People of the Attractions: Taking the Plunge
“If you can dive there, you can dive pretty much anywhere,” Jim Mayfield says about the cold, murky waters off Northern California’s coast. The brutal waters were where he learned to dive, starting at the tender age of 9, and where he developed a lifelong passion for the ocean. That drive also led him on the path to cofound Sub Sea Systems, the innovative company that makes it possible for everyday folks to dive, well, pretty much anywhere.
It was Mayfield’s dad, an inventor and a diver, who introduced him to the aquatic world. After establishing a company that incorporated his father’s inventions and manufactured tools for power plants, he and his partner sold the business and used the proceeds to launch Sub Sea Systems.
“We always wanted to build a submarine for tourism,” Mayfield says.
The company produced a fleet of subs that is still sending passengers on underwater journeys in locales including Hawaii and Bali. Sub Sea Systems then crafted 100-passenger semi-submersibles.
“It was an up-and-down business,” Mayfield quips. The subs also didn’t fully capture the intimacy and thrill of diving, so Sub Sea developed SNUBA, a concept that is a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving. That helped guests get closer to the diving experience that Mayfield loves, but it didn’t address the huge market of non-swimmers, non-divers, and multi-generational families looking to share experiences. “How could we get people who have never been underwater to go underwater?” he asks.
That was the challenge that led to SeaTrek, a modern-day take on diving helmets. The guided tour experience allows participants, regardless of their skill level, to ply the waters easily and safely. It’s a huge hit at places such as Orlando’s Discovery Cove and Mexico’s Xcaret Park.
Making the ocean accessible and putting smiles on people’s faces gives Mayfield enormous pleasure. But he’s even more pleased and proud that his family is joining him on his underwater odyssey.
“One of my earliest memories is being in a bathtub with a dive regulator in my mouth,” says Hannah de Bie, who, like Mayfield’s two other children, shares a passion for the ocean and works alongside her dad.
Mayfield says his grandkids love using the SeaTrek helmets he keeps by the pool at his house. And they too are hanging out at the Sub Sea facility, ready to make a third-generation splash at the company.
Sub Sea continues to innovate with concepts such as Aquaticar, an underwater driving adventure that will make its debut at the Qiddiya water theme park under construction in Saudi Arabia, and DIVR+, a VR snorkeling experience that incorporates the neutral buoyancy of water to provide realistic journeys into space, the ocean, and beyond. “Our love of water is contagious,” de Bie says, referring to her family as well as the guests who dive into Sub Sea’s products.