Las Galeras residents and visitors often ask us about NAUI so we thought we would share some information about them.
The National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) is an idea thqt evolved into a vision of how diving instruction should be. It is a vision that’s shared by thousands of people worldwide for whom scuba diving is not just a recreational pastime, but a passion. NAUI Instructors love to impart safe diving skills and work in unison to preserve the world’s aquatic environments.  The same ideals and purposes shared by the pioneers who first formed NAUI.

This abridged version of NAUI’s history chronicles the triumph of the philosophy;

“Dive Safety Through Education.”
The modern diving era in North America started in 1948 when Jacques-Yves Cousteau convinced Rene Bussoz of Westwood, California to import self-contained underwater breathing units, that he called Aqua-Lungs, for sale in his sporting goods store. 
Rene Bussoz imported just ten S.C.U.B.A. units and, once they were sold, he believed he had saturated the market. However, other sporting goods stores across the country discovered a market for the Aqua-Lungs. The divers who bought them soon realized they didn’t need a breath-hold diver’s stamina, and they in turn convinced others to try this new  experience. The number of scuba divers steadily increased and the U.S. Divers Company was formed out of Rene’s Sporting Goods.
During these early years, there were no certification requirements and anyone who could afford it could purchase scuba equipment.  As the population of divers grew, the need to introduce safe diving practices and training also grew.

Al Tillman, soon to become NAUI Instructor #1 was the director of sports for Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation at the time, established a training program sponsored by L.A. County to certify skin and scuba divers.

Bev Morgan, a Los Angeles County lifeguard at the time joined forces with Al Tillman and they studied with Conrad Limbaugh at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in 1953. In April 1955 they held the first Underwater Instructor Certification Course, (1UICC) and created the world’s first civilian diver training agency. The L.A. County program soon began granting Provisional Certification to instructors across the country in resposnse to a growing number of requests.


NAUI’s first elected Board of Directors included Al Tillman (NAUI #1), John C. Jones, Jr. (NAUI #2), Neal Hess (NAUI #3), Garry Howland (NAUI #13), Jim Auxier, (NAUI #A4), and James Cahill, (NAUI #85).

A Board of Advisors was appointed and included were Captain Albert Behnke, Jr., Commander George Bond, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and Dr. Andy Rechnitzer.

NAUI grew throughout the 1960s and regularly conducted Instructor Certification Courses (ICC’s) throughout North America. The organisation relied primarily on volunteers & regional leaders like Garry Howland & John C. Jones &, in Canada, Ben Davis. Al Tillman administered the Association’s business out of his home until Jim Auxier and Chuck Blakeslee of SKin Diver Magazine, provided him with office space and a salary. Skin Diver Magazine published the “NAUI Page” as a regular feature helping NAUI to continue to grow.

Skin Diver Magazine asked Neal Hess to write and edit a column about teaching scuba called “The Instructors Corner”. It wasn’t long before Neal was reviewing course outlines submitted by others and certifying them as instructors. He started a new column called the “National Diving Patrol,” where he published the names of all new skin and scuba diving “instructors”.
Al Tillman then established a training program, again with sponsorship from L.A. County, to certify skin and scuba divers As Tillman said in a 1952 letter to Parks and Recreation director Paul Gruendyke, “A new sport—skin diving—is becoming popular in the area. Recently while diving in Palos Verdes, I ran into several divers in the water who didn’t know what they were doing. One had one of the new underwater breathing units that allows divers to stay under for long periods of time… I propose that my department get involved in this sport and provide training classes. I believe that diving will grow in the future and we have an obligation to make the sport as safe as possible.”
A period of growing interest and participation in recreational scuba diving was well underweigh, helped along by the then hit TV Series. “Sea Hunt” which aired from 1958 to 1961. It starred Lloyd Bridges,NAUI’s first honorary instructor,and Zale Parry, NAUI #A-12.
There were also early movies and books by Cousteau and Hans Hass, but neither did as much as “Mike Nelson” of Sea Hunt to focus the attention of the general public on scuba diving. Zale Parry and Al Tillman have likened the program to “an underwater Western movie” in their book Scuba America: The Human History of Sport Diving.

To cope with the growing interest in this new sport, Los Angeles County was followed by other public certifying agencies including the Broward County, Florida, Red Cross program developed by John C. Jones, Jr. and later, in 1959, the YMCA’s national program.

In 1959 the National Diving Patrol was renamed the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) and Hess, Blakeslee, and Auxier planned to conduct a major instructor certification course the following year. In August 1960, a meeting of the Underwater Society of America was scheduled to be held in Houston, Texas. Neal Hess asked Al Tillman to organize the instructor course. They in turn contacted John C. Jones to work on the project. NAUI’s first Instructor Certification Course was held at the Houston’s Shamrock Hilton Hotel that August with 72 candidates.

After six days of what was described as a “Hell Week,” 53 graduated and, along with their staff instructors, became the very first instructor members of the National Association of Underwater Instructors. A little over a year later, in October 1961, NAUI was incorporated in the State of California as a non-profit educational organization. .Al Tillman was the first President and Neal Hess, the Executive Secretary. When asked recently as to why they chose a non-profit status, Garry Howland, NAUI #13 said, “That’s what we knew. I was a member of the Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Al was familiar with the YMCA.”

It remains a non profit organisation to this day

Al Tillman left the NAUI Board and administration in 1967 to operate his resort the Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO) that he had opened in 1965 in the Bahamas. He was elected to a newly created position of NAUI Resort Branch Manager. Otherwise, NAUI continued to use regional Branches (managers) and local Chapters (leaders) as a way to organize its member populations. In 1968 Art Ullrich, NAUI #601, was hired as the new Executive Director and moved NAUI’s headquarters into his home in Grand Terrace, California, and later to offices in Colton, California.

The first International Conference on Underwater Education (with the acronym ICUE and later shortened to IQ) was held in 1969 at Santa Ana College. For many years IQ served both as a venue where NAUI members from all over could meet and exchange ideas and as a forum in which papers were presented on diving skills and safety, teaching, diving physiology, physics and other diving and marine sciences.

In the 1970s NAUI membership began to expand internationally. A NAUI Instructor Certification Course was held in Japan in 1970 and NAUI Canada was organized as a separate corporation in 1972. The first ICC in Houston had included three Canadians, and the second ever NAUI ICC was held in Toronto in 1961, largely under the direction of Ben Davis.

By 1979 NAUI had certified over 5,000 instructors and had increasing member populations in many countries around the world.

In 1981, NAUI relocated to new larger headquarters in Montclair, California, where it remained until 1997.

In 1987 Nancy Guarascio, NAUI #5008, became the first woman to be elected president of the NAUI Board of Directors and by 1989 NAUI had certified over 12,000 instructors.

The 1990s were a time of challenge for NAUI. In 1995, Sam Jackson left NAUI to head up the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association that had formed out of the Diving Equipment Manufacturers Association (retaining the acronym DEMA) the previous year. In June of 1995, NAUI hired Jim Bram and changed the title of the NAUI Chief Executive to President. Jim initiated a turn around of NAUI, and reset NAUI to do business as NAUI Worldwide. This global outlook was a major factor as NAUI implemented a strategy to provide business support to members everywhere via licensed service centers and secure our most precious asset – the NAUI brand.

By 1998 NAUI Worldwide had established a network of twenty service centers supporting a growing membership population around the world. Along with this strategic shift in services delivery, the independent NAUI associations that had formed in the 1970s were retired and their members welcomed back into NAUI Worldwide, forming a single membership association teaching to one world-wide standard of training.

NAUI sanctioned Nitrox training in 1992 – the first recreational training agency to do so – continuing to innovate in support of its members and in the interest of diving safety.

In early 1997, in keeping with NAUI’s founding principles, the Association published standards for teaching technical diving, a practice that had been growing among NAUI members for several years.

All of this produced unprecedented growth rates as divers worldwide saw that the NAUI ideal of “DIVE SAFETY THROUGH EDUCATION” was important in a community becoming increasingly crowded with training organizations, each claiming to be the fastest growing or having the most convenient method for learning to dive. The NAUI slogan “The Quality Difference” continues to distinctively separate NAUI members from the rest, whose only apparent qualifications often seem to be little more than an acronym, a toll-free number, and a web site.

NAUI is not only history; it is also the future. NAUI is its members. Our Association will continue to grow as we promote “Dive Safety Through Education”. NAUI members are known and respected all across the industry for the quality of their teaching, concern for the individual student, and safety awareness.