If you’ve had a chance to read the history section of our website, you’ll know that Aquala was the silent manufacturer for Bel-Aqua Watersports until 1959. Bel Aqua was founded by Los Angeles firefighter Bill Barada in 1950, but Bill actually created the first civilian drysuit in 1947. It took the next three years to evolve the concept until it was a marketable, in-demand product.
The earliest Bel-Aqua Suits were only a single ply, as Bill’s breakthrough laminated sheeting wasn’t developed until 1953. That two-part material was called Ply-A-Bel, which later became Aquala-ply with Bill’s selling of Bel-Aqua to Swimaster in late 1958.
Prior to the creation of Ply-A-Bel, the logo on the suits was a dark turquoise, with the white script over the top.
These were the days when freediving spearfishermen dominated the scene, and scuba was yet to be known. These suits had the logo positioned in the center of the diver’s back, as compressed air tanks hadn’t been introduced yet, which would have obscured the Bel-Aqua logo.
Sometime around 1955, Bill developed his two-ply sheeting to give the suits added strength and durability. The new Ply-A-Bel rubber retained the signature “water green” exterior layer but now had a white interior layer.
By this time scuba was introduced, so the logo was moved to the arm as not to be covered by the tanks. Realizing the importance of branding and brand recognition, Bel-Aqua changed the colors of the logo to now be turquoise script over a white background, so it would stand out more against the dark green suit.
For those of us who dive, we owe a lot of thanks to Bill Barada. Not only for the drysuit but for the development of other diving gear components still widely used today.
For those who Spearfish, he invented the detachable speartip. The detachable tip allowed the barbed head to stay with the fish via a steel cable but disconnected from the spear shaft. This eliminated a big fish’s ability to work a spear free while the spearfisherman subdued his catch.
Bill also invented the first rubber, J-bend snorkel. Sure it’s evolved over 60 plus years, but it’s the same concept and design used by every company that manufactures a snorkel today.
He was a pioneer and a visionary who paved the way for all other dive equipment companies that came after.
He is an integral part of diving history, and we’re glad we could play a part.