Some locals are lucky enough to be born here in South Walton, but the rest of us have our own story to tell. Local water enthusiast and sculpture artist Vince Tatum’s tale is a refreshing one to dive into.
Since the late nineties, Tatum and his extended family have had many a reunion and vacation gathering here on 30A. About eight years ago Vince started renting houses for a month at a time. “It became harder and harder to leave, so living here full time was pretty much a no-brainer,” he confesses.
Shortly after buying his Blue Mountain Beach home in 2013, Tatum started living like a true local. He got a paddle board, added an outdoor shower to his space, and invested in good flip flops.
(The convenience of a golf cart is optional, but he highly recommends.)
Tatum’s passion for recreation on the water started long before moving to 30A. While still in his teens, he perfected his scuba skills in the Cayman Islands after his dad bought a place there. Back then they couldn’t afford a boat, so he and a buddy would fin kick thirty minutes out to the dive sites.
Tatum pays the bills working as an art director and production designer and through an annual gig with 30A Songwriters Festival, he met folks with the Cultural Arts Alliance and got to know their programs. When the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA) put out their call for sculpture applications, this retired NAUI Dive Master and Instructor knew he’d like to throw a design in the ring.
The UMA is the first of its kind and, in partnership with the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA), will leave an incredible legacy in our gulf’s waters.
As a lifelong diver, Tatum wanted to make sure his structure had a maximum surface of clean cement to promote coral growth.
“I thought a dome shape would work well and that’s how the idea originated for the SWARA Skull,” he shared. Last fall Tatum was thrilled to learn he was one of seven artists selected to construct their creations.
As you can imagine, the materials and skilled labor demands for a project of this magnitude are huge. The SWARA Skull weighs approximately 5 tons! “I am so grateful for the community support I’ve received: an amazing sponsorship from BOTE Boards, and expert cement work from Cox Pools and Custom Plaster & Shotcrete” Tatum explained.
Excitement is building for the sculptures’ late June deployment off Grayton Beach State Park. Tatum reflects, “It’s so cool to think about diving the UMA in say, five years…I can’t wait to see who’s living in there.” Pretty poetic words from this now full-time local himself. We can’t wait to see who’s living here then too!
SARAH MURPHY ROBERTSON was born and raised in Ohio, met her husband in Atlanta, and they have one son, Reid. The Robertson trio moved to Santa Rosa Beach in March of 2011 and since their cars have sand in them year round feel certain this officially makes them locals. Sarah is a writer and editor and loves words something fierce.