Paul Tzimoulis was a true diving pioneer. He passed away on June 3, 2003 after a battle with cancer. His passing leaves a void of knowledge, enthusiasm and professionalism not soon to be seen again.
Anyone in the recreational diving industry more than just a short time has heard the name. Paul was one of diving’s statesmen and its foremost advocate. He is well known for his wealth of articles, his photography knowledge and skill, and his diving business acumen.
Paul was the publisher of Skin Diver Magazine during the 1970s and 1980s-scuba’s golden age. He was with Skin Diver for over 34 years as a writer, photographer and later publisher. Looking back in those old well and worn issues of that publication, one can follow the positive growth of the industry, largely influenced and nurtured by Paul in his editorials and articles.
Paul started early. In 1951 at the age of 15, Tzimoulis began free diving to explore the lakes of Connecticut. He bought a gum rubber facemask and a pair of fins from a sporting good store. His early explorations were centered on finding bass and other species in the local lakes. Soon he was trying to find ways to stay underwater longer.
As an early adventurer scuba diving in 1953, Tzimoulis experimented with homemade scuba. Over the next year, he used a converted Air Force oxygen rebreather to expand his underwater exploration. During an extended trip to Miami Florida in 1954, he became impressed with the sport diving equipment available there. In 1956 he bought an Aqua Lung, and by 1957 he had opened a scuba training school. Tzimoulis trained more than 5,000 diving students throughout New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford Connecticut. He even tried his hand at professional sponge diving in Tarpon Springs, FL.
Tzimoulis started and operated East Haven Diving Center in 1958, one of the first east coast retail dive stores. He also worked with retailers throughout the US, developing diving promotional activities,including underwater film festivals, dive seminars and dive events. Eventually he explored much of the east coast and Caribbean, from Bar Harbor in Maine, to Key West in Florida, as well as Bermuda, Bimini, Nassau, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Grand Cayman. He became a nationally-recognized authority on wreck diving, underwater photography, treasure hunting and underwater natural history.
Paul was certified as a Scuba Instructor at the first YMCA Diving Institute conducted in Boston in 1960. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed to the YMCA Board of Examiners for YMCA Diving Instructor Certification. From 1959 to 1961 he was the Customer Service Manager for U.S. Divers Company at their Stamford, Connecticut facility. He later served as East Coast Sales Manager for Sportsways, Inc. (1961 to 1963)calling on retail dive stores from Maine to Key West.
Paul received his NAUI Instructor Certification (#347) in 1962 and soon joined the Eastern NAUI Board of Instructor Examiners. He became a PADI Instructor (#125) during their first year of existence, 1966. He also served on the Boards and teaching faculty for these organizations, training and certifying instructors.
Of all professional underwater photographers, few are as widely known and as easily recognized as Paul Tzimoulis. Paul began in 1957 with an Argus C-3 in a plastic bag. He won his first underwater photo competition in 1959. He was a five-time winner of the Connecticut Underwater Photography Competitions. Tzimoulis founded one of the first underwater photography schools, located in San Salvador, Bahamas. He developed many of the teaching techniques still in use today. Tzimoulis conducted additional underwater photo courses in Hawaii, Bonaire, Florida Keys, Stella Maris and Chub Cay, Bahamas. His first article, "Sponge Diving, Scuba Style," appeared in the August 1959 edition of Skin Diver. He went on to photograph Hannes Keller’s world record dive to 1,000 feet off Santa Catalina Island in 1962 and he was the Executive Director of the first International Underwater Film Festival held in New York City, in February 1965.
After a distinguished career with Skin Diver, Tzimoulis retired as Vice President, Executive Publisher and Group Publisher for the Photography/Marine Division of Petersen Magazine Network in 1998. Not one for sitting on his laurels, Tzimoulis returned from retirement to become Executive Consultant of Sport Diver Magazine and Online Publisher of the Sport Diver Website.
Paul was the Master of Ceremonies for countless underwater film festivals, industry award ceremonies and other formal functions. In addition to his wide range of other professional activities, Tzimoulis was an active participant in the diving community, including: Chairman, Leonard Greenstone Diving Safety Award Selection Committee, and several others. In 2002, Tzimoulis was elected Chairman of The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences. Under his leadership, the Academy made great strides in expansion and operational improvement.
Since 1957, Paul Tzimoulis has received more than 50 awards from the diving industry. These include: the Diver Of The Year Award presented by the Boston Sea Rovers (1966); Honored Photographer from the International Underwater Film Festival (1968); the NOGI Award For Sports & Education from the Underwater Society of America (now presented by The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences) (1969); Hall of Fame Undersea Photography Award, Hawaii (1971); Oceanus Award – Our Future In Depths Arts Award (1977); Underwater Photographic Society Outstanding Achievement Award (1978); Sir Turtle Award from the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (1983); Reaching Out Award and induction into the DEMA Hall of Fame (1997); PADI Outstanding Achievement Award (1998); induction into the Cayman Islands International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame (2001); Interspace Pacifica; Boston Underwater Club; the Sir Turtle Award of the Cayman Islands; and many others.