updated 04/28/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 04/28/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Richard Fryburg, 24, began designing a new type of underwater inflatable flotation bag following a thwarted two-summer attempt to raise a sunken tugboat from the bottom of Narragansett Bay. After experimenting with cumbersome steel tanks, he finally fell upon the idea of using scrap rubber. Now his two-year-old company, Subsalve Industries, Inc. of Providence, R.I., supplies the Navy, Coast Guard and world with synthetic flotation devices that, when strapped to a submerged object and inflated with air from the surface, can raise anything from a ship to an airplane. By July Fryburg expects sales to pass the $1 million mark—not bad for an original investment of $1,000. Richard, a native of Worcester, Mass., began snorkeling at age 12, and during his high school years lived on his family's 40-foot cabin cruiser. After graduating from Long Island's Southampton College with a marine geology degree, he is now enrolled in the MBA program at Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I. (His father is a business consultant.) Fryburg saved enough money to buy his own 32-foot pleasure boat—only to have it sink when he was trying to salvage the tug. Now, with orders coming in from Singapore, Saudi Arabia and the North Sea, Fryburg predicts that Subsalve could eventually gross $100 million annually. "We're in a very comfortable position," he smiles, "with very limited competition."