Brothers who Pioneered Dive Training
would think that the Legends of the wetsuit would have come from
California. This is not the case, though, as Bill and his twin brother,
Bob Meistrell, came from Booneville, MO.
Bill, being the oldest, was born before midnight, and Bob was born after
midnight. Throughout life, Bob would always call and tease his twin
brother, Bill, about being a day older. They started their diving in a
pond with a homemade
Bill and Bob
gallon vegetable oil can and a bicycle pump. They chewed the asphalt
from the street to make it soft so they could seal a glass in place to
look through. They soldered a hose fitting to the top for a garden hose
and then fit it with a spring and a marble that worked as a check valve.
That way the air would not go out when they stopped pumping. They used
weights from their mom's store. Bill said, "I don?t know why we didn?t
get an air embolism."
In 1944 they followed their older brother, Joe, to Manhattan Beach,
California. Now 15 years, they threw the old helmet in the trash and
dive helmet barely used. It had a double-piston pump, 50 feet of hose
and shoe weights. They paid $25 for it. Their mother asked them why it
was so cheap and their reply was that it belonged to a guy that had
The boys went to school at El Segundo High School where Bob hurt his
back while playing football. They both were swimmers, and after High
School they passed their test at L.A. County for Lifeguards. Later they
were in the first class of instructors for L.A. County which their
friend, Bev Morgan wrote the manual for. Bob holds card number One.
The Korean War broke out, and they were both drafted. This was the only
time in their lives in which they ever lived apart. Bill saw combat and
star. During Bob's stay at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, he was surfing
by car lights in the icy waters with Army wool sweaters on just to keep
warm." I?d have to take it off and wring it out every time I fell from
the board." he stated.
After the War, the brothers came home spending time surfing and tried
out diving, buying their first gear out of the trunk of a car from Frank
Rodecker. The instructions went like this, "Don?t hold your breath on
the way up." After his discharge in 1952, Bill initiated a
brothers and Four Bugs
discussion with his brother, Bob, about buying out Hap Jacobs half
interest in Dive N?Surf Shop. They obtained a loan for $1800 from their
mother. The Dive and Surf shop was located at Redondo Beach and was
founded by the Watermen's two buddies, Bev Morgan and Hap Jacobs. Bev
sold his half out in 1957 to the Meistrells. To this day, over 50 years
later, the shop is still in the family.
During this time, the Meistrells were experimenting with various
materials and methods to delay the onset of hypothermia. This ranged
from wool sweaters to battery heated clothing and flight pilot bunny
suits. Finally, one day in 1953, Bev Morgan went to the Scripps Library
and read an article written by a scientist. Hugh Bradner. The article
talked about Hugh experimenting with a material that was a foam neoprene
used for military divers and for fighting hypothermia. Hugh called the
material "wet suit" because when you got it wet you could stay warm. Bev
and the Meistrells solved the problem with the introduction of a wetsuit
called the Dive N" Surf Thermo cline. What set the Dive N" Surf wetsuit
apart from the latex coated canvas, favored by the hard-hat divers, was
its closed-cell neoprene rubber. This would also keep the diver and
surfer afloat, however, the surfers would not realize the positive
points to using such a suit at the onset. "It took a long time for them
to adapt to wet suits" states Bob.
One day Ivan Tors asked them to look at a Hollywood set. This resulted
in their supplying the equipment for the TV show SEA HUNT. Bob taught
Lloyd Bridges and his family how to dive, however, this did not happen
until after the show was produced. This came about while Bob was
measuring Lloyd for a wet suit. Lloyd said, "You are going to put me in
the pool and teach me diving aren?t you?" Bob replied, "I thought you
already knew how." Bill made the custom wet suit for Mike Nelson and
purchased two gallons of silver Greyco rubberized paint using the paint
on the wet suit to obtain the unique color which would show up well on
the television show. To this day, everyone tries to imitate this suit.
Bob and Bill taught Charlton Heston, Hugh O?Brian, Richard Harris, Jill
St John, and Gary Cooper, how to dive. Gary Cooper and Bob became good
friends after working on movies together. Bob was often hired on as
technical advisor for the diving that was shown in the movies.
The thermo cline wet suits were selling well but not keeping up with the
competition which was Jack O?Neil?s. One day, in 1965, Bill was talking
founder, Duke Boyd. Boyd said, "Your suits will never sell with a name
like Thermo cline. Who knows what that means?" Bill replied, "What do
you suggest?" Boyd asked, "What is so great about your wetsuit?" Bill's
response was, "It fits like a glove." Boyd immediately replied, "Let's
call it "Body Glove?.
A few days later Boyd sent the Meistrells back a black and yellow design
with a hand in the middle that looked like an
Body Glove Logo
encircled by the words, "Body Glove?. It was accompanied by an invoice
for $35 for the designer and $175 for Boyd's two words of copy.
Their pioneering work on wet suits used by scuba divers and surfers is
now a lifestyle brand that is marketed in over fifty countries. Their
support of water sports has earned them double recognition in the dive
and surfing Hall of Fames, and their environmental work has gained them
world notoriety. Bill and Bob were know for there shipwreck work,
retrieving millions in Gold coins; the latest in 1995 off the coast of
In July 2006 Bill passed away. Bob and his brother spent every day they
could looking for their passion, the West Coast lobster. Bill developed
a creed that he and Bob lived by and passed on to their families and
friends. "Do what you love and love what you do."
This exemplifies the creed of two twin brothers and everything they did
in the love of water sports.
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.
Bill Meistrell Obituary -
July 30 1928 to July 25 2006