In the late 1940s, headed by Bill Barada, a small group of diving enthusiasts came together to create a way to continue spearfishing throughout the winter. By using a pattern found at a costume shop and rubber sheets sourced at a hospital, Bill created what would be the first drysuit designed for sport diving. (Read more about Bill.)

Bill's newfound invention was immediately a big hit at the local diving spots, and requests for the new suits were overwhelming. Realizing this new opportunity, Bill decided it was time to make the suits available for the diving public.

The revolutionary suits were originally branded Bel-Aqua under Bill Barada's leadership, with Aquala being solely the silent manufacturer. In 1958, Bill decided to sell Bel-Aqua, and that's when Aquala emerged as its own publicly recognizable brand. In 1959 Aquala hit the ground running, and we've been crafting dependable, classic drysuits ever since.



A lot can happen after almost seven decades. So what have we been doing all those years?


Exact months and dates are an approximation, so if you have more information, we’d love to hear from you. dive@aquala.com

  • February 1950

    First Bel-Aqua Suit

    After nearly half a decade of experimentation, Bill Barada starts selling the first drysuits

  • December 1954

    Disney Film

    The film version of Disney's, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” featured suits made by Aquala. All actors and stunt divers were equipped with suits for location filming in the Bahamas, as well as studio shots in California.

  • May 1956

    Vancouver Police Department

    Vancouver Police Department Marien Unit deploys Aquala Suits
  • March 1958

    New York City Police

    New York City Police Department's first dive team is equipped with Aquala made suits.

  • November 1958

    Bel-Aqua Becomes Aquala

    Bill Barada sells Bel-Aqua to Swimaster and the Aquala name comes to life. 

  • June 1961

    Aquala Dives the Antarctic

    1961 Verne Peckham was stationed at McMurdo Antarctic station as a laboratory director for Donald Wohlschlag of Stanford University’s Department of Biological Sciences. Early cold-water pioneers like John Bunt, Carleton Ray, Elmer Feltz and David Lavallee all used the Tunnel -Entry Aquala Suits to explore this amazing place. Read more here. 

  • November 1963

    First Lightweight Deep Sea Diving Helmet

    Using a motorcycle helmet, and stainless steel components crafted by himself, Joe Savole develops the first lightweight deep sea diving helmet. His design would revolutionize commercial diving helmets, and he chose Aquala suits to dive his new design.

  • February 1964

    World's First Commercial Lockout-Diving Bell

    Aquala is aboard the world's first commercial lockout-diving bell, the Purisima. Launched off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, the Purisima would pave the way for deep sea saturation diving techniques still in use today.

  • November 1965

    Gilligan's Island

    Gilligan's Island, Season 2, Episode 7. Gilligan has to dive to recover a trunk from the bottom of the lagoon... Aquala was his choice.

  • August 1975

    NOAA Choose Aquala

    The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) chooses Aquala for their scientific research teams.

  • January 1977

    Jacques Cousteau's US Divers

    Aquala has such a strong presence in commercial diving that Jacques Cousteau's US Divers, contracts with Aquala to provide suits for their Commercial Equipment Diving division. Aquala builds suits for US Divers for use with lightweight fiberglass helmets, as well as traditional heavy dress, copper and brass helmets.

  • January 1979

    Ball Hawk Purchases Aquala

    Veteran golf ball diver, George Wilby, purchases Aquala and moves it from California to Florida. Under his leadership, Aquala tunnel-entry suits become the trusted diving suit of professional golf ball divers (known as Ball Hawks) throughout the Southern, Central, and Eastern United States.

  • January 1980

    NASA Tests Aquala Suits

    At the Johnson Space center research facility, NASA tests Aquala suits for space shuttle rocket booster recovery teams. The suits pass with flying colors and are used beneath flame proof foil suits to protect divers from rocket fuel.

  • March 1993

    East Coast Surf

    John Meehan of Rye, New Hampshire purchases Aquala, and moves operations to the New England coast. John, an accomplished surfer, expounds upon Aquala's California surfing heritage and brings famed East Coast surfer, Peter Panagiotis (Peter Pan) aboard. Aquala private labels surfing suits for Pan's Watershed Surf Shop, and New England surfers now surf comfortably throughout the winter.

  • November 2000

    New Era for Aquala

    2000: In the 1960s, '70s and '80s Aquala diversifies into surfing, sailing, hunting and fishing suits. The non-diving suits, while meeting a need, were not the foundation Aquala was built upon. Ty Alley realizes this, takes his passion and knowledge of diving, and purchases Aquala. Under his direction, Aquala now becomes exclusively the US's oldest diving suit manufacturing company. 

  • October 2007

    20,000 Leagues Revisited

    After years of studying archival photos and interviewing surviving stunt divers, Pat Regan of Vulcania Submarine, recreates the diving systems from Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". This is the first time fully functional "Leagues" diving rigs have been created since the original filming in 1954. Aquala joins the project, being the original supplier of the rubber suits, and the systems are dove at the Kapoho tide pools to document and prove their functionality.

  • October 2017

    Moving Forward Toward the Past

    Explore how we are moving forward with a new chapter in our history.