The news first broke on social media that British PADI Course Director, Raymond Victor Clark, of Adventure Divers, died on Tuesday 27 October 2020, after a short illness. He was 73.
"Trust the Turtle"
'Adventure Divers', Enfield (not to be confused with 'Adventures in Diving', Chelmsford) became a PADI Dive Centre in 1990. Three years later, in 1993, Adventure Divers achieved the highest rating PADI grant their dive centres, when Ray Clark passed his Course Director exams. The centre was awarded the status, 'PADI 5 Star Instructor Development (IDC) Centre'.
Adventure Divers strives to produce safe and confident scuba divers
The one-stop scuba shop just north of London, England provided scuba training and education from entry level to instructor, equipment sales and hire, servicing, repairs and gas fills.
Ray Clark had an excellent working relationship and friendship with fellow dive pro and UK diving industry stalwart, Steve Axtell. Steve Axtell has trained some significant souls, including the explorer Phil Short and RAID President Paul Toomer. He also taught Ray Clark.
Steve Axtell was born in South Wales, and brought up one valley across from Aberfan. (He still remembers the whine of the sirens on 21 October 1966, that alerted the village to the catastrophic disaster).
Steve got into diving because he was an avid caver and cave diver in the 1970s and early 80s. "Although I was an unqualified diver, I was a very disciplined diver. You cannot afford to make mistakes when you are cave diving. Eventually I needed to get a diving ticket. I think it was in about 1982 because I wanted to go diving on holiday in Corfu, so I got on my bike and rode down to Newport and did my PADI open water course training there. I was fortunate that I had some good instructors."
I asked Steve Axtell how he had first met Ray Clark. "It was probably on Swanage Pier, but it could have also been at Stoney Cove. Back in the late 80's / early 90's there were very few PADI dive centres bringing students down to Swanage, and it was certainly most unusual for a London based dive centre to travel as far as Dorset. We would have got chatting during a surface interval."
You have to train your students properly. Steve Axtell, PADI Course Director
Ray Clark relaxing during a surface interval in the Red Sea. Ray understood the importance of getting divers fun diving, and Adventure Divers ran many trips both in the UK and aboard, to help divers consolidate their skills. Image Credit: Tayden Lewis Clark
I will always treasure those memories of the great time we had in Egypt doing our qualifying dives with you. You opened up a new world to us. Your influence lives on in all you have touched. Susan Westwood, dive student
Ray Clark and Steve Axtell soon found that when it came to teaching students, both men were of one mind. Steve said "we had the same philosophy and principles. You have to train your students properly. No one can afford to make mistakes. It meant that things worked very well between us. I could trust him with my students and visa versa. When you ask someone else to train your students it is a big thing, because you are trusting them with other people's lives.
Ray was really good, proper, no-nonsense instructor. Steve Axtell, PADI Course Director
I did my PADI Course Director before Ray. At the time there were very few CD's in the UK. Gary Mawston at Aquanorth in Newcastle, and I were probably the two most active Course Directors. Ray knew me and my reputation, hence he would train his students up to, and including PADI Divemaster. Then he would recommend that they did their PADI Instructor Development Course with me. Ray eventually did his PADI IDC Staff instructor course with me. When he then passed his Course Director exam I was so proud! I don't think he thought he could do it. He doubted his abilities - he was much better than he thought he was."
I'm not in the least bit surprised that Ray supported an industry colleague, the way he did Steve Axtell. Simon Chance, PADI
A Real Friend
Ray Clark and Steve Axtell were fellow instructors and friends for 30 odd years. I asked Steve to recall a daft, hilarious memory that still made him chuckle today. "Ray was always a laugh to be with. I remember that we had to go down to St Austell, Cornwall to do our NVQ assessor course, so it made sense to share a hotel room. Somehow Ray managed to electrocute himself in the bathroom. He bolted out of the bathroom completely stark naked, swearing his head off in his London accent, and ran around the bedroom. I was in stitches." Steve went on to remark "Ray was older than me, but that didn't stop him having a go at me. "Come on you old git" he could say. "Keep up". He was always so fit and healthy, and never showed any signs of slowing down. I will miss his friendship immensely. He would always turn up and help."
Ray would just turn up and help. I have never known him to say "no" to anything. Steve Axtell
Diving Leisure, Rockley Park
Ray Clark was instrumental in helping Steve Axtell turn around the fortunes of 'Diving Leisure'. Steve Axtell told me "in 1994 I bought a failing dive centre in Poole called 'Diving Leisure'. I had nothing, and I couldn't afford to stock the shop. At the time Ray was running 'Adventure Divers' in Enfield, London. I remember that he took stock from his shop and loaded up his van - it was stuffed it full of equipment. He drove it down to my shop in Dorset and unloaded it all. It made my shop look wow. Fully stocked. He didn't make a fuss, he just said "pay me back when you can". Without his help it would have been a heck of a lot harder to start up in retail sales. Ray really did assist me in getting the failing business back on the tracks again. It was typical Ray. He would just turn up and help. I have never known him to say "no" to anything.
One of the pioneers of modern diving in the UK. Doug Nash, PADI
Adventure Divers Diving Society
Ray Clark established the 'Adventure Divers Diving Society'. This may sound a trivial matter, but actually it was important. We learn to dive in the water, therefore going fun diving after a course helps consolidate skills, and enables divers to practice and improve muscle memory. Ray knew this, and the club enabled him to produce safe and confident scuba divers who were actively supported and encouraged to fun dive. His divers used to go on planned regular diving weekends in and around the UK, and trips and holidays across the world. Fellow Course Director Steve Prior remarked "Ray did a lot of stuff out of Swanage. He had a RHIB called 'Adventure Diver' and he was always down there. This sea diving encouraged a lot of his divers to improve their diving."
A great days diving at Portland. Fast drift at the Bill and an easy dive towards Lulworth. A few beers and food. Ray Clark
As a child, Ray Clark and his parents used to holiday on the English South Coast. Ray's parents would ride down to places like Swanage on a motorbike, with young Ray packed into the sidecar, along with the camping gear. This must have made a positive impression on him because he subsequently brought his students and divers down to dive the South Coast on a regular basis. One of his favourite destinations was Swanage, and he dived this resort many times. In fact his first scuba dive was at Swanage on 5 May 1986.
Steve Axtell also has happy memories of Ray and Swanage. He told me "Ray used to tow his RHIB down to Swanage and store it there. I also had my boat in the same resort. He'd ring me up and we'd arrange to run our boats together. We'd help each other out, and run our students and divers out to the Kyarra and the other wrecks in the area. It was one of those dive friendships that just went on and on. We'd teach under the pier, and there would be a lot of laughter, that continued over a beer in the evening."
Any student who trained with him, knew they could phone Ray anytime. He always had sage words of advice, Simon Chance, PADI
Ray Clark loved diving out of Swanage, Dorset
PADI through and through
Ray Clark became a PADI Pro in 1987. Over a 33-year career, he issued over 1,500 PADI certifications, including more than 250 PADI Pros.
Simon Chance of PADI International, which later amalgamated into PADI EMEA, worked with Ray Clark for several years. He recalled his initial meeting with Ray Clark in the mid 90s. Simon Chance had just been recruited by Douglas Nash to join the training agency in Bristol, England in April 1995. "It was an exciting time because the UK was gearing up for its biggest expansion in scuba diving. I looked after 'UK South', so one of the first phone calls I made was to Ray.
Shortly after I joined, my boss - Douglas Nash - and I took a trip to London, to visit the dive centres. Doug wanted me to say hello and see what UK dive operations looked like. I remember that Ray had yellow film on his shop windows, to protect the displays from strong sunlight. He made the most awful instant coffee. He didn't waste time on social niceties, he concentrated on the work.
Adventure Divers was a good traditional dive centre. It had a decent range of kit - especially tech kit - and a decent filling station. Ray had one of the first Nitrox panels I had seen. I always thought his service bay was better stocked than some car dealerships I had visited.
The PADI International team pictured in Bristol in approximately 1995. Personnel included Douglas Nash (top row, far right end), James Rogers (top row, third in from right), Suzanne Pleydell (top row, fifth in from right), Sean Das (top row, fifth in from left), Simon Chance (bottom row, fourth in from right)
Ray Clark certainly embraced the PADI system of diver education. Rosemary E Lunn
Any student who trained with him, knew they could phone Ray anytime. He always had sage words of advice, and I am not in the least bit surprised that he would support an industry colleague the way he did Steve Axtell.
I found Ray was well-known in the industry. He was a down-to-earth, straight talking, honest man, and would tell you what he felt and knew. Ray always had a twinkle in his eye."
Former students were quick to post heart felt messages, all saying what an impact Ray Clark had on their lives and their diving.
"I have great memories of all the fantastic liveaboard trips Ray organized, truly great times." Mark Harvey
"The “old boy” and I have such fond memories of Ray, lots of laughter, too much alcohol on occasion, always a bit naughty and an all round bloody good bloke. He trained the safest divers, made me feel like a naughty kid when I messed up and the “you pillark” stare under-water is stuff of legends." Paula Walsh
Former student Jerome Watts spoke very warmly about his instructor.
"A truly sad day today, as I learned the passing of a truly inspirational friend and mentor from the scuba diving world, Raymond Clark.
He and his team of Instructors / Divemasters safely nurtured me through my early scuba learning in 1996. Over the years that ensued, I worked with Ray through my Rescue Diver, Divemaster and onto my Assistant Instructor course, passing with flying colours. I will always remember the gruelling hard work on your courses, especially the Rescue where we also put up with a typical Easter weather with snow, rain, wind and a little sun, over 4 days to complete it.
Of course it was all with the aim of making me a better diver. Without your support I would never have gone on to become an Instructor. All the time spent helping around the shop, at weekends away, and learning to skipper the 'Adventure Diver' boat, and run dives trips. It was all great learning and fun times, unless I did something wrong. You were always very honest and sometimes harsh, but with a heart of gold really. It was always while learning some useful life lessons. I will remember all the many happy years, the ups and downs and all the very wise words spoken.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me to enjoy and master scuba diving!"
I will always remember the gruelling hard work on your courses ... Of course it was all with the aim of making me a better diver. Without your support I would never have gone on to become an Instructor. Jerome Watts, former student
Another student, James Belcher, wrote "I met Ray through the Adventure Divers shop. Dave, my dive buddy, and I would often book onto dives organised by Ray and Adventure Divers. I did a few dives out of Swanage with Ray on the club rib. We would look forward to the dive dates being released at the start of the dive season. Occasionally dives would be cancelled due to poor weather, however, the dives we managed to do were always full of fun and good memories. Yes we had some crap dives, but we also has some experiences that will stay with me forever.
Some of the best memories were formed with the rest of the Adventure Diver guys, who generally always filled the other spaces on the boat. Tthe laughs we had on the boat / dive trips were amazing.
Ray always seemed to have a unique way in which he would enter the water from both the rib and hard boat. It was almost a piss-take type entry, and always made me chuckle to myself. I try to visit Swanage every couple of years at least, and always think of Ray then. How I long to dive on the SS Kyarra again.
I guess we were friends through our love of diving, and the bond that creates between those who get to experience the underwater world.
Scuba diving teaches you a certain discipline, it has to, if you get something wrong on a 40m wreck dive in the English channel it can prove fatal. I have experienced at first hand the most beautiful moments of wreck diving that many people will never see. I have also sadly experienced the darkest parts of diving, as I know others who dive in the UK have. Partly thanks to Ray, and I don’t write this lightly, I survived that day. Ray wasn’t on that trip, but he had taught me, and given me the tools I needed in some part to get out of the situation I found myself in."
Ray is often in my thoughts as someone who has been a massively influential part of my life. James Belcher
Lady-Trudi Innes wrote "Raymond Clark, you taught me to dive over 31 years ago, I will never forget those days, back in the late 80’s and being a member of Adventure divers, Trips to Egypt. Then 25 years later, the night before my PADI Dive Instructor Exams, you were still there for me as a mentor. You gave me the inspiration and confidence of who I am today. I will always be so privileged and eternally grateful for that and all I learnt from you. I now pass onto my students. Thank you."
You gave me the inspiration and confidence of who I am today. I will always be so privileged and eternally grateful for that and all I learnt from you. I now pass onto my students. Thank you. Lady-Trudi Innes"
Some of the Adventure Divers Diving Society members pictured before heading off on a UK dive trip. Image Credit: Tayden Lewis Clark
Industry colleagues and friends also paid tribute to Ray Clark.
“Ray Clark was a well known figure in amongst the PADI Course Director community. During his 33 years as a PADI member, Ray taught over 1,500 divers, including more than 250 PADI Professionals. His work both in the UK and abroad helped start many PADI Pros careers, and it is through them that his legacy continues. He will be missed by all his friends here at PADI EMEA and around the world.” Rich Somerset, PADI
"Ray was a nice guy and a pleasure to work with. He was always very enthusiastic and positive - one of the real characters of the diving industry." Mark Caney, PADI Worldwide
"An inspiration and an industry leader." Robert Scammell, PADI Asia Pacific
"I have good memories of Raymond over the many years when we were both on and under the water, different boats, same dive sites and always a big smile, and a friendly wave." Ian Fuller, Portland Maritime Centre
"Ray was a positive, "have a laugh", really nice guy." Steve Axtell, Diving Leisure
"Such a lovely supportive instructor and a credit to the dive industry." Maria Munn, Photographer
"Such a kind, warm hearted and truly lovely man ... but boy those eyebrows were scary underwater." Lesley Clark, PADI Course Director
Ray Clark helped start many PADI Pros careers, and it is through them that his legacy continues. Rich Somerset, PADI
Life away from Diving
Ray Clark was born on 13 March 1957 in the North Middlesex, in the London Borough of Enfield. The hospital is located about 6 miles from where Ray set up and ran his dive centre, Adventure Divers.
Ray first showed his love of water at secondary school, where he swam and dived off the high board. He compted at County level, and won a number of medals. At 15 he left school and became an apprentice sheet metal worker in Statford, East London. Upon completeing his apprenticeship he joined Vauxhall Motors, before working at Rolls Royce.
Ray Clark then made his first career change. He joined Blue Watch at Tottenham Fire Station and quickly acquired the nickname 'Nobby'. This is the traditional British nickname for someone called Clark. Certain surnames will consistently have the same nickname, hence if your surname is White you are called 'Chalky', if your surname is Bird, you are called 'Dickie', it's always 'Smudge' with the surname Smith.
On 6 October 1985, there was a significant riot on the Broadwater Farm council estate in Tottenham, North London. It was an ugly riot caused by racial tensions. A policeman died (PC Keith Blakelock was the first police officer to be killed in a riot since 1833). Ray Clark and his colleagues in the Fire Brigade attended to fight the fires, and during the hostilities, he was injured. As a result, Ray Clark retired early from the Fire Brigade on medical grounds in 1988. Shortly afterwards, he set up Adventure Divers.
Ray and Cathy Clark on their wedding day
Ray Clark is survived by his third wife, Cathy, and his daughter Tasha.
Ray was a down-to-earth, straight talking, honest man, and would tell you what he felt and knew. He always had a twinkle in his eye. Simon Chance, PADI
Ray's Funeral and Chosen Charity
In pre-coronavirus times, Ray's funeral would have been packed with family, friends, and industry colleagues. Unfortunately, with England being in 'lockdown', a small ceremony was held on Thursday 12 November 2020 at 14.30 at Weston Super Mare crematorium, Somerset. You can watch the service and it commences at 06.28. The Login / Order ID is 55134 and the Password is xucnunqn.
A 'JustGiving' Page has been set up in memory of Ray Clark. The funds will be given to the RNLI. At the time of writing this article, £1,240 has been raised.
I too echo Simon Chance's words. Ray Clark and I always spoke when ever we met up. Be it at a show, or a dive site. I never realised until now just how much he loved Swanage until I spoke to Steve Axtell. I always found Ray Clark to be a very straightforward, salt-of-the-earth man. Like most of us, diving ran through his soul. I shall sure miss Ray's mischievous twinkly smile!
The author is grateful for the assistance of Tayden Lewis Clark with this article.