BadDiverBill was born in Jersey, grew up a “Vegas rat” in America’s gambling capital and now lives in Southern California, where he pursues his passion for scuba diving.
So how did a guy who spent his formative years in the dessert get into scuba and launch a group for people who like fun with their diving? Bill Hill says his founding of BadDivers (www.BadDivers.com) “was one of these things that happened on its own.” Hill, who prefers to be called “BadDiverBill,” earned his certification as a diver in California and “decided to dive naked somewhere else.”
He took a “red-eye flight” to Florida and as midnight marked the beginning of his birthday, “I went on a nice shallow dive around a pier in Florida in my birthday suit, with my shorts in my hand and waving them over my head.” Later, he and some friends had birthday drinks. A surprise soon followed when Bill was taken to the Florida Keys for an open-water dive. He enjoyed it but was struck by how serious the dive boat people were.
Next was a dive from Fort Lauderdale on a boat where safety was taken seriously but post-dive fun was part of the experience. “I went from what I call a military operation to a boat whose captain wore a shirt that announced ‘rehab is for quitters.’ ” After the dive they opened a cooler and “we had a great time.”
The stark contrast between the two approaches prompted Bill to tag the first dive experience as one for “good divers,” while the second was for “bad divers.” BadDivers was launched. Fun does not trump safety with BadDivers. “One of our slogans is we’re safe but not so serious.” For BadDivers, there is also a lifestyle component in diving. They encapsulate that into the post-dive experience. “When the dive flag goes down, the BadDivers flag goes up.” BadDivers is not a club in that it doesn’t sign up members. “It’s that feeling, you’re a BadDiver,” says Bill, who likens it to the lifestyle promoted by Jimmy Buffett. The popular singer, songwriter, pilot and businessman glorified escapism to exotic islands and explored that lifestyle island hopping in the Caribbean in his amphibian aircraft. Bill says a lot of people get into diving but all they do is the dive. “It’s a lot of work to be underwater for a half hour . . . They get burned out fast.” He believes in making it a complete experience that also includes travel and sharing a post-dive drink. Also important is interacting with “the people we meet along the way.” He promotes his BadDivers concept through BadDiversTV (www.BadDiversTV.com), which involves short segments on the internet that he hopes someday will evolve for television. They usually cover some of his favourite dive locations, scuba talk and instructions on preparing various cocktails. He calls them “adult beverages.” “I’m a bar man. I tend bar. I’m either in the ocean or swinging drinks,” says BadDiverBill. “My passions are scuba diving and cocktailing. It’s lots of fun, a never-ending learning process.”
His favourite dive trips include Roatan, Utila and Cayos Cochinos, all Honduran Bay islands. Diving there after dark gives scuba enthusiasts the chance to see ostracods, small aquatic crustaceans whose bioluminescence (the ability to produce and emit light) creates a spectacular show. In mating season they light up to attract a mate, forming what looks like a string of pearls under water. Bill remembers a woman with 2,000 dives to her credit telling him before they descended that if they saw two or three groups together in a string they would be lucky. They were pleasantly surprised. “We floated off the reef and all of a sudden, as far as I could see there was a string of pearls. We were down about 70 feet. If we had enough air we would have stayed down there until the sun came back up.” BadDiverBill was certified as a rescue diver and plans to eventually become a dive master, but has no interest in teaching the sport. “I know instructors who got burned out and I don’t want to do that. I think I’ve found my niche. “We’re not trying to be that serious. We’re hoping to make people laugh. My quest now is to find the most interesting dive spots, dive people and dive bars. And I’d like to dive the fountain at the Bellagio (a Las Vegas hotel).” On a more serious note, Bill says he also wants to do something to protect the ocean. As he puts it, “BadDivers always do something good.”