Dick Bonin

Dick Bonin

Significant Career Achievement and/or Industry Contribution

Former UDT diver who co-founded Scubapro and guided it a premiere position of equipment manufacturing.

Dick grew up in Chicago, excelling academically, and earned college athletic scholarships in swimming, football, boxing and baseball.

Dick served in the US Navy UDT/SEALS in the early 1950’s and was Submersible Operations Officer, active in demolition and testing the latest dive gear for the Navy. Upon leaving the Navy in 1956 he went to work for a small dive store in Chicago, and was later recruited by Swimaster to run the company in California. Swimaster had recently purchased a spearfishing company that included “Duck Feet” fins which were popular in the military. With the help of production manager Jorge Calderon, Dick helped build the Swimaster brand by selling rubber goods (including the first flexible snorkel) and spear guns, and pioneering the concept of selling products through a professional dive store.

In 1959 Dick was approached by Sportsways to run their struggling company. While at Sportsways Dick met engineer Sam Lecocq and although Dick’s tenure with the company was short, he and Lecocq did develop the single-hose regulator, which went on to become the number one regulator configuration in the US. Bonin was then approached to head up a new subsidiary of Healthways called SCUBAPRO, which was to produce diving gear to be sold only in professional dive stores, a concept that Dick had pioneered at Swimaster. At Healthways Dick worked side-by-side with Healthways R&D Director Gustav Dalla Valle who later, for one dollar, bought the rights to the name SCUBAPRO when Healthways went bankrupt. To the day he died Gustav joked that he paid too much for the defunct company’s name.

Scubapro opened its doors on January 3, 1963 using Gustav’s $20,000 European credit line. Bonin and Dalla Valle surrounded themselves with the smartest engineers they could find and pushed the R&D Department to produce ever better diving equipment. Within the first two years they developed the first reliable piston first stage and began selling the legendary Jet Fin, which was invented by Rene Beauchat, and originally sold by that company in Europe. Dick didn’t like the looks of the Jet Fin and had never tried them, but these “ugly fins” taught Dick a lesson about product development; after finding that his retail dealers loved them, he tried them and never allowed a product to be sold again that he and his R&D team didn’t try first. The result was to develop a reputation for quality, which propelled Scubapro to the number one position of dive equipment manufacturers in the world.

Dick retired from Scubapro in 1993 and for a time was the Executive Director at the Diving Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (DEMA, later the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association), an organization which he helped found in the mid-1970’s.

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