Scuba pioneers honored at gala event

Some of the world’s top scuba divers swapped wet suits for tuxedos Friday night as the dive community came together to celebrate the latest inductees to the sport’s hall of fame.

The Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort played host to the Cayman-based International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame annual gala.

Among the latest dive legends to take their place in the pantheon were underwater photographer Stephen Frink, tech diver Dick Rutkowski and Wulf Koehler, an inventor, dive instructor, photographer and writer.

Among the local honorees were Wayne Hasson, who founded the Aggressor fleet of liveaboard dive boats and Darryl Bud Walton Jr, the only Caymanian working in the dive industry on the Sister Islands. There was also a posthumous award for Daniel Tibbetts, who set up the Little Cayman Beach Resort.

Established by the Cayman Islands Ministry of Tourism in 2000, the hall of fame celebrates those who have contributed to the success and growth of recreational scuba diving worldwide through advancements in the areas of dive tourism, equipment design and innovation, education, exploration and adventure.

There was also recognition for H.S. Batuna, who received posthumous honors for pioneering sustainable tourism in his native Indonesia and helping set up the Bunaken Marine Park; Kazakhstan’s Boris Porotov, who produced scuba films for the Soviet Union and trained Soviet special underwater forces, and Captain Philippe Tailliez, credited with introducing Jacques Cousteau to free diving, who was honored posthumously as an early pioneer award winner.

Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell said, “The Cayman Islands’ history with the sport of recreational diving runs deep and wide, making it a natural home to recognize the innovators and dive legacies who have helped shape and affirm our island trio into the leading scuba destination it is today.

“Year after year, the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame inducts some of the world’s greatest dive leaders and we are proud to showcase their trailblazing efforts in carrying on the same passion of divers before them, while also enabling our guests to create unforgettable dive memories in the Cayman Islands.”

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