For Bob Fischer, diving has been a passion since his teen years. Dan Torres took his first lesson, with Fischer as instructor, in his mid-30s after a chance meeting the two men had at Republic Airport in Farmingdale. Now, years later, the friends have recently purchased Seascapes Dive Center.
Born and raised in the Bronx, Fischer was first intrigued by the ocean watching Jacques Cousteau on TV.
“Then a friend who was taking diving lessons at City College really got me into it,” he says. “We went down to Florida on a spring break in 1970 and I’ve been diving ever since.”
On a subsequent diving trip to Florida, Fischer had a revelation. “Sitting on the bridge watching the sunrise at about 6 o’clock in the morning at Sugarloaf Key,” he says, “I looked out on the ocean and said, ‘This is my future.’ Somehow I just felt it.”
Over the years, Fischer worked in sales, all the while pursuing diving as a hobby. “I finally got into it professionally in 1989,” he recalls, “and began working at Seascapes as a dive instructor around 7 or 8 years ago.” He is a master instructor, a prestigious certification granted by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the world’s leading scuba diving training organization.
But it was a common love of flying rather than diving that brought Fischer and Torres together at Republic Airport.
“We’re both pilots and one day–about 4 or 5 years ago–his plane was parked behind mine,” says Torres. The two men started talking, and when Torres saw the diving insignia on Fischer’s business card, he said, "Hey, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do."
“I’d been spending all my time and money in aviation, and I kept thinking, ‘One of these days I’ll do it [diving],'” recalls Torres. He adds, laughing, “So, Bob immediately went into sales mode and signed me up for a lesson.”
“Yeah, I sold him a lesson right away. But then I liked him and I had to discount everything... which killed me,” Fischer quips.
“Once I started taking lessons the bug bit me right away,” Torres adds. The lessons continued, and the men went on to become good friends. Torres has since achieved several certifications and is now an assistant instructor.
He balks at the idea he might be considered somewhat of a daredevil.
“People say to me ‘You fly, you dive… is there anything you do on the ground?’" Torres says, smiling. “And I say ‘Why would I want to? That’s where all the accidents happen.’”
Originally from Brooklyn, Torres got his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Syracuse University. Right out of college, he started working for Con Edison and went on to earn a master’s degree in information systems engineering.
“I’m basically a geek,” he jokes. “I’ve pretty much spent my entire career in technology.”
When Seascapes’ former owner decided to sell and Fischer suggested that it might be a good opportunity, Torres admits he had his doubts.
“I really didn’t know if I was interested," Torres admits, "but I started crunching numbers and I said, ‘If we do it right this could work.’
“Besides, I’ve been complaining that I eventually want to get out of the IT business,” he adds, “and I always said that I wanted a retirement job where I could integrate my hobby into a profession.”
One of the things Torres is excited about is introducing people to local diving. “This store has a long tradition of quality training for the vacation diver,” he says. “But we also have off the coast of Long Island well over a hundred wrecks that are remarkable to dive.”
“I was just diving a wreck called the Lizzie D. last week and I came up with a bottle,” he says. At the time this tugboat sank in 1922 off the Atlantic Beach Inlet on the South Shore, it was said to be simply doing a cruise. In 1977, however, divers discovered large numbers of whiskey bottles, indicating it was in fact a prohibition rum-runner.
“So, I found one of the last few remaining bottles and it’s sitting on my mantel right now... that’s a piece of history,” Torres says enthusiastically.
Among Fischer’s extensive experience, he worked as a divemaster in the Red Sea, and has dived five of the seven seas. He also dove the wreck of the Andrea Doria, known as the "Mount Everest of scuba diving,” a challenge reserved only for the most highly skilled divers.
His favorite place to dive is the Cayman Islands.
“I lived there for awhile and worked as a Cayman divemaster,” Fischer says. “It’s where I fell in love for the first time, and it wasn’t with another person... it was with my environment.”
He’s organizing a diving excursion there in November. “I try to get back as often as I can,” he says wistfully. “It’s my dream location.”
Perhaps Fischer’s greatest joy comes from training new divers.
“Last weekend I had a group out doing an open dive, many of whom had a month before been scared to death,” he says. “And all I could see through the water were 22 smiles.”
For more information about Seascapes Dive Center, a PADI five-star instructor development center, go to www.seascapesusa.com.