Anastasios "Taso" Karistinos
2010 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Anastasios “Taso” Karistinos is a practitioner of sponge diving, the traditional occupation for which Tarpon Springs is best known. Florida is the only state in the nation with a sponge industry, and Tarpon Springs is a unique Greek community based in that tradition. Karistinos is locally acknowledged as a highly-skilled traditional sponge diver and sponge boat captain. A native of Greece, he grew up on the family farm, but always loved the sea. In his teens, his uncle introduced him to scuba diving, and ignited within him this lifelong passion. In 1973, Karistinos came to Tarpon Springs and soon started diving for various sponge boat captains. One of his mentors was the legendary diver John “The Greek” Maillis, who saw Karistinos as the only young diver to take the traditional occupation as seriously as himself. Today, Karistinos is the sole diver in Tarpon Springs who owns and works on a traditional Greek-style sponge boat. His boat, the “Anastasi,” was built by 2009 Florida Folk Heritage Awardee George Saroukos. Karistinos’ lifelong dedication to the difficult and dangerous sponge diving traditions of his homeland honors the proud history of Tarpon Springs’ maritime heritage.