Legends of Diving Articles

 

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 around 1957.

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 planned a

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 other brands.

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
Gustav Dalla Valle, and to Dalla Valle Vineyards.

Gustav Dalla Valle and Dick Bonin at SCUBAPRO's 25th Anniversary in 1988

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