Last updated: January 29, 2020 at 3:21 am
Educator; environmentalist; pioneer of the recreational rebreather industry; former Vice-President of Scuba Diving International | Technical Diving International (SDI/TDI); co-founder of Silent Diving Systems (SDS); founder of C2 Expeditions; officer of the Shark Research Institute (SRI). Clifford started his career by attending the National Association of Scuba Diving Schools in San Diego. He was the founder and owner of North Country Scuba and Sports in Wolfeboro and Laconia, New Hampshire. During that time, he taught scuba classes statewide including a long tenure at Plymouth State University in Plymouth. Cliff was also a member and a trainer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution dive team in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
“Five more minutes. I need five more minutes.” — Cliff
Clifford Simoneau (1959-2005)
Clifford Simoneau, whose life was all about diving, passed away at age 46 November 13, after a brief but spirited fight with cancer.
To countless friends and associates he was simply ‘Cliff,’ a dynamic go-getter with an insatiable appetite for learning and for sharing knowledge. His passion for the underwater world was ever present in a can-do attitude that affected so many people over the course of his diving career.
A diver at age 12, he became an instructor at 18 and quickly gained a high profile in the New England dive community. Cliff went on to become one of the most successful dive industry entrepreneurs in the United States. Over the years he owned and operated several dive shops, a charter boat operation and he represented a multitude of high-profile product manufacturers. His latest brainchild was Silent Diving Systems, which he founded with Mike Fowler, his friend and associate from Brockville, Ontario.
Cliff was a natural teacher and as co-founder of Scuba Diving International | Technical Diving International (SDI/TDI) with Bret Gilliam, he became one of the most influential dive instructors in the world. He helped develop dozens of training manuals that covered everything from basic open water techniques to staged decompression and Trimix diving. He left his mark on the thousands of divers – sport, technical and military – to whom he taught these same skills. What set Cliff apart was his ability to treat every student with the same level of care and respect. An openwater student was just as important as a Trimix student. No matter how technical the subject, he always emphasized getting into the water and having a good time. And Cliff certainly had a lot of fun. His many training programs and expeditions took him to the far corners of the world to teach or to lend expertise to divers shooting documentary films or engaged in research projects, such as one aimed at the protection of whale sharks in the Galapagos.
When rebreathers hit the recreational market, Cliff was one of the first to embrace the concept of ‘silent diving’ and he and Mike set up what is now the largest rebreather operation on this side of the Atlantic. Today, Inspiration rebreathers are the most widely recognised units in North America, due largely to Cliff’s incomparable marketing skills and knack for being in the right place at the right time. Cliff made his presence felt at all of the trade shows and big events. When he didn’t show up at DEMA in October, everyone knew something was seriously wrong.
Cliff’s influence inevitably crossed over the border into Canada where he led several training programs in Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. It was through one of these programs that I befriended Cliff, in Halifax five years ago.
Cliff, who was also an officer of the Shark Research Institute (SRI), based in Princeton, New Jersey, took an immediate interest in the Greenland shark and became involved in GEERG’s Operation Skalugsuak, a study of this animal in the St. Lawrence Estuary. True to his generous nature, he supplied rebreather training and materials at no charge and never asked for anything in return.
In recent years, I often had the good fortune to visit Cliff and his wife Kathy at their home in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, where he continued to dive in Lake Winnipesauke. His many adventures and worldliness notwithstanding, he was always close to his roots and home. This is how I will remember him.
Everyone who knew Cliff will remember him for his friendly, outgoing nature. He was the embodiment of positive attitude and it was not unusual for him to share the words of Charles Swindoll who wrote: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life…I am convinced that life is 10 per cent what happens to me and 90 per cent how I react to it…and so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”
He will be sorely missed.
– Jeffrey Gallant (December, 2005)
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Jeffrey Gallant is the Editor-in-Chief and Records Keeper of the Diving Almanac. He is also a contributing editor of DIVER Magazine, and the scientific director of the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group (GEERG). Jeffrey started diving in 1982.