Growing up around some of the best and bravest divers in the Cayman Islands, Kent Eldemire always knew he wanted to join their ranks.
“Diving was one of my big ambitions, to follow in the footsteps of these great community leaders,” he said Friday night at the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame 2017 induction ceremony at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort. “I don’t think there are any words to describe the feeling of honor and respect to be in the presence of such absolutely marvelous people. They’re a special breed.”
Mr. Eldemire was one of six people to be honored during at the ceremony. He and Ambassador Divers’ Jason Washington were local honorees, and Dick Bonin, Kurt Schaefer, Krov Menuhin and Gardner Young were inductees. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors was given the “pioneer award” for its work in promoting the industry.
A moment of silence was also observed for the passing of Capt. Charles “Chuckie” Ebanks, who died of cancer in July.
Of the international inductees, only Mr. Menuhin was able to appear in person. The Australian documentarian, who filmed the first subsea footage of a blue whale, said his contribution to the industry was showing the public the beauty of the underwater world.
“I wasn’t a great scientist. Instead, I approached film making like the travel writers … trying to bring the audience to us, so they could participate,” Mr. Menuhin said. “I guess I chose to bring the spirit rather than the intellect.”
Friends and family accepted the awards for the other inductees. Some, like Dick Bonin’s son, Michael Bonin, kept their remarks brief, thanking the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame for honoring his father, who co-founded the diving company Scubapro and helped develop advances in diving equipment.
Kurt Schaefer’s granddaughter, Erika Schaefer, said she was grateful to have the opportunity to bring the Hall of Fame trophy back to her grandfather in Austria. Mr. Schaefer, an award-winning photographer, is credited with inventing the first modern underwater film camera, in 1946.
Cayman resident Kris Bergstrom read one of the poems written by Gardner Young in honor of the Bahamian diver.
“East of Belize city, we caught the windy gales, so we battened down the hatches, and shortened up the sails. But little did we know that hell lay in store, east of Belize city and 100 miles from shore. A Pacific typhoon was crossing the Yucatan, while a hurricane was roaring west, out of Grand Cayman,” Mr. Bergstrom quoted from Mr. Young’s poem, “Huriphoon.”
Suzy Soto also spoke about Mr. Young, recounting the accomplishments of his storied career, including him serving as a stunt double for Sean Connery in an underwater segment of a James Bond film.
Along with recounting some of the highlights of his career and life, local honoree Mr. Eldemire also made a political statement during his speech.
“We have the most powerful man in the world saying global warming is not happening,” he said, referring to U.S. President Donald Trump. “We have got to protect our environment, we have got to protect it for our children.”
Mr. Washington, for his part, simply thanked those who made his career possible.
“None of us got here alone. Whether the assistance we received was obvious or subtle, acknowledging someone’s help is a big part of understanding the importance of saying ‘thank you,’” said Mr. Washington, founder of the Cayman United Lionfish League, an organization responsible for the removal of tens of thousands of lionfish from local waters.