To say that Kimberly Infield grew up around SCUBA diving is an understatement. Certified for SCUBA at age 12 and diving KISS rebreathers since age 18, her dad, Doug Ebersole (also with KISS) has had a huge influence on her, as has shark conservationist Jim Abernethy, with whom it is believed she was the youngest woman to ever intentionally dive with tiger sharks. Kim actively continued with SCUBA diving through her years in college at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, where she studied Molecular Biology. During this time, she celebrated every hundredth dive doing something her mother Carol would have forbidden had she known, such as dangling from her feet holding a crate of shark bait in the Bahamas!
Fast forward a few years, and Kim is currently the Operations Manager of SeaVentures Aquatic Center, a PADI 5 Star IDC -level dive center in Alpharetta, Georgia where she initiated and currently heads its technical diving program. She holds instructor-level certifications from PADI, SSI, DAN, SDI/TDI, and IANTD. Kim believes that using and teaching KISS rebreathers is key to her mission of expanding the reach and enjoyment of technical diving.
“The thing I like about KISS” says Kim, “is the elegance of the systems they design. The lightweight, compact design of the Orca Spirit LTE makes it great gear with which to transport and travel, and its straightforward assembly is easy for my students to learn with confidence. Once we complete training, many of our users prefer a KISS rebreather to traditional open circuit systems, even for recreational diving on vacation. That’s a level of convenience, reliability, and simplicity that is really unique in rebreather systems.”
Apart from her avid interest in technical diving, she has a strong passion for SCUBA-related outreach organizations such as the Handicapped Scuba Association and Patriots for Disabled Divers. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Danny and their dog, Samsonite. Though she’s been privileged to dive all around the world, her favorite dive sites are easily accessible from her childhood home in Central Florida, including the Blue Heron Bridge in West Palm Beach, Florida and Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, where she sees Kimberly (the tiger shark Jim named after her) as often as she can.
Alan Studley - KISS Instructor/Trainer Emeritus
Alan is best know as KISS Rebreather’s foremost CCR Instructor/Trainer in addition to company’s primary North American Sales Manager.
Alan’s initiation with KISS Rebreather’s were during KISS Rebreather’s humble beginnings back in March 2001. Following a meeting with the owner of the company Gordon Smith, he became the proud owner of Classic KISS #36.
Soon after, with a little insistence from Gordon, Alan became the first KISS Rebreather Instructor Trainer with A.N.D.I , I.A.N.T.D. & TDI, which eventually evolved into a stronger relationship with Gordon and Kim and a more hands involvement with all KISS products.
For both Alan and KISS, it was a good fit as Alan's past experience included owning and operating a dive center in Napa, California, as well as teaching open water dive courses for many years. His other pursuits included photography and filmmaking which also had him venturing into terrestrial photo and filming projects of predators like lions in Africa to doing a stent for Wild Things; Wolf re-entering project in Yellowstone National Park. Through his talents as a California based photographer, he was signed on for 10 weeks as a research photographer for a special Chicago zoological project.
Being that the water always still comes first, Alan’s passion for photography turned back to the ocean. Some of his work with sea otters and sharks amongst other marine life has aired on ABC, NBC, Show Time, The Learning Channel and syndicated television. He co-produced Discover California Diving, a DVD/CD, promoting diving in California .
It was on this same road that led Alan to rebreathers transiting from semi-closed rebreathers in the mid 90’s to fully closed circuit systems by 2001.
The ability to work closer to marine wildlife that are easily disturbed or frighten by bubbles like schooling hammerheads in the Eastern Pacific, or extend his bottom times closer to home in California was paramount, with CCR technology as the means to do it.
“As a self-confessed gear fanatic, I still find that in spite of the fact that there are more rebreather models today than there ever before, the KISS is still a hard system to beat. Very few can meet it when you factor just how lightweight, reliable, rugged and time tested they are. And the playing field is further narrowed down when you discover just how quick and easy it is to set up, break down and clean compared to other units out there. For me, whether swimming or scootering the drag is minimal and trimming for buoyancy is effortless,” Alan further adds “which is why I still chose to only teach KISS rebreather courses.”
While Alan is happy to pass on the touch when it comes teaching to some of the new faces in the industry, he still sees himself as a KISS Rebreather Diver to the day he hangs up his fins. Still with #36 Classic Kiss Head, everything else evolved.
Curt Bowen - Explorer, Photographer, Publisher Advanced Diver Magazine
Curt Bowen started his diving career at a young age when he moved from his land-locked home state of Iowa to the beaches of Sarasota, Florida. As with the case of many divers, he was drawn to the underwater environment by watching the Cousteau specials as a child.
Following years of diving and continued education to higher certifications, Curt become heavily involved in deep cave and wreck exploration in the late 80’s. For many years Curt performed in the role of technical instructor, teaching extended range, decompression, and trimix.
In 1995 Curt founded a new technical diving publication, DeepTech Journal, and for five years traveled, explored and published many outstanding magazine issues. Business partner problems caused the closure of DeepTech Journal, while at the same time spawning the birth of Advanced Diver Magazine, now under the sole ownership of Curt Bowen.
With the increased editorial and image demands of owning a dive publication, Curt expanded his dive skills to include underwater photography and video. His desire to explore new locations and document new discoveries have taken him to the Great Lakes, through Central America and the Bahamas, and as far west as the western Pacific Ocean.
Since closed-circuit rebreathers are excellent tools for gaining extended bottom times, reducing bubble percolation in the cave or wreck environment, reducing decompression requirements, and enabling closer encounters with marine species, adopting rebreathers was a natural evolutionary step for Curt. But using them in remote locations does have its challenges, as Curt will point out. “When you have spent thousands of dollars, traveled great distances, dealing with a litany of weight restrictions along the way, you would like that rebreather you have chosen to work every time,” he says.
The road often taken by Curt is seldom an easy one. “Transporting heavy equipment across rugged terrain, through dry cave passages, or over miles of winding foot paths is a difficult and very taxing task,” he says, “and you gotta bring only what is essential, leaving many luxuries at home. My own KISS Classic is often stripped down to the vary basics to keep it highly simplified, lightweight, and easy to maintain in remote locations.”
During these expeditions, he had become accustomed to extreme streamlining of his diving equipment. The main motivation for choosing the KISS Classic CCR was the absence of chest-mounted counter lungs, providing the cleanest and most streamlined CCR system available. Having no counter lungs on the chest also freed up the standard D-ring locations normally used to attach the extra cameras, strobes, and HID / LED lights needed for photography.
“The reason I have stuck with it,” Bowen says, “is that as a serious cave and wreck explorer it has proven to be an exceptional tool that always gets the job done!”
Brett Hemphill - Technical Cave Explorer
Brett B. Hemphill is current Director for Karst Underwater Research.
Brett B. Hemphill has been exploring since he can remember. By the age of 12, he had moved 5 times with his parents, including a year in the country of Japan. The changes to his childhood surroundings only sparked his desire to investigate everything around him, climbing everything that was climbable, searching every creek to its source, molding him into the person he is today.
At age 14 Brett attended a youth dry cave excursion. One night, while the others slept, Brett and two trip counselors managed to find a yet undiscovered section of the cave. This discovery, small as it may have been, was just the beginning.
During the early nineties, many cave divers throughout Florida believed undiscovered caves were all but a thing of the past. Using redundant no-mount and side-mount techniques Brett began to probe and explore every small spring and tidal vent within a fifty-mile radius of his home in central Florida. After the discovery of several significant underwater caves, Brett formed HydroGeo Environmental in 1994. This group studied explored and documented several previously unknown coastal underwater caves in central Florida. Their discoveries helped scientists and residents reach new appreciation and awareness of the regions submerged cave resources.
Realizing small underwater caves could sometimes lead to large discoveries; Brett adapted pre-existing designs from fundamental side mount divers to create the Armadillo side mount system. Brett filmed and assisted in producing a series of short underwater cave documentaries including the National Association of Cave Diving (NACD)’s The Need for Training.
For over 20 years, with the support and companionship of friends and team members alike, Brett Hemphill has assisted in exploring, mapping and the research several of the deepest, largest & most unique underwater cave systems in the United States. Additional exploration and research locations includes; Bahamas, Cay Sal Banks, Dominican Republic & Yucatan Peninsula. He consults and speaks regularly on: cave conservancy, exploration and logistics, side-mount & re-breather configurations, designs and there usage in overhead environments.
“Many people say my KISS Classic is not your typical stock model,” he says. “But although this may be true, I can assure you, my limited modifications have not changed the overall philosophy behind this CCR, which is “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Before I began exploring deeper than 300 ft / 91.44 m, there wasn’t even a practical use for any modification. I used my stock Classic in the exploration of more than six underwater cave systems in two years. Years before purchasing my KISS Classic, I spent a significant amount of time researching just what type of rebreathers were being used actively in exploration, and what I found was that SCCR units at the time were the rebreathers of choice especially for cave exploration.”
Why you wonder? Brett’s answer is simple and direct - unquestionable reliability. “There comes a point where too much technology can separate one from the environment they are trying to engage,” Brett says. He draws on his own experiences and that of other CCR cave divers. Brett further adds “Rebreathers can be invaluable tools, but the drawbacks for using these units for extreme extended range cave diving can involve the need for staging excessive bailout / breathing gas in addition to other necessary redundant equipment.”
“One of the startling truths I learned after purchasing a mechanical/manual CCR (the KISS Classic) was that I soon found that in most scenarios, be it recreational to actual exploration, I managed to still handle more than my fair share of the work load, regardless of how long the bottom times were. And the part that shocked many of my dive partners time and time again was how my total decompression was no longer than theirs. What I also witnessed during many of these dives was as that when intensity of the environment increased, so was the transfixed nature of their attention towards their electronics and what may or may not be happening with their electronic CCR.”
Walt Stearns - Photographer, Publisher & Marketing Specialist
Walt’s 39 plus years experience in diving covers a broad array of subject matter beginning with more than 28 years as photojournalist with a prolific compilation work that has graced the pages and covers of magazines like Skin Diver, Scuba Diving, Sport Diver, Salt Water Sportsman, Sport Fishing, Boating, Nature and Field & Stream, to name a few.
In addition to his work with these widely-recognized magazines titles, Walt has also served as a key participant in several marine related films and documentaries from African Shark Safari, Mystery of the Whale Cave to Discovery Channel’s Shark Week (Perfect Predators) and North America series produced by the BBC’s Wild Horizons, Ltd.
Walt’s travels have taken him across a broad extent of the Bahamas & Caribbean, Central America and Eastern Pacific and to corners of Tropical Western Pacific and South Africa. When asked where his favorite place to dive is? His answer will be, “Preferably in the water.”
When it comes to tech diving, Walt will be the first to say that he does not see himself as a tech diver, although he holds a Full Cave Diving Certification (NACD) and KISS Rebreather Instructor rating with TDI, rather he sees himself as someone who often uses tech to do what he likes.
“Diving on a rebreather is essential tool for me”, Walt points out. "When I am in the water, I want to be able focus on what it is that I am doing. The last thing I need is dealing with temperamental equipment in or out of the water.” he says. “As for rebreathers, KISS is the one system that just has the habit of not knowing when to quit. It’s a durable and dependable package that is quick and simple to set up, dive, breakdown and clean, not to mention easy to fix in the field, which for me is a really nice feature especially when my CCR diving is someplace far and away from home.”
Walt’s other endeavors encompass publisher of the online magazine Underwater Journal to Media & Marketing consulting to Photography & Content Creator for other companies within the dive industry including the creation of KISS Rebreather's current website.
Tim Taylor - President of Underwater Research & Exploration Co., Explorer and KISS Diver
Tim Taylor is an accomplished ocean explorer, adventurer, naturalist and conservationist. He has been exploring the underwater world for over 30 years and currently is President of Tiburon Subsea Research specializing in AUVs, ROV's and underwater data and imagery collection. Tim’s numerous marine discoveries include: The Araby Maid schooner sunk in 1904, lost WWII submarines and a one of a kind reef system in the Gulf of Mexico which he named Sherwood Forest. The reef is estimated to be approximately 9,000 years old and may be one of the most important nursery habitats off the coast of Florida. Sherwood Forest together with Black Forest Run (the largest black coral tract in the United States), are considered the centerpiece of the Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve.
Additional scientific research projects include nurse shark behavioral studies with Dr. Harold Wes Pratt from Mote Marine Lab, lemon shark surveys with the University of Miami and exploration and surveys of the deepest hermatipic coral reef in the world, Pulley Ridge with NOAA and Dr. Sylvia Earle. Tim’s projects and work have encompassed deployment of a National Science Foundation/National Geographic “critter cams” multi year expedition, logistical and operations support services on the National Geographic/NOVA cave documentary with the late Wes Skiles and Brian Kakuk in the Bahamas and the development and deployment of deep water AUV systems mapping 1800 square miles at a depth of up to 5000 feet deep.
In recognition of his accomplishments, Tim was inducted as a Fellow in the prestigious Explorers Club in 2004. He has since carried the Club’s flag on ten successful expeditions. In 2008 he was awarded the Club’s prestigious "Citation of Merit" for his contributions to exploration, an award bestowed to notable explorers that include Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic.
His current projects involve more innovative diving technology utilizing autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to remotely operated vehicles (ROV). One of his most resent and highly publicized accomplishments is the discovery and documentation of the WWI class submarine, the USS R-12, that was lost in WWII in 600 feet of water off the Florida Keys with 42 entombed sailors. Tim has been profiled in the London Financial Times, The New York Times, Bloomberg News and has appeared on FOX, CNBC, BBC, CBC and CNN as an underwater technology and robotics expert.
“When technology like AUVs and ROV’s work, the results can be astounding” he says. "When they do not due to a glitch in software or power to the robotics, it cost valuable time and money. I pride myself on keeping that time to a minimum. It is the same with the rebreathers I chose to outfit my team with. These rebreathers are a fundamental tool of ours, at the same time we cannot afford to have them become a chronic liability. That is why my team and I dive KISS rebreathers. They are simply the sturdiest and most reliable units available. We are underway for months at a time in some of the most remote locations and need to count on our equipment to perform. No other units I have ever encountered can beat a KISS in the field." states Taylor