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What Drives Quest’s Eclectic New Editor-in-Chief, Jesper Kjøller

Veteran dive magazine editor/designer and tech instructor Jesper Kjøller has recently taken over the production of GUE’s quarterly membership magazine QUEST

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Interview by Michael Menduno

Header Image: J. Kjøller in his element by Dimitris Fifis. Other images courtesy of Jesper Kjøller 

Veteran dive magazine editor/designer and tech instructor Jesper Kjøller has recently taken over the production of GUE’s quarterly membership magazine QUEST and hopes to transform the 22-year old journal-esque publication into a stunning digital dive juggernaut. Here, InDepth chief Michael Menduno explores what motivates the Danish techmeister.

This month, Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) is debuting its newly re-envisioned, quarterly membership magazine, Quest, founded in 1999 when the organization was just getting started. The new design and format are the creative work of 57-year old Danish editor, writer, and designer Jesper Kjøller, who took over when founding editor Panos Alexakos retired earlier this year. 

In addition to extensive publishing experience, Kjøller was the editor-in-chief of DYK magazine for nearly 15 years as well as founded and served as editor-in-chief of Dive the World. Kjøller, who is a GUE tech instructor and a recreational instructor trainer, brings a fresh perspective to the magazine and was instrumental in transforming Quest to an all-digital format, which is a bittersweet move on his part. The 25-year diving industry stalwart and musician laments the coming end times of print magazines and vinyl records.

We caught up with Kjøller on the week of the opening of the world’s deepest pool at Deep Dive Dubai, where he enjoys his role as senior marketing supervisor, in conjunction with his new position as Quest’s editor-in-chief. Here’s what he had to say.

InDepth: Jesper, you wear a lot of hats, err hoods. You’re a musician, a diver, a dive instructor, an instructor trainer, and an explorer. You’ve been an editor, a writer, a photographer. You do graphics design. You’ve organized diving conferences. You’re the marketing manager for Deep Dive Dubai, which just opened, and you’re now the new editor-in-chief of QUEST. Tell me, how do you think of yourself? How do you self-identify?
Jesper Kjøller in his element

Jesper Kjøller: How do I identify with all this? I think the core of it all is storytelling. I’m curious, and I like to tell stories and refine information. I mean, being an editor—and you know this as well—is about taking things that are a little bit unorganized and refining them, putting them together and presenting them to the world. That’s a process that I always enjoyed. 

And to be honest, it’s totally a coincidence that it ended up being about diving as a subject matter. It could’ve been anything. As I said, I really like the process of refining and presenting information and deciding what is important and what is less important and suggesting, how about this? Do you like this? That’s what an editor does. 

I mean it was pure coincidence that I ended up being in charge of a dive magazine. It’s never something that I envisioned myself doing. I was the right man at the right place at the right time. I had no journalistic background. I had no photography skills and no designing skills at all. I simply learned by doing.

On-the-job training?

Yeah, simply, yeah. My background, before I started diving, was as a musician and teaching music. The common denominator in all this is teaching. I have a knack for finding ways of explaining things. And if people don’t understand, then I can always find another way of explaining whatever to them. 

I love that process, and I love seeing people understanding after my third try of explaining something. That’s what thrills me, and it’s something that I grew up with because both of my parents were musicians and teachers. So, I had this from my childhood. As I said, it was a coincidence that it ended up being centered around diving. I was just lucky.

Lucky indeed! You’ve been a dive professional for more than 25 years. That’s significant. What is it about diving that keeps you coming back?

First of all, I think it’s super cool. There’s just something about the equipment and the whole world surrounding diving that has always appealed to me. I mean, I’m old enough to have seen Jacques Cousteau in the middle of the 70s when I was just a kid. We had a black and white television in our living room and there was a German TV channel that had Jacques Cousteau’s weekly French TV show. And it was so cool. 

Many years later, when I did my first open water course, I immediately decided—this is what I want to do. This is so cool. I want to be an instructor. I want to be involved in this professionally; I want to teach people how to dive.  

I also enjoy the combination of the technology and the knowledge that we are able to apply to survive in a hostile environment. We’re not supposed to be able to breathe underwater or to be able to dive down to the Britannic. To be able to combine knowledge, technology, practice, and skills to do something that’s out of reach of most people is very appealing to me.

You got started in magazines with the Danish diving magazine DYK, where you served as editor-in-chief for nearly 15 years (199-2013). That was your first editor job, right? How did you get started at DYK

Yeah. So, back in the day, DYK was owned by the German publishing house that produced TAUCHEN magazine. They owned the Scandinavian publishing company. And to save money, a lot of the articles that went into the magazine were translated from German. 

In 1999, I became a PADI course director, and I started subscribing to the magazine. It’s a coincidence that—the same year—I got really, really annoyed with the quality of the translations. Because I was reading the magazine, and in some instances, by mistake, they published entire spreads in German. I mean it was so clumsy; it was awful. 

So, I approached then editor Peter Symes, who later left and went on to found and publish X-Ray magazine. I told him, “I happen to be a PADI course director, but I’m just approaching you as one of the readers. Honestly, I think you can do better.” So, Peter said, “OK join us,” and offered me a job. I wrote a couple of articles for them as a freelancer first. Interestingly, they published them and didn’t change a word. At the time, I thought, okay, if they are not changing anything, the story must really be okay. 

That was my verification that I could write, because I had no experience doing it. I was not a good writer in school. I kind of hated it, to be honest. But storytelling and my teaching experience saved me in a way. I discovered I could draft a story and a narrative and get some kind of an arc to it. It was a natural gift I had, and the rest was history. Of course, I was really interested in the subject matter and knew a lot about diving, so it was quite easy for me to write articles because I was just sharing what I knew.

Before we talk about your new role at Quest, I wanted to ask you about your GUE journey. You were an instructor and PADI course director at the time. What attracted you to GUE and how has that journey gone?

I have this metaphor for divers. Remember those mechanical toys with a spring that you wind up? The tighter the spring, the longer the toy would do something. I always thought of divers in that sense. You do your first course and just being underwater and breathing is exciting. Then after a while you need to do something new, so maybe you take a night diving course, or start learning underwater photography, or you decide to become an instructor or whatever. 

Every time you add something new, the spring gets a little tighter and now you have a renewed passion and something new to do underwater. For me, the spring was never wound as tight as it was when I did my Fundamentals Course. It was a complete eye-opener!

Jesper loves exploring the deep wrecks on the UAE east coast. Photo Ali Fikree
I know many people who had that reaction. How did you find your way to “Fundies?”

I was already a technical diver. I had done decompression dives. I had done a bit of cave diving, trimix and everything, but to be honest, I never really liked it. I was always a little bit apprehensive. I didn’t trust my skills. I didn’t trust my dive buddies. I didn’t trust my equipment. And I didn’t trust my instructor. It was not an optimal way to dive, especially back in Denmark, and particularly not in winter, doing deep dives in dark water that’s close to freezing, wearing a dry suit and dry gloves. The truth is I didn’t really enjoy it. Of course, I was supposed to do that kind of diving as an editor.

Then I read about DIR (“Doing It Right”) and George Irvine and Jarrod Jablonski, and I already knew about the Lundgren brothers in Sweden. I kind of had a feeling that was the direction I wanted to go. I liked the simplicity. I liked the configuration, and I liked the standardization—all these things. As luck would have it, there were a couple of Danish DIR warriors that were very loud on the Internet, and I kind of liked the way they explained things. So, I more or less went in that direction, but I never received any training. I just kind of dabbled in DIR, and I thought I was a GUE-style diver. But then, when I did Fundamentals, everything fell into place. 



Your tech diving epiphany?

That was the first time I actually understood how all the components were supposed to fit together. I can’t say that I immediately decided I wanted to become a GUE instructor, but I did decide from then on that all of my tech diving was going to be with the GUE configuration and approach. Funny, I was traveling for the magazine at that time, so I started bringing long hoses and back plates and wings, and people looked at me and didn’t understand. But I was like, “Okay, this is the way I dive. Take it or leave it.” It’s not uncommon anymore, but 10 to 15 years ago some people had never seen a long hose and they thought they would be strangled if you used it.

Ha!! Yes, there have always been misconceptions about tech in the recreational world. 

Long story short, I got very dissatisfied with what I was doing. I was a PADI instructor trainer also for PADI’s technical range, but they started simplifying and adding some really weird skills and stuff. I wasn’t happy with it and I couldn’t see myself teaching it. I realized that if I wanted to continue my passion teaching technical diving, then I needed to find a platform where I could really defend what I was talking about. So, I became a GUE instructor 10 years ago and never looked back.

As of this quarter, you’ve taken over as editor-in-chief of Quest from Panos Alexakos who just retired after producing the magazine for more than 20 years. What excites you about Quest and taking on this project?

I actually wrote an editor’s letter about that very question for my first issue. What excites me about Quest is that I’m always looking for ways of combining interests. If you can combine several interests in your work, then you have a very strong platform because you’re doing multiple things that you love. 

Jesper pumping gas at Deep Dive Dubai

I have three major passions in my life. One is storytelling. Another is GUE and then I just happen to love magazines. So, what could be better? I feel really, really well-prepared for taking on Quest because it combines three of my biggest passions. The only thing that’s missing is some kind of music, but I’ll find another way of doing that. So to answer your question, I am passionate about taking over Quest because it’s a perfect combination of three things that I really enjoy.

Do you see any specific challenges with Quest or membership magazines in general? 

There are challenges, but I feel that I also have an advantage because I know exactly who the readers are. The challenge is that I have to find a balance. First of all, I need to give readers what they expect, but I also want to surprise them a little bit and maybe give them something that they didn’t know they wanted. So that could be a little bit challenging. But on the other hand, I do know who they are. I don’t have to guess. It’s a fairly well-defined demographic. 

For me, being an editor in the Internet age is quite a bit different than it was 25 years ago, say before Google. Because today, everyone can readily find information. So, we need to be able to surprise them and be a little bit assertive sometimes and say, “Trust me, this is interesting. This is something that you will want to spend 10 minutes reading.” Otherwise, they might not do it and miss that information. For me, it’s about establishing a relationship with the reader so they begin to trust that I’m going to give them a mix of things that they are expecting, along with some surprises and material they didn’t know that they wanted. 

What are some of the topics and issues that you think are important right now in diving that you hope to cover with Quest?

That’s an interesting and important question because that’s another and perhaps my biggest challenge. I’m pretty strong when it comes to the technical stuff, equipment, and also—as you’d expect—I’m pretty strong when it comes to education. But GUE, and therefore Quest, are also about community, and exploration and conservation. That’s where I’d say I’m weak because it’s not what I have focused on, and my network, or contacts within that field are not as strong. So my biggest challenges will be filling the pages of Quest with those subjects. Because I also think it’s the most important. 

For me, the educational part is just a means to an end. And the end is exploration and conservation. Those are the most important parts of GUE. 

So I need to focus a lot on getting content that’s related to exploration and conservation, because the rest of the stuff is relatively easy. Instructors are also a primary source for coming up with stories. So I need to broaden my network when it comes to exploration and conservation.

I think members are going to get excited when they see the new issue as well. You’ve taken the look and feel to a whole new level! 

Between you and me, I hope that when people see the first new issue of Quest, they will want to be part of it! The magazine needed a facelift after 20 years. It was time. If I didn’t do it, someone else would have had to. 

I also plan to be more collaborative and responsive, and spend time cultivating our freelancers. Our writers tend to be amateurs so I want them to feel appreciated. I plan to give them feedback, and help them to do an even better job next time. Again, it’s about building relationships.

In addition to the new look, I understand that Quest is also changing to an all-digital format.

That’s right. It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately because with this new issue, Quest is now going forward as an electronic magazine. It’s my first time publishing something that is not printed. And that’s a loss, I think. 

I still miss vinyl records with covers that you could browse through. To me, a magazine is still something that you should be able to hold in your hands and feel. I even like the smell of a newly printed magazine. That’s one of the biggest differences for me; physically printed magazines are more or less history. Of course, we can talk about the carbon footprint and cost savings and all the good reasons for digital distribution, which makes sense on so many levels, but I’m still going to miss a physical magazine.

The new Quest!! Read it here if you are a GUE member.
And you’re moving it to a new platform, unlike the old PDF format. 

We are using a platform that provides a screen experience that kind of resembles a magazine where you can flip pages. It also works on handheld devices like iPhones and tablets, but it’s best presented on a larger screen like a laptop or desktop. Actually, an iPad may give the best reading experience.

So it will work on a smartphone, yes? I know at InDepth, 60-65% of readers access the mag via mobile.

On the big screen, you can read it one-to-one in size. On a small screen, you’ll have to zoom in. Maybe you read one column and then you will have to navigate a little bit. It’s not as responsive as a web blog, but I like the fact that it still resembles a magazine. It’s an experiment, to be honest. We may eventually go in another direction, but we are trying this for now. 

What about the archives? Will members still have access to all of the old issues of Quest?

Members will still have access to all of the old issues, in addition to the new issues. There’s still 20 years’ worth of excellent information in all the old Quests. We don’t want to throw that out. That’s still one of the value points of a GUE membership. You’ll not only get this new fantastic magazine, but you’ll also have access to the archive of the old ones.

Ha! Sell, sell, sell! I am guessing that your day job as the marketing manager for Deep Dive Dubai is about to ramp up big time now that the new aquatic facility—the deepest pool in the world—has just opened. How will your day job inform your work at Quest? How do you see them working together?

First of all, it’s again a coincidence that the launch of the new Quest and launch of Deep Dive Dubai happens within the same month. I’ve been working at the aquatic center for six years now, and to be honest, we’ve been quite busy lately with the opening. 

Jesper and his wife Dorte getting ready for a splash in Deep Dive Dubai. 
I’ll bet. So Quest is your night job then? 

That’s right. I’m moonlighting as the editor of Quest. I am going to spend weekends and evenings doing it. However, it’s a quarterly publication and it’s only 48-60 pages. So, it’s not that big of a job. The biggest part of the job is not actually making the magazine, it’s all the communication with contributors, emails back and forth, and of course, editing and proofreading and workflow management. Designing the magazine is easy; that’s the fun part, where the creativity and the playfulness come in. 

Well, I can’t wait to read the new issue. Thank you Jesper. We wish you and your team great success!

Dive Deeper

InDepth: Deep Dive Dubai—The Deepest Pool In The World Is Not A Pool by Jesper Kjøller

InDepth: Diving Into “Ghost Ships of the Baltic Sea” by Jesper Kjøller

GUE.TV: GUE History with Panos Alexakos

Facebook: Quest


Michael Menduno/M2 is InDepth’s editor-in-chief and an award-winning journalist and technologist who has written about diving and diving technology for more than 30 years. He coined the term “technical diving.” His magazine “aquaCORPS: The Journal for Technical Diving” (1990-1996), helped usher tech diving into mainstream sports diving, and he produced the first tek.Conferences and Rebreather Forums 1.0 & 2.0. In addition to InDepth, Menduno serves as an editor/reporter for DAN Europe’s Alert Diver magazine, a contributing editor for X-Ray mag, and writes for DeeperBlue.com. He is on the board of the Historical Diving Society (USA), and a member of the Rebreather 

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Hal Watts: Plan Your Dive

Known for his deep air diving exploits back in the day, 86-year-old Hal Watts, aka “Mr. Scuba,” is one of the pioneers of early scuba and credited with coining the motto, “Plan Your Dive. Dive Your Plan.” He founded the Professional Scuba Instructors Association International (PSAI) in 1962, which eventually embraced tech diving, but never relinquished its deep air “Narcosis Management” training. Italian explorer and instructor Andrea Murdock Alpini caught up with Watts and teased out a few stories from the training graybeard.

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Interview by Andrea Murdock Alpini 
English text by Vincenza Croce

Hal Watts, Terrence Tysall, and Bill Stone in March of 1993.  This was the last stop in the U.S. for a test dive of the Cis-Lunar Mk-4 rebreather prior to Stone’s San Agustin expedition (1994) for its first real sump dive.

“Plan your dive, dive your plan,” is a common refrain in diving, but it’s easy to forget the meaning of this phrase has changed over time.

The underwater explorers of the early days learned to plan their dives with watches, depth gauges, and US Navy tables. Back then, decompression tables were the Bible for divers—something miraculous, halfway between alchemy and physiology. Those trail-blazing divers defined what it meant to “plan” a dive.

But, at the time, the term “technical diving” did not exist; divers breathed air on the bottom as well as during decompression. Only after many years was oxygen added, followed by the famous jump into the hyperbaric chamber.  

Later came new innovations after a few decades of experiments: hyperoxygenated binary mixtures, the NOAA tables, Heli-air (i.e. the addition of helium in tanks loaded with air), the change in the speed of ascent, new molecules to be studied, new physiological and narcotic effects, and their consequent impacts on humans and their psyches.

In a very short time, diving traditions underwent a metamorphosis. The spool and the coral tank became a proper reel, the ascent bin and the plastic bag disappeared in favor of the buoyancy control device (BCD), the surface marker buoy appeared—and then, even later on, wrists were adorned with underwater computers instead of decompression slates.

Divers later renewed and revolutionized a niche discipline, transforming it into a sporting phenomenon and a vocation. Faced with imminent change, there is often nothing that can be done when an anomalous wave arrives; you cannot stop its irresistible force with the wave of a hand. And thus was the American revolution of underwater technique, where the means of exploration—read mixed gas and scooters—have become the end.

The self-proclaimed originator of the “plan your dive, dive your plan” motto was 86-year old Hal Watts, the founder of American didactic Professional Scuba Association International (PSAI) and a diving pioneer who once held the Guinness Book of World records for deep diving. Though the use of trimix grew in popularity, Hal continued to believe in deep air, in the ancient technique of coral fishermen. He supported wreck and cave diving—with decompressive mixtures and new configurations through PSAI; but, above all, he believed (and continues to believe) that deep air, if properly practiced, is a discipline with unique logistics, hidden dangers, and irresistible charms that can take you to a parallel world.

Hal Watts speaking at aquaCORPS tek.93 Conference

First of all, Hal, what was the dive that changed your way of seeing scuba diving? I mean, a dive that was like an epiphany, a dive which changed your point of view on a technical matter?

Hal Watts: Wow, you sure are really trying to test my old man memory. Now I’ll have to review some of my old logbook entries. 

The first scuba dive that really got my attention as to just how serious and dangerous scuba diving can be was on December 2, 1962. I was diving with Bob Brown, co-owner of Florida State Skindiving School in Orlando, Florida. I was a member of a dive club in Orlando known as Orlando Sport Diving Club. Bob and I had heard of a sinkhole in Ocala known locally as Zuber Sink as well as Blue Sink. Years later, I later leased the property and renamed it as Hal Watts’s 40 Fathom Grotto, and I eventually purchased the Grotto in mid-1979.

We had never talked to anyone about the sinkhole; therefore, we had no idea about the visibility or the depth. Up to this point, I had constructed my favorite BCD, using a large white Clorox plastic jug, which we tied to our twin tank system. We put air into the BCD from our “Safe Second Stage” mouthpieces. 

Bob and I tied our safety line to a tree on the bank of the sink and reviewed our dive plan. I am reminded of the motto I came up with, many moons ago—Plan your dive, dive your plan. 

We all know that motto. I didn’t realize that it was you who coined it.

It was back in the 1960s when I was writing course manuals for NASDS [National Association of Scuba Diving Schools] and opened up my Mr. Scuba dive shop.

Mr. Scuba’s Magic Bus!

But back to the dive at Zuber. I’ve failed to mention the fact that neither of us had been doing any dives below 30 m/100 ft. We followed the cave line down slowly, not paying enough attention to our depth. Before we realized it, we had hit the bottom, stirred it up, and had no clear water.

Lucky for us, I kept the cave diving reel in my hand, and Bob kept his hand on the line. I couldn’t see; however, I could feel Bob’s hand, squeeze his fingers tight on the line, grab his thumb, and give it the “thumbs up” signal. I don’t know how we managed it, but we were both able to use our NASDS safe second stages and add air into the Clorox “BCDs.” We were actually fated to begin an uncontrolled, too-rapid ascent. All of a sudden, we hit an overhead wall, which stopped our ascent at a depth of 9 m/30 ft. 

We looked at each other, and gave the OK hand signal. While decompressing, following the old Scubapro SOS mechanical computer, I started to pull up the loose line until the dive reel appeared. Wow, we sure had an awful lot of loose line floating around us. Were we extremely lucky? Of course, we were. Our problem was that we never planned our dive, and consequently, were unable to dive a plan.

After that dive, I worked with Scuba Pro and Sportsways to create the “Octopus,” or “safe second.” A while later, the octopus appeared for the first time in Scuba Pro catalogs. I was also the first to add a pressure gauge along with the Octopus.

Hal Watts set the world deep air record to 120m/390 ft in 1967

Ah yes, the “Safe Second.” That’s what NASDS called backup second stages, right? Sheck Exley (1949-1994), the legendary cave explorer with whom you were friends, was also credited with fitting a redundant second stage reg with a necklace. I want to ask you more about Exley, but first, I want to know: What are the best wrecks you ever dived?

This is really very hard to answer. I’ll have to list four, in the order that I dived them: the USS Monitor, Andrea Doria, Japanese wrecks located in Truk Lagoon, and the Lusitania in Ireland.

The most important would have to be the USS Monitor, a submarine used during the Civil War. A group of well-known USA divers applied to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for a permit to dive the Monitor, as she was located in protected waters. In addition to myself, the group consisted of: Gary Gentile, attorney Peter Hess, and several other well-known expert divers. At first, NOAA refused. Then, Peter Hess filed proper papers asking that we get the NOAA permit. To that end, we presented my Deep Air training material to the concerned NOAA group. I appeared as an expert witness and provided NOAA staff and their legal representatives with my internationally accepted training material and my record of training several world record deep air divers. Our deep air training has been accepted worldwide with zero diving deaths. After that, we received the permit. 

Other than the Monitor, my favorite deep wreck dive would be the Lusitania, which is a very personal and proud story for me. The main reason is because venture capitalist Gregg Bemis owned the diving rights to the Lucey at the time. Gregg had contacted me requesting that I train him on PSAI Narcosis Management Level V, on air—which is 73 m/240 ft—and then train him on trimix so he and I could dive to 91 m/300 ft on the Lusitania lying off the coast of Ireland. 

When word got out that I had enrolled Gregg in my Narcosis Management Course, a well-known international course director (a personal friend of mine) called and told me, “Hal, do not teach Gregg deep diving.” 

PSAI’s ad in aquaCORPS Journal circa 1994 offering deep air training.

He told me that he had been training Gregg at his facility, and that he was a “train wreck.” “He is from a very well-off family in Texas, and if you cause him any injuries, you will be sued and put out of business,” my friend said. Well, guess what? Gregg completed the 240 Level V Deep Air course, then our PSAI Trimix course. My wife, Jan Watts, Gregg, and I went to Ireland to dive the Lusitania. He and I made an awesome 91 m/300 ft trimix dive to the deck.

Diving on the Andrea Doria with Tom Mount, Peter Hess, and several great wreck divers was also an awesome dive. Last but not least was a great trip to Truk to dive on some of the Japanese wrecks.

Please tell us about Sheck.  What was your relationship with him like?

Sheck and I became friends and made several dives together, and one of my favorites happened when Sheck, his Mary Ellen, my wife Jan, and I were diving at 40 Fathoms. Sheck wanted to practice gas switches during descents. Sheck was practicing, getting ready for a planned very deep dive (I think in Mexico with Jim Bowden). The four of us swam to the east side of The Grotto, slowly following the wall during our controlled descent, watching Sheck practice gas switching. 

Sheck Exley and Hal Watts at a NSS-CDS conference

After reaching our planned depth of 73 m/240 ft, we began our controlled ascent up to our first planned deco stop. During our last deco stop on our 4.5 m/15 ft platforms, I noticed that Sheck had a funny look on his face and was messing with his drysuit between his legs. I remembered then that he had told me that he had an attachment installed in the drysuit that would allow him to pee underwater. He was clearly in a bit of discomfort and Mary Ellen, Jan and I just floated nearby and watched.

I’ve heard that Sheck later used diapers, or just cut it loose in one of his old neoprene drysuits on his big dives, so evidently he didn’t get that early p-valve to work. What about your friendship and job collaboration with Gary Taylor, your brother-in-arms and a co-owner of PSAI?

Andrea, get comfortable, since this question will take some time to properly answer.

I first met Gary in Miami, which is where we became friends when I was staying in his home and taking Tom Mount’s nitrox course.  I have a photo of Tom, Gary, and me gas blending on the floor of Tom’s garage. During the course, Tom was still using his worn-out hand written paper flip charts as his notes.

Gary was impressed with my deep air program and offered to put together an updated slideshow presentation for me to teach with. PSAI still uses an updated version of this system to date. Gary stayed with Tom until Tom thought he had sold IANTD [International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers] to another individual. After that sale came about, Gary contacted me wanting to get more involved with PSAI. Being smarter than folks thought I was, I jumped at the chance to have Gary on the PSAI Team. Tom’s deal fell through, but Gary was totally involved with PSAI, and now is a partner and president of our agency. Thanks to Gary and Tom. 

Many, many years ago I was still taking some type of classes—I think regarding mixed gasses, maybe with Rebreathers—at Tom’s house. In fact, I was one of Tom’s instructors who did the final proofreading of one of Kevin Gurr’s manuals. Too far back to recall much about this mixed gas stuff—remember my reputation for being a deep air diver.

Tom Mount and Gary Taylor mixing up some trimix in the garage.

Speaking of the people with whom you’ve dived, was the aim of The Forty Fathom Scubapros Club?

Before I invested in a sinkhole in the Ocala, Florida, area—which was locally referred to as Blue Sink or Zuber Sink, and is now referred to as 40 Fathom Grotto—several diving buddies whom I had dived with and trained for extreme deep air diving—as well as cave exploring—got together and planned to dive The Grotto at least one Friday night per month. Within a short period of time, several other buddies joined our group, which eventually became known as The 40 Fathom Scubapro’s dive club. Each diver had to meet my requirements of training. 

Forty Fathom Grotto aka Zuber Sink
An early Sheck Exley mix course at Forty Fathom Grotto
An Eric Hutcheson drawing of Forty Fathom Grotto

Eventually, our group set specific personal requirements—being a good person, supporting our club safety rules, and making at least one 40 Fathom Grotto dive per month. We set a limit of 14 or 15 members. Three 40 Fathom members eventually set World Records for deep air: I was one, A. J. Muns, and Herb Johnson set ocean records, and later I set the air depth record for cave diving. Naturally, as time passed and we got older, our membership got smaller. It is notable that none of our club members have died during any scuba dive.

Finally, what led you to create the iconic motto, “Plan Your Dive. Dive Your Plan?” 

I used to be a private pilot, and we used to say, “Plan your flight, fly your plan.” This was back in probably 1961 when I had just started diving and there were so many instances where all the other divers would get in the water without saying anything. I’ve seen so many incidents and fatalities that could have been avoided through proper planning.

Dive Deeper

ScubaGuru: LXD 029 : Hal Watts – Record Deep Diver & Technical Diving Pioneer

Netdoc: Netdoc chats with Mr Scuba, Hal Watts

InDEPTH: The First Helium-based Mix Dives Conducted by Pre-Tech Explorers (1967-1988) by Chris Werner

Alert Diver.Eu: Rapture of the Tech: Depth, Narcosis and Training Agencies

Professional Scuba Association International: PSAI History


Andrea Murdock Alpini is a TDI and PSAI technical trimix and advanced wreck-overhead instructor based in Italy. He is fascinated by deep wrecks, historical research, decompression studies, caves, filming, and writing. He holds a Master’s degree in Architecture and an MBA in Economics for The Arts. Andrea is also the founder of PHY Diving Equipment. His life revolves around teaching open circuit scuba diving, conducting expeditions, developing gear, and writing essays about his philosophy of wreck and cave diving. He published his first book, Deep Blue: storie di relitti e luoghi insoliti (2018) and IMMERSIONI SELVAGGE, the new one is on the way, out on fall 2022. 

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