In Memoriam: Bob Soto--Father of Cayman Island Dive Operations

Bob Soto passed away Tuesday, March 17, 2015 and is survived by his wife, Suzy, and their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Bob is rightly credited with creating the recreational dive industry in the Cayman Islands when he opened the first dive shop there in 1957.  He was born in Cuba in 1926 to a Cuban father and Caymanian mother and chose to settle in Cayman after serving in the U.S. Navy. It was in the Navy that he learned to dive and after the war, served in the Merchant Marines, which gave him an opportunity to advance his dive skills the world over.  Soto was passionate about marine and environmental conservation, long before it became a popular cause, and actively worked to establish local marine conservation laws in the 1980's.  A full biography of Bob is available right here on this website under Caribbean Legends. 

In Memoriam: Dr. Joseph A. Bodner (July 24, 1931-March 15, 2015)

Dr. Joseph A. Bodner, retired Naval Captain and dentist, passed away in his home of Branford, Connecticut on March 15, 2015. He and his wife, Jean (who preceded him in death on May 19, 2012) were a huge influence on scuba diving even before there were certifying agencies.  He 
was certified as a dive instructor in Houston in the first NAUI instructor class, completing the course with the highest scores. He later served on the board of directors of NAUI. His further contributions to the dive community can be examined in his complete biography available right here on this website. We are grateful to have known Dr. Bodner personally and extend our sincere sympathy to his two surviving sons, Joseph and Paul, as well as to their families. 

Big John McLaughlin Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

One of our ILD Legends, Big John McLaughlin, was honored this past spring with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft Lauderdale, Florida.  A complete biography of Big John can be found right here on our website. Our sincere congratulations go out to our Legend and friend, John McLaughlin.

Read Big John's fascinating story here: Big John McLaughlin

International Swimming Hall of Fame's Lifetime Achievement Award introduction video for Big John McLaughlin

In Memoriam:Captain Don Stewart

A true Legend of Diving, Captain Don Stewart of Bonaire, passed away on May 28th, 2014. A Celebration of Life for the beloved, colorful Captain will be held on Friday, June 27th, 2014 at 6pm, during the Taste of Bonaire in the Wilhelmina Park. Captain Don was not only known for helping to put Bonaire on the scuba diving map, but throughout his life, spearheaded conservation of the underwater environment he so passionately loved and fought to protect. This passion for everything green only grew stronger throughout his later years. He is survived by his loving partner of some 30 years, Janet Thibault, as well as Valerie, Kevin, and Gwen Dee Stewart. A full biography of this fascinating, influential man can be read right here on our website:

Dottie Frazier Receives California Scuba Service Award

ILD is happy to announce that Dottie Frazier, received the prestigious California Scuba Service Award on Saturday June 7, 2014 at the Scuba Show in Long Beach, California. The award was established by California Diving News in 1989 to honor those who have made long lasting and outstanding contributions to sport diving in the California community.

It is so appropriate that Dottie received this award in the very city she was born in July of 1922. From a very young age, she was drawn to the water--swimming at the age of three, rowing her own boat at the age of five, and quickly becoming proficient at fishing. Her father helped her create a makeshift mask at the age of six and spearfishing and catching lobsters soon became her area of expertise.

Dottie quickly found work as a deck hand and galley girl on commercial fishing boats, while still finding the time to enter as many skin diving contests as she could in her spare time. Despite the fact that she was usually the only female contestant, she won her fair share of prizes. A woman of many and varied interests, Dottie became proficient in snow and water skiing, as well as board surfing. Not content with that, she soon bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle and rode all over California with a local bike club. That wide and varied passion for adventure is woven throughout Dottie's colorful life.

It was in 1940 that Dottie started teaching skin diving classes and in 1955 she became the first female scuba instructor in the world through the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Certification Course. Not only did she pass the course, she took top honors in the class of all men. This achievement was only the beginning of Dottie's "firsts" in the world of scuba diving. She was the first woman in the world to own her own dive shop, named "Penguin", where she offered scuba lessons and sold her own line of wetsuits. Yes, she was the first woman to commercially produce both wet and dry suits which were sold by US Divers, Healthways, as well as Navy UDT teams.

Dottie was also one of the first women hardhat divers and worked professionally as one for two years. She soon made her way to the big screen, acting in several films that featured scuba diving. Definitely not the least of her achievements was raising four sons, all who became divers, as well. She even formed a dive club called "Aqua Families" for couples with children, encouraging husbands and wives to take turns watching the children while their spouses would dive.

It is no surprise that Dottie is the only woman diver honored to be included in the Skin Diving History Museum, as well as being the recipient of many other distinguished awards. She entered the Women Divers Hall of Fame in March of 2000 and in 2001 she was inducted as a Life Member of the second oldest dive club in the U.S., the Long Beach Neptunes. She is the only surviving charter member. In 2009, Dottie received the International Legends of Diving Award in Freeport, Grand Bahama where she inspired dozens of  local school children who soaked up every minute spent in her presence. Her passion, not only for diving and the sea, but for life itself, was palpable at that event and never to be forgotten.

Our sincere congratulations go out to Dottie as the deserving recipient of the California Scuba Service Award.

5th Annual Diver Education Conference

The 5th Annual Diver Education Conference was held on March 15, 2014 from 8am-5pm at the Pacific Gas & Electric - Energy Education Center, located at 6588 Ontario Road, Avila Beach, CA.  The Opening Presentation was delivered by  popular Dive Historian, Dr. Sam Miller III, on the subject "The Divers Down Flag."  Dr Miller III, as well as his son Dr Sam Miller IV, are featured among our ILD Legends on this website, where you can read their full biographies.

The next expert to speak was  Karl Huggins, of the USC Wrigley Marine Institute and  Director of the Hyperbaric Facility. He addressed the "Dangers of Panic-Dive Computers."

Patrick Smith, a Commercial & Scientific Diver, with an  MA in Public History & Historic Preservation, as well as co-author of "Shipwrecks of Southern California" discussed the "Discovery of the Grunman Torpedo Bomber in the Channel Islands."  

Dr. Sam Miller IV,  a specialist in  Hyperbaric & Undersea Medicine - Emergency Medicine and practicing Emergency Physician at the Marion Medical Center, addressed  "Aquatic Environment Infections & Treatments."

"Survival at Sea" was discussed by Paul Buechner, the  Lead Instructor at the  Wilderness Medicine Institute. Buechner also serves as a Diver Medic on the  National Board of Diving and Hyperbaric Medical Technology.

John McKenney, a Professional Underwater Cinematographer  and Deputy & Public Safety Diver on the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Underwater Search & Recovery Team shared "Perils of the Deep."

Thomas Nugent,  Captain in the US Navy (Retired) and  Supervisor of Naval Reserve Diving in the West Coast & Hawaiian Islands provided "Examples of Navy Search & Recovery Dive Operations."

In addition to these lively presentations, the event included some fascinating static displays such as classic underwater camera systems from  the collection of Devon Tompkins, as well as classic spear guns from the collection of Dr Sam Miller III.

Conference Sponsors:
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff - Underwater Search & Recovery Dive Team
Conference Syllabus Reproduction - Morning Coffee, Ice & Cookies
Pacific Gas & Electric Company - Energy Education Center
Energy Education Center Facilities
Depth Perceptions Diving Services
Conference Organization - Syllabus Binding - Conference Promotion

A Tribute to ILD Legend Nick Icorn

Nick Icorn

Nick Icorn, a true gentleman and legend of the dive community, passed away Sunday December 22, 2014.  A small memorial for him was held at Forest Lawn, Cypress, California on Saturday December 28th at 9am.

Nick was born in Hollywood, California and fell in love with the ocean from a very early age, learning to swim in the waters off Huntington Beach.  He had a strong desire to serve his country, as evidenced by his joining the Merchant Marines at the age of 14, only to be kicked out when they learned he had lied about his age. Nick was undeterred, however, and with his mother's help, he joined the United States Marines in 1944 and served in the Philippines and Saipan in the years following WWII.

After marrying his wife, Marilyn, in 1950, he soon discovered his other great love, scuba diving. His interest began in her uncle's pool with the aid of a mask and fins and that experience would prove to guide the rest of his life.  His passion and extensive knowledge of the sport would influence countless other divers who would follow in his wake.

Nick was a part of the first formal Underwater Instructors Course and held instructor certificates from L.A. County, the YMCA, NAUI, SSI, PADI, as well as NASDS.  He became the first Executive Director of PADI in 1969, developing programs and standards for the agency.  During his tenure as director, the number of PADI instructors surged from a mere 234 to 12,000 worldwide.  Icorn's legacy includes the numerous training manuals for the dive industry that he wrote: "Standards and Procedures Manual," "The Basic Scuba Course," and the "Course Director's Manual."

Nick worked as an engineer for several of the U.S. dive manufacturers over the years, integral in the evolution of dive equipment. It was a passion of his to share the history of these evolving vintage pieces, and he volunteered countless hours in his later years doing just that, to the delight of divers young and old.

Icorn was rightly the recipient of many awards in the dive industry including two NOGI Awards, the DEMA Reaching Out Award, The California Scuba Service Award, the Conrad Limbaugh Memorial Award, as well as the International Legends of Diving Award.  He was inducted into both the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame and the NAUI Hall of Honor.

We at ILD have lost not only a Legend, but a good friend. We were privileged to host both Nick and his daughter, Tina, at two of our Legends Events. Our sincere condolences go out to Tina and her family.  Nick Icorn will be greatly missed. 

Book Now Available: Bob Croft, Father of American Freediving

Diving Legend Bob Croft, whose life story can be read here on ILD, has released his much anticipated autobiography, "Bob Croft, Father of American Freediving." Before Bob's first record-setting dive, experts believed that dives below 120 feet could be life-threatening and that the 200 ft depth mark would indeed prove fatal. Croft's record breaking free dive proved these theories to be wrong and he went on to beat European free diver, Jacques Mayo, in three consecutive contests.

Croft participated in various medical experiments that helped shed light on exactly what happens to the human body during very deep dives.  In addition to this research work, Bob developed a powerful technique referred to as "packing" that deep free divers utilize to this day. "Packing" involves using the tongue as a pump to force extra air into the lungs of the diver and became an effective tool for deep dives.

You can learn more about Bob's free diving breakthroughs and experiences in his entertaining and informative new book,  now available through his website

Barbara Allen to Join Women Divers Hall of Fame, Class of 2014

ILD is pleased to announce that Barbara Allen has been selected to join the Women Divers Hall of Fame, Class of 2014.  Barbara graduated from the 6th Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Certification Course in 1957, only the second woman to do so at that time.  She certainly served as a pioneer, helping to break ground for all women divers who would follow in her wake.  She served as a dive instructor at the famous Dive N' Surf, as well as the Diving Locker, and in 1961 became secretary of the San Diego Underwater Photographic Society.

Allen worked as a technician in near shore studies at the Westinghouse Ocean Research Lab and demonstrated rebreathers at Offshore Exploration Conferences. Barbara was able to utilize both her diving and photography skills in her work in FMC Ocean Engineering Department's test tanks. Her work as a photographer has not gone unrecognized and Allen was honored as a diving pioneer by the San Diego Underwater Photographic Society in 2009.

Barbara continues to serve the interests of the dive community by volunteering at the California Surf Museum, helping to educate the public about the history of diving, as well as the precious ocean environment she seeks to preserve. We invite you to read more about Barbara's dynamic life and career right here on our website.

Dr Sam Miller III Receives 2013 California Scuba Service Award

Dr Sam Miller III
ILD Legend, Dr Sam Miller III, was honored with the 2013 California Scuba Service Award at the Long Beach Scuba Show.The award was presented to Dr Miller by the  Senior Editor of California Diving News, Marty Snyderman.  It is a well-deserved  honor, as Dr Miller's considerable and ongoing influence on the dive community  began as far back as the 1940's.

At a time when the sport was still very young, Dr Miller served as a consultant to  various scuba equipment manufacturers, which included testing pieces of dive  equipment, which obviously came with inherent risks.  On the night he received the  award, Sam acknowledged these risks, but insisted that it was indeed a wonderful and  exciting time to enter the world of diving.  Dr Miller's contributions include  developing many of the early scuba training exercises, creating the first advanced diving  program, as well as the structure of the diver classification system, to name just a few.

Dr Sam Miller III continues to exert a positive impact both on divers new to the sport,  as well as his fellow pioneers, by sharing his extensive  knowledge of diving, as well as  its history through articles he contributes here at ILD and other venues. His full  biography can be enjoyed right here on the ILD site.

2013 Legends of Diving Event

The 9th Annual Legends of Diving Event was held at Portage Quarry in Bowling Green, Ohio on Saturday August 10, 2013. Returning Legend, Alec Peirce, of Scuba 2000(Toronto, Canada)was on hand to inform and entertain our visiting divers with a lively presentation on Sea Hunt. Always a favorite at the Legends events, Peirce shared a wide range of memorabilia from the hit TV show, including his pristine and rare comic book collection, as well as scripts and items used on the show.

Also present was an enthusiastic group of vintage divers, members of the Vintage Double Hose Club, led by Bryan Pennington, of Florida. Visiting divers new to the event especially enjoyed the knowledge and camaraderie provided by the group.  A special thank you to our Canadian friends and divers who made the trip with Alec and always add a positive spirit to this event. Pictures from the Legends weekend are available here.

A Tribute to Bob Meistrell

Body Glove co-founder Bob Meistrell died on his boat, the Disappearance, at the age of 84 when returning from a trip to Catalina Island Sunday June 16th, 2013.  He was working on the boat's engine when he suffered a heart attack and was unable to be revived.  Meistrell, featured here on our website, was best known as a surfing and diving legend who started a company with his twin brother, Bill, designing, manufacturing, and selling neoprene wetsuits. This company later became known worldwide as Body Glove.  The brothers got their start in Redondo Beach in 1953 when they joined the Dive N' Surf shop and later became its sole owners in 1957.  Body Glove is planning its 60th Anniversary this year.  Bob was preceded in death by his brother in July of 2006 at the age of 77.

Bob was the first certified dive instructor, among his many other accomplishments.  You can read more about Bob Meistrell's fascinating and productive career right here on our website in his biography. The President of Body Glove International, Russ Lesser, wrote of Bob Meistrell, "His motto was 'Do what you love, love what you do,'" ...that he did and he did it well.

Bob Meistrell was much more than his accomplishments, he was a man of character and integrity and we at ILD feel blessed to have known him as a friend. He will be greatly missed.

ILD's Mission

The history of scuba diving is something that dates back over one hundred years, replete with legendary characters who spearheaded the sport. Some of these legends of diving went to great lengths to explore the underwater world before diving equipment was readily available to the average person. We are here to share the colorful stories of their makeshift dive equipment and the obstacles they overcame to bring diving to the common man.

Through our legends of scuba diving site you will experience the adventures of shipwrecks, treasure hunters, cave diving, and even more and learn of these human legends, both living and dead, who made the joys of scuba diving available the world over.

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