Legends of Diving Articles
Inventor and Dive Helmet Manufacturer
Surf legend, Dale Velzy, also known as "the Hawk",
recalls Bev Morgan arriving from L.A. in 1949 stating
that he wanted to learn how to surf. By
surfing for days on end and observing others, Bev became
a great surfer. Bev learned about fiberglass by
obtaining a job at North American Aircraft and became Velzy's first glasser using
a sun cure resin.
Bev Morgan invited Velzy to join him in his pursuit of
the growing diving market, including the sale of rubber
wetsuits, however, Velzy declined the offer stating that
"no surfer is ever going to wear one of those goddamn
rubbers." Bev was one of the first surfers to belong to
the Manhattan Beach Club.
1952 was an industrious year for Bev. He became a Los
Angeles County lifeguard and learned how to use
surface supplied equipment and was trained in the use of
oxygen rebreathers. That same year, Bev
purchased an early Aqua Lung scuba unit which led to his
starting the L.A. County Underwater Program - the first
scuba instructor's program for the public.
Bev is also credited with writing the first diving textbook "Underwater Safety for L.A. County."
As if that wasn't enough, Dive 'n Surf was established in 1954.
This was the first integrated scuba facility where you could buy
dive gear and learn how to dive in one location. Bev Morgan met
up with Bob and Bill Meistrell who were experimenting with
various materials to delay the onset of hypothermia. Bev Morgan
had read an article about a material that was foam neoprene and
used by military divers. It was called "wet suit" because even
though it would get wet, you would still stay warm. Bev and the
Meistrells developed the wet suit "Dive N Surf Thermo cline"
which later became known as Body Glove. This wet suit had a
closed cell neoprene rubber instead of the latex coated canvas
favored by the hard-hat divers. This new wetsuit would also help
keep divers and surfers afloat.
Bev sold his interest in Dive 'N Surf to the Meistrells in 1958
and began diving commercially for abalone off the coast of
In the 1960s there was a tremendous need for divers to service
underwater drilling equipment for offshore oil companies in
California, and many successful abalone divers were recruited.
Earning $4,000 or more a month was phenomenal income at that
Even though Bev only had experience in lightweight dive gear,
with no training in heavy hardhat gear used for construction and
oilfield diving, Bev convinced an oil company in Alaska to hire
him. One of his first jobs was to drop into the waters of Cook
Inlet and connect a shackle to an anchor system designed to hold
the rig into place. What Bev did not take into account was the
fact that he would be dressed in heavy gear and working in
currents with the inability to see.
As Bev directed the crew to take up slack on the wire ropes that
supported the shackle, he did not realize that he had completely
pinched off his air supply. With the air to his helmet depleted,
Bev climbed his hose until he reached the knot of hose and
cables. Thankfully, he managed to free the hose and surface
Bev returned to Santa Barbara realizing that he had been in over
his head. This incident did not deter him from becoming involved
with the commercial diving industry. He became involved with
General Offshore Diving which was an international commercial
diving contractor. The company later became named "Ocean
Bev went on to design and manufacture underwater photography
equipment and life-support systems. He also assisted with the
development of the Purisima diving bell as he felt that the
future would lay
in bell diving which would enable a diver to
swim and be more mobile than they were with heavy gear. The
divers would, however, need a lightweight mask allowing them to
swim safely at the end of a hose. Together with Bob Kirby, they
developed a helmet that could re-circulate helium which made
deep diving more economical. In 1966, Bev and Bob formed the
Kirby Morgan Corporation. Together they began building heavy
gear air and mixed gas helmets, fiberglass masks and helmets and
other diving equipment.
The helmet that made Kirby Morgan Corp. famous was the Kirby
Morgan Band Mask also known as KMB-7. It was the first
fiberglass mask incorporating an adjustable demand regulator, an
equalizing device, an oral nasal mask to reduce
Morgan's First Dive Manual
carbon dioxide, communications, and a removable neoprene
hood connected to the mask by a band. The mask was held in place
by a head harness called the "spider."
Where it took months for a commercial diver to learn how to use
heavy gear properly, Bev could train a diver to use their
lightweight gear in a few weeks. Divers who were relatively
inexperienced wearing only wetsuits or dry suits could use the
band mask with a little training.
The development of masks and helmets continued for both the
military and commercial diving industry. In 1975 the Kirby 15
was produced and the company name was changed to Diving Systems
International. (DSI) The SuperLite-17 was the next big success.
The SuperLite-17 had numerous improvements including the ability
to keep the diver's head dry and warm and offered tremendous
head protection. The strength of the fiberglass shell has kept
many divers alive.
When Bob Kirby left the company, Morgan continued to work on
many improvements to the 17 and eventually created the new
SuperLite-27 in the 1990s. Today the company goes by the name of
Kirby Morgan Dive Systems, Inc. Bev has been manufacturing
helmets for 50 years!
Among other accomplishments, Bev collaborated with Pete Ryan and
Skip Dunham of DSI in the designing of another full face mask,
the ESO-26. This is a favorite among search and rescue divers as
well as technical divers.
In the year 2000 Bev helped formed another Company, Dive Lab,
Inc., located in Panama City Beach, Florida. Dive Lab's primary
purpose is to maintain and operate a state of the art test
facility for testing surface supplied diving helmets, full face
masks, and associated life support equipment in support of Kirby
Morgan Diving Systems, Inc., (KMDSI) of Santa Maria, California.
In addition to testing, Dive Lab is KMDSI's official training
center for all KMDSI dealer repair and maintenance technician
training. Dive Lab also provides repair/maintenance and
configuration training courses for the commercial, military, and
scientific diving communities worldwide and provides the
commercial diving community answers to all types of diving
related questions. Dive Lab's goal is the steady improvement of
diving equipment and safety for all facets of diving.
Over the many years, Bev has accumulated numerous boxes of
ideas, inventions and prototypes. With possibilities endless, we
never know what Bev may design next for the diving industry.
Bev Morgan has set safety standards for the dive community to
work with, and he is constantly working to make diving safer and
better for you. He also has made the public aware of the effects
of soaps and Detergents on our environment.
* Information for this bio was obtained from Legendary
Surfer, Dive Lab and Bev Morgan, himself, Kirby Morgan Dive
Systems, Inc., Santa Barbara, California, also from a DEMA
interview in 2000. Thank you.
Surf Shop #42 in Redondo Beach, CA. This picture was taken in 1955 and
the picture was Dale Velzy, Hap Jacobs, Bill Meistrell, and Bev Morgan.
the start of one of the oldest dive-surf combinations, hence the name.
Portage Quarry Recreation Club, Inc.
12701 South Dixie
Bowling Green OH, 43402
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