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July 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 28, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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DEMA’s “Reaching Out” Award

not worth winning, says Bret Gilliam

from the July, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Every year since 1989, the Dive Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) gives its Reaching Out Award to honor the best and brightest in the recreational dive industry. Past recipients are a Who's Who list, ranging from Jacques Cousteau and Clive Cussler to Lloyd Bridges and Stan Waterman. Steve Barsky, a consultant for the dive industry, decided to nominate Bret Gilliam, a regular contributor to Undercurrent, to receive the award in 2012. After all, Gilliam has worn multiple hats in the dive industry; he founded nine companies that included manufacturing, publishing, liveaboards, resorts, retailers, luxury yacht charters, training agencies, even a dive cruise ship line that was the largest diving operation in history. For his accomplishments over 40-plus years, Gilliam is also receiving the NOGI award given by the Academy of Underwater Arts & Sciences, the oldest and most prestigious award in the dive industry.

But Gilliam did not get the 2012 award from DEMA. It went to Dick Rutkowski and Dan Orr, both deserving fellows and good selections. This story is not about Gilliam, but rather DEMA, which changed its criteria for the 2013 award. Gilliam and many other people in the industry, expecially those who are gadflies, will no longer be eligible. Why? It's not officially clear, but as Barsky wrote in an article for the March/April issue of the trade magazine Dive Center Training, DEMA changed its eligibility criteria this year for the awards. Instead of the test being whether the person has made significant contributions to diving, the criteria now includes the (paraphrased) following: "Nominee must have continuously supported the dive industry in a positive manner which reflects agreement with DEMA's mission and nominees whose actions and efforts do not reflect positively on the dive industry are precluded . . . Examples include acting as a plaintiff's expert witness against members of the industry . . . and DEMA members in particular." Both Gilliam and Barsky regularly serve as expert witnesses in dive accident litigation, both for the plaintiff and the defendant's cases....

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