The story of the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) is the story of how an idea evolved into a vision of how diving instruction should be. It is a vision that is shared by thousands of people for whom scuba diving is not just a recreational pastime, but a passion. Imparting safe diving skills and working in unison to preserve the world’s aquatic environments are the noble purpose shared by those pioneers who first formed NAUI. Pursuing this task has not always been easy, but it has been richly rewarding. This history chronicles the dedication, hard work and perseverance, the conflict and resolution, and ultimately, the triumph of the philosophy
“Dive Safety Through Education.”
The modern diving era in North America traces its beginnings to 1948 when Jacques-Yves Cousteau convinced Rene Bussoz (of Rene’s Sporting Goods in Westwood, California) to import self-contained underwater breathing units he called Aqua-Lungs. Previously, aquatic adventurers were limited to breath-hold dives, although they too called themselves skin divers. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the term“scuba diver” became the accepted name for Aqua-Lung users.
Breath-hold divers were drawn to the oceans primarily to hunt game fish and collect lobster and, on the US west coast, abalone. Spear fishing tournaments were fairly common, rewarding participants for the most and largest fish taken. In the years since, spear fishing has been in and out of favor as its environmental impact debated, but it is again growing in popularity and practiced responsibly both on scuba (where not restricted) and by skin (breath-hold) divers. Some of the early records still stand t o d a y. Some will stand without challenge, as taking certain fish has since been outlawed, and recordkeeping organizations like the International Underwater Spear Fishing Association (IUSA) will not accept or publish record claims for endangered species. Given the equipment available and the body of knowledge that existed for the early adventurers, some of these are truly remarkable conquests.