Dive operators pay tribute to Bob Soto

| 01/04/2015
Cayman News Service

Bob Soto (Photo courtesy the Soto family)

(CNS): The Cayman Islands recently said goodbye to diving legend Bob Soto, the founder of recreational scuba diving in Cayman, who died at the age of 88 on 17 March. “Bob was a wonderful man and a role model for all of us,” said Adrien Briggs, owner of Sunset House, Sunset Divers and Red Sail Sports. “He brought a lot of Caymanians into diving and showed us that we could follow our dreams, follow our diving trails — myself, Clinton Ebanks, Atlee Evans, Don Foster — we all got our start with Bob Soto.”

“Bobby Soto was a true visionary who created dive tourism in Cayman,” Nancy Easterbrook, owner of Divetech, told Cayman Bottom Times. “He has become a legend for many, an inspiration for me, and a man who was a leader. He will be truly missed, one of the greats.”

“Bob was not only a pioneer in an industry we all love and made our careers, but a fascinating man who did a whole variety of dive related adventures,” said Rod McDowall, Operations Manager of Red Sail Sports. “I shared time with him telling stories from maritime treasure hunting to his involvement inland based and live aboard diving in Grand Cayman. He was always very happy to give advice and share his years of experience.”

Soto opened his first dive shop on the George Town waterfront in 1957. With vision, one wooden boat, several tanks and a small staff he began soliciting guests in Cayman’s hotels, and gave birth to an industry. He personally taught and mentored several of Cayman’s current dive leaders, who then took Cayman’s dive industry to the next level.

“Bob Soto put Cayman on the map and everybody in the dive business owes him an immense debt of gratitude,” said Steve Broadbelt, co-founder of Ocean Frontiers. “It is impossible to imagine a Cayman without Bob Soto, his vision and what he achieved. His legacy will never be forgotten.”

Peter Milburn, who was at Bob Soto’s side during the early days of diving in the Cayman Islands, recalls the first wall dive he made at Trinity Caves.

“It was unbelievably beautiful and breathtaking,” said Milburn. “It was like being in a forest with so many soft corals and sea fans, there was so much black coral in the crevasses then.”

For his contributions to the dive industry in Cayman and across the world, Soto was inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. The loss of the mentor who touched so many people in Cayman is being felt across all three islands.

“It is heart-wrenching; we were very close and I learned so much from him,” said Milburn.

“I learned how to be a better human being from Bob Soto,” added Briggs.

Ron Kipp, a long time friend and the man who bought Bob Soto’s dive operation decades ago, spoke at his memorial service: “The Cayman Islands has lost a legend. Without Bob Soto, there would have been no diving industry. He will be remembered all over the world.”

Read full article and more photos on Cayman Bottom Times

Related article on CNS: Dive pioneer dies at local hospital

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I write a regular column for Scuba and H2O Adventure Magazine about Divng Pioneers who have passed. I am writing about Bob. (I am so sad learning about his passing). Could you arrange to have some photos sent to me? Many thanks,
    Ellsworth Boyd ellsboyd@aol.com