Many people can point to a singular moment in time that created a life path that would define them as a human being. For David Bress, that moment happened at a birthday pool party in Washington D.C. when a friend arrived with a scuba tank.
By Kevin Majoros
Bress would subsequently go on his first dive in Hawaii and just two months ago at the age of 65; he completed his 1000th dive in The Philippines. After over 30 years of diving and traveling to 58 different countries, he is still enamored with what lies below the ocean’s surface.
“Every dive in calm waters is a fascinating new world to me. I like to go to a certain depth and just hang there and stare,” says Bress. “I can go in just feeling kind of so-so and come out feeling completely energized.”
In 1989, Bress was interested in connecting with other LGBT divers and after putting an ad in a Washington D.C. newspaper, he founded the Lambda Divers which remains as one of the oldest LGBT scuba clubs in the United States. At one point they boasted a roster of over 150 members from Los Angeles to London.
In the early 1990s, more LGBT diving clubs began appearing and a meeting with Patrick Kelly from the Village Dive Club in New York led to six clubs forming an event together for LGBT divers.
Diving for Life was founded in 1992 and hosts the International Gay & Lesbian Scuba Jamboree. Their first event was in Roatan, Honduras and it was at their 25th anniversary event in November 2016 in Dumaguete, Philippines that Bress recorded his 1000th dive. He was the only founding member in attendance.
At their 2nd event in 1993 in Bonaire, the newly formed board for Diving for Life voted to distribute all proceeds from the scuba jamborees to nonprofits that benefit the LGBT community. Patrick Kelly would lose his battle with AIDS before the year ended. At the 2016 jamboree in Dumaguete, 105 divers raised $95,000 USD. That brings their charitable giving since inception to over $1.2M and next year’s event is already scheduled for Placencia, Belize.
David Bress’s life path would take another turn in 2000. He had already had the experience of playing bass with Jeremiah Samuels, opening up for bands such as Eddie Money and Jackson Browne. When the music ended, he returned to school for an MA in Linguistics and Education and would go on to teach ESL to adults in Washington D.C.
When returning to D.C. from a trip to Toronto Pride in 2000 with his partner Gary Speedie, they were detained at the border and Speedie, who is Canadian, was barred from entering the United States for five years. Bress eventually took an early out from his teaching job and moved to Toronto where he and Speedie will celebrate their own 25th anniversary next year.
With more time on his hands, Bress co-founded the Toronto Rainbow Reef Rangers scuba club and co-hosts an annual diving excursion under the moniker, BCDs Scuba Week: Bears, Cubs and Daddies.
There are still things that Bress wants to accomplish in scuba diving such as locations not yet visited. On his list are Palau, Maldives, the Red Sea and the Wrecks of Chirk Lagoon. His focus on the types of diving trips he goes on will change going forward.
“I have been on dives where if you hear a bell and you are wet, it’s time to eat,” he says, “if you hear a bell and you are dry, it’s time to dive.”
Going forward he wants to focus more on adventure diving and exotic locales. Respect for the ocean is also high on his list as he has seen the decline in ocean health during his diving career. He says that people have been banned from his trips for not showing enough respect for marine life and other divers. A recent trip to the South Pacific has left him with a new wonderland to explore.
“Little Cayman has always been my favorite, but the South Pacific was a beautiful experience. The underwater visuals were heavenly to look at and I saw entirely different creatures such as mantis shrimp and various turtles.” Bress says. “I am looking forward to getting a reef hook in Palau and just hanging there.”
For David Bress, diving is for life.
Kevin Majoros shares stories on sports, ocean adventuring and conservation. He is based in Baltimore/Washington and travels the world as a competitive swimmer.
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