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Scuba Diving Hall of Fame welcomes four new inductees

Local News 05 Oct, 2023 Follow News

Gay Morse received an award

Leslie Leaney received an Appreciation Award from Suzy Soto

Kameron D’Hue received an Emerging Honoree Award

Tom Ingram

Hon. Minister of Tourism Kenneth Bryan

All the honourees who could be present including Tom Ingram, Kameron D’Hue, Gay Morse, and the son of Avi Klapfer who received the award on behalf of his father, along with Suzy Soto.

Suzy Soto presents recipients of the Bob Soto Memorial Scuba Scholarship with medallions

By Christopher Tobutt

The International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame welcomed four new inductees at the Westin Casuarina on Friday 29 September: Jill Heinerth, Tom Ingram, Avi Klapfer and Jim Gatacre. There were also two local honorees – Divers Gay Morse and Kameron D’Hue. Kameron received the Emerging Honouree award, but had also been the recipient of a Bob Soto Memorial Scuba Scholarship which helped him to pursue his dream of becoming a diving instructor. Bob Soto is famous for starting the dive tourism industry, not only becoming a pioneer here in Cayman, but across the world until his death in 2015, and Suzy Soto was there to present several more young people with scholarships. Leslie Leaney received an appreciation award.

Minister of Tourism Hon. Kenneth Bryan said: “Dedicated to those who have made the scuba diving industry possible and through this hall of fame we have paid homage to the visionaries who have propelled the sport to new heights. Today marks the 20th Hall of Fame induction ceremony through which the ISDHF has continually shined a light on excellence within the global industry by honouring you the innovators, the educators, Business Owners, humanitarians, and environmentalists who have contributed to making scuba diving safer, more enjoyable and more sustainable.”

Jill Heinerth is a pioneering underwater explorer and filmmaker, and has dived deeper into caves than any woman in history. She holds the woman’s world record for deep cave penetration (1998) and received the OZTEK Media Excellence Award for significant contributions to technical and exploration diving (2013). Her photographs have been published internationally, and she has lectured on her experiences at numerous international dive shows and conferences. Jill has made TV series for BBC, National Geographic and PBS, and consulted on movies for various directors including James Cameron. Among her numerous awards are the 2000,Canadian Technical Diver of the Year, National Association of Cave Divers Conservation Award, 2010, Scuba Diving Magazine’s Sea Hero of the Year Award, 2012 and the Academy of Underwater Arts & Sciences NOGI Award for Sports & Education 2017.

Tom Ingram has more than 40 years of experience in the recreational diving industry, including dive leadership, retail and retail management, education, marketing, and has served as the President of DEMA since 2002. His leadership of DEMA has elevated his profile globally and he has become the “face” of the USA’s diving industry, developing strategic alliances with international diving groups around the world. With his natural teaching abilities he has held key instructional posts with numerous organizations and educational institutions. Tom’s service to recreational diving was recognized by the members of the Academy of Underwater Arts & Sciences with the 2017 NOGI Award for Distinguished Service. Ingram started in the recreational diving industry working as a divemaster with a store in Florida, and as a scuba technician with Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) in Jensen Beach.  After becoming an instructor in 1976, Ingram went on to teach at FIT and several different local dive centers.    

Avi Klapfer is an Israeli underwater photographer based in Costa Rica who has explored and protected the remote Cocos Island since 1990. He introduced the first liveaboard to the area and through his diving operation and photography he has brought the magic of Cocos Island to the world. His company has provided film support for countless films and expeditions from National Geographic to the BBC, including Howard Hall’s epic Imax film, Island of the Sharks. He helped bring about the popularization of nitrox on recreational liveaboards, and provided detailed dive reports for each and every dive completed on Undersea Hunter’s three vessels over the past 30 years.

Jim Gatacre is the founder of the Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA), an organization that has allowed thousands of handicapped people around the globe to enjoy the wonders of the underwater world. Jim’s vision, commitment and dedication made what was thought for handicapped people to be impossible, possible. 

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