Member of the Month

The Big Apple Divers Member of the Month program is an opportunity to recognize our incredible divers for their contributions to our club, to our sport, to our community or our environment – or perhaps for reaching a personal milestone in their scuba life!

Each Member of the Month will have their membership dues waived for the year and receive $20 in Club Cash* to spend in our merch store (coming soon!) or at any club event, as well as be featured on our website, in our newsletter – The Sea Breeze – and our various social media platforms!

We are very excited to showcase these amazing members and hope they inspire others to make a difference. If there is someone you’d like to suggest, please send an email to – the only criteria are that they be a member in good standing and have done something to be celebrated!

September, 2023
Rosemary Kurtii

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This month, we are happy  to announce that our Member Of The Month is ROSEMARY KURTII!  Rosemary started diving in 1978 whilst living in the Phillipines and has logged nearly 3000 dives in 52 different countries!

Upon her retirement in 2007, she became an active volunteer for the Beneath The Sea non-profit organization and used her experience as a former elementary and high school teacher to help run and expand the BTS Scholarship Program. For 14 years, Rosemary served as Vice President of Youth for BTS, working to interest young students in scuba diving and ocean conservation - awarding 18 scholarships annually. She also created the Marine Careers Program for high school and college students which included guest speakers, workshops, exhibitors and other activities.  One very popular workshop was produced in collaboration with the New York Harbor School  on Governors Island and has been offered every year at BTS since.

Rosemary officially became a member of our club about 4 years ago. She has manned our booth at the Coney Island Beach clean-up and plans to volunteer at other club-sponsored events. Last December, she joined her first club-sponsored trip to Little Cayman and looks forward to more dive trips with her new-found club friends. Since our return to in-person meetings, Rosemary has attended nearly all and enjoys learning from the monthly guest speakers.
In her own words; “I am often asked ‘what are my favorite places to dive’... Bonaire is a long time favorite because of its warm water, beautiful corals. Believe it or not, I have been there 56 times. For more rugged but exciting dive locations, I loved the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador and Raja Ampat in Indonesia. I have been diving for about 45 years and I still love it!”

And we love your passion, Rosemary! Thank you for all you have done to further the sport of scuba diving over the years - we are proud to have you as a member  of our club!

August, 2023
Andrea Balinson

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This month, we are proud to announce that our Member Of The Month is ANDREA BALINSON!  Andrea began scuba diving in 1993 and has been a member of our club since 2009, during which time she has served both officially and unofficially as Recording Secretary on our board. She has also volunteered her time at many club events and very graciously sells 50/50 Raffle Tickets for us at every meeting, helping to offset some of the clubs costs while keeping membership dues low. And although Andrea has made a few forays into local diving, she much prefers the warm water, minimal gear, and consistent visibility of destination diving - in recent years almost all of her diving has been with other club members and on club-sponsored trips.

Andrea has committed innumerable volunteer hours to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and other organizations. For 25 years, she was a wildlife guide at Central Park Zoo, where she gave tours, narrated sea lion feedings, and was a member of the inaugural Volunteer Advisory Council, which was formed to enhance the volunteer program’s effectiveness and continuing development. In her 10 years at the ASPCA, she served as an adoption counselor and kitten nursery caregiver, worked with dogs and cats to make them more adoptable, and helped evaluate potential therapy dogs; in addition, she deployed to other states to assist the Field Investigations and Response team at temporary shelters after natural disasters (including the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri) and large-scale rescues of animal victims of abuse and neglect, such as those from puppy mills, dog fighting rings, and overwhelmed shelters and sanctuaries. Currently, Andrea fosters cats and kittens for the Brooklyn Cat Cafe.

Since 2016, Andreas’ primary volunteer efforts have been with Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse (BBPB;, for which she serves on the board of directors. BBPB has been providing free kayaking on the East River every summer since 2010, as part of its mission to promote safe public recreational access to the East River and New York Harbor, as well as provide opportunities to participate in human-powered boating. BBPB also partners with other organizations to offer local youth greater access to the water, empowering them with skills and confidence and encouraging them to be advocates for and stewards of the NYC waterways. Andrea has helped give many city residents their first experience in a kayak. She has served as part of the water support team for Heroes on the Hudson (an adaptive sports event for veterans) and as swim support for urban swim events. She is a level 2 kayaking instructor and has been putting her scuba mask to good use while learning to do a full kayak roll.

July, 2023
Willem Tahon

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This month, we are proud to announce that our Member Of The Month is a relatively new member, WILLEM TAHON! Although Willem has been diving since he got his first certification in Belgium back in 1997, he only joined our club 8 months ago in October 2022. However since becoming a member of the Big Apple Divers, Willem has 'dived in' head first  and has become one of our most active and most engaged members.

 In December - just 2 months after joining - Willem booked his first local boat charter - a bottle dive off the Sea Hawk - which he did in a wetsuit! Since then, he came with us to the LIDA Film Festival, worked our booth at Beneath The Sea, joined our Social Committee and hosted his own event for the club! Willem attends almost every meeting and graciously sells our 50/50 Raffle tickets - helping to fund club activities (and keep our annual dues low!). Additionally, he signed up for nearly every club charter this season and is even a Dive Sponsor. Willem was also just added to the Volunteer Dive Team at The New York Aquarium. Congratulations, Willem - we couldn’t ask for a more enthusiastic and helpful member!
In Willems’ own words:

‘After having collected a stack of C cards, I decided it was time to join a local community to do more of the things that can make me a better diver; Dives! Proud B.A.D. member since October 2022.

My favorite dive location so far must be the GBR in Australia. Breathtaking and I hope to be able to return in a not too distant future.

My 2023 objectives: Get less clumsy in my new dry suit. Untangle my charter dives schedule from my NYAVDT schedule I received a few days ago.

My 2024-2026 objectives: More diving. Getting started with Tec training. Would love to get to do cave diving. First gotta get that perfect buoyancy though.

When it is too cold for scuba, chances are you'll find me snowboarding on a mountain nearby.’

June, 2023
Olga Torrey and Larry Cohen

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This month, we are pleased to announce not one, but two Members Of The Month - OLGA TORREY & LARRY COHEN! These long-term members are not only incredible divers, they are extremely talented and well-respected photographers.

Larry Cohen started diving in 1989 and joined our club (formerly known as The NYC Sea Gypsies) the same year - he has been a member - and more - ever since. Over the years, Larry has served as Dive Chairman, Vice President, and President for two different terms. He co-founded NYUPS (New York Underwater Photographic Society), which was initially formed with, and then moved to the club. 

As a commercial and editorial photographer, Larry began taking underwater photographs soon after he started diving. His photos and articles have been published internationally, and he is the New York editor of X-Ray Magazine. Larry is also the B&H Photo Underwater Photo Pro and can be reached to answer gear questions by email at To see his work, visit

Olga Torrey is originally from the eastern region of the Ural Mountains in Siberia, Russia. She is a fine artist and a Life Member of the New York Art Students League. Olga discovered scuba diving and joined our club in 2008. After becoming acquainted with Larry Cohen, Olga purchased her first simple underwater camera in 2009. Since that time, her gear has become more complex, and she has taken her talent as a fine artist and applied her skills to photography both above and below the water. Olga has taken underwater photographs from the warm waters of Papua New Guinea to the cold waters of the Arctic. She has been published internationally on her own and in collaboration with Larry. Together they were crew on the NJ dive boat The John Jack and have done presentations worldwide. To see her work, visit

May, 2023
Neal Klemens

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This month, we are honored to announce that our Member Of The Month is one of our FOUNDING members, NEAL KLEMENS! Neal helped found our club in 1971 - over 50 years ago - and they met in peoples’ homes with no more than 10 or 12 people in attendance. In Neals’ own words; ‘oh, how my child has grown!.Seeing the club thrive over the years has been a great joy to me and I’m still proud to wear a club T-shirt.’  Neal has saved EVERY edition of the Sea Breeze ever written and they now reside with Historian, Jeanne Chin. And even though he now lives in California and has ‘hung up his fins’ - he still manages to send us interesting and informative articles about diving, our oceans and other related topics - by my count, he has sent 42 articles in the last year alone!

Neal shared these 2 anecdotes with us:

‘The club went mainly on local beach dives and to Portsmouth NH (Isle of Shoals) and every Thanksgiving weekend there was an ice dive at local CT lake. The club would have to saw a hole in ice about a foot thick and at a pair at a time, explore. About 100ft feet away was the local fire/rescue squad’s annual BBQ and ice skating party. They thought we were certifiably crazy.’

‘I was just starting my first ‘real job’ after college and took my first paycheck and bought myself a stainless steel Rolex Submariner at Cartier’s for an amount that would today, just pay for a nice dinner with wine, for two…maybe. Being obsessive about my diving equipment, as my life did depend on it, I saved every receipt for repair etc.  The watch was put up for auction in 2019 and it sold for an amount close to 1,000 times the price I paid for it. Granted that occurrence was a combination of pre-pandemic economic exuberance, having all the paperwork documenting the watch’s entire life, the Cartier marking on the dial, just plain dumb luck, and God telling someone they had too much money.’

April, 2023
Nicole Zelek

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Nicole has been a member of Big Apple Divers since 2017 and is the Founder of SuperDive NYC -  a unique "virtual school" that provides quality education for scuba divers, freedivers, and mermaids, - and the DIVERS-ity Initiative nonprofit. Her presentation at this years’ Beneath the Sea was about DEI (or lack of) in the dive community, and she has long been an advocate for fair compensation for dive professionals, while tackling industry-wide labor concerns.

Locally, Nicole has contributed to the dive community in many ways. Since 2017, she has hosted monthly beach cleanups at Beach 8th Street (and provided complimentary equipment to participants) and also opened up weekly Community Pool hours for scuba divers, freedivers, and mermaids to enjoy on a donation basis. 

Nicole's mission in life is: Underwater for All - by 2030. She rejects the notion that diving is a luxury sport - because access to the underwater world should be available to all, regardless of socio-economic status. Nicole is dedicated to dismantling the barriers so that everyone may enjoy, and fall in love with, its beauty and wonders - before it's too late. 



March, 2023
Bill Cadden

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Bill has been an active local diver since 1978 and has been a member of this club since 2002 - in fact, he served as a past President! He has also served and continues to serve (unofficially) as our representative to LIDA - the Long Island Divers Association - and makes sure that all of the LIDA announcements reach us - whether we are members of LIDA or not.

Nobody has been a bigger advocate of local diving than Bill. For 8 years, he sent a weekly email with all sorts of useful information including the tide schedules for the various shore diving spots on Long Island, as well the destinations/availability of all the LI dive boats - and who to contact, if interested in joining a charter. Although the newsletter went on hiatus in 2021, we have it on good authority that it will most likely be returning this season! 

Bill also issued a standing invitation to guide any Club Member who wants to try local shore diving - particularly those who are "Transportationally Challenged", or new to the area. He will pick you up at an agreed upon LIRR station, provide you with tanks and weights, and take you to one of the many diving locations on Long Island. Quite a few members have taken advantage of Bill’s incredible generosity and experienced their very first local dives with him.

On a larger scale, Bill has also been very involved with the NY State Artificial Reef Program for the last 4 years, working hard to get additional tonnage onto our man-made reefs.  Since its founding in 2021, Bill has been the President of the Long Island Artificial Reef Society, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to locating suitable vessels and preparing them for sinking, as well as coordinating the movement of reef materials to one of the 16 reef sites in New York waters - many of which are diveable.

Long Island Divers Association
NY Artificial Reef Program

February, 2023
Lisa McIntyre

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Lisa discovered scuba diving later in life - she’s only been diving for the last 10 years - but quickly became obsessed with it. She is a US Ambassador for the international Girls That Scuba organization, has achieved the professional certification of Divemaster, and is the Executive Director of SeaSmart, an ocean conservation, marine science and SCUBA  501c3 non-profit organization (
SeaSmart provides both local workshops and travel programs for students and adults – with a special focus on underrepresented demographics - in order to create awareness and develop ocean advocates. Lisa conducts on-line and in-person ocean conservation workshops globally, and we hope to have her host one for the Big Apple Divers sometime this year!

Lisa has traveled extensively and dived all over the world, but her favorite experience (so far) has been diving with Orcas in Baja last summer for a SeaSmart program – check out this video: