Legends of Diving Articles


Dick Bonin
Co-Founder of SCUBAPRO

Dick grew up in Chicago, excelling academically, graduating cum laude from both high school and college. Well rounded, he thrived in the sports world as well. While still in high school he was a member of the City Champion swim team and was a Boxing Champion. He earned a college athletic scholarship and was the Boxing Champion and All Conference Football.

Dick Bonin is one of the most famous Navy UDT/SEALS and equipment manufacturers in diving. Bonin got his start as a Navy officer assigned to some of the earliest UDT/SEAL teams. He 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 dive shop in Chicago. He soon took a job with Swimmaster, which led him to the West Coast.

They sold rubber products only, with the famous “Duck Feet” diving fins being quite popular with the military.

While at Swimmaster he met Jack Prodanovich of the Bottom Scratchers, which was one of the first dive clubs in the United States, started in San Diego. He saw the custom spear guns Jack was making and, inspired, Bonin went on to make the first American Spear Guns which proved to be very profitable for Swimmaster. He also introduced the first flexible snorkel and other innovations.

He went on to do experiments in the silicone mask while still at Swimmaster. However, the chemists he was working with could not get it pliable or clear enough. He tabled the idea for the time being, but later

resumed work on the mask at SCUBAPRO. The company had their own rubber plant which was of great aid in the refinement of the silicone mask, which Bonin finally marketed as the “Hypo-allergenic mask.” The mask gained popularity in 1977 when the motion picture,” The Deep,” came out. The movie featured Jacqueline Bisset wearing the silicone mask. It supplied more light to the actress’ face for filming. Now virtually every dive mask is made of silicone.

In 1959 Bonin was called upon by the owners of Sportsways to run the company which was struggling at the time. There he met up with engineer Sam Lecocq and together they went on to design and market single hose regulators, making them number one in the country in popularity.

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. There he formed a partnership with dive legend 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 always joked that he paid too much for the defunct company’s name.

It was January 3, 1963 that they opened the doors of SCUBAPRO with just Gustav’s $20,000 European credit line. Bonin surrounded him with the smartest engineers he could find and pushed his Research and Development Department to produce the next great piece of diving equipment that would be the envy of every diver.

Gustav knew a lot of manufacturers in Europe. The first mask they brought over was a Squale mask. They continued by making their first piston 

regulator from which they developed the famous MarkV regulator. Beauchat, a good friend of Gustav, was making Jet Fins, and asked Gustav if they could sell them for him in the United States through SCUBAPRO. Dick took some to a scuba show and immediately sold all of them. Later the next week he was discovering the fins were classic. He was embarrassed that he did not know. From that day on, he insisted that Research and Development and himself do a thorough inspection and test on every item they produced before introducing it to the public. He would never again market a piece of equipment without knowing it inside and out. He went on to form a panel of dive experts that would try the products before selling them to

the general public. This reputation for quality propelled SCUBAPRO to the number one position of dive equipment manufacturers in the world.

It was one of the greatest success stories in diving. Bonin and Gustav went on to build the company into the premier brand of dive equipment. Against Bonin’s wishes Gustav sold the company to Johnson Worldwide Associates. Gustav was retired and went on to become the successful owner of a winery in the Napa Valley. He later died of cancer at 76.

Bonin continued as President of SCUBAPRO and continued the growth of the company until 1993 when he retired. Dick has always held a high standard of excellence in business and quality of product. He now lives with his wife in Huntington Beach, California. And SCUBAPRO continues the professional legacy to this day.

Some of Dick Bonin’s Accomplishments:

  • The Diving Hall of Fame

  • NOGI Underwater Society, Distinguished Service

  • YMCA Safety Contributions Award

  • LA County Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Platinum Pro 5000

  • DEMA Recognition of Service

  • One of the Original Founders of Underwater Manufactures Association, now known as DEMA

  • Founded Ocean Futures “Dedicated to the Sea around Us”

Dick Bonin and Gustav Dalla Valle at SCUBAPRO's 25th Anniversary in 1988

Our thanks to Dick Bonin and Fathoms Magazine


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