Bonin started his career as a Navy officer who was assigned to dive teams demolishing beach approaches in some of the most distant locations in the world. He could envisage scuba diving becoming a leisure pursuit and once demobilised he began selling diving equipment, but soon realised that if he wanted to sell equipment he had faith in, he would need to design it himself. He met another diving pioneer, Gustav Dalla Valle, when they worked for the same company. Dick was brought in to manage a new division for diving equipment that would be sold under the name Scubapro. When the parent company failed Gustav bought the rights to the name and Dick Bonin joined him. That was in 1963.
Together, they built the company into the great success it was to become and it attracted the attention of a number of conglomerates that wanted to buy into the various businesses that now served a burgeoning leisure market. Finally, in 1974, they sold Scubapro to Johnson Worldwide and Bonin continued as President of Scubapro, directing the company’s growth, until he retired in 1991.
Dick Bonin’s contribution to the design of Scubapro products can still be seen in the genesis of some familiar products of today:
The current Scubapro Mk25/S600 can be traced back to enduring flow-through piston design of his regulators, beginning with the immortal Mark 5 introduced in 1970. He introduced the first low-pressure BC inflator, the first back-mounted BC for widespread distribution, the first silicone mask when latex was a more familiar material and the first jacket style BC - something that was vilified at the time because it was not a ‘life-jacket’. Today, snorkels with valves are almost the norm but it was Dick Bonin who promoted the snorkel incorporating an exhaust valve that made clearing effortless. He introduced the first integrated inflator/second stage regulator called the AIR II, the first analog decompression meter, and last but not least, the celebrated Jet Fin that forever changed the design of what used to be called “flippers.” It’s a legacy unequaled to this day and perhaps forever.
I am grateful to Bret Gilliam, a personal friend of Dick Bonin, author of Diving Pioneers and Innovators and himself a diving pioneer in the field of leisure and technical diving, for giving me the above information.