Broadcasting beneath the surface

Hometown: Orlando, Fla.
Age: 48
Years Diving: 20
Favorite Dive Destination: My next dive
Why You Are a DAN Member: There are so many benefits; it's just dumb not to be!

Greg Holt, better known to ScubaRadio listeners as "Greg the Divemaster," wanted to dive the moment he first saw James Cameron's The Abyss. His chance came in 1991 while he was working at a radio station in Orlando, Fla. His assignment: develop a commercial for a local dive center. His terms: free dive lessons. "Greg the Open-Water Diver" was born.

Unfortunately, his first few dives were hardly the Hollywood fantasy. Chilly waters, equipment struggles and poor visibility plagued him, but he stuck with it. He knew there had to be more.

"My 10th dive in, I had my Zen experience," Holt remembers. "I'd worked out all the equipment issues, I was comfortable, and suddenly all the color came. For the first time, I could really see underwater. It's been like that ever since."

He continued his diving education and earned the title "Greg the Divemaster" a few years later, an experience he shared with his listeners. By the time he'd achieved the certification, he'd spent a decade in radio, learning every format on the airwaves, including rock, country, Top 40 and adult contemporary. He had a diverse and extensive background, which unknowingly laid the groundwork for what would become ScubaRadio.
An Idea Takes Hold
One day Holt mentioned to his dive buddy and fellow station manager, Dick Sheetz (who would become affectionately known as Diver Dick), how fun it would be to do a radio show focused on diving. He even had an idea for the format.

"In my encounters with the dive industry, I'd met some interesting characters," Holt explained. "I thought, what if we did a show where we cover locations all over the world, focusing on those characters with a little irreverence sprinkled in?"

Excited by the concept, the dive duo set off for the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) trade show to seek sponsorships. "DAN was the first group I approached," Holt said. "I told them, ‘I'm a divemaster, I'm a DAN Member, and I don't want to do ScubaRadio without your support.'"

So began the 14-year relationship between DAN and ScubaRadio, which started with commercials but now includes regular interviews with DAN staff as well as weekly safety tips. "It's been a tremendous relationship that's only grown stronger over the years," Holt said. "I wouldn't have started if DAN hadn't supported the idea."

Launched in 1997, ScubaRadio was well received from the start, and its audience grew at a remarkable rate. Before long, though, Holt was faced with a choice: move into a sales position or leave his job to continue ScubaRadio full time.

"I went home that night, crunched the numbers and realized I could actually do this," Holt said. "I knew how it could be done, from programming to syndication to performance. Timing is a funny thing. Things happen in life, and hopefully you're prepared when they do. At the time, I was more prepared than I ever realized." Holt left his job to become the full-time owner of ScubaRadio.

Redoubling his efforts to make the show a success, Holt incorporated it, syndicated it and watched the reach of ScubaRadio begin to extend. Suddenly, they were getting calls from dive destinations and travel stations seeking advertising opportunities on their airwaves.

Sheetz had remained Holt's ally and co-host from the start, and the show succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. Then in February 2000, just shy of the show's third anniversary, Diver Dick was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer. He died Oct. 9, 2000.

"Dick's death was really difficult for me, and I didn't think I could continue the show. We'd started this together. When it happened, I talked about it on the radio. I sort of went into cruise control thinking I couldn't do it, but the listeners lifted me up. The energy from the show and knowing Dick wanted me to continue it kept me going," Holt said. "Every once in a while, I feel like he's swimming next to me, saying, ‘Good job there, dive buddy.' He was an integral part of the show; it was tough to lose him."
ScubaRadio is designed to promote diving to nondivers at the same time it entertains divers. "We try to entertain while we educate, and hopefully that takes hold and turns nondivers into divers," Holt explains. "We're selling fun; we're selling a lifestyle, and that's something you can't fake. Hearing real emotions and that genuine enthusiasm for what we do is what really connects with radio listeners."

The range of adventures has grown with the show. Today, Holt often broadcasts from distant islands and liveaboards, taking listeners with him as he tells tales of dive destinations, scuba adventures, critters encountered and the characters who join him along the way, including ScubaRadio's iconic mermaid pod.

"They have a substance to them and are an integral part of the show," Holt said. "For example, Mermaid Toni is a certified PADI and DAN Instructor; she can talk to people at any level. Our mermaids are ambassadors for the sea. Just as the show has, the mermaid thing has taken on a life of its own."
The Radio Man

With ScubaRadio a growing success, Holt decided in 1995 to launch an offshoot of the show, World of Boating, bridging the diving and boating communities and offering a new avenue to promote the diving industry. Each Saturday, Holt now spends two hours above the surface in addition to his two hours below the surface.

"If you told me I'd be doing a dive radio show as my full-time job 15 years ago, I would have laughed you right out of the room," Holt admits. "But now that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm so fortunate, it's not even funny — actually it kind of is — and I think most people who listen to ScubaRadio can tell I love it!"

A devoted husband and father of two, Holt is a lifelong radio man and 20-year dive veteran, still seeking his next Zen moment as he entertains and gives back to the industry that allowed him to take an idea and build a dream.
Listen to the Show
ScubaRadio broadcasts live every Saturday from 3-5 p.m. (ET). Carried on a network of radio stations, the show also streams live online. If you miss it, you can download podcasts of past shows anytime. For information on all listening options, visit www.ScubaRadio.com.