Truk Lagoon with David Hasselhoff

By Wayne Hasson

Truk Lagoon with Hasselhoff Discovering
Truk Lagoon with David Hasselhoff David Hasselhoff Text and Photography
by Wayne Hasson

Every week, Baywatch is broadcast to the homes of more than one billion viewers and is seen and heard in 141 countries and 32 languages. David Hasselhoff and a cast of lovely lifeguards star in this program, which is considered "the most watched television show in the world." An executive producer and star of Baywatch, now in its ninth season, David started his career on the soap opera, The Young & the Restless, then later starred in the series Knight Rider. He produced and starred in Baywatch Nights and has also starred in several major network movies, the most recent being Nick Fury, produced by Fox. Other claims to fame are several gold and platinum records (David has performed live before huge crowds of fans in Europe). His wife, Pamela Bach, is a recurring cast member on Baywatch.

David and Pamela Together, the Hasselhoffs have become scuba diving enthusiasts. While David received his basic open water certification in the late 1970s as a Los Angeles County diver, I had the pleasure of being Pamela's instructor in the Cayman Islands a few years ago. There, we used famous Stingray City for one of our open water dives and chartered a flight to Roatan, Honduras, to dive with dolphins at Anthony's Key Resort. During this visit, the Hasselhoffs' daughters, Taylor-Ann and Hayley, now eight and six years old, experienced snorkeling for the first time.

Truk (Chuuk) Lagoon

In May 1998, I was happy to serve as instructor, tour guide and traveling companion for David and Pamela aboard the Truk Aggressor II in Truk (Chuuk) Lagoon. The Hasselhoffs planned to earn NAUI Advanced Wreck Diver Specialty and TDI Nitrox certifications during their charter. David and I met in Guam after long flights from Hawaii and the mainland. As we discussed our plans for the upcoming week in the airport lounge, he was greeted by many fans. I soon realized that the fun-loving Baywatch star must be one of the most recognizable actors in the business and he really enjoys the interaction with his fans and friends.

Since I wasn't sure how David would be received in Truk, I told him not to be surprised if he didn't get the reception he was use to. The flight was late and not very full, so we were able to get through customs and immigration quickly. Outside the airport, however, we were greeted by hundreds of fans. After giving out many autographed photographs, David, Pamela and I made our way to our ground shuttle, bound for the Truk Aggressor II, our home for the next several days.

Diving in Truk Lagoon is always a thrill, but to share this with David and Pamela was a highlight of my career. We explored all of the signature dives, such as the wrecks of the Nippo, Fujikawa, Gosei, Heian and Betty Bomber.

Descending to the Fujikawa Maru we found lots of soft corals decorating the superstructure. This 437 foot freighter sits upright and, because of its massive size, it is impossible to see all of it on one dive. We elected to go into the forward holds and found the Zero aircraft bodies, then swam through a passageway into the next compartment to see machine guns, armed with bullets, ready for battles unfought. There are several artillery shells on deck, removed from the holds below, that we examined before returning to the surface. We remained on this site for the entire day to see more of the wreck and finish with a night dive.

The night dive was a planned training dive for David and Pamela. They were in charge of navigation and I followed them around the ship's upper decks. This dive was required for their wreck diving specialty course and went as planned. At night these wrecks come alive with lots of creatures and colors unseen on day dives. We burned our tanks down to 300 psi, while hanging on the ship's mast in only 15 feet of water.

We saved the Betty Bomber, a long range Japanese bomber that sits on the bottom at 60 feet, for an afternoon dive. The plan was to shoot underwater video of David and Alex (stunt double) in a chase scene on underwater propulsion vehicles. Our video team consisted of Sue Steere from the Cayman Islands and Bruce Robinson of Tennessee. Both are experts and on assignment to catch the action.

Early that same morning we explored the Japanese Headquarters and airstrip only 100 yams from the Betty Bomber. It appeared that this aircraft crashed on take-off or while trying to land; we heard two versions of this story.

On the third day of our voyage we dived the Nippo Maru, a 353 foot freighter sitting upright in 150 feet of water. The bow rises to within 50 feet of the surface, but we headed directly for the Japanese tank sitting on the deck in front of the wheelhouse. There are land mines and artillery guns, all well preserved. The wheelhouse was the best yet on our trip; we stopped briefly on the way up to view the entire wreck.

David looking at a silent memorial to war

The Gosei Maru, a 283 foot freighter lying on her port side in 110 feet of water, is worth way more than the one dive we gave to her. The stern comes up to within 10 feet of the surface. Cargo hold number two is full of torpedoes and we took a few photos before the visibility was reduced by our slight movements.

The Heian was the highlight of our trip since we had been asked to film David and Alex inside the belly of this beast, the largest ship in the lagoon. It was a 510 foot long submarine tender. In the forward hold there are periscopes, artillery shells and torpedoes. Pamela and I enjoyed a leisurely dive and joined Paul Stone, a Truk Aggressor crewmember who was giving Cary Kwasizur (David Hasselhoff's assistant) a final checkout dive for his NAUI open water certification.

Although David has been diving in Hawaii, The Bahamas, St. Maarten and the Philippines, as well as Cayman, this was his and Pamela's first live-aboard experience. They told me the trip was one they will never forget. "Truk Lagoon has always been high on my list of diving destinations. On any dive, you can still envision the trauma that sailors felt when their ships were foundering to the ocean floor. It was not only interesting to learn the history of each wreck, but amazing to see all the brightly colored soft and hard corals that cling to the superstructures," David said. "The fish life is awesome" he continued. "Since everywhere you look you see a different species, it's possible to forget you're diving a wreck.

Underwater, you are also able to see so many artifacts of the 1940s, remnants of this world war, and it's comforting to know that collecting is forbidden." Today, these instruments of war display peace and tranquillity in the beautiful turquoise waters of Micronesia. Diving here should be experienced by everyone and it is well worth a trip to this far-reaching destination.

David and Pamela Hasselhoff plan to dive the world from live-aboards. The sea creature they most anticipate seeing is a Whale Shark. David also has plans to include several diving related episodes in next season's Baywatch series. He believes scuba diving provides adventure and drama, while also inspiring some of his one billion viewers to try the sport. Dacor, a leading equipment manufacturer, provides equipment and technical support on the Hollywood set and PADI has a training program for many of the other cast members. In addition, divers can check their local PADI dive center for more information about a Baywatch contest, which offers a chance to win a trip to the Baywatch set and dive with a cast member.

BAYWATCH AND
DAVID HASSELHOFF
ON THE WEB
Visit the Baywatch Web site at
www.baywatchtv.com
to get more details about the show.

You can also check out
David Hasselhoff's Web site at
www.davidhasselhoff.com.