Larry Smith, ‘World’s Greatest Divemaster,’ 1950-2007

Larry Smith, ‘World’s Greatest Divemaster,’ 1950-2007By Dave Van Rooy
For The Bali Times

UBUD, Bali ~ Larry Smith passed away on March 20 in Sorong, Papua, after a battle with pneumonia while on a dive trip in the area. Born and raised in Texas, he moved to Indonesia in 1989, and was presently working as cruise director for Adventure H2O, a liveaboard dive operation based in Bali.

He lived with his beloved wife Dewi and lovely 9-year-old daughter Breezy in Sanur. He is also survived by his three adult sons – Casey, Trevor and Tim, who live in the United States – and his mother, Evelyn Smith.

I, and many, many others, extend our heartfelt condolences to his family in the US and especially to his wife and young daughter here in Bali. Their loss is immeasurable.

For those of you fortunate enough to have known Larry, or to have even met him or just heard about him, you’ll probably understand more of this – he truly was legendary. Larry has probably the largest following of serious divers worldwide of any divemaster/dive guide worldwide, and has been called the “world’s greatest divemaster” by more people more times than I care to count.

Larry was larger than life in many ways, including physical size. He trained so many new divers, found countless new species of marine life, organized many dive operations in remote and difficult areas, trained hundreds of diving and resort staff, wrote and talked about the diving with fish experts as well as those who didn’t know how to swim, told more great stories, shaped so many divers’ lives – always showing genuine enthusiasm for every aspect of it all. This, coupled with his warm, friendly, “good ol’ Texas boy” nature, made him admired and loved by so many of us.

Perhaps more than any other person, he helped establish Indonesia as the world-class dive destination that it is today. He was cruise director for many of the major liveaboards here (Tropical Princess, Cehili, Sea Contacts, Pelagian, Adventure Komodo) as well as getting Lembeh Straits recognized as the world’s premier muck-diving spot when he worked at Kungkungan Bay Resort. Well-known dive areas like Komodo, Alor, Raja Ampat, the Banda Sea and lately Triton Bay, Papua, were pioneered by Larry. When he put out the word about some special dive trip, the lines started forming before anyone knew anything more than he recommended it and it meant they would be diving with him.

He was widely touted for his ability to find “critters” just about anywhere, and had a keen sense of where to look for them. These were anything from 5-milimeter pygmy sea horses to huge nudibranches to giant manta rays and whales – if they were around, Larry would find them.

Larry trained so many divers, dive guides and staff members everywhere, so now they too carry a part of him around. David Espinosa, former editor of Asian Diver and currently editor of Scuba Diver AustralAsia said, “Larry taught me to dive, got me a job as divemaster and later cruise director. He got me started with dive magazines and still was sending helpful people my way. My life would be completely different without his guidance – I’m so grateful to him.”

The deep admiration and devotion of all people Larry trained and guided reflect on his character: always guiding and helping and never angry.

Diving with Larry was always a joy. He enjoyed and was always enthusiastic over every one of his more than 18,000 dives. While diving, he’d find something interesting, come take you over there by the hand and give that big, broad grin he was famous for. After virtually every dive, you’d hear things like: “Wasn’t that just a fantastic dive! That Bugs Bunny nudibranch was big enough to ride.”

Aside from diving, Larry was the consummate good friend to many. He loved sharing happiness in many forms, telling stories and cooking. A few years ago, I had a party at my house in Ubud. Larry, who had just gotten his favorite smoker grill from the US, volunteered to smoke two briskets (a cut of beef) and a turkey. “Sure,” I said though I’d already planned a lot of other food. Anyhow, he spent 16 hours cooking those along with some “good ol’ Texas beans” and brought them up with the grill. To say they, and he, were the hit of the party was a gross understatement – all was devoured quickly as the word spread (I was left with lots of left over babi guling). To this day, people still ask when he’s coming back with the smoked brisket and turkey or if he’s going to open a restaurant. And he was ready to do it again – he so much enjoyed the cooking and making people happy with some new experience in their lives. That was how he was and why he made such a huge impression on so many of us.

Those of us who knew him were lucky, though we now pay the price of missing him; the more you knew Larry, the more you’ll miss him. As Burt Jones recently said, “I got a bigger piece of Larry than most; now I’ll miss him more than most.”

What better legacy could anyone want?

More about Larry, including links to a trust fund established by his sons to help his wife and daughter, can be found at I and many others will be contributing to this fund to help assure the continued education and development of his daughter with her mother in a nice, healthy environment – Larry was never much of a “money person.” That would make Larry happy.

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One Response to “Larry Smith, ‘World’s Greatest Divemaster,’ 1950-2007”

  1. Raja Ampat to Triton Bay Liveaboard - Trip Report | - Diving & Oceanic Says:

    […] Triton Bay is a new area of Papua for diving – the visibility here is generally quite poor (5 to 10 metres) due to the incredibly nutrient-rich water, which means that it has tremendous soft coral growth and lots of schooling fish. One of Triton’s dive sites is named Larry’s Heaven in honour of Indonesian dive pioneer Larry Smith who sadly died in March 2007. Larry made two trips to Triton and proclaimed to be in love with the diving here. High praise from a man who had dived pretty much all of Indonesia. […]