Beneath the Sea proudly presents …The Class of 2016: Divers of the Year


Since its inception the Beneath the Sea Diver of the Year award program has honored men and women whose presence in the Dive Industry has made significant and lasting contributions to the past, present, and future of diving. By selecting for honor only those divers of eminence who rank in the top of their field -- Arts, Science, Service, Environment, or Education -- Beneath the Sea has created a fraternity of men and women whose visions are firmly fixed on the future of diving and whose future is tied to each other and to divers everywhere. For these reasons it is with immense pride that Beneath the Sea presents the Divers of the Year, Class of 2016.

Wendy Benchley … Diver of the Year for Enviromentalism

Wendy Benchley is a renowned global voice for protecting sharks and safeguarding our seas. As a scuba diver for more than forty years, she has witnessed dramatic changes to our ocean’s wildlife and its habitats. This has motivated her vigorous efforts to help shape smarter, stronger environmental and marine policies with government officials, NGOs, and other civic leaders. Wendy co-founded the prestigious Peter Benchley Ocean Awards,™ an annual award honoring her late husband’s legacy, in order to shine a light on the exceptional conservation work being done by marine scientists, researchers, explorers, and policy makers both in the United States and internationally. Now in its ninth year, the Benchley’s have awarded nearly sixty-five honorees for excellence and achievement. Wendy was the 2014 recipient of the International SeaKeepers Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given annually to an individual or an organization that has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to ocean conservation. Based in Washington, D.C., Wendy is actively engaged in the marine policy community. As President of the Board of Shark Savers, she was instrumental in merging the organization into WildAid. She plays a prominent leadership role and is actively involved, as a Board member, in WildAid’s highly effective and widely respected global work that reduces the demand for illegal wildlife products, including ivory, rhino horn and shark fin. Wendy was married to Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws and a well-known voice for ocean conservation through his numerous books, articles, and documentaries about the wonders of ocean life and its many threats.

Richard A. Lutz, PhD. … Diver of the Year for Science

Richard A. Lutz, PhD. is an American marine biologist and deep-sea oceanographer. He is known for deep-sea research using the Alvin submersible, and is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on the ecology of deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Lutz is the Director of Rutgers University’s Center for Deep-Sea Ecology and Biotechnology. In 2003 he served as Principal Investigator and Science Director of the IMAX film Volcanoes of the Deep Sea, which included footage and research from his numerous expeditions to study an active deep-sea caldera on the East Pacific Rise, at depths of 2500 meters. Lutz participated in the first biological expeditions to study the ecology of deep-sea hydrothermal vents in 1979. Since that year, Lutz has spent hundreds of hours in various deep-diving submersibles studying thermal vents throughout the world’s oceans.

Drew Richardson, PhD. … Diver of the Year for Service

Drew Richardson, PhD. is known internationally as one of the most influential people in diving and diver education. Richardson is President and Chief Executive Officer for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Worldwide. Having been involved in water safety and diving education for 40 years, his diverse experience includes more than 5,000 dives in a variety of environmental conditions and continents including Antarctica. A highly competitive, skilled and energetic business leader, Richardson has led the strategic direction and leadership team at PADI, expanding PADI’s share of market and business operations globally for many years. Formally an Assistant Professor and division head for the Underwater Technology Department at the Florida Institute of Technology and a staff instructor in the post-graduate degree program in Medical Science and Diving and Hyperbaric Science for the University of Auckland, Drew holds undergraduate degrees in Oceanographic Technology and Environmental Science, (with an emphasis in the marine sciences), a graduate degree in Business Administration and a doctorate in Adult Education. Utilizing his credentials in marine science, business and education, Richardson has significantly advanced PADI’s instructional system, overseeing the development of every course and course product introduced by PADI.

Bill Ziefle … Diver of the Year for Education

Bill Ziefle became President and CEO of Divers Alert Network® (DAN®) in 2010, yet he has been involved with and an advocate of DAN for nearly three decades. Starting as a volunteer in 1990, he became DAN’s general counsel in 2005 and served on the Board of Directors from 1999-2009. Under Bill’s leadership, the organization has expanded its already robust portfolio of programs and services to enhance dive safety practices worldwide. His dedication to revitalizing the organization’s commitment to its mission has led to the development of an extensive library of diver health and safety resources vital to incident prevention and management, the syndication of DAN’s first-aid training programs, an increased commitment to research and fellowship programs, as well as the expansion of its Oxygen Grant program. All of which allows DAN to push ever-closer to its vision of making every dive accident and injury free.

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