From Navy SEAL to Sea Explorer: Stephen Kaplan's Journey with Trident Adventures

Article credit: Stephen Kaplan

2/2/20248 min read

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Stephen Kaplan
Stephen Kaplan

Stephen Kaplan is a retired Navy SEAL, now owner of Trident Adventures, currently living in Oahu, Hawaii with his lovely wife Andrea.  Steve began he’s Naval career in May of 2002, attending Basic Training in Great Lakes, at the age of 22.  Prior to joining the military, Steve graduated from Tolland High School, in Tolland Connecticut.  That same year, thinking he was following the will of God for his life, Steve enrolled at Elim Bible Institute, in Lima, New York.  Studying to be a pastor, Steve felt that God’s true call on his life was not to be in the ministry, but rather in the military as a Navy SEAL.  Without any real understanding of what a Navy SEAL is or does, he went through the recruiting process with the Navy and signed on the dotted line. 


While in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), awaiting a ship out date, Steve began a rigorous training regimen for 9 months in order to prepare for the toughest military training in the world, Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL (BUD/S) training.  During that time, Steve took his body and mind to levels he thought would prepare him for the arduous journey of becoming a Navy SEAL.  After only allowing himself 4 hours of sleep a night, Steve’s daily morning exercises included 1000 push-ups, 1000 sit-ups, 1000 dips, 150 pull-ups, 8 mile runs, and 1 mile swims.  After the morning exercise routine, Steve worked at FedEx, loading and unloading trucks.  He typically did the job of 4-5 people by himself while his fellow employees would enjoy very long “breaks” at his expense.  Steve loved it though because it allowed him the think and train like a Navy SEAL while doing all his fellow employees jobs for them.  After a typical 5-6 hour shift, it was off the gym for weight lifting training.  Throughout each day, Steve was always training and thinking “how would a Navy SEAL do this…,” “How would a Navy SEAL think about this…”  It’s like a student in medical school being called “doctor” before they are actually doctors.  It gets the mind to think a certain way.  This manner of thinking is critical when everything hits the fan in training and it feels like the world is against you. 


After graduating Naval Basic Training, Steve then attended Aircrew Survival Equipment Specialist training, aka Parachute Rigger (PR) training, in Pensacola, Florida.  The school was only about 2 months long, and he finished top of his class.  Upon completion, it was off to Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) located in San Diego, California where he was assigned to class 244.  If a student makes it straight through the program, it takes about 7-8 months to complete.  BUD/S is broken down into 3 separate phases, 1st Phase, 2nd Phase, and 3rd Phase, each about 2 months long with certain milestones to complete in each phase.  Prior to the true BUD/S 1st Phase start date, each potential BUD/S Student must go through BUD/S Indoc, which lasts typically about 6 weeks.   Indoc teaches the student about all the rules, regulations, practices, and expectations for each student and each class.  Typically, each class starts with about 300 students, but finishes with about 30.  


Steve’s time at BUD/S was just shy of 2 years.  During Indoc, he put a stick through his right forearm from a piece of the ‘low wall’ breaking off and impaling him on the obstacle course.  After getting all 7 inches of wood surgically removed, he was put in BUD/S class 245.  Having started off in 244 as one of the physically strongest men in the class, Steve was now one of the weakest students amongst his peers.  Persevering, he pushed through 245’s Indoc, and into 1st Phase.  The Thursday before the start of Hell Week, the infamous 5 ½ day, no sleep, continues training regimen milestone, which starts on the 4th week of 1st phase, Steve’s ear was significantly damaged.  He was hit upside the head, across the right ear by a paddle belonging to the BUD/S student behind him while being ejected from a small rubber boat a huge, San Diego, El Nino year, 20-foot wave.  Round 2 now for surgeries in BUD/S.  It took a tympanoplasty, which is basically a skin graft, to repair a ruptured/torn tympanic membrane.  Having to start training completely over again, to include the 6-week long Indoc process, Steve was now rolled into class 246.  While in this class, Steve finally made it to Hell Week for the first time.  On day 2, in the late-night hours, while he, plus the other 5 members of his boat crew were running with a rubber boat on their heads in the soft sands of the Coronado coastline, Steve stepped in a deep hole dug in the sand, hyperextending his left knee and taring the anterior tibial tendon that lies on the top of the ankle.  Also, he had ‘blow-out’ his other eardrum on day 3 of Hell Week.  Having sucked up the hardest part of the hardest military training in the world, with the help of God, Steve did complete Hell Week, with his severely injured leg and ear.  It took 4 months of physical therapy to heal his injured left leg and another tympanoplasty, this time in his left ear to repair the damage done.   After being rolled into class 248, upon that class’s completion of Hellweek, Steve did eventually make it through the remining 4 weeks of 1st phase, and completed 2nd phase Dive training, and 3rd Phase Land Warfare/small unit tactics training.  


After graduating BUD/S, Steve attended Airborne school with the Army at Fort Benning, Georgia and then SEAL Qualification Training (SQT) back in San Diego, California.  During SQT, each student is trained in the fundamentals of being a SEAL, which still leaves the students grossly underprepared for the real training and lifestyle of an active-duty Navy SEAL.  It still takes about another year and a half of training while assigned to a SEAL platoon at a SEAL Team before being fully trained and integrated with the 16 Navy SEALs you’ll be deploying with. 


Steve was medically retired from the Navy after spending 16 years in the SEAL Teams.  As a veteran of many deployments throughout the world, Steve’s combative experience includes hundreds of Direct Action (DA) missions, Special Reconnaissance (SR), Maritime Operations, Protective Support Detachments (PSD), any various others mission types.  He spent most of his career stationed at SEAL Team One, deploying and fighting in various places, primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as scattered locations throughout the Pacific Area of Operation (AOR).  He also served in Guam at Naval Special Warfare Unit ONE for 3 years as a Country Officer acting as a liaison between the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community, the State Department, and the host nations of Indonesia, Honk Kong, and the Philippines. 


The last four years of his Naval career he served as the lead instructor in all Combat Swimmer /dive (closed circuit and open circuit) training, maritime operations, Close Quarter Combat (CQC), explosives, breaching, Helicopter HRST/Cast operations, small unit tactics, weapons, and various other lead instructor roles while functioning as a department head at Training Detachment THREE (TRADET-3), based on Oahu, Hawaii. 


Today, Steve is the owner and CEO of Trident Adventures (Trident).  Taking all his experiences in SEAL training, combat deployments, leadership, and instruction, Steve formed and forged Trident into a high-end adventure company and school house.  Steve carries a unique perspective, and high value for life that he would say comes directly from his faith in Jesus Christ.  Paired with his vast collection of experience, and a strong sense of wonder for God’s creation, it is unavoidably contagious to those around him to simply love life. 


Steve has worked tirelessly to bring all the “fun” aspects of being a Navy SEAL to the world through Trident Adventures.  In its beginning, back in January of 2019, Trident simply offered snorkeling and scuba diving tours.  It has now grown to offer training and Navy SEAL-like experiences which includes, live fire gun shooting on a private gun range on the North Shore of Oahu, HI, as well as Navy SEAL ‘style’ / high-end hunting tours on the island of Lanai, HI.  Trident also offer training in various hand-to-hand combat disciplines through Krav Maga and Jiujitsu while blending those skills into a CQC environment utilizing simulated gun fighting warfare.  Beyond that Trident also offer skydiving out of helicopters, night vision goggle training, helicopter casting into the ocean, and so much more.  Within the first 6-months of opening, Steve created the academic arm of Trident Adventures, developing a school offering elite training to its students who earn professional ratings in both scuba diving and helicopter casting, recognized by PADI and the FAA, respectfully.  As a schoolhouse, Trident Adventures has now certified thousands of students from all around the world!


The most exciting, new development Trident now offers is their VA approved term classes for all professional level Scuba Diving certifications!  Anyone who has their VA benefits can now come to Trident and use their GI Bill to pay, in full, for all the training to become a PADI Divemaster (DM), Assistant Scuba Instructor (AI), Emergency First Response Instructor (EFRI) and an Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI).  As long as the military member, dependent, or veteran has enough educational months still allocated to their account, the training has no cost to the student.  For all veterans that go through the training, they also receive their Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) for Oahu, Hawaii, as an E-5 with dependents, throughout their entire time in the course. 


The most unique aspect about Trident is their helicopter operations!  Trident is the only company in the United States, and likely the world, that offers helicopter (helo) casting into the water, for fun! The youngest so far to do this activity is 3 years old, while the oldest so far is 84.  Working with the FAA, Steve not only got this activity approved for civilian purposes, but even created an entire curriculum, and new type of career field through the helo casting.  Now, the VA has even recognized the head role of this profession which is called a Helicopter Cast Master.   Just like with all the professional level Scuba certifications, anyone that wants to utilize their Gill Bill can now do so to become a Helicopter Cast Master!  It’s an incredibly intense and fun 3-week course of instruction that prepares the student for, in Steve’s opinion, the best job in the world! 


Beyond the daily tasks of running Trident, Steve also works as a military/SEAL technical advisor for various television shows and feature films filmed in Hawaii.  He’s also a member of the Scene Actors Guild (SAG) performing as a stuntman and occasional actor.  He also does a lot of Key Note Speaking, primality speaking about leadership and living a courage life in various venues.  His greatest passion however is leading a weekly Bible study and mentoring young men in becoming the 10 out of 10 version of themselves.  His next 2 goals in life are to finish writing his book called, ‘The Trident and the Cross.’  It’s Steve story about his time in the SEAL Teams and his relaying on faith throughout some very intense times in his military career as a SEAL.  Upon completion of the book, he’s going to flight school to become a helicopter pilot himself. Trident Advenures offers Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Gun Range, Axis Deer Hunting, Helicopter Casting (jumping), Skydiving, and more!

Eligible Veterans, Military Members, and Dependents can use their Post 9-11 GI Bills and VR&E benefits to pay for their Scuba Diving and Helicopter Cast Master Certifications through Trident Adventures too!

You'll want to check out the amazing things that Stephen and his his team are up to and learn how you can have a once in a lifetime experience with Trident Adventures at