier scuba training, guiding, and travel company based in West Palm Beach, Florida. Founded in 1996, Aqua Safari Adventures is built on Dave’s principles of safety, exceptional quality, and customer service. With a professional scuba instructor career starting in 1993, Dave has trained and guided thousands of divers, sharing his passion for the sport. His extensive experience in Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Central America has made him a highly sought-after professional for both local and remote dive destinations. 

 A Lifetime Member of the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), Dave holds several prestigious NAUI titles and served on the NAUI Board of Directors from 2008 to 2020, including as Chairman from 2012 to 2018. He is a popular industry speaker and trainer, known for his courses, presentations, and seminars on divemaster and instructor training, successful scuba programs, and business principles for dive professionals. Dave’s commitment to exceptional customer service is embodied in Aqua Safari Adventures’ Loved-One Principle, ensuring only the most skilled and trustworthy professionals join his team. If you’re seeking an outstanding dive experience, Dave and his team at Aqua Safari Adventures are the ones to call. 



Rusty Davis (NAUI #40779)

Rusty Davis is the Director of Training for Louisville Dive Center. He has been a NAUI instructor for over 20 years and holds the designation as a NAUI Course Director. Rusty is also a DAN Instructor Trainer.  Additionally, he holds a commercial captain’s license and has served on the Membership Committee of NAUI.

Rusty actively teaches recreational SCUBA courses from Open Water SCUBA Diver through Master SCUBA Diver as well as various SCUBA specialties.  Additionally, he coordinates & teaches the NAUI Leadership Level SCUBA courses offered through Louisville Dive Center.  These include First Aid Instructor, Divemaster, SCUBA Instructor, Instructor Trainer as well as Divemaster & Instructor Crossover Courses.

Rusty is also active with the Boy Scouts of America.  He teaches the SCUBA BSA Program each summer at BSA’s Camp Crooked Creek. Through this program, he has introduced hundreds of Scouts to SCUBA.


Chad Crick (NAUI #43519)

Chad was introduced to SCUBA diving in 1996.  He became an instructor for the Louisville Dive Center in 2006 and completed the NAUI Instructor Trainer certification in 2007. Chad has extensive diving experience in Public Safety Diving, Underwater Search and Recovery, Underwater Investigations and Swift Water Rescue.  Chad is the Assistant Commander and lead instructor of the largest police department dive team in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which he has been a member of for over 24 years.  In addition to scuba diving, Chad is also a Swift Water Rescue Instructor and holds a USCG licensed Merchant Mariner Captain License and has vast knowledge in boat operations. While public Safety Diving has been his passion for years, he enjoys kicking back and diving for fun in the salt water. 


Mark Criasia (NAUI #54799L)

Mark earned his first scuba diving certification from NAUI in 1972. Despite primarily diving in Cape Cod and Lake Winnipesaukee, he remained an active diver until 1985. After a hiatus, he re-certified with NAUI and progressed through the ranks, becoming a NAUI Lifetime Instructor in 2012 and a NAUI Course Director in 2019. In 2014, he co-founded The Massachusetts Association of Independent Scuba Instructors. By 2023, he opened M.A.I.S.I. Scuba, a full-service dive shop in Milford, Massachusetts, sponsoring trips along the New England coastline and the Caribbean.

A retired police officer, he has dedicated much of his time to promoting scuba diving. He is a certified NAUI/DAN Safety Instructor with qualifications in Mixed Gas Blending, Full Face Mask diving, Drysuit, Coastal Navigation, and Boating & Seamanship. Additionally, he is a Master Scuba Equipment Repair Technician, having graduated from Hall’s Institute, and holds an Associate, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees.

In 2023, he played a pivotal role in the successful NAUI Northeast Training Conference, the first of its kind incorporating a hybrid learning approach.


Vin Malkoski (NAUI #8876L)

Certified as a NAUI Scuba diver in 1975, Vin Malkoski became an Instructor Trainer by 1989 and has actively contributed to NAUI instructor training programs. He was certified as a DAN Oxygen Instructor (#237) in 1992 and added additional courses, ultimately becoming a DAN Examiner in 2016.  Vin also assisted with the initial DAN/NAUI training programs at DEMA in 2016 and is cross certified as a NAUI FA Examiner.

Vin was a key piece that put together the first ever NAUI conference that incorporated a hybrid learning approach and will be utilizing that experience to the Southeast Leadership Conference.



Heison Chak (NAUI #59648)

Heison Chak applied his engineering and teaching background into scuba education. As a team-oriented diver, Heison has a deep appreciation for safety, technique and knowledge. His true passion lies in coaching and mentoring fellow divers and educators, nurturing their growth into responsible and thinking divers through education. He is certified to 75m/250′ on mixed gas in Open Circuit as well as Close Circuit Rebreather. Heison is holds certifications from multiple agencies for Tech, Cave and Mine.

Heison was instrumental in organizing the inaugural NAUI conference that integrated a hybrid learning approach, and he will be leveraging that expertise for the Southeast Leadership Conference.


Frank Rakowski (NAUI #58062)

Frank Rakowski is a NAUI Course Director and the proprietor of Scuba Connection® in New Jersey. A NAUI member since 2016, he is also an instructor at Bergen Community College, teaching both college and high school students that attend Applied Technology High School.

Frank was a key figure in developing the first NAUI conference to feature a hybrid learning model, and he will use that background to contribute to the Southeast Leadership Conference.




Elaine Li (NAUI #53383)

Elaine Li has been diving since 2007, co-founder of a NAUI training facility in Hong Kong. Her extensive experience as an accomplished NAUI Instructor Trainer equips her with the skills to effectively work with divers from various backgrounds.

Presently, Elaine holds the position of Safety Director at the Ontario Underwater Council, where she is dedicated to ensuring safety of the sport in all aspects. Her dedication to promoting safety highlights the crucial role she plays within the diving community.



George Mills (NAUI #60750)

George C. Mills is the owner of DiveLogix Scuba Training and Support, as well as a career Firefighter/Paramedic/Diver for the City of West Palm Beach Fire Department. He is a NAUI Instructor Trainer, DAN Instructor, and Public Safety Diver Instructor.

George is a former Gunnery Sergeant of the U.S. Marine Corps, serving in elite units for over 18 years. He is a former MARSOC Raider JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) with multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a Nationally Registered and State of Florida licensed Paramedic, George holds certifications in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support, and live-tissue Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC). He also holds certifications in technical rope rescue.

George’s most recent NAUI certification was the Cave 1 Diver course. He also serves as a volunteer for Force Blue and Task Force Dagger Special Operations Foundation.



Dwight Thrailkill (NAUI #43848)

Originally from California, Dwight caught the dive bug in 1992 and has explored and traveled extensively since, diving in sites as far away as Micronesia and Malpelo Island. Dwight is passionate about tech diving and is extremely knowledgeable about his gear. He has been an Instructor Trainer at the Louisville Dive Center since 2005 and is the center’s primary tech diving instructor. Away from diving, Dwight works for the largest cargo company in the world as an International Aircraft Dispatcher and when he’s not controlling airplanes, you’ll find him tearing his jeep apart, underwater or planning his next vacation.



Tony Lantrip (NAUI #39927)

Tony has been a certified diver since 1987, but really became serious about diving in 1999. Since becoming a NAUI instructor in 2002, Tony has certified over 2000 students. He received NAUI Instructor Trainer designation in 2008 and NAUI Course Director in 2015. In addition to training recreational divers, Tony has assisted with training local fire and police divers. Tony’s inland diving includes dives in 8 states and internationally off 15 Caribbean islands.




Register now on FareHarbor! You can also see more information by visiting the NAUI Event Calendar.

For additional information please contact the instructor team at: