Today – Wednesday 27th January – we are exactly half way thought the 2016 Boot Show in Dusseldorf. A day that is celebrated by the exhibitors. As I write this, the clock is ticking until the Boot Show closes for the day. For this evening all the exhibitors at this amazing event join together to have a beer and share stories at a special party. Most the stories are joyous tales. Some are less so. As I walked into the dive hall this morning, I was grabbed by Dick Lucas, who told me the sober news that diving legend Jack W. Lavanchy had died overnight.
The word that everyone who knew him would use to describe him is “gentleman”. He was a pleasure to be with and always had the vision for all divers to work together for the benefit of the sport.
Mark Caney, Vice President, PADI Technical Diving Division
If you are a scuba diver, Jack Lavanchy is a name you ought to know. So let me tell you something about one of the early pioneers of the European Scuba Diving Industry.
What I liked about Jack was that he never had any fire. He always tried to see and do things together so that both parties benefited. A lot of people only look at their own profit margin. Jack Lavanchy always made sure the that he brought everyone along with him.
Richard Lucas, Lucas Dive Centre
Jack, known as ‘Jacky’ by many, was born in Switzerland. By 1947 he was living in Cannes, France. His house overlooked the sea and it was here he observed people snorkelling and skin diving the Mediterranean waters.
I first started snorkelling in Cannes in 1948 and in 1950 I did my first scuba dive in the Mediterranean with “Club Alpin-Sous-Marin de Cannes”.
By the early 1960s he had become an instructor.
Jack Lavanchy was an active member of Switzerland’s oldest dive club, ‘Glaukos’. He held several posts over the years within Glaukos, including Secretary, Vice-President, President and Head of the Technical Committee. He worked with the Swiss Diving Federation as the Glaukos delegate and attended CMAS General Assemblies. Apparently Lavanchy was a fervent supporter of simplicity and safety in teaching methods. He supported the development of the CMAS Scientific Commission.
We met all over the globe, where ever there was diving. I first met him when I crossed over from CMAS to PADI. I am lucky he mentored me. I loved the fact that with Jacky a handshake meant something. He was an old fashioned businessman in that he dealt with honour and had integrity and ethics. Today the diving world is a little poorer because he no longer walks amongst us.
Matthias Breit, Dive Point Red Sea
In 1956 Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s pioneering documentary ‘The Silent World’ was released. It inspired many people including Jack Lavanchy.
In 1965 I became Switzerland’s exclusive agent for La Spirotechnique and subsequently TECHNISUB. Then in 1968 I became their agent for Germany and Austria.
Jack Lavanchy established and co-owned JWL (Jack William Lavanchy) for thirty years. It later evolved into JWL Aqualung AG and was a major scuba gear distribution company. He also manufactured equipment under the name of JWL including weight belts, gloves, boots and neoprene suits.
My goal has always been to make the manufacturing and selling of diving equipment a serious professional and honourable business. I did everything I could to bring the Diving Industry closer together, instead of spending money, time and energy in quarrelling and lawsuits!
In 1983 Jack Lavanchy and his business partner Jürg Beeli were granted the European and Maldives franchise from PADI. Lavanchy and Beeli had recognised the potential for PADI to improve diver training and grow scuba diving in Europe and founded PADI European Services (PES). A year later, in 1984, the PADI European College was established. PES transitioned into PADI Europe in 1988 before becoming part of PADI EMEA.
I have always fought for unity and collaboration. It does not matter if you are a member of SSI, CMAS or PADI. The main thing is that you are a diver who dives safely and motivates other people to dive.
Image courtesy of PADI
Jack Lavanchy passionately believed in conserving and protecting the underwater environment. To this end in 1996 he launched Project AWARE (Aquatic World Awareness Responsibility and Education) Foundation in Europe. Project AWARE encouraged diver participation, ie beach clean ups, and grew to become one of Europe’s most active and influential marine environmental organisations.
The more divers there are, the more they can convince the non-divers and authorities how important it is to preserve and protect the underwater realm.
Under Lavanchy’s leadership PADI experienced double-digit growth, growing into Europe’s largest diver training organisation.
JWL Aqualung AG also enjoyed commercial success, and in 1995 Beeli and Lavanchy sold their shares in the company to Aqualung International.
Over the years I have tried to bring the diving equipment manufacturers and the training agencies closer together. It is only through close collaboration that we can make snorkelling and scuba diving grow further, so that more people can admire and enjoy this fascinating underwater world.
During his long career Jack Lavanchy was a valuable member of many boards which influenced the European diving industry. His contributions were recognised as he received numerous honors and titles, including:
- Historical Diving Society Advisory Board
- International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame
- European Underwater Federation Honorary Vice President
His contributions will be missed, but Jack himself will be missed the most.
Writing this, I found myself mentally transported back to last year’s Boot Show. I was lucky enough to be in the audience at the Tauchen Awards, to see Werner Thomaier, General Manager of Aqua Lung Germany announce that Jack Lavanchy was to receive the 2015 Tauchen Honorary Award.
This presentation recognised his lifetime achievements and his many years of dedication, service and commitment to the sport of diving. The level of applause in the room indicated the agreement and support by the audience.
He made it possible for dive centre and shows like this (Boot) to get established. He built bridges. He was the nicest person in the diving industry.
Dick Lucas, NAUI Europe
He has been an example to all of us that it is possible to have every competitor work together at the table. He was the one with an open mind. We are going to miss this most.
Jan Oldenhuizing, personal friend of Jack
Jack Lavanchy was a captain in our industry. A legend. And a very sweet, nice person.
Henri Hemmerechts, Association of Dive Professionals