Following up the dive spotlight on Joe Kilgore, also a 2023 NAUI Hall of Honor inductee, comes the story of NAUI’s other Hall of Honor inductee, the distinguished Ed Uditis.
In a world perpetually skimming the surface of life’s vast ocean, Ed Uditis chose to dive deeper. His journey beneath the waves is not just a tale of adventure, but a blueprint for living a life anchored in passion and discovery.
Early Beginnings: A Dive into Destiny
At the impressionable age of 13, Ed’s path was unwittingly charted by his mother, who enrolled him in scuba lessons. Little did she know, she was igniting a lifelong affair with diving and the ocean. His instructor, who ended up becoming a neighbor and an unsung guru of the underwater realm, played a pivotal role in his early years. His instructor was not affiliated with any training agency but taught scuba lessons on his own. Ed ended up working for him and assisted him with tasks like handling tanks, gradually becoming an adept assistant instructor. This led to Ed opening his own scuba business around 16 years old, doing tasks like retrieving items for farmers out of ponds, cleaning pools and one time during the winter when a truck plowing snow fell through ice into the water, Ed was hired to dive and hook up the truck and help pull it out.
In Easton, Pennsylvania, where Ed grew up, he also fortuitously found himself in the company of serious divers like Jack Brewer. Taking Ed under their wings, they expanded his horizons, introducing him to the exhilarating world of wreck diving. His dives at the Pinta wreck off the New Jersey coast marked a significant chapter in his early diving experiences.
An enduring friendship with Evelyn Dudas, a celebrated figure in women’s diving, blossomed on dive boats in Jersey where they first met. Their camaraderie and mutual support have spanned decades, underscoring the deep bonds formed in the diving community.
When Ed was in college, through happenstance his roommate who came from a wealthy family and whose parents were part of a dive club in Nassau, Bahamas, would invite Ed down to their exclusive private club to dive. Ed met various celebrities and industry tycoons and all through college on breaks he would go down to the Bahamas to help and instruct giving him a firm footing in the world of diving.
NAUI Membership: A Commitment to Excellence
Ed’s journey with the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) began in 1967. His encounter with a Navy Chief Petty Officer at a NAUI Instructor Training Course (ITC) in Delaware opened doors to an even broader world, including a visit to the UDT school in Little Creek, Virginia. Graduating from the University of Tampa in 1969, Ed’s post college years were pivotal. He began teaching scuba informally, which eventually led to a structured course at the university. The initial course was so successful the University of Tampa made his course a requirement for all Marine Biology majors. His approach was innovative, managing large classes (sometimes 60 students strong) by dividing them for pool work and uniting them for classroom instruction. Collaborating with Diane Weller, a fellow instructor and one of the best he has ever known, they would identify and select assistant instructors from the pool of students who eventually became instructors before they graduated.
Along with students from the university, Ed would offer up 20 spots in each course for anyone in the community, this led to Ed certifying many people from the local community and making relationships with many influential people. Ed’s impact on the diving community in Tampa was profound and he has had a direct hand in creating many new divers and diving leaders.
These local community connections led to extraordinary opportunities, such as in the early 70’s a local community member who had a 20 passenger DC-3 would fly dive charters to some of the world’s best locations, including Belize, Roatan, and the Cayman Islands. Ed organized the trips and was the assistant co-pilot, taking over the controls when the other pilots needed a rest.
Professional Evolution: A Leader and Innovator
Ed’s transition from student to instructor and eventually to a leader within NAUI is a testament to his dedication. He founded the ‘Divers Day’ conference, a notable event that brought industry experts such as Stan Waterman, Chuck Nicklin and the famous cave diver Dennis Williams to the University of Tampa. His innovative ideas, like having the Budweiser Skydiving team perform and land in water, were a hallmark of these conferences (all four of the skydivers hit the water as planned if you were wondering like me).
His entrepreneurial spirit shone through with his venture into the Cayman Islands, where he co-owned Fisheye, a NAUI dive shop and photo center. His business acumen extended to Fisheye World Tours, organizing dive trips globally and Cayman Film and Video which worked with commercial companies who wanted to film in the Caymans and Ed worked with notable companies such as Ford Motor Company, National Geographic, and several movie companies. Ed was also an unofficial spokesperson promoting diving in the Cayman Islands by travelling around the world giving talks at shows and functions about the Cayman Islands.
Ed’s advocacy for Nitrox diving in the Cayman Islands in the 90s, working with pioneers like Tom Mount and Dick Rutkowski, revolutionized diving practices in the region.
Ed continued his leadership within NAUI serving on the instructor staff of many Instructor Trainer Courses and has earned several NAUI awards, culminating in his induction into the NAUI Hall of Honor.
His passion for diving history and antiques led him to significant roles, such as the director of development for the Journal of Diving History and a board member of the New London Maritime Museum, contributing to the preservation of diving heritage.
Advice for Aspiring Divers: Dive Often, Learn Continuously
For those embarking on their diving journey, Ed’s advice is invaluable. He emphasizes the importance of robust education and continuous learning through diverse diving experiences. Finding a dedicated instructor and immersing oneself in the diving world are key to a fulfilling diving career.
A Life Lived Below the Surface
Ed Uditis’s story is more than a chronicle of underwater exploration. It’s a narrative about passion, perseverance, and the power of community. As he continues to traverse the country, working at dive shows representing The Historical Diving Society at DEMA, Boston Sea Rovers, Scuba Show and Beneath the Sea, selling antiques, and sharing his rich experiences, Ed remains a beacon for aspiring divers, embodying a life truly lived beneath the surface.
To connect with Ed Uditis, you can find him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ed.uditis