Dive industry icon and pioneer Dick Bonin passed away on 8 December 2015. Bonin grew up in Chicago, Illinois, USA where he excelled in school and, as an accomplished swimmer and boxer, earned an athletic college scholarship. On graduation, he joined the United States Navy and served as an officer during the 1950s and was involved with the early Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT), the forerunners of the US Navy SEALs.
Bonin left the Navy in 1956 and started work back in Chicago in the fledgling recreational dive industry. Here he met Gustav Dalla Valle with whom he founded Scubapro in 1963. This partnership significantly accelerated dive equipment manufacturing innovation and the growth of both the Scubapro brand and the dive industry as a whole.
With Bonin’s leadership, Scubapro became a leading equipment manufacturer responsible for many dive industry innovations. The Mark V single hose regulator, with a “balanced” flow-through piston first stage, earned a deserved reputation as a rugged and reliable performer; derivatives of this design are on the market today. The Scubapro stabilizer (or “stab”) jacket was among the industry’s first jacket style BCDs and weathered real controversy, driven by critics who claimed it was not a “life jacket,” to ultimately define a new industry standard.
Bonin had a flair for marketing too and was responsible for some extremely successful product placement. The release of Scubapro’s hypoallergenic mask, the industry’s first translucent silicone mask, got a major boost when Jacqueline Bisset wore one in the 1977 motion picture The Deep. The filmmakers loved it because it allowed more light to reach her face. Silicone masks would become a de facto recreational dive industry standard.
Ever on the look out for ways to help the dive industry grow, Bonin felt that scuba manufacturers were not adequately represented at the US Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association trade show. Taking action, he was instrumental in helping to set up the Underwater Manufacturers Association, which later became DEMA.
Johnson Worldwide bought Scubapro in 1974 and Bonin continued as President until his retirement in 1993. After his retirement from Scubapro, he served as interim executive director of DEMA during a critical growth period as the association expanded to include members from all recreational dive industry business segments.
Bonin was honored with many dive industry awards during his career, including the Reaching Out Award, NOGI Distinguished Service, and he was inducted into the Diving Hall of Fame. He lived in Huntington Beach, California, USA for more than forty years with his wife and family.