Chuck Mitchell

Location of Interview
Collection Name

Beneath the Surface of San Diego


The beautiful coastal city of San Diego in southern California has been the nucleus of underwater exploration, innovation and research throughout sport diving’s relatively short history. Boasted as the home of the first dive club in the world, the first oceanographic research institution to use diving for science, and many of the most influential diving pioneers, San Diego has a rich cultural heritage in sport diving antiquity. Large and significant portions of this history have gone undocumented, as many stories and observations remain accessible only in the memories of these pioneers themselves. However, recreational divers in San Diego represent a large stakeholder group with a highly respected and knowledgeable capacity for shaping local marine resource management choices, and divers rely on the health and protection of these coastlines as a driver for their passions, leisure and fascination. The purpose of the project overall is to tell the history of sport diving in San Diego from the perspectives of those at its forefront.  Oral histories were recorded with eight experienced local San Diego divers who began diving recreationally and went on to become influential contributors to revolutions in marine science, diving technology and ocean resource management.

Date of Interview
Principal Investigator

Chuck Mitchell was born in Los Angeles in December 1940 and moved to San Diego in 1947. He grew up in Point Loma, attending Cabrillo Elementary School, Dana Junior High, and Point Loma High School. His father was a mechanic who owned his own garages, which led to Mitchell spending a lot of time working on cars and developing a curiosity about how things work. This curiosity has been a driving force throughout his life. In the early 1950s, Mitchell and his family moved onto a boat at Jim Underwood's Landing, the first marina on Shelter Island. This is where he began to play around on boats and skiffs. Mitchell has been involved in recreational diving for a long time and has logged around 10,000 hours of diving.

Scope and Content Note:

This interview with Chuck Mitchell, conducted by Paul Dayton and Ashleigh Palinkas on May 6, 2014, provides a detailed account of Mitchell's early life, his experiences growing up in Point Loma, and his lifelong interest in how things work. Mitchell discusses his family's move to a boat in the early 1950s and his early experiences with boats and skiffs. The interview also covers Mitchell's involvement in recreational diving, including a humorous anecdote about the first time he was asked for a diving certification card during a trip to the Cayman Islands in 1981. Despite not having a traditional certification card, Mitchell was allowed to dive due to a note signed by several NAUI instructors vouching for his diving abilities. The interview provides valuable insights into the evolution of recreational diving and the experiences of those involved in its early days.

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