Chuck Nicklin

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
Biographical Sketch

Chuck Nicklin, a renowned diver and underwater cinematographer, was born in Massachusetts and moved to San Diego in 1942 at the age of fourteen. His father was in the Navy and was reassigned to San Diego during World War II. Despite his initial reluctance to move, Nicklin fell in love with San Diego and decided to stay even when his father was reassigned back to Boston. Nicklin graduated from Point Loma in 1945 and began his journey into the world of diving as a teenager, exploring the waters around Sunset Cliffs and La Jolla Cove. His first experience with a facemask was with a homemade one, which sparked his interest in underwater exploration. He later became a pioneer in the diving industry, owning the Diving Locker for 42 years and helping many people get into the business. Nicklin's sons also grew up in the diving industry, with one of them, Flip, becoming a successful cinematographer for National Geographic. After selling the Diving Locker, Nicklin continued to contribute to the diving community by organizing travel trips and running film festivals. He also briefly owned a small business, Chuck's Market, before fully committing to his diving career.

Scope and Content Note
This interview with Chuck Nicklin, conducted on January 29, 2013, provides a detailed account of his life and career in the diving industry. The interview begins with Nicklin's early life in Massachusetts and his move to San Diego during World War II. He discusses his first experiences with diving as a teenager and his initial encounters with facemasks and snorkels. The interview then delves into Nicklin's career in the diving industry, including his ownership of the Diving Locker for 42 years and his contributions to the industry. He talks about his sons' involvement in the business and his hopes for his legacy in the industry. Nicklin also discusses his continued involvement in the diving community after selling the Diving Locker, including organizing travel trips and running film festivals. The interview concludes with a brief discussion of Nicklin's early business venture, Chuck's Market, and his decision to fully commit to his diving career. Throughout the interview, Nicklin provides valuable insights into the evolution of the diving industry and his significant contributions to it.

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The NOAA mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. The Voices Oral History Archives offers public access to a wide range of accounts, including historical materials that are products of their particular times, and may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes.

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