It’s doubtful that even the great visionary, Jacques Cousteau, could have foreseen the growth of the scuba diving industry when he slipped beneath the surface of that little Mediterranean cove with the world’s first Aqualung. Within a decade Cousteau’s invention was being marketed and sold not only in Europe but on the east and west coasts of the United States. The first diving schools were launched in Great Briton and in Los Angeles in the early fifties, training for this new sport was brutal and was not only reserved for the fit, but being expensive, for the affluent.
What really got the ball rolling was National Geographic’s coverage of Cousteau’s early undersea adventures and the TV show Sea Hunt that enthralled the viewers with the mysteries and beauty of the underwater world. Would be Aquanauts started flocking to the YMCA to take their fledgling classes.
In the late 50s, the National Association of Underwater Instructors was formed and well structured training evolved. Today, there are a half dozen certification agencies in the United States alone and the excellent safety record of the sport attests to the fact that they are doing a very commendable job.
Scuba equipment in its embryonic form was primitive, difficult to master and it was unreliable. As the equipment evolved, manufacturers sprang up and research and development hastened technological improvements, large corporations manufactured full lines of equipment and dive shops multiplied and prospered with sales.
In 1965 on beautiful Grand Bahama Island, the Underwater Explorer Society was founded and opened what became the world’s first dive resort. Luxurious resorts that cater exclusively to divers can now be found around the globe in mostly tropical locations that offer crystal clear water and overwhelmingly beautiful coral reefs. Fleets of dive boats ferry quests from the resorts to the best local dive sites. Dive travel to these exotic resorts is thriving and some of the most popular destinations include, the Caribbean islands, the Red Sea, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
In the beginning, scuba divers dove from the beach or from small private boats; eventually charter fishing boats were enlisted to transport divers to offshore dive sites and then the concept of liveaboard dive boats took shape. Today, fleets of liveaboards can be found around the world. These cruise vessels are luxuriously appointed with comfortable accommodations, gourmet cuisine, photo labs and around the clock diving at remote locations around the globe.
The scuba diving industry continues to flourish with modern technology equipping divers with space-age equipment, continuing exploration turns up new and amazing dive sites and high speed air travel has made the world’s oceans a scuba divers playground.