Family, friends and professional associates say his interest encompassed far more than strapping on a mask and tank and exploring springs, lakes and the open ocean.
The intellectually curios and competitive Krasle was instrumental in helping ignite Georgians’ passion for underwater exploration, opened the first dive shop in the state and became the first certified YMCA scuba instructor, his autobiography brags. He taught a rigorous two-year “Y” course that not only immersed students in all facets of the sport, but explained the science behind it.
He also invented and took out patents on diving technology.
George Edward Krasle, age 93, died Feb. 26 of what family members described as complications of old age. He’s survived by children George S. Krasle, Eric K. wife Wendy Krasle, Darin E. Krasle, and JoAnne Kevitz, stepdaughter Bridget Hughes, and previous wife Sara Halstead.
That creative and curious bent “was just inherent in him” said son Eric, an attorney from Watkinsville, near Athens. “You couldn’t buy stuff off the shelf for the things he was interested in. He would run into people who’d ask, ‘Do you have anything for this or that?,’ and he’d try to make them.”
A museum at his “mothership” shop Diving World, one of several he opened, traced those innovations as well as the history of the sport.
“He was kind of like a mad scientist kind of guy,” said Kathy Kirbo, Founding Executive Director of the Reefball Foundation, a nonprofit working to restore coral reefs. “He was an early supporter,” she says. “A lot of people thought we were crazy back in the ‘90s.”
A bit eccentric, Krasle recounted in his autobiography how he once greeted a customer while carrying a pet iguana on his shoulder and pet snake looped through his belt, “freaking [the customer] out.”
An unnerving underwater moment for him happened when he encountered a large hammerhead shark while spear fishing. He had just speared a fish and struggled to get back to his boat as the beast circled him several times.
“On his last pass he came directly toward me,” he wrote. “He opened his mouth, and I ended up throwing the fish reflexively into the shark’s mouth, which placated him enough to go his own way, past me.”
As diving grew in popularity here, he orchestrated trips, from Lake Lanier to southwest Georgia’s Radium Springs to Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. He mapped caves on a number of underwater excursions, one of the most challenging and dangerous parts of the sport.
His aquatic fascination also manifested itself elsewhere. He and a group won the four-man division one year in the long-defunct Atlanta Rambling Raft Race on the Chattahoochee River.
Away from the water, he and iconic French oceanographer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau and Sir Arthur C. Clarke founded the Underwater Society of America, according to his son, Eric. It is the governing body for underwater sports in the U.S. George started a diving club locally plus an industry group of dive shop owners which met to discuss common concerns. Krasle also investigated and submitted forensic testimony on aquatic deaths.
And he could be not only creative but stubborn in the defense of his business.
Eric recalled when his dad clashed with a local tax official pushing to tax the air his shop put into divers’ tanks.
“He got into this rampage, ‘Now they’re going to tax the air we breathe.’ And he got a letter from the official saying they had no intention of doing that. "
He framed and displayed the letter, Eric said.
“The tax commissioner sent that because he thought he was smart. He thought divers’ tanks were full of oxygen. They’re not, they’re full of air. Oxygen on the other hand is of course taxable because it’s a product.”
“From that point on dad never charged anybody for air fills, because he had that letter,” said the younger Krasle.