Eee - We 'ad it tough in them days

By Mark Mumford

Someone mentioned the NAUI Master Scuba Diver grade (which I hadn't heard of) and I was silly enough to ask him what it entailed. This is what I received in reply......

In summary, the course was the diving skill and knowledge parts of a NAUI instructor course, without the how-to-teach stuff.

Pulling out my old NAUI manual, I find that Master Diver was the "highest non-leadership certification". Prerequisite was the NAUI Advanced course plus the Diving Rescue Techniques Specialty Course. One could substitute Openwater II plus three specialties for the Advanced course, or equivalent experience involving at least a year of diving experience, with at least 25 logged dives and 20 hours bottom time in the past year. In any event, the Rescue course was mandatory.

(Note: PADI's Master Diver card is a "recognition" card they give for people who take their AOW, Rescue, and five specialty courses. In that respect, it's broadly similar to the _prerequisites_ for the NAUI course, but there isn't a course for them to take to earn the card.)

Required course minimums for the old Master Diver course include 20 hours classroom and 12 hours in-water, at least 8 of which must be in open water. This must include a minimum of one skin dive and three scuba dives.

Swimming requirements:

  • 25 yard swim underwater on one breath with no dive or push off,
  • 440 yards any style within 10 minutes, followed by 25 yards doing each of two resting strokes,
  • 20 minutes survival swimming (drown proofing), 
  • 50 yard tow of another person of similar size.

Snorkelling requirements: i

  • Swimming 880 yards non-stop within 18 minutes using snorkelling gear, wetsuit jacket, and BC, with weight as needed for neutral buoyancy.
  • Ditch and recovery of mask, fins, and snorkel in 8-12 feet of water on one breath to ditch and one to recover, with mask and snorkel clear on surfacing.
  • Do a rescue, swimming out 50 yards, recover victim from 8-10 feet of water, and transport back while doing mouth-to-mouth.

Scuba requirements:

  • Ditch mask, snorkel, and scuba unit in 8-12 feet of water, swim 25 feet across the bottom before surfacing (without embolising!), catch breath, descend, swim back along bottom, and recover gear, all within five minutes. (Upon reading this I'm pissed off because my instructor told me I had to ditch and recover my fins too as part of this exercise! :-)
  • Do a rescue transport of another diver, both in full gear, 100 yards in not more than 4 minutes.
  • Do a bailout; this involves holding all your gear in your arms with the air shut off, jumping in the water, descending to the bottom, and dressing.
  • Tread water for 5 minutes with BC empty.
  • Buddy breathing 2 minutes as donor and two minutes as recipient, without surfacing between, and with the recipient not wearing a mask.

Openwater dives:

  • General conduct is graded, and candidates are held up to the same standard expected of NAUI instructor candidates.
  • The dives must involve at least three of the following activities: navigation/search, salvage/recovery, underwater work, observation/data collection, mapping, photography.
  • Candidates are to submit a dive plan in writing for each of these dives, and each diver must lead in two of the four dives.


  • No specific curriculum is required for the 20 hours, although the material on the exam should be covered.
  • Material may be presented on applied sciences, diving equipment, diving safety, diving environment, or other elective material selected by the instructor.
  • The material, and the exam, are at the same level that would be expected of instructor candidates.

I took my Master Diver course together with Assistant Instructor. There's a lot of overlap, and there are provisions that overlapping requirements only need to be met once. Hence, I didn't specifically recall which things I had to do belonged to which course.

I suspect the main reason the course fell by the wayside is that divers who are prepared to go to that much trouble are willing to go into leadership (eg. assistant instructor, divemaster, or instructor), and go that route instead. Last year, only nine people took the Master Diver course!

This page was last updated on : 06 Sep 2011