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Jon Hardy, 62; Scuba Diving Legend

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jon Hardy, a scuba diving pioneer and diving industry leader who initiated the first consumer-oriented testing of diving equipment a decade ago and was a longtime fixture in the waters off Catalina, has died. He was 62.

Hardy, who owned an Avalon charter diving boat and ran a light commercial operation, died Aug. 29 at his son’s home in Carpinteria after a brief battle with cancer.

“Jon’s legacy in diving is legendary,” said Pete Pehl, diving safety officer for the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, where Hardy served as an advisor. “He had been a certified diver for nearly 50 years and made 10,000-plus dives.”

Hardy was a past executive director of the National Assn. of Underwater Instructors and wrote its professional diving instruction manual. He also developed the curriculum and instructor training programs for Scuba Schools International, another diver training agency.

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As founder and director of Rodale’s ScubaLab, the first consumer-oriented test lab for scuba life-support equipment, Hardy wrote a regular equipment report for Rodale’s Scuba Diving magazine. His first report appeared in 1992.

“No one had ever tested and reported to consumers in an objective and scientific way what the design parameters and performance limitations are on the life-support equipment on which their lives depended,” said David Taylor, the magazine’s executive editor.

“Before Jon Hardy, consumers had to take the advertisers’ word for it, which is something American society had gotten past a long time ago.”

Said Lorraine Sadler, a marine biologist and diving instructor-evaluator who helped Hardy test equipment: “Jon always liked to be on the cutting edge, working with the new diving technologies and helping to offer input to make them work better or make sure they worked. He wasn’t afraid to give his opinion if they didn’t work.”

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Hardy also wrote numerous instructional columns for Rodale’s Scuba Diving. In a column called “Lessons for Life,” Hardy, a highly regarded expert witness in court cases involving diving accidents, discussed the problems that occur during diving and how they can be prevented.

“What he was very keen on was educating people as to what mistakes are made when divers have an accident,” said Ken Kurtis, co-owner of Reef Seekers Dive Co. in Beverly Hills and a friend of Hardy.

“Jon was the type of guy who, because he’d been around so long in this industry, certainly had a vision of where we had been and had a good vision of where we were heading,” Kurtis said. “He was also very fortunate in that he had a number of national pulpits from which he could set forth that vision and try to help guide and educate those of us involved in this industry as to how we could progress.”

Born in Glendale, Hardy began scuba diving as a teenager in the early 1950s. He later taught scuba diving through the Glendale YMCA at Camp Fox on Santa Catalina Island and for the L.A. County Diving Program.

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Hardy joined the Navy in 1961 and was a damage control officer in the South China Sea during the Vietnam War. He later attended the Marine Technology Program at Santa Barbara City College and served as program director for the underwater instructors association. After a year as business manager of the Catalina Island School at Toyon Bay, he returned to the association as its executive director.

He moved to Avalon full time in 1980 and in 1983 started his charter boat business, Argo Diving Service, which specialized in offering underwater tours for small groups of divers.

Hardy logged about 440 dives a year, doing everything from diving-accident reenactments for insurance companies to cleaning glass-bottom boat hulls and appearing as an underwater stunt double for several TV series, including “Rip Tide” and “The Fall Guy.”

On Catalina, Hardy was a volunteer crew member for the Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber, the recompression device at USC’s Wrigley Marine Science Center. He served several terms as president of the board of trustees of the nonprofit Catalina Island Museum Society and as president of the Chamber of Commerce.

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In 1981, he co-founded the annual Avalon Underwater Cleanup, which has grown to more than 500 divers who volunteer to clean up the harbor.

Hardy is survived by his son, Alec Hardy of Carpinteria; his daughter, Colleen Dunkel of Basel, Switzerland; and grandson A. Scott Hardy II of Carpinteria.

Donations in Hardy’s memory can be sent to Avalon Municipal Hospital, P.O. Box 1563, Avalon, CA 90704, or to the Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber, P.O. Box 5069, Avalon, CA 90704.

A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. on Sept. 22 at Buena Vista Pointe in Avalon.

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