Four pioneers of the Cayman Islands scuba diving industry will be honored at this year’s International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame ceremony, along with eight individuals from overseas who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Wallace Rivers, Steve Broadbelt, Gerald “Gerry” Wilcocks and Anthony Scott are this year’s local honorees, who for the first time were chosen by the public.
The annual dinner and induction gala ceremony will be held on Sept. 30.
“This year’s group of local honorees have provided a significant contribution to the local dive and water sports industry in the Cayman Islands,” Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said in a press release.
“The significance of being selected in 2016 means so much more because these leaders were chosen by members of the public. I believe this shows the true significance of their impact on the dive community as a whole.”
The eight divers from other countries who are being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year are: the late Ramon Bravo, an underwater filmmaker from Mexico; Joe MacInnis of Canada, the first person to explore the ocean beneath the North Pole; famed U.S. Navy diver and “dean of saturation divers” Bob Barth; French underwater documentary maker, the late Philippe Cousteau Sr., son of Jacques Cousteau; Stuart Cove of the U.S., who helps educate the public about sharks in the Bahamas; and early dive equipment pioneers from Japan, Watanabe Riichi, Ohgushi Kanezo and Kataoka Kyuhachi.
According to the Hall of Fame website, each year, since its inception in 2000, the board of directors has chosen individuals to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, picking individuals who have made a significant international contribution to the development, history and enjoyment of the sport of scuba diving. It also provides the Ministry of Tourism with an opportunity to acknowledge and thank those who have made a similar impact on the water sports industry in the Cayman Islands.
Mr. Rivers, who became a dive master in 1975, was one of the first Caymanians to work in the dive industry. He began his diving career working with Jim Daley at Surfside and later worked with many other well-known divemasters, including Capt. Butch Sjostrom at SeaSports, Clinton Ebanks at Scuba Cayman and Arthie Evans at Quibbin Divers.
Before starting Rivers Sports Divers, he worked with Peter Milburn throughout the 1980s. An issue with his ear forced him to concentrate on other endeavors.
Mr. Broadbelt, a past president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and long-serving board member of the CITA water sports sector, founded the concept of the Cayman Dive 365 program. He has been instrumental in promoting Grand Cayman diving through social media and is a major contributor to the development and promotion of diving on Grand Cayman’s East End, where he has logged more than 5,000 dives.
Mr. Broadbelt, who has lived in the Cayman Islands since 1992, spearheaded the Mooring Buoy Installation program for East End and the Shark Awareness Project.
Mr. Wilcocks was an early pioneer in the diving field. He arrived in the Cayman Islands around 1965, when he established a dive business opposite the old Seaview Hotel on South Church Street.
In July 1969, with 13 enthusiastic residents, he formed Cayman Islands Divers, which was admitted as a branch of the British Sub Aqua Club. As the only BSAC-qualified diver on the island, he automatically took over the role as club officer and was the only person to train other members until they were properly qualified.
He was instrumental
in assisting with the construction of a decompression chamber in Cayman. Fundraising activities culminated in $3,000 being donated by a local bank on condition that the club survey the George Town harbor to increase safety for yachts and ships. At a total cost of $8,000, the chamber was imported and housed in a building at Doc Polson’s clinic on Crewe Road, with construction supervised by Mr. Wilcocks, who was an engineer. He, along with the late Bob Soto, was a member of the Cayman Islands Conservative Group Committee representing the dive industry.
Mr. Scott grew up in Cayman Brac next to the water and has always loved all types of water sports – swimming, free diving, belly board surfing and fishing. In 1964, at age 17, he finished school and worked for a few months in Little Cayman at the Southern Cross Club, taking care of and repairing fishing reels and spear guns and taking guests on snorkeling trips. He then went to work at Buccaneers Inn in Cayman Brac, also operating snorkeling trips for the guests.
In 1968, he helped set up a dive shop at Buccaneers Inn, the first dive shop in Cayman Brac at that time, Club Atlantis, and continued to manage the shop, as well as service and repair the equipment. The establishment of Club Atlantis marked the beginning of an era for the scuba diving and water sports industry in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Previous local honorees have included Nancy Easterbrook, Gladys Howard, Dr. James Polson, Rod McDowall, Winston McDermot, Captain Frank Ebanks, Capt. Glen Ebanks, James Ebanks, Darby Bodden, Crosby Ebanks, Capt. Chuckie Ebanks, Patrick Evans, Stuart Freeman, James Dailey, Kem Jackson, Cornell Burke and Neville Darvin Ebanks.
The International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, founded in 2000 by the Cayman Islands Ministry of Tourism, annually recognizes international and Cayman pioneers who have made outstanding contributions to the recreational scuba diving industry.