Paul “The Pool Guy” Tosi
At USIA, we don’t simply sell sports gear to customers. We create long-term friendships with good, hardworking and hard-playing folks. From divers to fishers to hunters to water skiers (and many more), we have developed relationships that will last years. One thing we have learned over the years of creating these relationships is that the people who use and love USIA gear are a hearty bunch. People who brave freezing conditions and break through ice to reach their favorite spot. People who dive to depths that would make Jacques Cousteau blush. People who personally symbolize the USIA brand of toughness and grit. One of these people is Paul Tosi, a diver and pool repair specialist. When we learned about Paul and his unique profession, we just had to interview him. Here is Paul the Pool Guy’s fascinating story:
In The Beginning
I can trace my interest in diving way back to my days as a small child when my mother would read a book to me called A Fish Out of Water. It was about a little boy who bought a goldfish and fed him too much. The fish grew so much they had to put him in the local town pool. Once they got him there the pet shop owner came down and worked his magic underwater and when he came up with the fish, it was reduced back to size. In the book there are drawings of the pet shop owner (Mr. Carp) with a mask on and another picture of a little boy looking into the pool from the diving board wondering what was going on underwater. These two pictures fascinated me. I would stare at them for hours wondering what it was like underwater. I have since adopted the picture of Mr. Carp as my logo.
“Here to Tell the Story”
I’ve done many things diving. Although I’ve never been trained as a commercial diver I have volunteered for the sheriff’s department on their underwater recovery team. I got called by a fisherman who was stranded several miles off Cape Cod and had to get shuttled out there by the Coast Guard to free him from a tangled prop as his boat drifted out to sea in water depths of over 300 feet. I am very susceptible to seasickness. As we got to his boat, it started rocking and the diesel fumes hit me. I was, well let’s call it “feeding the fish” or “warm chumming.” Somehow I managed to don my dive gear and pour myself into the water. It was very unnerving being under the boat in three foot rollers knowing that when I cut the final line, the ropes were going to rocket 300 feet to the bottom of the ocean. Trust me, I made double, triple and quadruple sure that there was no loose piece of rope ready to pull me along with it when I cut that final strand. As I cut it I pulled back as far as I could and even though I had checked and rechecked I was nervously awaiting that tug that would certainly mean the end of me. Thankfully it didn’t come and I am here to tell the story. The Coast Guard literally had to pull me back onto the boat where I passed out below deck after taking off my take weight belt, mask, and flippers. Anyone who has ever been seasick can identify with this.
Another interesting job was diving in a tank used to test underwater navigational gear. It was a huge pickle barrel created just for this purpose. You walked into the laboratory they lifted up a trap door and there it was. I had to drop through the trap door and inspect for leaks which I was successful at finding. I’ve also done search and recovery for bodies and I was actually the lucky guy that found one.
Becoming the “Pool Guy”
I was in the dive shop getting my tanks filled when I became friendly with a kid who mentioned that he got hired to find leaks in a pool. The lightbulb in my head went off. I came home, typed out a letter on an old fashion typewriter, went to the library with a handful of dimes, made copies and mailed the letters out to any pool company I could find, fully expecting to never hear a thing. One day a pool company called to which I responded, “But I know nothing about finding leaks in pools.” They said, “That’s fine. We’ll show you what to do.” Well, it didn’t take me long to realize these guys knew nothing about how things work underwater, so I started refining their techniques. Pretty soon I went from getting an occasional job doing leak detection to what I have now, a business that keeps me busy from May until the beginning of November. I even get jobs occasionally in the middle of winter. We now use electronic gear to find leaks and test all repairs for water tightness.
I am very comfortable underwater. I can tell you I have been under several ice covered pools and have tried to push my tank through the ice a few times and not been able to. That might freak someone out or cause claustrophobia, but as I said I’m used to it and it does not bother me.
We try to talk our way out of jobs in the deep wintertime mostly because it’s unpleasant for everyone involved. I have to wear thin gloves because I need dexterity to handle tools, screws, and small patches and glue underwater. My favorite trick at this time of year is to bring a thermos full of hot water and to keep dipping my hands into it. This buys me a little extra time.
Discovering USIA Drysuits.
I literally have no idea how many drysuits I have owned in my career. I’m sure the number is somewhere around twenty. Some I have bought and some were given to me. I believe I’ve owned drysuits from most of the major companies. The way I discovered USIA Dry Suits I think is a great story and testimony to their quality. My local dive store owner told me he had a drysuit that a customer had brought in that he had never used. Unfortunately the first time I used it the suit flooded. It turns out the suit had been in a closet for fifteen years and all the glue had dried out. My dive store owner tried to repair it but had no luck, so I got in touch with Mandi at USIA and arranged to have my suit shipped back for rehab. It turns out the suit was made in 1999. They had trouble tracking it because it was so old. They replaced the zippers and re-glued everything else. I still have the suit as a backup. Three years ago I bought a brand new suit from them. This year I bought my third suit, which I love because I always have to have a spare should I tear a seal. I cannot say enough about the personal service I have received from the people at USIA. I don’t see myself ever buying another dry suit from another company.
Advice to Anyone Who Wants To Get Into Pool Repair
Start small, charge according to your experience. The better you get at it the more you’ll be able to charge because your services will be more valuable. Use the best equipment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and never be afraid to tell a customer, “I don’t know.” Never try to bluff your way through something you don’t know. Most of all, no matter how busy you get do not fail to return phone calls. We do all our communication by text message and return every text each evening. Many people during the height of the summer tell me they have called several pool companies and no one has returned the phone call.
Thank you, Paul, for the thorough and interesting insight into what it takes to be a pool repair guy. Here’s to many more years of partnership!