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!

June, 2024
Michael Rothschild

Dr.Mike is a pediatric otolaryngologist and a technical rebreather diver. He advocates tirelessly for local diving initiatives and mentors newcomers with infectious enthusiasm. Although Mike certainly enjoys the warm, clear water of the tropics, he especially loves local diving, with its vibrant ecosystem and historic shipwrecks that are accessible right off the shore. Mike has written a number of online resources to help people get started with boat and shore diving in New York area. He also has a great publication about diving in mixed open and closed circuit teams. Please take the time to read these insightful articles as well as others on his website - you will find a wealth of information there. 

He has served as president and dive chair of the Big Apple Divers. We are happy that he is still actively involved with the club and now serves on the Executive Board as a Medical Advisor and Webmaster.

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Beyond his important roles at our club, Dr.Mike extends his influence far and wide as a medical moderator on Scubaboard, and a speaker at the Beneath the Sea conference. In his dynamic presentations, he covers topics from artificial intelligence in underwater photography to scuba-related health problems, inspiring and educating divers of all levels. 

A gifted underwater photographer and videographer, Dr.Mike is a Co-Director of the New York Underwater Photographic Society. In addition to the monthly meetings, he organized and taught at the annual NYUPS underwater photography workshops. He is currently working on starting the NYUPS meetings once again.

Other things you may not know about Dr.Mike: 

  • He has published a children's book and a game -  featuring his captivating photographs of sea creatures in the New York City area - as a testament to his passion for marine conservation and education. 
  • He plays the guitar and occasionally performs onstage, so make sure to ask about his next gig.
  • You can find Mike most weekends at the Manasquan River Railroad Bridge in Belmar, NJ, and he will be happy to tell you "Let's go diving!”

May, 2024
Martin Broen

We are proud to announce MARTIN BROEN as our May Member of the Month! Many of you likely recognize Martin as an exceptional award-winning photographer whose work beautifully captures the underwater world, inspiring individuals to explore it. Martin presented at the Explorers Club, BTS, and we were delighted to have him as our guest speaker last June.  

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Originally from Argentina and currently based in New York, Martin works in Design and Innovation, which allows him to combine his knowledge of sustainability with his passion for great natural encounters, underwater photography, and conservation. 

In the last 3 years, Martin has received the following photography awards:
• DPG/Wet Pixel Masters - Best of Show & 1st Place Black and White (two years in a row)
• International Landscape Photograph of the Year – Overall Winner
• Monovisions - Overall Winner - Black & White Photo of the Year
• World Shootout – Winner Wide Angle Category / Best 5 pictures, 3rd Place
• UPY – Runner up in Wide Angle and B&W /Highly Commended
• Ocean Photographer of the Year - Runner Up in Portfolio and Wildlife Categories
• Nature Photographer of the Year - Runner Up Underwater Category
• ND Awards - Nature Discovery of the Year & Winner in Nature Waterscapes
• SpeleoPhotography – Overall Winner
• Epson Pano Awards - Runner Up Overall Open Category
• Current World Archeology - Overall Winner
• Mangrove Photography Awards – Winner Underwater Category
• Fine Art Photography Awards – Winner Panoramic Category
• Ocean Art - 1st Place Black & White and 3rd Place Wide Angle
• BSoUP Macro competition – Winner
• Global Photo Awards – Nature Category, 2nd Place

Whenever someone asks me about diving in Mexico, I refer them to Martin's website. The reaction is invariably one of awe and admiration. So, if you haven't already, be sure to visit his website to see some of his exceptional work:

Now, Martin is launching his first book on the photography of the Mayan Aquifer, "Light in the Underworld," which is already available for preorder on Amazon.

We thank Martin for his contributions to the club; his passion for capturing the beauty of the underwater world is truly inspiring. 

April, 2024
Antonio Simonini

We are proud to announce Antonio Simonini as our April Member of the Month! Antonio has been an active member of the club since the early millennium and has served as a board member in various roles throughout the years (from Dive Chair to Recording Secretary). During a moment of distraction, around 2011, Antonio "volunteered" in the Introduction to Northeast Diving program, which he then helped manage for several seasons (and enjoyed it). 

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Having been a passionate diver from a young age, thanks to growing up in very warm countries, Antonio finally obtained his diving certification in 2003 after having heard about the necessity of this "certification" thing. 

Shortly after learning about the existence of dry suits, he connected with a group of local divers (hi Elliot), who introduced him to wreck diving, local boats (and how to navigate relationships with their captains). Despite countless dives looking at rust, he still prefers wreck diving over seafood observation and enjoys introducing newcomers to Northeast diving and artifact collection. Antonio is an active technical diving instructor who delights in discussing diving, gear configuration, and repair but mostly assists everyone in maximizing the benefits of our incredibly wreck-dense waters.

We thank Antonio for his contributions to the club and local diving!

February, 2024
Glenn Butler

We are very pleased to announce that our first Member Of the Month for 2024 is explorer Glenn Butler!

Glenn did his first dive with his father at the tender age of 7 and has been diving ever since - he has dedicated his career to undersea exploration and orbital space life support systems design exploration.

Glenn has spent over 50 years in aerospace, military, submarine escape, commercial diving, NASA astronaut zero-G training underwater and closed-circuit space capsule life support systems design. He has directed field operations with leading explorers on National Geographic, Calypso research vessel and NOAA Underwater Habitats.

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In 1996, he transitioned to include clinical hyperbaric medical operations - if divers develop decompression illness in the tri-state area, they will likely be referred by DAN (Divers Action Network) for treatment at one of 12 hospital-based hyperbaric chamber facilities his company operates.

Additionally, Glenn has written several popular books - including a children’s book -, 56 scientific articles, and holds 12 US Patents. He is a resident fellow of the Explorers Club and a frequent guest speaker.
Come meet Glenn this Tuesday 2/27 at our club meeting and hear about his collaboration with Beneath the Sea on their Ocean Pal's Art meets Science Program 2.0!

December, 2023
Elliot Bertoni

We are very pleased to announce that our last Member Of the Month for 2023 is Long Island native, Elliot Bertoni!

Elliot began diving in 1997 and received his first certification in Bonaire. 26 years later, Bonaire remains one of his favorite dive destinations - he has been there 4 times in the last 2 years!

Shortly after becoming certified, Elliot began diving locally here in NY and NJ. He hadn’t realized there was such an active local dive community but now he is a pillar of it, having dived most- if not all - of our local wrecks.

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While he has yet to meet a dive he did not like, some stand out more than others - the USS San Diego is his favorite local wreck and he has dived it countless times.  Elliot noted that in the 25 years he has been diving on it, it has changed significantly, becoming even more accessible to divers.

Elliot joined the club a number of years ago after being recruited to help with our Intro to Northeast Diving program.  He spent several seasons as the director of the program and continues to serve as a mentor.  Working with divers who are new to local diving is one of his biggest passions and has helped many, many divers discover the thrill of Northeast wreck diving.

And according to his girlfriend Marije: "Elliot is sweet!”

Thanks for everything, Elliot, and Happy Birthday!

November, 2023
Adam Riback

We are very happy to announce ADAM RIBACK as our November Member of the Month! Adam has been a member of our club since 2011 and has been an active part of our board almost the entire time. From 2013 - 2015, Adam served as our Social Chair, hosting his world-renowned G.E.E.K Dinners, from 2018 - 2022, as our Vice President, booking all of our Guest Speakers, and currently, as a member of our Social Committee. If you’ve ever attended one of our past Intro to Northeast Diving events at Dutch Springs, you’ve likely enjoyed a barbeque courtesy of Adam. He also arranged our BTS After Party this year and has just secured the venue for our 2023 Holiday Gathering.

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Additionally, Adam has been the Executive Director of the New York State Marine Education Association (NYSMEA) since 2019 and organizes two coastal clean-ups annually, among other projects. Currently, he is working in conjunction with another club member, Chris D., on short films to be used in classrooms in the 5 boroughs educating students about diving, ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles), and preserving the local dive environment through video.

October, 2023
Stephen Edelstein

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We are very proud to announce STEPHEN EDELSTEIN as our October Member of the Month!

Stephen has been a member of our club since 1995 - nearly 30 years! And from 2000 to 2022, was a member of our Executive Board, serving as the editor of our monthly newsletter, The Sea Breeze. In addition, Stephen was a very active member in the New York Underwater Photographic Society (NYUPS) allowing him to pursue 2 of his life’s biggest passions - scuba diving and photography.

Graduating from Smith College with an MFA, Stephen was one of a very small contingent of men at this prestigious school.  He followed college with a very successful career as a lighting and scenic designer. and technical director for dance, theater, and opera companies. This exciting profession afforded him many opportunities to travel the world and to visit many beautiful diving locations.

We thank Stephen for nearly 3 decades of service to this club and for sharing his gorgeous photos throughout the years!

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: