James A. F. Gatacre, President

James A. F. (Jim) Gatacre is a NAUI Instructor and Course Director (Instructor Trainer). In 1972, while attending college, he sustained an injury to his right arm that left it paralysed. He started Scuba diving in 1973 as a means to recover emotionally, to re-establish his self-image that had been severely damaged, and in 1975, to help organize and teach the first Scuba course for people with disabilities at the University of California Irvine (UCI).

He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of California at Irvine. Jim taught Marine Biology for two years at the Dana Point Marine Science Laboratory, Orange County Department of Education (California).

In 1981 he founded the Handicapped Scuba Association. By 1982 diving industry leaders began disabled divers workshops where Jim became the spokesperson for diving with disabilities.

Working closely with the industry's leading underwater educators from PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) & NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors), he learned the fine art of developing Physical Performance Requirements, the bedrock of safe underwater education.

He took over 2 years to complete the HSA Physical Performance Requirements and Multilevel Certification, the key to certify people with a wide range of disabilities as 100% Scuba Divers.

Encouraged by PADI & NAUI, he wrote the HSA Instructor Manual and HSA Instructor Training Course (ITC). He taught the first HSA ITC in 1986. In 1990 he wrote the HSA Dive Buddy Manual and HSA Dive Buddy Course (DBC). In 1993 he trained and certified the first HSA Course Director (Instructor Trainer).

Jim has made two films with Jean-Michel Cousteau, Freedom in Depth in 1983, a California Diving Classic & To Fly in Freedom in 1992, filmed in Fiji featuring Jean-Michel, his Father Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and HSA Divers from 6 countries.

Awards and Special Recognition

Jim was chosen as one of 30 Interesting Alumni featured in University of California Irvine alumni Magazines' 'Special 30th Anniversary Issue' for his work with HSA.

People Magazine, January 1995, featured Jim as 'Teacher' in a two page article about his life and his work with HSA.

Jim was awarded Scuba Schools International prestigious '1993 SSI Platinum Pro5000 Diver' certification.

Jim was the recipient of 1998 National Association of Underwater Instructors 'Outstanding Contribution to Diving' award, the highest award given by NAUI, for his work with the Handicapped Scuba Association.

Jim was the recipient of the 'American Flag' flown and folded underwater by Wounded Warriors for his support of Veterans at the 2013 Wounded Warriors Project Dutch Springs Certification Event.

Jim's other life;

Jim served 3 years in the US Army as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division (Class 80) and 505th Airborne Battle Group, Mainz Germany. 1960-1963

Following his service he started work as an apprentice carrying shingles and worked for 8 years as a journeyman roofer. After graduating college he began selling and marketing a new roofing product. This was very successful and is where the money came from to fund the HSA start-up.

Jim was also a Quality Control Manager for an emissions study of the molecule MMT, a replacement for lead in gasoline. (Fuel is now boosted by MMT6) He was responsible for organizing the QC department, writing the Quality Control Manual, hiring and training the 9 college graduates that worked for him.

Jim also managed to squeeze in a year working for Otis Elevator rebuilding the elevators in the Detroit Free Press Building, having fun up on the high wire

Patricia (Pat) Gatacre, Media Relations

Pat earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy/Psychology from the University of California Irvine and later attended the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine where she studied a variety of healthcare therapies.

Pat was instrumental in the founding of HSA. In 1977 she created the HSA's first logo, a porthole with a wheelchair inside, crossed by a diver without fins - no wheelchairs in the ocean! This logo was pinned to the wall of the Gatacre's garage for 5 years and served as an ever reminder for Gatacre to do something - which turned out to be the HSA!

Since the inception of HSA in 1981, Pat has been the organizations publicist, creating press releases and feature articles for print and online publications within the scuba diving industry as well as for speciality publications for people with disabilities, including two cover stories for Sports n' Spokes Magazine, popular among athletes with disabilities. Her work has been featured in numerous dive publications such as the prestigious Dive Training Magazine, the PADI Journal and NAUI Resources.

Calling upon her multi-media experience in advertising, she wrote the script for HSA's first film Freedom in Depth, and was a consulting editor for The Cousteau Society & HSA's second film To Fly in Freedom. She also researched and compiled most of the medical information for the HSA Instructor & Dive Buddy Manuals.

Pat started writing for publication at age 18, first as a journalist for Northeast Newspapers in the Southern California area. A few years later she joined the staff of the Beverly Hills Times as a restaurant reviewer, writing reviews for such world renowned restaurants as 'La Scala', a favourite of President John F. Kennedy when he visited Los Angeles.

For 2 years she served as Copy Chief and Assistant Art Director for the Hollywood office of Botsford, Constatine & Gardner, one of the top 15 advertising agencies in the United States. She produced copy for print, radio and television commercials, including a series of radio spots utilizing the stand-up comedy routines of comedienne Phyllis Diller. Additionally she accepted the challenge of writing ad copy for commercial aviation's cockpit voice recorder, the 'Black Box'. The advertising message helped airline pilots 'adjust' to the presence of the recorder, a continuous loop containing the last 30 minutes of conversation within the plane's cockpit.

After moving to the Seaside city of San Clemente, Pat enjoyed the creative freedom of freelance feature writing for an extensive range of local, regional, national and international publications. For several years she was a contributing editor for Joe Weider's Muscle and Fitness Magazine and for Orange Coast Magazine.

Felicia Kostecky, Executive Vice President

Felicia Kostecky is an HSA Course Director, a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, and an Emergency First Response Instructor. She is certified with numerous specialty instructor ratings including: Deep Diving Instructor, Drift Diving Instructor, Night Diving Instructor, Wreck Diving Instructor, Enriched Air (Nitrox) Diving Instructor, Boat Diving Instructor, Peak Performance Buoyancy Instructor, Project Aware Instructor, AWARE Coral Reef Conservation Instructor, Care for Children w/AED Instructor. And she is currently working on her Master Instructor rating.

Felicia received her formal education at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she graduated with a Master of Business Administration in 1984. Felicia commenced her 'land career' with Foote Cone & Belding Advertising in 1985 where she spearheaded the development, application and integration of FCB's proprietary non-verbal research techniques and strategic planning process. Areas of expertise include corporate image, brand/service personality and emotional equity associations, employee perceptions, idea generation, brainstorming sessions, communication effectiveness, underlying motivations, and product development. Most recently Felicia holds the position of Account Director at Calexis Advertising & Marketing Counsel.

Over her career, Felicia has provided business management, research and marketing communication for numerous client companies including: Colgate-Palmolive Company in Canada and international markets, S.C. Johnson & Son Ltd., The Royal Bank of Canada, Nutri/System Inc. in the U.S., Mazda Motors in the U.S. and Canada, Chubb Insurance Company of Canada, SONY of Canada, Ltd., Color Your World, Bretton's, Port's International, M.D. Management, Sunkist, Air Canada, Kraft, Kimberly-Clark, First Brands Canada Corp., Premier Liquor Corporation in Buffalo, Manulife Financial and Molson Breweries.

Polett Villalta, Web Developer - WebMaster

Polett is a Web Developer with extensive experience in graphic and web design.

As HSA's newest addition to the Web Development team, Polett has redesigned the online presence of our Agency by blending in today's coding standards with a modern layout that provides visitors with the ease of access necessary to navigate throughout our website in the most enjoyable way possible

Polett was introduced to the ocean in Venezuela when she was a month old and grew up with the ocean as her playground. She loved recreational free diving as a kid. A Challenging Twist, at the age of 12 she suffered a Spinal Cord Injury while playing under heavy rip currents, rendering her quadriplegic. In 1990, her journey to the world of computers began when she went for intensive rehab at Lyndhurst Hospital in Toronto Canada. She spent her days re-learning how to use her body and nights taking all available classes within the computer field.

Upon returning to Venezuela, her native country, Polett studied programming as well as hardware/software training, where her interest and focus started shifting towards graphic design within the programming field.

As time went by, the lack of accessibility for wheelchair users in a third world country led Polett and her Mother to move back to the US where they lived when she was a child. Here she continued to study web and graphic design and in 2000 began building websites freelance. She now owns her own business: Polett's Design Studio, and is in the process of launching her new business image: Digital Web Academy.

The ocean calls! In spite of her addiction for computers and technology, Polett's true passion still lies in the ocean. This is why in 2011 Polett became an HSA C-level certified Scuba Diver, an accomplishment that opened the doors once again for her to submerge into the underwater world where she feels "at home".

Polett is a recipient of the 2014 Women Divers Hall Of Fame Award (WDHOF) which has her looking forward to taking HSA's Advanced Open Water training and getting her Nitrox certification during the summer.