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DiverWire Profile: Meet Walt Stark – Bonaire Tec Diving guru

(DiverWire) Picture this – you are a young boy growing up in a land locked state. During a family holiday to Minnesota (when you were just 5 years old) you are thrown into a dark water lake to see if you could swim.  Sounds like that would be a scary event for anybody.

This is how Walt Stark relates his first experience with a large body of water to me. Then when he was 6 he got his first snorkel mask, growing up in Iowa he had lots of opportunities to play in dark muddy rivers and lakes as a boy. Walt considers water his passion and infinite friend. During his school years he was a fan of the Cousteau, Mike Nelson and Flipper series and wanted to learn more about the sea.

It was during 1975 (his graduate year from high school) when he had his first try at Scuba. Walt would spend lots of time hanging out at the school pool after hours with his friends. Then one evening on the pool deck there were tanks and scuba units waiting for the next morning’s YMCA scuba class. Well he and his friends quickly assembled the gear and then took to the pool on Scuba. The next morning the YMCA instructor got a surprise – all the tanks for the class were empty! Walt recalled this incident to the Instructor from his school a few years ago, noting that he was one of the boys that consumed his tanks PSI. The Instructor had no idea who was responsible for the hijinks and they had a good laugh about it.

Walt then attended Iowa State University in 1976 for 3 years to work on a Business Management and Accounting Degree. It was in 1982 when Walt received his first SSI open water and advanced certifications. He travelled to Cozumel and Grand Cayman before completing his PADI Instructor course in 1983. After completion of his IDC he started to work with the Colorado Scuba Center. He became their head instructor and lead group travel. During the 1980’s Walt had the opportunity to dive in places like Bay Islands, Honduras, Cozumel and the Cayman’s. Walt made his first trip to Bonaire in 1988 and the island left a favorable imprint with him.

During the cold Colorado winter in 1990, Walt’s girlfriend came inside to state that “We have to move to the Caribbean, I’m tired of scraping ice from my car!”  Putting their heads together they decided that Bonaire would be a good choice, so they packed up and left the cold for good. Once in Bonaire they found employment within a month and were now managing at the Sunset Beach Dive Center, located on the 2nd most beautiful beach on the island at that time. They would remain at Sunset Beach until 1998 then do a brief stint at Harbour Village Dive operations before opening Rec Tek Scuba in 1999.

Based on the property of Captain Don’s Habitat in Bonaire, Rec Tek Scuba is both an SDI and TDI technical scuba operation also offering Instructor level training. Walt instructs methods including; Rebreathers, Trimix and Decompression diving. His mantra is “You have to always be able to come home alone on a Decompression dive.” Self-sufficiency is the key – to not only make your initial plan, but also your second alternate plan.

So far the deepest dive that Walt has completed has been to 426 feet. This occurred at the dive site Karpata on Bonaire. This site bottoms out at 3000 feet and was originally an anchorage for cargo ships during the plantation days in the 1800’s.  Red Slave is also a site with a history, it has a depth of 396 feet where you find chains and ballast stones from the original cargo ships that anchored there during the salt production days of the early 1800’s. Bonaire’s most famous decompression dive site is known as ‘The Windjammer”, located on the north end of Bonaire she is a wreck that was a cargo ship. Her last cargo was tar and she now lies at 200 feet. During the first week of December 2012, this will mark the 100 anniversary of this vessels sinking. Rec Tec Scuba will be planning deep decompression dives of this wreck during this time. If you are interested please contact Walt at Rec Tek Scuba.

Walt’s future plans include continuing to inspire new technical divers on safe and uber-safe techniques as well as having time to ride his Harley as far as Bonaire will let him.