Steve Rubin - Reinventing Scuba Diving
With 40+ years in the transportation industry under his belt, Steve Rubin has worked in pretty much every aspect from driving the truck to managing a UPS facility, but his true passion was yet to come.

Since 2000, Steve’s passion has been working as a scuba instructor. He is a PADI Certified IDC Staff Instructor, first aid and CPR instructor and HSA Certified Instructor.

Realizing the unique therapeutic environment could do wonders for people, he and his wife, Barbara, founded the WAVES project in 2013, a 501(c)3 non profit organization that works with combat wounded American veterans and their families to learn how to scuba dive.

His goal is to create a community of divers, veterans and non-veterans, that will forge friendships and support each other to help heal their body, mind and spirit.

Listen to this episode to hear Steve and Ron Fonstad chat with Steve and Mary about the experiences they have had with wounded veterans and their families, and how it’s immensely improved the lives of all involved.

In This Episode:

1 – Reality Rally EMS Team; WAVES Project Explained; How Therapeutic Is Water?
2 – The Brotherhood Of The Military; Scuba Diving Gets Them Back Into The Field
3 – Rating Veterans’ Disabilities; Partnering With Veterans Organizations
4 – Swimming Through Kelp; Warm Caribbean Waters
Read Full Transcript

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Steve: Alright, welcome to another edition here of Reinvention Radio. I am your host Steve Olsher. Yay! We’ve got a snug… Oh it’s a cuddle fest that is so cute! We got Mary Goulet and Rich Otey sharing one microphone and we got a full house today! Because we got Steve… And what was your last name again Steve?

Steve Rubin: Rubin.

Steve: Rubin. Steve Rubin and Ron… Oh, man, I’m cuttin’ in and out. Ron Fonstad here in the house. I will have to adjust. Is that me?

Mary: Yeah. Yeah just…

Steve: That might be me. I will just mess with that right there…

Mary Goulet: Yeah.

Steve: Any good? Yeah. Okay, that’s just me. It’s a little finicky thing, yeah.

Mary: It’s you… It’s your…in your head.

Steve: It’s all in my head there’s no doubt about that. It’s always in my head. Alright, so we got a full house with Steven Rubin and Ron Fonstad here from the WAVES Project, yes? Yeah.

Steve Rubin: It is!

Steve: specifically. And you guys, you’re friends of Reinvention Radio because you’re friends of one of our past guests. So you had Gillian. Gillian is a former Survivor contestant, right? So we did Reinventing Survivor. Gillian Larson.

Mary: Oh, that’s right!

Steve: Yeah.

Mary: Cool!

Steve: Remember that spark plug?

Mary: Oh yeah.

Steve: Man. If you haven’t listened to that episode she is uh – I mean jiminy crickets that woman’s got more energy than the three of us combined. There’s no doubt about that.

Mary: Well and the PR that she did, we should hook her up with Michele.

Steve: And there you go and then she could do the copywriting around that. Alright, so did you guys go to that road rally reinvented… What did they call that thing?

Steve Rubin: Reality Rally.

Steve: Reality Rally. Did you guys go to that because it’s in Temecula and you guys are from Temecula.

Ron: Yeah. Actually, part of my business about half time actually is teaching C.P.R. and First Aid. So we create emergency response teams to work that event for Gillian.

Steve: Ah.

Mary: Nice.

Steve: Interesting. And Steve did you go to that rally? I mean obviously you’re familiar with Gillian so what -- did you make it down there, are you hanging out with the... What do they call those reality stars? Yeah that’s what they are.

Steve Rubin: Well actually I was a part of that team.

Steve: You were a part of which team? Doing the…hosting the event?

Steve Rubin: The EMS team.

Steve: Ah. Okay. Very cool.

Steve Rubin: Yeah. It’s a great event. It’s a great event.

Steve: It is and they raise money for Gillian I think. Right?

Mary: Yeah, just for her.

Steve: Just for Gillian. I think that’s the charity.

Steve Rubin: No, it’s like Michele’s something or other.

Steve: Michelle’s Place. What does Michelle’s Place do? I don’t remember what that is.

Ron: Cancer?

Steve Rubin: Yeah it’s a breast cancer resource center.

Steve: Ah. Okay, so they’re actually doing good work in the world, unlike what we’re doing here.

Mary: Absolutely nothing.


Steve: We add zero value to the world other than trying to educate and sometimes we’re actually successful on that front but most of the time we miss badly. Alright, so gentlemen what brings you in today? Because obviously you’ve got the WAVES Project. You’ve got that fun stuff going on but we’ve got a whole hour here to talk about lots and lots of fun stuff but if there’s a core message you want to get across let’s get that on the table just right off the bat. What’s that core message?

Steve Rubin: Well, let me tell you a little bit about WAVES. WAVES is an acronym standing for Wounded American Veterans Experience Scuba. So what we have done is we have taken our passion of scuba diving and the therapeutic values of water and we’re helping our veterans that come back home with injuries, PTSD, amputations, being paralyzed, and we get them in the water. And there’s tremendous success in helping them rehabilitate, get that comradery back in the community, get them back out in the community and doing all that great stuff and them having not only a good time but studies have shown that it’s actually providing a therapeutic value.

Steve: Let’s talk about the therapeutic value of water. Is there such a thing? I mean I know that you need it for the body but in terms of repairing injuries or from a mental or emotional perspective, PTSD and so on... I mean because we’re talking about folks that are coming back with some serious trauma both physically and emotionally. How does water play a part in that? And is there really therapeutic, you know…

Mary: Have you ever taken a bath?

Steve: Oh is that what I… That’s... Okay.

Mary: I mean don’t you think it’s pretty obvious?

Steve: My wife likes baths. I’m not a bath guy. I just, I literally go down to the fountain. Like just down the street, there in the public plaza and do a little rinse and call it a day.

Mary: Seriously guys, right? Water’s got to be like so therapeutic.

Steve: Like scientifically speaking...

Mary: Emotionally. Everything.

Steve Rubin: Scientifically speaking, yes. You know in 2011 John Hopkins University, a couple neurologists there took 10 wheeled veterans or 10 veterans with disabilities down to the Cayman islands and they were looking just at that question... So, how therapeutic is it? And Cody Unser, Al Unser’s granddaughter…

Steve: Ah.

Steve Rubin: ...she suffered from a viral infection that rendered her paralyzed and she would tell her neurologist that “every time I get in the water, every time I dive, I’m feeling, I got bladder sensation, I’m feeling different things” and he kind of wrote it off for a while. She convinced him to do this study. So they got a grant, they went down, like I said they took 19 veterans, 10 of them participated in the scuba diving and when they got it all said and done they did testing prior, during, and after the event and the results they came up with was incredible. They were excited about the physical results, improvement in muscle spasticity, they equated it to being 6 to 12 months of task rehabilitation...

Steve: Wow.

Steve Rubin: two days of diving.

Steve: Wow.

Steve Rubin: What they were excited about and in their report what they reported as miraculous is that all 10 veterans that participated in the scuba diving showed an average of 80% reduction in PTSD which lasted…

Steve: Wow.

Steve Rubin: ...up to 6 weeks after the event and that’s when they stopped the testing.

Steve: So why do you think that is, Steve? I mean like what is it about water? I mean I’m a water – like, people talk about these water signs and fire signs and you know whatever all that stuff is. Mary, maybe you know what all those are. I only know water and fire ‘cause that’s what my wife is. She’s fire and I’m water. Can you imagine that? I’ve spent 20 years extinguishing her fire.


Mary: Absolutely. I was just going to say.

Steve: It’s been the purpose of my existence.

Mary: I need to talk to her.

Steve: Yeah, just, “I’m so happy!” [makes explosive sound] Sadness and darkness, that’s my – you know, people have their reason for being. That is my reason for being. I love her but – oh, sorry we’re talking about water, yes.


Steve: So water and its therapeutic, you know, qualities and whatnot. I know for a fact that I am a water person, right? And when I am around water there is definitely something that just like I don’t know, it’s like it’s cellular. I feel it in a way where it’s just like I’m home. Like, I need to be around water. So what do you think? Because there’s a lot of people out there who will tell you that, you know, it’s just water what can it do? But why do think on a cellular level, or on a genetic level, what do you think water is doing to help these men and women?

Steve Rubin: Well especially with PTSD one of the side effects is lack of concentration and they lose focus and when they’re underwater they’re kind of forced into having to focus more and pay attention to what they’re doing. Also, they’re weightless. So whether they’re able bodied or not it’s a very – we call it the great equalizer, especially for those who are paraplegics, quadriplegics, anyone that’s had amputations, suddenly they’re not bound by gravity. They’re not sitting in a wheelchair anymore, they don’t have crutches under their arms and so they feel the same as everybody else that’s underwater that are able-bodied.

Mary: Well also, when they’re underwater, they hear themselves breathe...

Steve Rubin: Absolutely.

Mary: ...and that’s got to relax them on a deeper level than just standing or being outside the water.

Steve: You’re talking specifically when they actually have scuba gear, yeah?

Mary: Well, yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Mary: They’re underwater with scuba gear.

Steve: Just making sure because…

Mary: You hear that sound, right?...

Steve Rubin: Yup

Mary: ...of your breathing and that just calms the nervous system.

Steve Rubin: You’re hearing yourself breathe, you’re hearing the bubbles coming out.

Steve: Have you ever gone scuba diving?

Mary: Nope.

Steve: Then how do you know? You’re just like – you’ve heard from other people.

Mary: I don’t... I don’t know. I mean I’m not a water person…


Mary: I’m an Earth girl.

Steve: So that – oh that’s the other one. Right. Earth is one of the other ones here.

Mary: I like my – so I used to race Hobie Cats and I had to be like – I would have to make…

Steve: Oh, you were a cat lady for a while. Alright. I got ya.

Mary: Yes, and I had to be like okay, “this is my earth”. And I’d be out on the water and take out but otherwise I... No. No. Nothing underwater.

Steve: Rich, have you ever been scuba diving?

Rich: Oh yeah I was gonna say though in the beginning, it’s gotta be what you tell them when they’re first going in because I was paranoid by the same things she says was soothing, right? I was like “oh my gosh, I’m hearing my breath” to me it was different. But I was going to say something about, we’re baking in water for 9 months.

Mary: I was just going to say that!

Steve: Baking in wat – like within our…

Rich: Childhood.

Mary: The baby.

Rich: Childhood. The baby.

Steve: Oh that. Yeah.

Mary: Yeah.

Rich: We’re developing our body in water.

Steve: Yeah.

Rich: I mean that in of itself has to be…

Steve: Some babies actually come out swimming which I don’t understand or whatever. Like literally, they put ‘em in the water. I don’t understand how those babies don’t drown. Like they are born into water and they don’t drown which makes zero sense…

Mary: Well, we don’t leave them…

Steve: me.

Mary: under water very long.

Steve: Oh, is that what – alright.


Mary: It’s just out and up and...

Steve: Okay, it’s making more sense now. Alright, got it. So let me just clarify this real quick. Did either of you guys surf?

Ron: No.

Steve: Okay.

Steve Rubin: No.

Steve: So, you did not surf. So, how did this come about where you wanted to work with the veterans? Specifically, because there’s a lot of groups of people that could probably benefit from this type of therapy so why veterans specifically?

Steve Rubin: Well, this is something that Ron and I have been working together on for the last 15-20 years teaching people how to scuba dive. A dear friend of mine’s daughter was married to a Marine and on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan he was hit with an IED. Took off both of his legs and three of his fingers on his left hand.

Steve: Oh, Jesus.

Steve Rubin: And he said something to me one day, when he found out that I was a scuba instructor that he was envious and he wanted to do it. And it was like, well why not? Let’s do it.

Steve Rubin: And that started now – taking that, our passion, and we thought, you know what? Let’s just go ahead and let’s show our passion to the vest. Let’s have some fun. And this is before we knew about the clinical research and the actual benefits of the therapeutic values of water.

Steve: How did that guy specifically benefit from going into the water? I mean obviously you said there’s the weightlessness and whatnot but what were you seeing cause I mean that’s a... And here we go. Alright, so let’s do this, we’ll take a quick break here on Reinvention Radio. Pretty interesting here, we got Steve and we got Ron in the house from and let’s talk a little bit more about the therapeutic healing powers of Scuba Diving in the water here on Reinvention Radio right after this.


Steve: Alright, welcome back to another edition here of Reinvention Radio. And I misspoke a little bit before the break cause it’s not it’s So, I want to make sure that we get that right. So, Now, Rich, you brought up actually an interesting point about going down alone and being able to have someone that you love with you. What was the question you asked Steve and Ron there on the break?

Rich: Yeah, I was just talking about the PT – PSD.

Steve: PTSD. That thing.

Rich: PTSD. How a lot of this could be helping because they’re going down with a buddy. Like, they can’t go down by themself and so that’s kind of almost like the mentality they had when they were serving, they had to look out for someone else, to help them as a team. And I imagine that team effort of the dive, going down with somebody, would definitely help out.

Steve Rubin: It’s one of the things that they miss when they leave the military. You know the family, the brotherhood, the team brotherhood, that they have when they’re in the military. Suddenly that goes away and they start getting more withdrawn. They get depressed which makes them more withdrawn…

Steve: Sure.

Steve Rubin: ...which makes them more depressed…

Steve: Yeah.

Steve Rubin: ...and pretty soon they’re sitting in their home with their curtains closed watching mindless TV, over and over again, and get into this awful cycle. And scuba diving gets them back into the comradery that they missed for so long. And many times it’s the caregiver, the spouse or whoever that they’re living with, that are getting in touch with us to reach out to them and bring them into the fold so to speak.

Mary: Okay, so walk us through like how you guys operate this. Do you do this once a week? Once a month? Do they come back and do it again? Do you know what I mean?

Steve Rubin: Certainly. Between March and November we run a class, or a course, about every 5 weeks. So we’re putting a new group of veterans through this class and this course. This year we are actually taking some veterans that have already been certified and we’re doing the Continuing Education. We’re giving them advanced scuba and some specialties. And we’re also working with a college up in Irvine, Stanbridge College, that has a Master’s Program for Occupational Therapy and they’re going to work with the veterans that we’re putting through on the advanced scuba and specialty dives and really taking that John Hopkins study, that clinical trial, and extending it. So, we’re going to be doing a 3 month study on our own to show the benefits.

Mary: So where do you guys want to grow this to? You’re working out of a high school and... I mean are you guys trying to make this nationwide or certify other people to do this or...?

Steve Rubin: Both.

Mary: Okay.

Steve Rubin: We would like... The goal is to be able to provide this type of program in every major city in the U.S.

Steve: Interesting. So just so I’m clear. So, you have your own... This is what you guys do full time? I mean do you -- are you scuba instructors? Or do you have – because, Ron, you were saying you actually do something else in addition to this. This is sort of like a love kind of thing. What do you do when you’re not teaching the scuba?

Ron: Well a combination of things, I started a business in CPR and First Aid training in 2004. I must be doing something right cause I still have a roof over my head and clothes on my back.

Steve: And you’re still breathing so that’s good.

Ron: And I’m still breathing…


Ron: And then scuba instruction is basically the other side of my life. Also, I’m practicing retiring. My wife is retired. So you know it’s kind of hard for me to get up and go to work when she’s sitting at home having fun. Occasionally we’ll get out. But yeah, basically, I’ve been a scuba instructor since 1996…

Steve: Oh, wow.

Ron: I’ve just passed my 20th year and it’s a passion in life. And when Steve met this young man that lost his limbs in Afghanistan and came up with this idea he called me. And he said, “Hey, let me run an idea by you” and I didn’t let him get the first sentence finished and I said “count me in”.

Mary: Nice.

Ron: And we’ve been going strong ever since. We’ve... This is going on our 4th year and in the last 3 ½ years we’ve put through over 100 people. So, yeah.

Steve: Wow. And so Steve are you doing something else as well? Or is scuba your full time profession and this is just something you do sort of on the non-for-profit side. What’s the structure for you?

Steve Rubin: Yeah, the WAVESProject is primarily all volunteers. This is actually going to be the first year that we are going to be paying our instructional staff. On the side, where I make my money, is in transportational logistics.

Steve: Wow.

Steve Rubin: So I work for myself in that field.

Steve: So you don’t actually have your own facility to train people. You go to the school or to somewhere else then to basically put the equipment on and put them under the water and then you take them to – well I guess you take them out to the ocean? Or is that – you literally take them out to sea and just say you know…

Steve Rubin: Good luck!


Steve: And why do they go backwards? Beause it’s like, it’s bad enough you got this 100,000 lb. thing on your back and then you drop into the water – that’s why I won’t do it. I first thought it might be interesting when I saw some of these guys kind of scuba diving and I saw the pretty pictures of them like swimming with the fish and the sharks and whatnot. And I was like, “uh, looks kinda fun”. And then I watch these guys like jump backwards and I’m like, I would drown. Like right in that moment I would probably drown, that would be the end of it. That’s as far as I would get.

Steve Rubin: It’s kind of hard to drown when you’ve got air supply in your mouth.

Steve: I’d panic!


Steve: I’d pull the thing out of my mouth and.. Because that’s like a weight. You know when you want to hide a body, not saying that – hypothetically…

Mary: How do you even make that link?


Steve: Hypothetically, if you want to hide a body, like you put a big weight on them and then they drop down so they lose the pully airy thingy then they’re going straight down, yeah? No?

Mary: Well I think survival instinct is going to tell you not to do that.

Steve: What if you can’t swim?

Mary: You have fins on. You’re buoyant. Aren’t you like kind of floaty?

Steve Rubin: Oh yeah.

Steve: If you can’t swim you shouldn’t be scuba diving, right? You’ve gotta know how to swim.

Steve Rubin: At least basically, yeah. You don’t have to be you know Michael Phelps but you certainly have to have at least a little bit of skill to get yourself through the water.

Steve: Well how did the guy swim who didn’t have – you said he got his legs blown off. How do you swim if you don’t have legs?

Steve Rubin: Web gloves. So we have adaptive equipment so now he’s propelling himself through the water…

Mary: That’s cool.

Steve Rubin: ...with web gloves.

Steve: Interesting.

Mary: That’s cool.

Steve Rubin: And the paraplegic is the same.

Mary: Okay, so who’s paying for all this equipment? How do you guys fund this?

Steve Rubin: Donations…

Mary: From?

Steve Rubin: ...upon donations. So, we have a lot of great sponsors. We do fundraisers. Matter of fact we’re doing a fundraiser up in Temecula at Europa Village, it’s a winery up there, on May 13th.

Steve: That is the best place to do – not just that winery specifically but, if you’re going to do a fundraiser you gotta have a lot of booze involved. Because like they – just people just lose their minds at some point. They’re just like, “I’ll take it!”. You know whatever it is and just like sneak some things in when they’re not looking and they end up having to write $10,000.00 checks. That’s a brilliant, brilliant strategy.

Steve Rubin: Thank you.


Steve: Yeah.

Ron: Yeah, this is the 2nd annual chili cook-off.

Steve Rubin: We have 15 competitors and people can come. For a $10 donation they can taste up to 15 different chilies, vote for their favorite. We have silent auction items, a couple of raffle items…

Steve: You don’t have a silent auction if you got a chili cook-off.


Steve: It’s not happening at all. No way.


Rich: You need Joel Comm’s app to…

Steve: Right?

Mary: Right?

Steve: So, alright you got the chili cook-off and that’s…

Ron: It’s Friday May 13th starts at 5:30.

Steve: Oh wow. So it’s coming up very soon. Do they go to to find tickets for that or where do folks go?

Steve Rubin: Yes, they can buy them online. They can buy them at the door.

Steve: So, what’s your goal? So, you obviously have over 100 people that have gone through, you’ve got all the equipment, it’s expensive. What’s your fundraising goal for this event?

Steve Rubin: This event is $7,000.00.

Steve: Wow.

Mary: You should be able to get that.

Steve: I would think so. I mean Rich will write you a check for that…

Mary: I was just going to say, Steve, you write a check.

Steve: Yeah, you know how my accounts are right now. I can’t write a check to anybody.


Steve: So 7,000... What does $7,000.00 pay for? Like what does that translate to?

Steve Rubin: Seven buddy teams getting trained and all the cost…

Steve: Seven buddy teams getting…

Steve Rubin: ...related to that.

Steve: Okay so... And when you say the buddy teams so it’s the veteran and then somebody that they want alongside of them in support because they both go underwater together?

Steve Rubin: Absolutely. So that’s what’s unique about this program other than like programs for veterans. A lot of times it’s just the veterans that is getting the benefit and because scuba diving is a buddy sport, we’re allowed to bring in the veteran and a buddy of their choice. A lot of times it could be the spouse, it could be a child, it could be somebody they served with, it could be a sibling.

Steve: I don’t know anything about scuba diving. So, you cannot scuba dive solo? Like that’s just sort of the way of that world, people don’t scuba dive solo? You have to have somebody there? Is that how it works? I really don’t know.

Ron: It’s really a good idea because if you get in trouble in some way shape or form, you’ve got an equipment malfunction or something of that nature, or even you know you get ill. Maybe you’re starting to get dizzy or suffering from a heart attack for that matter, you’ve got somebody there that can help you get to the surface and safely back to shore.

Steve: Yeah. I gotta tell you, I would – if I saw a shark that’s when I would need my buddy right there. Actually, I would need you! Like we should totally scuba dive together because I would have a heart attack. There is no…

Mary: Yeah, so you’re not very attractive as a buddy.

Steve Rubin: Well I’m not a good…

Mary: It’s not going to happen for you.


Steve: I’m not the one that you want to turn to when you’re in trouble. I’m like, oh, sh*t! No. No. We gotta go!


Steve: Like no, take him! I’d be like pushing him towards the shark like survival. I’d be like Gillian, like this is Survivor right here. Just learning from, you know, one of the best there. Alright so, $7,000.00, that seems like a really reasonable goal and if you could ramp that up would you buy equipment? Would you help more people? What happens if you blow through that goal?

Steve Rubin: We help more people.

Steve: You just help more people. Okay.

Steve Rubin: Right now we’ve been very fortunate with some supporters like (Tusa 23:57) which is a…

Steve: What is that?

Steve Rubin: Dye manufacturer.

Steve: Oh.

Steve Rubin: Sherwood, Cramer Decker.

Steve: Is that also a manufacturer?

Steve Rubin: Another manufacturer. We’ve had a truck donated. A sixteen foot parcel bed.

Steve: Wow. Nice.

Steve Rubin: So we are totally equipped…

Steve: Yeah.

Steve Rubin: ...with all the scuba gear. So, right now if we blow through that goal that just helps us help more people and expand to the next major city.

Steve: Yeah, awesome. Okay, so we’re talking to Steve Rubin and Ron Fonstad here of and they are helping, it stands again for, water… What does it stand for again? WAVES…

Mary: Wounded American Veterans Experience Scuba.

Steve: You’re reading his shirt. Alright, nice Mary Goulet. More on Reinvention Radio with Ron and Steve right after this.


Steve: Alright, welcome back to another edition here of Reinvention Radio. Full house with Ron and Steve from with us along with Mary Goulet and Rich Otey. Alright, guys. So let me ask you this. If you weren’t doing this for veterans, what else could you be doing for them? Because I know that they need so much, this is therapeutic, this is helpful, but you seem to have a soft spot for the veteran community. What else could you guys envision doing? Like if this blew up and you were able to help as many veterans as you wanted is there anything else you would be doing for that community? And was it just that one guy really that turned you onto helping the veteran community. Or is there something – is there a deeper seeded story there at all?

Steve Rubin: Well, you know, I think it had a lot to do with John and his wanting to learn how to do this and it was a passion of ours. You know, teaching scuba we had the same response. Everybody says, I would like to do that. Well let’s do it.

Ron: Let’s remedy that. Let’s get you into the water.

Steve Rubin: And it really – I don’t know if it helped John more or it helped us more. I don’t know who benefited more out of that.

Steve: Yeah.

Steve Rubin: So, you know, getting the additional training that we needed to do to get John in the water safely and get him out of the water safely…

Steve: Yeah.

Steve Rubin: ...and seeing the excitement on his face and seeing how well somebody that has a physical injury, how well they do underwater, is very fulfilling.

Steve: Yeah.

Steve Rubin: And like I said, I don’t know who’s getting more of a benefit, us or them. And there is so much need in the veteran communities.

Rich: Do you, you said that the study said the PTSD. it helps for 6-8 weeks after? You were saying something like that. Do they do this ongoing? Or is it like they do this with you for a little while and then they stop scuba diving?

Steve Rubin: Well, that was the whole reason for us to set the goals to get a truck, have it fully equipped, so that they can continue to dive. So, the program is is that after they are certified the truck just goes to a dive spot on the coast. It could be La Jolla Shores, it could be the Cove, it could be up in Laguna. And you wanna’ go diving? Meet the truck. Pull a gear.

Rich: Just get to the truck and you’re good.

Steve Rubin: You’re good to go.

Steve: Yeah but there’s obviously a limit. How do you decide who to help? I mean because, well let’s face it, you’ve got limited means at this juncture. You can’t help everybody. How do you decide which veterans to help?

Steve Rubin: It’s a first come first serve. As they contact us. Our only requirement is that they have a V.A. rating.

Steve: What does that mean? Just that they’re…

Steve Rubin: Veterans Administration. They have a disability rating with the Veterans Administration.

Steve: What are the different ratings? I’m not familiar with that. Are there different ratings or is it just one rating of being disabled? How does that work?

Steve Rubin: Alright, so, any injury or any diagnosis of PTSD is rated on a percentage. So it could be a shoulder injury, it could be a lower back injury, it could be so much PTSD. So as they go through their testing, as they work with the VA, the VA will give them 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 100% disability based off of their injuries and the scope of that injury. And it really doesn’t make any difference to us what that percentage is as long as they have that rating that qualifies for our program.

Steve: Yeah. It kind of begs the question though of why wouldn’t this be a government sponsored and funded initiative? Because, I mean Lord knows. I mean, we’re in San Diego. There is a huge active and retired military population here many of whom could use some assistance. We’ve heard all the stories about the VA hospitals and everything that’s going on in that department. You guys are on the good side of the... I mean you’re doing good work as far as the veterans are concerned. You would think that there would be a government agency of some sort that would step up and say, these guys are actually doing good work for the vets lets help them out.

Mary: Do ya really want their help?

Steve: Well, if it’s…

Mary: Government funding and financing. I mean you have freedom to do what you want right now.

Steve: I don’t know. I mean you could take it nationwide. Like you’re talking about being able to do with the right backing and it’s the difference between helping 100 people so far and maybe 10,000 veterans, right? I think it’s a tradeoff worth looking at, no?

Ron: Possibly. I think, you know, as far as the government getting involved we’re having more success at the local level.

Mary: Bingo.

Steve Rubin: For instance…

Steve: Local government though.

Mary: No, local…

Ron: local government.

Mary: Oh, local government? Really?

Steve: See?

Ron: The city of Temecula is a huge supporter of ours and they’ve been very beneficial in terms of providing some funding for us. And in fact we were just in front of their City Council a week or two ago thanking them for their support. And Rotary clubs, civic organizations like that, are huge to help us out. As far as stretching out across the country we’re looking for affiliates. And basically what that would be, primarily, would be a dive center that is already in the scuba business that could become a WAVES affiliate and not only are they doing training for their normal able-bodied non-veteran people but then they would become a WAVES affiliate to be able to reach out to the veterans in their areas.

Steve: Why do I think there’s a national group? I swear I’ve seen some sort of national almost like – I don’t want to call it a franchise, I don’t think it’s franchise but I think there’s like a national chain of stores or outlets or facilities if you will that are scuba focused. Am I imaging that? Is there a national chain? Let me just ask you that. Is there a national chain of any sort of people who focus on scuba diving? What were you going to say Rich?

Rich: I was just going to say there was one that was going around for a while but now I’ve just noticed it looks like they put smaller facilitates inside like the Sport Chalet down in Point Loma and stuff like that where it’s sports centered but then they just have a pool inside there where it’s big glass everyone can see. I just can’t see it – it’s so niche and it’s so expensive at the same time.

Ron: Unfortunately... Well fortunately for some people, unfortunately for many others, we just found out within the last week or so that all Sport Chalets are closing.

Steve: Ugh.

Mary: That’s right. I saw that in the paper but…

Steve: So much for that idea, huh? Geez.

Mary: You know what though? I think you guys are on the right track. I work with a national organization on the local level and if you’re doing something out of your heart and of service and... You’ll attract people that want to support this cause. And this is a huge need and it’s a very emotional, passionate need and the family members and friends of these servicemen are wanting this for them. So you’ll get a lot of local support. I was talking about I don’t think I would want to go after Federal money because then regulations and restrictions and all sorts of things might come into play.

Steve: But you guys are already a 501(c)(3) is that…

Steve Rubin: We are.

Steve: You are. Yeah, so I mean they’re already regulated so to speak but in terms of taking a check then it becomes a whole other ball of wax.

Mary: Maybe with grants.

Steve: Maybe a grant, yeah.

Rich: What about working with other 501(c)(3)’s like Wounded Warriors? Do you get…

Steve: Oh, that’s not a bad idea.

Rich: ...protective of their?

Steve: Red, White, and Blue?

Mary: Why are they doing that face?

Steve: Yeah, I saw that face.


Rich: They get protective of their…

Steve: That’s the face my wife makes actually when I say certain things. What was?

Ron: Wounded Warriors – The Wounded Warrior project is actually – well there’s a few things that kind of give us a bad taste. Number one, they’ve just been in news recently about some improprieties as far as how they’re spending money.

Rich: Oh, their parties and stuff I saw that.

Ron: The big parties and everything. The other thing two is…

Steve: Wait, they’re throwing parties for veterans and they’re mad about that?

Rich: Well…

Steve: Or for themselves?

Rob: For themselves.

Rich: Well, crazy over the top.

Rob: Yeah.


Steve: Then that’s the problem, okay.

Steve Rubin: Yeah, staff parties.

Steve: Oh.

Ron: I just mean in general other organizations that are helping veterans. Seems like just teaming up…

Steve: Yeah like Team Red, White, and Blue I think is a pretty well-known organization that does a lot of really good work.

Steve Rubin: Well, It’s a good point because again the city of Temecula and the veteran population or the military population that are in Temecula with Camp Pendleton being so close there…

Steve: Yeah.

Steve Rubin: ...the city has done and put together symposiums for just that. So, instead of having a lot of veteran organizations reduplicate or duplicate things we come together to see what synergies are – you know somebody may come into our program and they try it, they get the experience of scuba but you know what it’s not my thing. Well, you know what, there’s other organizations that do things with horses…

Mary: Horses, yeah.

Steve Rubin: ...or hiking, or kayaking, or land based you know…

Mary: Speaking to the earth girl.

Steve Rubin: yes, speaking to the earth girl…

Steve: Hey!

Steve Rubin: So we’re trying – we do that. We work with other veteran organizations and…

Steve: There’s got to be like an association or community or something of organizations that specifically work with veterans, right? I mean there’s – you probably – is there? There’s got to be some way for you to – I wonder if that actually exists.

Steve Rubin: Not that I know of. So that’s why…

Steve: Interesting.

Steve Rubin: ...there’s so many smaller grassroots organizations like ours because there’s really nothing out there to really fulfill the need of the veterans. So, there are organizations that are doing what they have passion for for the veterans. Yeah.

Steve: So talk about your like – you’ve been doing this now for a little while. Talk about like one of your favorite success stories.

Ron: I’ve got one here that I use all the time. Last fall we had our second paraplegic in the water and Caesar…

Steve: Was his name Bob?

Steve Rubin: Caesar.


Mary: You’re terrible.

Steve: Sorry.

Mary: Steve.

Steve: What? What’d I say?

Steve Rubin: Uh, Caesar, actually a San Diego resident, and he got wind of us, he came up, and he took our training and one of those gentlemen that needed the webbed gloves because his legs are just hanging there. He spends – was it over 10 years? In his wheelchair and he’s got like a T4 spinal injury…

Steve: Oh, geez.

Steve Rubin: he feels virtually nothing from about mid-waist or mid-chest down. There’s nothing there. So he spends all of his time in the wheelchair and because of all of the compression, from his head and shoulders pushing down, he can’t ever take a deep breath. We got him in the water, on scuba, he got under water and his body stretched out.

Mary: Aww, that’s so cool.

Steve: Really? Hmm.

Steve Rubin: When we got him out of the water he had a great big smile on his face and we said, “Caesar, why are you so happy?” and he said, “For the first time in over 10 years I was able to [inhales deeply] take a deep breath.”

Steve: Really? Wow…

Mary: You just timed that perfectly, Mr. Radio.

Steve: You got something there, Rich?

Rich: I just – Steve, you love to take that breath like that too.


Rich: About 8:30 at night.

Steve: Very, very, true. Alright, more on Reinvention Radio with Ron and Steve here from right after this.


Steve: Alright, alright, welcome back to another edition here of Reinvention Radio. Rich Otey‘s running the board, man. Look at you!

Rich: Yes, like Pac-Man.

Steve: You are multi-taking. You’re sitting there looking handsome and running the board at the same time. Very impressive, very impressive.

Rich: Why thank you.

Steve: Look at that gangster lean, man. You’re just like leaning into this. I think that’s what she meant by lean in. Wasn’t that Cheryl Sandberg? I guess or whoever that was. Alright, so we got Ron Fonstad and Steve Rubin here in the house with talking about scuba diving and working with the veterans. Let me ask you guys this. So, first and foremost, does it cost the veterans anything to do this? What’s the process? Do they have to pay for the equipment? Do they have to pay for the time? What – how does that work?

Steve Rubin: Both the veteran and the buddy are trained at no cost. So that includes all the gear, the travel expenses over to Catalina Island...

Steve: Wow.

Steve Rubin: and back. That includes their academics. It includes the pool time.

Steve: Wow. That’s amazing. How long do they actually have to train? And I assume you do this at a pool you said, right? So you do it first in a pool and no – yeah, you take them... How do you do it?

Steve Rubin: We start out in a classroom.

Steve: In a classroom?

Steve Rubin: Yeah, we have to go through some academic so that they understand the physics and physiology of diving.

Steve: Jesus. Really?

Steve Rubin: Yeah, and it’s not difficult. It’s not rocket science. Everybody gets through it just fine and then…

Steve: See that’s where I would fail. Like right there that would be it. I’d be like, “oh, man, I’m never making it to the water.” I wouldn’t pass that class.


Steve: I would be a hit, I’d be done.

Ron: So they start out in the classroom…

Steve: Nice headphones, Wayne, that looks really good on you, buddy. Like the sparklies. Nice.

Ron: and then we use a pool, as Steve always calls it, as our simulator. Kind of like as he refers to pilots. They don’t just hand them the keys to a plane and say “have at it, good luck.”.

Steve: Yeah.

Steve Rubin: So they’re in a simulator. The pool acts as a simulator. The Murrieta Mesa High School, in Murrieta obviously, has graciously donated a classroom and their pool for us to be able to help our veterans through the process. Once they are comfortable in the pool, and more importantly once we…

Steve: Yeah.

Steve Rubin: ...are comfortable about how they’re doing in the pool, that’s when we take them to Catalina and into the ocean.

Steve: There’s got to be some serious liability. I mean because people can die doing scuba diving, right? I mean like doesn’t – that’s gotta come into play. Do they sign a waiver to say if I die in the water I’m not going to come after Steve and Ron? Like how does that work exactly? They have to sign off on that, no?

Steve Rubin: We belong to two associations. One is PADI, Professional Association of Dive Instructors, the other is HSA, Handicap Scuba Association, we’re instructors for them. We’re well trained and I would say very experienced of working with people in the water. Obviously…

Steve: Yeah.

Steve Rubin: ...there is always a chance of something but, yes. They sign liability releases and we have insurance… No incidences and I have 15 years…

Steve: Knock wood.

Ron: Yeah exactly. Steve and I have an impeccable safety record. Neither one of us has ever had a student go through our program…

[knocking continues]

Ron Fonstad: whether it was veterans or not…


Steve: I’ll keep knocking here the whole time. [Laugh]

Ron: ...that have had any dive related incidents at all.

Steve: Yeah. Well, good. So, Mary let’s go. You want to go? Oh, we can’t go, we’re not veterans. Damnit.

Mary: No. I just I – you don’t even want to talk to me about the whole water thing.

Steve: You wouldn’t do it.

Mary: I… No.

Steve Rubin: Oh, we do train other people too.

Steve: Rich would you do it? Have you done it?

Mary: Yeah, he did.

Steve: You’ve done it.

Rich: Oh, yeah. I love it. My – but the buddy – back to the buddy thing just super quick…

Steve: Will you hold my hand while we do it? Will you…

Rich: mom almost passed away. She was swimming through, well she did pass away later, but…

Steve: Not while scuba diving.

Rich: Not while scuba diving, no. She was swimming through kelp and got kind of caught up in the kelp…

Steve: Ooo, God.

Rich: and then she tried to get her knife out to cut it and dropped it and then…

Steve: What?

Rich: ...started worrying…

Steve: Panicking.

Rich: ...struggling and panicking and if…

Steve: Wow.

Rich: it was kind of like a blessing in disguise she was panicking because I guess the bubbles is what her buddy saw and swam over to the bubbles. But team…

Steve: Wow.

Rich: So that’s why I wouldn’t -- that’s why she doesn’t want to do it with you.


Steve: Because people die!

Rich: She’s afraid you’re going up to the top of the water.

Mary: Yeah! I’m in the kelp and you drop my knife.


Steve: It’d be like, “Oh, man, oh…”…

Mary: “Mare, I’ll go tell someone”.

Steve: Right? It’s like – swimming to the surface, yeah. “Just stay right, there! Stay right there.”

Mary: “I am. I’m stuck.”

Steve: Oh, man. So you guys have had some corporate sponsors over the years here? Are you still working on getting some corporate sponsors? What’s the game plan in terms of getting this? Obviously, we’re talking about getting grants and some of the other opportunities here but are there people who are actively being corporate sponsors for the WAVES Project right now?

Steve Rubin: Absolutely, and that is our goal. More corporate sponsors that we bring onboard, obviously, the more people that we can train. Right now, as Ron mentioned before, city Temecula has been a big supporter. Pechanga is a supporter. PADI is a supporter.

Steve: Pechanga. Is that the casino?

Steve Rubin: The casino.

Steve: Cool! Yeah. And why not? They’ve got money. I mean, they’ve got to do something with it. They make enough money. They don’t want to be taxed on that money. It’s like, you know – why not, right? So, that makes sense.

Mary: So…

Steve Rubin: They were just rated number one casino in America actually.

Steve: How do you get to be the number one rated casino? What does that mean exactly?

Mary: Pay for it.

Steve: I know you pay…


Mary: Aren’t I cynical?

Steve: No! It’s probably true, I mean that’s like an arbitrary – “we are the number one casino”. How do you know? “Because we paid that guy to tell us. That’s how we know we’re the number one rated casino”. So, if somebody wants to be a corporate sponsor do they go to if they have a veteran buddy and they think this might be a good thing for them? What’s the best way for folks to get started with that? They’re supporting your efforts. Or as a veteran to actually sign up and be one of those “first come first served” to actually get the benefit of the work you guys are doing.

Steve Rubin: Well, both. If you’re a corporation or a small business that wants to get involved, reach out to us on our website, Same thing with a veteran. If you’re a veteran there’s a section for the veterans you go into to get the application and the medical release statements and file that application and we’ll bring you onboard.

Steve: Nice.

Mary: So back to the donations. Is it, I mean what is the – okay, any amount will help.

Steve Rubin: Any amount will help. We have people that donate $10.00 a month.

Mary: Okay.

Steve: Wow.

Steve Rubin: And that adds up quickly so…

Steve: Sure it does.

Steve Rubin: So yeah, it’s just not – we’re not interested in just the $10,000.00 donations. We’re interested in what anybody can afford and give.

Rich: Look what Bernie’s doing with $25.00.

Steve: Look what Steve Olsher is doing with his Steve Olsher Needs A New Ferrari Fund, I mean that’s been working out really well actually.


Steve: But yes of course small donations all add up. Alright, so what’s got you most excited about 2016 at this point?

Steve Rubin: I think our clinical study that we’re going to be doing this year.

Steve: When does that start?

Steve Rubin: June.

Steve: It starts in June and who – so that has to be, obviously, under the guidance of some sort of body if you will. Who is creating that study?

Steve Rubin: It’s Stanbridge College and it’s under the auspice of a couple of doctors…

Steve: Okay.

Steve Rubin: ...that are overseeing it and their students that are currently in a Master’s Program of Occupational Therapy. They’re actually conducting the study.

Steve: So best case, if you could draw it up, what would that study conclude? Wish list, what would that study conclude?

Steve Rubin: It would confirm and even take to a further level or commitment of what the John Hopkins study initially started out to say. And it’s going to show us the benefits, the long-term benefits, that scuba diving and water has in the rehabilitation process for the veteran.

Steve: Okay, and Ron what about you? 2016. What’s got you the most excited here?

Ron: I think the most excited I’m getting about 2016 is the possibility of bringing some of our veterans to tropical locations.

Steve: Ooo.

Ron: So they’re not diving in cooler California waters…

Steve: Right.

Ron: And you know, going someplace where it’s 85 degree water and 150 feet visibility under water…

Steve: Wow.

Ron: ...and seeing all these exotic marine life…

Steve: Yeah.

Ron: ...that’s very exciting to look forward to.

Steve: Yeah. Oh, man. So, if we could just figure out how to get some of that warm Caribbean water here on the Pacific. I don’t understand why someone hasn’t come up – like with all this global warming that people are talking about. I don’t think it exists. I can’t see how it’s real because the water here is still super cold. So, I don’t know. Maybe at some point we’ll be able to get the warm Caribbean waters going here but – alright, you guys are doing really, really, great work in the world. I really appreciate the efforts because I know how much work it takes to do what you guys are doing and sometimes it’s a thankless job. So, we really appreciate what you guys are up to and on behalf of Mary Goulet and Rich Otey, I’m Steve Olsher. We’ll talk to you guys next time here on Reinvention Radio.


End of Transcript

Resources Mentioned

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