Bob Staddon has been appointed ‘Honorary Advisor on Disabled Diving’ for RAID International. On announcing the appointment, Terry Cummins, RAID International Director of Business and Marketing, said: “Bob is one of the most remarkable and impressive individuals I have ever met. He will be a great asset to RAID as we see more and more challenged divers try scuba diving not only as a means of rehabilitation, but as a sport they can really participate in.”
Bob was born in the western suburbs of Sydney, Australia and later moved north to the Hunter District of New South Wales where he attended school and participated in swimming and board riding. He achieved his Bronze Medallion, Bronze Cross and Intermediate Star from the Royal Life Saving Society. During his early school days Bob was found to have dyslexia, but this did not deter him from following his chosen career path. So after several attempts, in 1977 was finally accepted into the Royal Australian Navy, first serving on HMAS Cerberus and later HMAS Melbourne as an Able Seaman specialising in marine engineering. It was in 1980 whilst on shore leave in Jakarta, Indonesia, Bob suffered a serious spinal injury which left him with quadriplegia. He subsequently spent the next 6 months in a spinal unit and then a lot of time in rehabilitation centres.
Bob found swimming was a great way to maintain his fitness and to come to grips with his quadriplegia. Amazingly, just one year after his accident, at the 1981 Para-Quad National Games in Melbourne, Australia, he won a gold medal and two silver medals which made it obvious an impressive swimming career would follow. By 1982 Bob had returned to the Hunter District and started swimming regularly. In that same year he represented Australia for the first time in swimming at Hong Kong Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled where he won two gold medals and a silver medal. At the 1983 International Stoke Mandeville Games he won two more gold medals and a bronze medal. He also competed at the 1984 New York/Stoke Mandeville Games, where he won three bronze medals in the swimming 1C, Men’s 25m Backstroke 1C and Men’s 3×25m Freestyle Relay 1A–1C events. In 1984, he received the “Best Single Sporting Performance” award from Sport Australia, the NBN Sport Star of the Year Special Award, and the Para-Quad Sporting Federation’s “Most Outstanding Swimming Award.”
Most of 1986 was spent concentrating on swimming, including working as an instructor. In 1987 he began lecturing for the prevention of spinal injuries for the Royal North Shore Hospital under their spinal education programme, visiting schools, other organisations in NSW and in that same year was awarded “Newcastle Citizen of the Year” by the Newcastle Australia Day Council. Other recognitions and awards have followed such as the Chatswood Rotary Club Pride of Workmanship and induction into the Hunter Region Sporting Hall of Fame.
In 1992 he set new Australian National Records in both the 50m Freestyle and 50m Breaststroke. In 1999 Bob became the first person confined to a wheelchair on land to swim in the “Across the Lake Swim” (Lake Macquarie).
Concurrently, in 1990 Bob learnt to scuba dive which started a deep and continuing passion for the sport and the dive industry generally. In subsequent years he became the first quadriplegic in Australia to gain an Advanced Open Water Diver Certification. Other certifications followed. Marine Biology Diver, Stress Rescue Diver, Deep Diver, Wreck Diver, Master Diver and Bob is the first and only person in a wheel chair to hold a Marine Coxswains qualification.
In 2000, the year of the Sydney Olympics, he carried the Olympic Torch in the torch relay through Warners Bay. He also visited Vanuatu and dived the U.S.S. President Coolidge, arguably one of the best wreck dives in the world. By 2005 Bob had already completed 500 dives and then started to dive regularly to 50 meters, especially on the wreck of the “Advance”. Last year Bob completed his 900th dive and is still racking them up heading towards 1,000 dives to coincide with a developing interest in cave and CCR diving.
His continuing drive to help others led him in 2013 to organise the first Swansea Channel Charity Drift Dive where 42 divers raised $1,200. In 2014 the event had 89 divers raising $19,000 and this year the event had 127 divers raising $21,000. Bob already has his sights on 2016 and his aim is to raise more money for charity and to promote the dive industry and local businesses. Bob said: “I do not really care what business, dive shop or training agency you prefer, I am all about diving and helping anyone in the sport and industry.”
“In his role with RAID, among other things, Bob will review new RAID Courses and modifications to existing ones, from a perspective we feel no other training agency has ever considered. There is absolutely no reason, given the right considerations, that a large number of disabled and challenged people could not scuba dive. This includes victims of all sorts of misfortunes, sporting accidents and those wounded whilst serving their country,” said RAID International CEO Jim Holliday.
Bob summed it up with this: “There are a lot of able body people who are disabled and there are a lot of disabled people who are abled. The only limitations we have are those that we place on ourselves. I’m looking forward to helping anyone get into diving and enjoying all that it offers – it is a life changing sport.”
To learn more about RAID contact your local RAID Regional Office or find all the information you need on all RAID programs at www.diveraid.com and freediving at www.freedivingraid.com. Visit RAID’s Facebook page here.