Friday, August 19, 2022
Aug. 19, 2022

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Working in Clark County: Billy Joe Snook, scuba instructor

By , Columbian staff writer
4 Photos
Billy Snook, co-owner of Seven Seas Scuba, helps student Heidi Pratt, 12, out of the pool at Cascade Athletic Center.
Billy Snook, co-owner of Seven Seas Scuba, helps student Heidi Pratt, 12, out of the pool at Cascade Athletic Center. Photo Gallery

Billy Snook, owner of Seven Seas Scuba, tells a story about diving in Browning Pass, north of Vancouver Island, when a giant octopus slithered familiarly onto his lap. Snook’s diving apparatus, a closed-circuit rebreather, allows close encounters like this because it emits no disturbing bubbles and allows longer dives. Since Snook was able to stay still longer and adapt to the creature’s surroundings, he made a new deep-down friend.

It’s these types of experiences Snook enjoys while teaching his advanced diving students; the thrill of becoming one with the underwater environment, seeing the beauty of the ocean floor, and enjoying sea life displaying more natural, undisturbed behavior.

Name: Billy Joe Snook.

Business name: Seven Seas Scuba (owner), 3200 S.E. 164th Ave., Suite 216, Vancouver.

Residence city/neighborhood: Sifton.

Age: 52.

Educational/professional background: I’m originally from upstate New York and was a Navy kid, so we moved 15 times before I got out of high school. I graduated from Columbia River High and then took some vocational training at Clark College.

I was working in homebuilding and metal fabrication, and became certified in diving in Maui. While it was a hobby, I was hoping eventually to become an instructor. When the recession hit, I did what I could to make money diving here and in Florida and California.

How — and when — you got started in your business: I have been fascinated by the ocean for as long as I can remember. I watched Jacques Cousteau as a youngster and always wanted to learn to dive. I started diving in 1995, became certified and started Seven Seas Scuba in 2004. Now I generally focus my instruction on closed-circuit rebreather diving.

Personal/business philosophy: I believe in treating people the way I’d like to be treated, to provide friendly and exemplary customer service and to have a business folks like to come back to.

Most rewarding part of job: Changing people’s lives through learning to dive and sharing the boundless underwater world.

Most challenging part of job: Convincing people in the Pacific Northwest to try diving in our waters. Many people don’t realize the diversity and beauty that can be found right here in the Puget Sound. You can see various species of rockfish, wolf eel, anemones– a mixture of all that can be quite intense.

Something surprising about your work: I had no idea all the places and opportunities it would take me! I have traveled to Papua New Guinea, Borneo and Indonesia. I have dived WWII shipwrecks in Micronesia and taken people all over the Caribbean. I also had the opportunity to become Fabien Cousteau’s chief diver for the Mission 31 expedition to the undersea laboratory Aquarius in the Florida Keys.

Best feature of my Clark County community: The revitalization of downtown Vancouver is really on my radar screen.

What would make your community a better place: More habitat mitigation for wildlife, more efforts to clean stormwater runoff, things of that nature. The sea is not inexhaustible by any means. Someday we’ll wish we’d done more.

What is your favorite travel destination and type: Dive travel to remote and adventurous places, like Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: Nicholas Restaurant in Portland; McGrath’s Fish House.

Hobbies: Hiking with my dog Gypsy, camping, beachcombing.

Most enjoyable book/play/movie/arts event in past 12 months: Blue Ocean Film Festival, the movie “Hidden Figures.”

Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: Dive in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, and also visit India.

One word to describe yourself: Adventure-lust.

Person you’d most like to meet: Jacques Cousteau if he were alive, and David Attenborough.

Columbian staff writer

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