David Gross has been on quite the ride in the Florida Keys, literally. 

In the early weeks after the checkpoint was established in Key Largo due to the pandemic, his wife, Patti, and he went on a once-in-a-lifetime bike ride down the entire Overseas Heritage Trail from the Upper Keys to the Southernmost Point. (For those who don’t know, David’s wife Patti is a dive legend in the community and a Women Divers Hall of Fame inductee.)

“We would plan a 10-mile segment because we had to get back to the car and 20 miles was our ride limit. We used this approach until we got to the park south of Seven-Mile Bridge,” he said. “We were able to do two 20-mile rides on the last 40 miles with the help of friends in the area who provided shuttle service to get us back to our car.”

Those who know the Islamorada resident know just how adventurous he is, between his passions for the underwater world and for capturing the Keys through a lens from the air, on the ground or below the surface. Many are probably familiar with his name, as his work has appeared in the Keys Weekly quite often from shots of a busy Alligator Reef and a quiet Fills in Islamorada on the Fourth of July. Just look at this week’s cover and this spread. And three weeks ago, his aerial shot of Coast Guard Station Islamorada was featured on the cover. His aerial shot of a Publix truck traversing alone on the Overseas Highway in late March had well over 1,000 shares. 

Oh, and did we mention he’s a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary? David loves life in the Keys. It’s felt while in his presence and shown in his work. 

Full name: David Gross

Got a nickname? Rico

Where are you originally from? When did you come to the Keys?  We moved to the Keys in 2009. I first came to the Keys in the 1960s. I grew up in Fort Lauderdale and we came to visit the Keys every now and then.

What brought you down here to live, work and play?  Diving, fishing, boating, the small community, and of course, the warm weather. 

What was going through your mind when you were grabbing drone shots of the Fills, the sandbar and Alligator Light over the past few months? Using the drone for images gives me an opportunity to view our world from a very different angle. The first thing I was thinking about on this group of shots was the story that I wanted to tell. The contrast of busy at Alligator and sandbar as well as the effect of closing the Fills. I love providing for Keys Weekly that allows the local community to see and react to my images.

Do you have a favorite spot where you like to grab photos? I love to take drone images flying off the boat. My first love is underwater photography in the Key Largo/Islamorada area.

How long have you been diving? I’ve been diving for 30 years.

How did you get into diving? I took a resort course in Maui, Hawaii during a family vacation and I was hooked.

What’s your favorite dive spot? In the Keys, the Benwood wreck and Davey Crocker. In the world, the Socorro Islands.

What do you enjoy most about living in the Keys?  The water-oriented lifestyle. I have been a water-bug since I learned how to swim at the age of 5.

How did you become involved with the Coast Guard Auxiliary? I was looking for something to do to give me a direction to take after I sold my business. I joined the CG Auxiliary about a year before the sale of the company and it really helped me realize the possibilities for my life after I was done with the “game of business.”

What do you most enjoy about being a Coast Guard Auxiliary member?  First and foremost, I love working with the Coast Guard team at Station Islamorada. I love being underway helping to protect our fragile marine environment.

If you could take anyone out to dinner, dead or alive, who would it be? Admiral William McRaven.

If you wrote your own autobiography, what would it be called?  “Just for the FUN of IT.”

If you had a superhero power, what would it be?  Super strength mental and physical to protect the weak from the bullies of the world

What’s been your biggest inspiration throughout your life?  I have had some of the most incredible mentors over the course of my adult life, beginning with my dad, Alvin. I have been fortunate to have had a very eclectic group of friends/mentors that helped me along the way and inspired me to follow my dreams. 

What is one thing that always, always makes you happy? Being on my BOAT!

Have a favorite go-to drink? Papa’s Pilar and Diet Coke

Finish these sentences…

My family would tell you that … I like to take them out on the boat.

Life in the Keys is … better than all of the alternatives that I can think of.

Life on the water is … the way it is supposed to be for me.

Diving in the Keys is … the most fun when I am underwater with Patti (aka Lola).

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