Growing up in the mountains of Colorado, Mike Young’s childhood was nothing short of unique. In September 1974, Erwin and Lynne Young moved from Texas to Colorado with their four children, Mark, Mike, Sherri, and Jay. Erwin learned the warm (87° F) geothermal water available on his 80-acre farm was ideal for raising tilapia. Soon after that Erwin added alligators to the farm as a means of disposing the remains of the harvested filleted fish. Once news got out about the gators, the Young family was soon thrust into the spotlight of many media programs and articles. Growing up with the saurian beasts, Mike and his brother Jay, were the only ones old enough to work with them and the eager public who wanted to see them. This marked the beginning of the Colorado Gators Reptile Park in 1990.
Growing up as he had, Mike discovered no adventure was too big, taking up other pursuits such as becoming an avid extreme skier, hunter, mountaineer and extreme motorcyclist. Mike learned to scuba dive in the early 90’s and made his first open water dives in a sinkhole on the edge of the Africa's Kalahari Desert. This new experience combined with his passion for extreme sports and wrangling alligators, made it natural for him to gravitate toward technical diving. He was soon performing deep cave dives and his interest in sump diving grew.
On the career side Mike was educated and trained as a tool and die builder for automated machinery in the mid 90's. One of his more notable jobs was with the Hiram Walker distillery, where he designed and built an applicator that would apply a red ribbon and plastic button to 280 bottles of Kahlúa per minute.
Mike’s desire for diving and reaching areas unseen has led him to custom build many of his own products. Through his background in engineering and manufacturing, he had become affiliated with both Hollis and KISS Rebreathers for many years. In that time he was influential in the design of a number of diving systems, including the development of the KISS GEM gas extender rebreather.
In October 2012 Mike became the third owner of KISS Rebreathers, moving the entire production facility from Vancouver, BC, to Fort Smith, Arkansas in the USA. With his extensive background in machining, product development, and testing, it was a natural move for him to make, and the right one for KISS. He has since developed the KISS Orca Spirit, KISS Spirit LTE, GEM Sidekick SCR/CCR, as well as the popular KISS Spirit Sidewinder.
In addition to overseeing production and designs for new equipment, Mike’s interest in exploration is still very much alive. As a result, he is a member of the Advance Diver Magazine Exploration Team, as well as the US Deep Caving Team. His exploits include the J2 expedition in 2010, exploring a system in southern Mexico that is 1200 meters deep and required two days of extreme caving just to reach the water. In 2011, Mike and the deep caving team mapped an underground river system in Puerto Rico that totaled over 23 kilometers in length, making it the world’s longest underground river. Some of the area surveyed had never been seen by human eyes before. More recently, while exploring and mapping submerged caverns in the Yucatan peninsula, Mike also discovered a fully intact Mayan vase dating back 1300 years.
Between Mike’s passion for exploration, and actively working on new concepts and designs to further enhance our ability to explore our world underwater, we expect more great things to come!