Jill Heinerth (Canada)
A pioneering underwater explorer and filmmaker, Jill 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 (USA)
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. As the President of DEMA, he appears regularly at Congressional and State legislative hearings, representing divers and the diving industry. Tom’s managerial skills have brought a much-needed stability to DEMA, and his abilities in his role are endorsed by him becoming the longest serving President in the history of DEMA, with 17 years of service. 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.
Avi Klapfer (Israel for Cocos Islands)
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. These reports have been used for multiple research papers oriented toward conservation and include the 2015 paper published by Conservation Biology titled Shifting elasmobranch community assemblage at Cocos Island—an isolated marine protected area. Most recently, he co-authored a comprehensive dive guide for all of Costa Rica with an emphasis on Cocos Island called Costa Rica Blue. It is the first book of its kind for the country and an important step in drawing attention to protecting these waters in a country under constant fishing pressure.
Jim Gatacre (Canada)
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.
Over the decades of Jim’s career he has devised and developed programs that have trained and certified over ten thousand recipients from Open Water Divers with Disabilities to Dive Buddies, Instructors and Course Directors, expanding his visions into an international organization that promotes enhanced self-image and social interaction through the unifying sport of Scuba diving.
His unique career contributions to the diving industry and handicapped people have been recognized with the DEMA Reaching Out Award, the Historical Diving Society Diving Pioneer Award, and the NAUI Outstanding Contribution to Diving Award.