For some, life’s journeys mean conquering the unexplored, pushing the limits of human endurance or restoring works of art.

These high-end hobbies also have spawned niche businesses that, for a price, take recreation to the next level.

The rebreather

Price: $10,000

The rebreahter takes recreational diving to new depths. The 45-pound device packs specialized air canisters, scrubbers and a computer that cleans the air you exhale as you explore depths otherwise unobtainable by conventional gear.

Why invest in a rebreather?

“It depends on your thirst for adventure,” said Tom Andersen, co-owner of Island Divers Galveston, 525 25th St. “It’s the Star Trek syndrome. Everybody wants to be the first to go where nobody has been before.”

The device takes your exhaled air in a closed loop, cleans it of carbon dioxide, and a computer calculates the mixture of oxygen and other gases for your next breath.

The rebreather gives divers access to deeper shipwrecks, but costs $1,500 more than conventional gear.

Rebreathers are unaffected by pressure and are rated at 500 feet for five hours, Andersen said.

“You can come to the surface in a quarter of the time as you can on regular SCUBA,” Andersen said.

Andersen uses helium to dilute oxygen rather than less pricey nitrogen, which has narcotic-like properties when breathed at certain depths.

“Air’s made out of 20 percent oxygen and 79 percent nitrogen,” Andersen said. “For every 50 feet you descend while breathing air, it’s like doing a Patrón shot on an empty stomach.”

The rebreather’s drawbacks, such as electronics and a scrubber that can’t come in contact with water, are reasons why you must be highly trained in order to buy one.

Road bicycles

Price: up to $28,000

John Purse brought home three world championships in BMX racing. The professional cyclists from Tomball is easing into road racing with the goal of competing in a triathlon.

Purse visited Russ Cooper, owner of Webster Bicycle, 408 W. NASA Parkway in Webster, for a custom fitting of his Felt TT/TRI bike, which retails for about $2,000. The bike will be fitted with $1,500 carbon wheels for race day.

“I wanted to invest in other disciplines,” Purse said. “Russ opened the gateway with his knowledge of things I’d never have been aware of.”

It takes Cooper about six weeks to custom build and fit a client’s bike.

Cooper measures a client’s height, inseam, and upper body and arm length.

“All that turns into a design on paper so we get a (computer-aided) drawing on what the frame’s going to look like, and then the customer picks his paint job,” Cooper said. “And here we are five or six weeks later with a bike that fits him perfectly.”

Cooper recently sold a road bicycle for $28,000. What mainly sets that bicycle apart from others is an electronic gear shifter.

Fountain pens

Price: up to $40,000

Before Stephen Pustilnik became a medical doctor and moved to Texas to become Galveston County’s chief medical examiner, he had a passion for fountain pens.

On weekends, you can often find him in Houston at Dromgoole’s, 2515 Rice Blvd.

Pustilnik began collecting vintage pens at antique shows. Some were broken, but he learned how to repair them.

In 2001, Pustilnik bought a fountain pen at Dromgoole’s in celebration of landing his current job. While hanging out one day, he met a doctor from Beaumont, who needed a repair.

“Some have pens that are $6,000 to $20,000 that they want repaired or customized,” Pustilnik said.

Collectors love custom pens, including one that carried a $40,000 price tag. It sports a Texas flag in white gold with diamonds, sapphires and rubies, Pustilnik said.


Price: up to $12,000

Pustilnik’s latest hobby, knife making, makes him among the sharpest men in the county.

Some Saturdays, Pustilnik heads to Serenity Knives, 410 Harvard St., in Houston, where he makes his own cooking knives. He also had an autopsy knife made, which he will leave to his successor in a rite of passage.

Pustilnik has his own handles, grinding belts, adhesives and buys steel online directly from foundries.

Some custom-made knives last 10 lifetimes, and sell from $400 and up, depending on the type of steel, embellishments and reputation of the maker, Pustilnik said.

“The highest-dollar, custom-made chef knives are made by a guy named Bob Kramer,” Pustilnik said. “If you can get him to agree to make you one, it’ll be a two-year waiting list and it’ll be $12,000.”

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