Gustav Dalla Valle
Spearfisherman and SCUBAPRO Co-founder
Gustav Dalla Valle was born in the Northern part of Italy to
royalty. His father was a count who made a fortune in the silk
business. In his younger years Gustav was fascinated by the
sea, and started to free dive in the Mediterranean sea at a young
age. He was a bon vivant traveling Europe and became one of the
first European divers. Active in spear fishing and diving
politics, Gustav knew all the early diving equipment pioneers:
Cressi, Beuchat, Forjot, Cavalero, etc.
Later, Gustav moved to Haiti and started perhaps the first
snorkeling and spear fishing school in the Western Hemisphere.
He was also involved in a
gaming casino, but when Papa Dac came
to power Gustav “left quickly” for the United States. This was
In Miami, Gustav contacted his diving manufacturing friends in
Europe and made arrangements to import diving equipment to the
United States. At
this time he distributed Cressi equipment. His first
customer was Abercrombie & Fitch. Shortly after, Healthways,
a manufacturer of barbells and water skis contracted with
Gustav to distribute his European diving imports. He went on
to join Dick Klein of Healthways on the West Coast and
imported his European collection of Scuba equipment.
Ultimately, Healthways experienced financial problems and
specialized diving equipment program named SCUBAPRO. In the fall of 1962, Healthways brought in Dick
Bonin to establish and run SCUBAPRO and Gustav would develop
new products with SCUBAPRO. He and Dick Bonin were the first
to challenge the dive business with a professional approach
and to elevate the equipment to a higher standard. He was a very
vibrant and fun loving business owner.
On December 26, 1962 Healthways informed Dalla Valle and Bonin
they were bankrupt. Gustav bought the name SCUBAPRO for $1.00
and they started their own company in a small warehouse with a
part-time secretary and young man to do the shipping. From that
humble beginning grew SCUBAPRO.
SCUBAPRO was eventually sold to S.C. Johnson in 1974. Shortly
after, Gustav moved to Mustique, an island in the West Indies.
After several years he returned to the U.S. and bought land in
the Napa Valley in 1982. His family had been in the wine
business for over 150 years. He spent over two million dollars
building a winery and planting 25 acres of vineyards. The
property is located on mountain slopes of California. The first
harvest was in 1986 and it has become one of the finest wines of
California and the world . The Dalla Valle Vineyards produce the
famous “Maya,” which is greatly sought after, along with their
Gustav passed away in 1995. He was one of the early pioneers in
creating interest in championship spear fishing and tournaments.
In the John Pennekamp State Park in the Florida Keys, there is a
statue of “Christ of the Abyss” in about 30 feet of water.
Gustav was responsible for putting the statue there. He will
always be remembered as one of the very first Legends of Diving
with that exuberant personality and laugh that made people
smile. This writer met him several times and if he walked into a
room everybody would stop – he controlled the room with his
presence. As Dick Anderson, engineer and diver, said…Gustav
spoke his own language…”Gustavian."
Our thanks to Dick Bonin, business partner and friend of
and to Dalla Valle Vineyards.
Gustav Dalla Valle
and Dick Bonin at SCUBAPRO's 25th Anniversary in 1988