Five Fascinating Individuals Who Revolutionized Recreational Diving
By Jo Walters
Each year, the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences (AUAS) presents the NOGI award to five individuals who have distinguished themselves through career contributions to recreational diving in the following categories: Science, Sports and Education, Arts, Environment and Distinguished Service.
However, that simple, dry statement does nothing to convey the phenomenal nature of this year’s recipients and the passion that led them to the top of their fields. . . at the depths of the oceans.
The 2016 NOGI recipients are:
Mike Cochran – Category: Science
From the development of Texas Instruments’ first scientific calculator to his own favorite invention, the first microcomputer chip, Mike Cochran has had a profound impact on today’s technologies. However, it was his invention of the Cochran Dive Computer that revolutionized diving – and that came about as a result of his love of diving. Cochran says, “In the early 1980’s, my wife and I took a ‘resort course’ in diving while on vacation in the Bahamas. I instantly fell in love; diving became my passion – and that got me thinking that there might be some technology I could bring to bear on the diving market.” He formed Cochran Consulting Inc. and then worked with NASA and other commercial entities to create the first Cochran Dive Computer.
Bob Croft – Category: Sports and Education
Bob began diving in the 1950’s in the Florida Keys. In 1962, he entered the United States Navy Scuba School and became a Navy Scuba Instructor. (He later became an instructor trainer for both PADI and NAUI.) However, Bob’s true claim to fame is that of a pioneer in freediving. He explains, “In the late 1960’s, I was the first human to freedive beyond 60 metres/200 ft. At that time, the physiologists believed that breathhold diving deeper than 36 metres/120 feet would kill the diver! But the research folks I was working with didn’t think this would happen. Obviously, (fortunately!) they were correct! I went on to set three world records: 64.6 metres/212 feet, 66 metres/217 feet and 73 metres/240 feet. These dives and this research opened the door for today’s freedivers.”
Stephen Frink – Category: Arts
Stephen Frink, one of the world’s most celebrated underwater photojournalists, started out in a small studio in Key Largo, Florida, renting out cameras and processing film for underwater photographers. However, he soon found himself taking on photo assignments and writing articles – gradually turning his talent for underwater photography into a gateway to the dive life. With his wife and favorite model, Barbara Doernbach, he traveled the Caribbean as a photojournalist for Skin Diver magazine for 17 years and then moved on to Director of Photography for Scuba Diving magazine, earning his PADI Divemaster rating along the way. For the past six years, Stephen has been the Publisher of DAN’s Alert Diver magazine, transforming it from a strictly information-focused publication into a visually appealing quarterly.
Hardy Jones – Category: The Environment
For more than 35 years, Hardy Jones has led an uncompromising personal campaign to save the world’s dolphins from slaughter. A former CBS news reporter and current video journalist, Hardy uses his films to research, study and reveal the world of dolphins and other marine mammals, and also expose the dangers to these creatures at the hands of humans. “My passion for working with dolphins began when I met a group of scientists who spoke of dolphins as the equals of humans. I found a remarkable school of dolphins in the Bahamas and made friends with several of these creatures – friendships that lasted more than twenty years. Later, I learned of the slaughter of dolphins in Japan and went there to try to stop the killing. It was then that I learned the power of being on the scene with a camera to expose such outrages because my footage was broadcast around the world and helped stop the killing of dolphins in much of Japan.” Today, Hardy uses his films to raise awareness of the toxic substances being dumped into the oceans.
Bonnie Toth – Category: Distinguished Service
An avid PADI diver since 1978, Bonnie is also the owner and creative director of Bonnie Toth Advertising in San Clemente, California, where she has spent the last 30 years creating promotional campaigns for dive industry giants like ScubaPro and Aqualung. Bonnie received NOGI Distinguished Service award because she’s donated countless graphic design hours and consistent financial support to dive industry nonprofits, including the AUAS and the Women Divers Hall of Fame. “I believe in giving back and paying it forward,” Toth explains. “I feel blessed to have creative talent to share with nonprofit groups to help them improve their images. I’m also dedicated to furthering opportunities for women in the dive industry, which is why I support the Women Divers Hall of Fame.”
For more information about the NOGI Awards, please click here.