Some 15 years ago, Eric Billips took a three-month sabbatical in the Florida Keys from his construction job in Michigan.
Surprise: He never left. He’s now the owner of two scuba shops on Islamorada—Islamorada Dive Center and the Florida Keys Dive Center—and he’s just become the host of a new dive show set to air on the Discovery Channel. Destination Dive premieres Sunday, September 4, at 7:30 a.m.—with the replay available online.
Season one consists of one pilot episode, packed with underwater and topside must-sees from all 180 miles of the Florida Keys. Season two has already been picked up, with eight more episodes set to start airing in March 2023.
On Becoming a Host
When he was giving a presentation at a Divers Direct retail location, Billips crossed paths with the team behind “Scuba Nation,” a show that started in 2012 and ran for 12 seasons. The crew filmed his talk, which led to Billips offering his dive center and boats for future episodes—even guest hosting several episodes. When that show ran its course, with the team going in different directions, executive producer Mike Zimmer had a short list of people he wanted in front of the camera—and Billips was at the top.
His Favorite Moment
“Introducing the next generation to the underwater world is huge to me,” says Billips, father to a 9-year-old boy.
Part of episode one highlights the family-friendly nature of the Keys’ reefs. The crew interviewed families after a dive and interacted with the kids underwater.
The hard part?
“It’s tough to get kids’ faces to light up about anything that isn’t on a screen, but we got to see it in the water!”
The Biggest Challenge
“Filming underwater is nothing like filming on dry land where you can say, ‘Cut’ and ‘Do it again,’” says Billips.
Wrangling divers in the scene without being able to talk or get their attention long enough to read an underwater slate proved tricky. So, too, did trying to time filming with wildlife encounters.
“‘Cut, do it again’ is not something you can say to a turtle,” he jokes.
Season Two Teasers
Billips is in talks with the Shark Week team to get the greenlight for an episode spotlighting one of the Key’s biggest—literally—mythical creatures.
In 2012, he worked with researchers from the University of Miami when they came to the Keys to tag bull sharks, finding one that defied expectation.
“They tried to weigh her but she maxed out the scale,” says Billips. “This fish was at least 300 pounds heavier than any other bull shark on record—she’s a monster.”
The kicker: They had run out of GPS tags at that point, so they could only tag her with a normal tag, making it harder to pinpoint her location. They did, at least, get to pull a DNA sample.
“Her DNA is in sharks caught all the way up to Cape Cod,” says Billips.
The show’s mission: find her again and swim with her.
“We know she’s out there,” says Billips.