Siam Dive n Sail: Owner & Guide Book Author
John and his wife, Ohn
John Williams grew up in Southern California where he began diving in 1975 at the age of 15 on the coves of Laguna Beach. When he decided to study professional photography at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara after High School, he was pleased to discover the school had an excellent underwater photography program run by a key member of the Jacques Cousteau team.
After six months of learning underwater photography from the experts and diving up and down the Californian and Mexican coastlines, he was hooked. In 1983, after graduation, instead of pursuing studio work photographing cereal boxes and automobiles in Los Angeles, he became a PADI Instructor at PADI College and landed his first job in Grand Cayman in the Caribbean. After a year in different areas of that beautiful sea, including a year stint at Club Med in Mexico and the Bahamas, he decided that a trip around the world was in order. Why not? The bug was got.
In 1985 he moved to Maui, Hawaii, taught diving in a resort catering to Hollywood stars and celebrities, learned to windsurf and saved enough dough to get through the Pacific Ocean. In 1987, he traveled through Fiji and the Cook Islands, spent three months picking apples, diving, hiking, hitchhiking and backpacking all over New Zealand, then ended up spending six months in Australia cumulating in a job on the Great Barrier Reef teaching scuba and running a liveaboard boat.
Author, Lonely Planet
Author, Periplus Guides
With about 3,000 dives under his belt by this time, he was almost on his way back to the US when he ended up in Indonesia, discovering a whole new continent to be explored. Someone on the road mentioned that Thailand was a nice place to visit, so he bought an old Chinese-style bicycle in Penang, Malaysia, and spent the next three months bicycling around Southern Thailand; meeting the people, staying in elementary schools and Buddhist temples at night, and developing a real love for the country.
In 1987 there were only a few dive centers in Thailand and John fell in with a group of guys who were starting a dive center in Kata Beach, Siam Diving Center. They needed a manager, and since John was at that time one of the only Master Instructors in Thailand, the arrangement worked well and a year later, he was a partner in the company. We operated two liveaboards, a day trip boat and became Phuket's first PADI 5-Star IDC Center. In a very short time, it grew from a small dive center with just a few tanks to an internationally and respected diving operation with three vessels, two dive centers in Phuket and one at Phi Phi and a large staff of dedicated employees. During that time, we trained some of the first Thai instructors.
Siam Diving Center was the first dive center in Southern Thailand to offer regularly scheduled PADI Instructor Development Courses (IDCs) and Instructor Evaluations (IEs), first hiring Course Directors from abroad, then employing our own. Bent Posejpal, a PADI Course Director since 1994, began working for our dive center in 1990 and he and John became fast friends. We opened a dive center in Phi Phi Island, started diving at the Burma Banks in then closed-tight Myanmar and made exploration trips to the Andaman Islands on our old boat the MV Sai Mai. We also started the first regular dedicated liveaboard trips to new areas; Hin Daeng, Hin Muang, and Koh Ha south of Koh Lanta. For several years we were the only dive boat going there.
In 1995, the partners grew restless, looking for other things to do, and things began to change. The various partners in the company decided it was time to pursue other interests, so John and Bent began talking about using this new medium, the Internet, to promote what we were best at: Liveaboard exploration and marketing and PADI Instructor Development. Siam Dive n Sail was born in 1996 in our then rented house in Kata Beach. At the same time we both married local girls and began a new, possibly more sedate life, but a very satisfying one. We were the first dive company in Phuket to offer a broad range of liveaboard diving on the Internet and today, despite a lot of competition, we are still one of the largest.
During the heyday of diving in Phuket in the 1990s, John was asked to contribute first to a guide book which Asian Diver Magazine was putting together about the best dive sites of Thailand. Until Asian Diver decided to invest in the book publishing industry, there were no diving guide books about the area at all. Even today there are not that many more, and John has contributed to almost all of them. First it was four of us from all over the country writing for the Asian Diver book, next John was asked to write the Thailand section of Periplus' Action Series "Diving Thailand and Southeast Asia" and at about the same time, John's friends Collin Piprell and Ashley Boyd were writing a guide book for Times Editions which John later contributed to and helped to update. Finally, about the year 2000, John's friend Mark Strickland asked him to join him in an exciting book project for Lonely Planet. After a year of hard work, "Lonely Planet's Diving and Snorkeling Thailand" hit the shelves, the first comprehensive diving guide to Thailand, Mynamar, and the Andaman Islands. (The book was recently updated by Tim Rock.) In 2001, this book won an award for the best book about Sports and Recreation from Independent Publisher.
All this is probably way more than you wanted to know about John, but people ask so there you go. Feel free to email him any time and ask advice about dive sites or the scene around Phuket. It's not the small little island it used to be but it's a place we still call home.