Wonder Beneath the Waves

Jacques Cousteau’s passion lives on in Aqua Lung

Posted on August 31, 2018

A product of the ’70s, I distinctly remember nights around the TV with my family, raptly watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. But what I never knew was how close we are to Cousteau’s legacy, right here in San Diego. As tied as our community is to the ocean and its enjoyment and research, Aqua Lung, the huge diving and aquatics company that evolved from Cousteau’s 1943 invention of the same name, has quietly run its operations in North County since 1990.

Celebrating a milestone anniversary this year at 75, Aqua Lung continues to innovate and enable divers, swimmers, and recreational water enthusiasts of all kinds to enjoy the pool, beach, and our oceans. A military and professional division provides premium tools and equipment on a global level for defense, public safety, and special ops markets.

Stephen Murnane is a 25-year veteran at Aqua Lung and president of its Americas operation, run from the company’s Vista headquarters, which sits, fittingly, on Cousteau Court. Himself an avid diver, Murnane appreciates the history behind the company, its legendary founder, and its longevity. “To think what Jacques Cousteau [has done] — he’s inspired the world to enjoy water exploration,” says Murnane. “He has a tremendous legacy when it comes to conservation of the ocean, making people aware of how important the ocean is in our lives and to feel like we are part of that. I think what the 75th anniversary has done is it’s really made us take a good look at his legacy and remind ourselves to a large extent what our purpose is as a company.”

Aqua Lung

That purpose takes shape in numerous ways from the surface to the deep, including beach cleanups locally and conservation projects on a broader scale, but the foundation is a constant, even though many at the company now may be too young to remember Cousteau’s televised discoveries aboard the Calypso. “His name is not so familiar with the younger generation but as they become aware, they do feel a tremendous pride,” says Murnane. “What’s important for Millennials I find these days is it’s more than just the money when they work for something. There’s got to be a purpose that’s connected to that, and that’s why it’s important for us to share with them the legacy of Jacques Cousteau.”

One way that past-present-future bond is being fortified is through Aqua Lung’s two most famous ambassadors: Cousteau’s grandson, Phillippe Cousteau, Jr., and his wife, Ashlan. The couple are avid proponents and activists for ocean conservation. As hosts of Travel Channel’s popular Caribbean Pirate Treasure series as well as creators of other powerful ocean and nature-focused content, they are able to activate their visibility to raise environmental awareness at a global level, and their knowledge and passion make them respected advocates when advising on sustainability for ocean health.

Aqua Lung

Stephen and Melanie Murnane, Phillippe and Ashlan Cousteau, and Don and Barb Rockwell at La Paloma Theater in Encinitas

While Aqua Lung, its employees, and its ambassadors want us to conserve our ocean, they also want us to enjoy it. If you’ve dived, snorkeled, or even had kids who’ve taken swim lessons, chances are you’ve used their products, from goggles, snorkels, fins, and competitive swimwear to masks, wetsuits, regulators, buoyancy compensators, and dive computers. “What we’re continually trying to do is make that underwater experience as easy and comfortable as possible,” says Murnane.

What does Murnane seek from his own underwater excursions? “I’m looking for tranquility and theater,” he says. “You never know what you’re going to get when you go under the water in terms of who are the actors that are going to come on by — the marine life — and what you’ll see. Sometimes it’s the big, and sometimes it’s the smallest thing that can get you very excited.” aqualung.com   Deanna Murphy

Aqua Lung

La Paloma: Courtesy Photo     All other photography by Jeff Hornbaker