I grew up in Winston-Salem, N. C. watching Mike Nelson (Lloyd Bridges) in Sea Hunt in the late 50's early 60's and like most kids became mesmerized watching all the wonderful mostly never seen underwater world through Sea Hunt. I in fact got a paper route in Jr. High to save money and buy a regulator (a huge $50) made by Healthways and rented tanks from a farm supply store and in 1963 jumped into a local rock quarry 90 feet deep. I was hooked from the first breath underwater and continued diving in N.C. until I moved to Florida in 1972.
When asked for a dive card in Jacksonville at a dive store I said I didn't have one and they told me I had to have a certification card so I signed up for my first class and became an open water diver. From that moment forward I was diving every weekend and within three years became a YMCA SCUBA instructor and was immediately given the job of SCUBA Training Director at the Jacksonville YMCA.
I was a high school teacher in Jacksonville and dove all through the north Florida Springs and offshore . When I first got my USCG Captains License ran a friend's dive boat offshore Jacksonville. Then all summer I dove in the Keys. I would drive down and pull my 18' boat and camp out and dive every Christmas and Easter break and all summer. In 1978 I quit my teaching job and borrowed $50, 000 from the SBA and opened Captain Slate's Atlantis Dive Center in Key Largo.
Back in January 1994 I finally got to meet my hero Lloyd Bridges when I was invited to his 80th birthday party in New Orleans. I have a picture of that meeting and his inscription on it is so dear to my heart. Part of that inscription Lloyd wrote is: "Capt. Slate you are the kind of man our seas sorely need". That saying I read on the picture on my shop wall every day.
I have served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the YMCA SCUBA program for 17 years, member of the BOD of NAUI for 4 years and have written dozens of articles and stories about diving with my critters and how we must protect our seas and all it creatures. I was the project manager for the 510' LSD Spiegel Grove for 8 years, brought the ship from Norfolk, VA to Key Largo and sunk her in 2002. I was a founding farther of the Keys Association of Dive Operators in 1984 and the current president of the Florida Association of Dive Operators, which I also was a founding farther of in 1986. I was inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame in 2004.
Those of us who were founding fathers in our wonderful diving industry have a mandate to do all we can to introduce all generations, past and future to the unbelievable, wonderful, vibrant underwater world. A world that all can enjoy, love and protect. There is no more beautiful a place to be than underwater.
Even after 50 years of diving, unlike most dive operators, I still dive and drives the boats. I love the sea and cannot wait for my next dive! My long term hope is to reach 20 thousand dives before I hang up the regulator, which I doubt I ever will, as I can never see myself being able to stop diving!