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. firstname.lastname@example.org
First Bel-Aqua Suit
After nearly half a decade of experimentation, Bill Barada starts selling the first drysuits.
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.
Vancouver Police DepartmentVancouver Police Department Marien Unit deploys Aquala Suits
New York City Police
New York City Police Department's first dive team is equipped with Aquala made suits.
Bel-Aqua Becomes Aquala
Bill Barada sells Bel-Aqua to Swimaster and the Aquala name comes to life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NOAA Choose Aquala
The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) chooses Aquala for their scientific research teams.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.