Stan Waterman did not land on the cover of Sports Illustrated for winning a championship, breaking a world record or, for that matter, playing a professional sport. Rather, it was the result of moving his family from a blueberry farm in Maine to the beaches of the Bahamas and starting a recreational diving business. Photographer Toni Frissell had heard about Waterman's venture and asked if she could shoot him and his family for a story about vacation spots.
While Waterman's tale in SI may have been lighthearted, his life story since has been nothing short of adventurous. In 1958, four years after he sailed to the Bahamas in a Maine lobster boat that he had spent $45,000 to build and customize for his diving business, he pursued his newfound passion for global exploration. With underwater camera in tow, he journeyed to such places as the Amazon and Fiji, and he brought home vivid footage of rarely seen marine life. In 1965 he filmed his family's 12-month stay in Tahiti, a documentary that was later purchased and broadcast by National Geographic. In '68 he was associate producer and underwater cameraman for the film Blue Water, White Death,and eight years later he was codirector for underwater cinematography for The Deep. He won five Emmys for his underwater camerawork on ABC's American Sportsman and is a member of the International Divers Hall of Fame.
"I was inspired by Hans Hass and Jacques Cousteau and thought, Why not give it a try," says Waterman, 82, of deciding to make diving a career. "I asked myself, Do I vicariously enjoy what someone else is doing, or take a chance and do it myself?"
Over the past 20 years Waterman has lectured on his diving experiences and continued compiling stock footage of marine life that he sells to TV networks. He returned to living in the U.S. full-time in 1957 and is back running a recreational tour business, making eight weeklong trips a year with clients. Typically Waterman will dive twice a day on these trips--a cage-diving shark expedition in Guadeloupe is next. He'll also demonstrate underwater filming technique as he leads the tour and write about his experiences at night. His memoir, Sea Salt, will be out next month (New World Publications, 320 pages, $30).
When Waterman is on land, he and his wife of 54 years, Susanna, spend time with their three children and six grandkids. The couple has houses in Sargentville, Maine, and Lawrenceville, N.J., but neither will serve as a retirement home anytime soon. Waterman has tours planned through 2006. --Andrea Woo