Legends of Diving Articles
The Pioneer Program in Diving Instruction
L.A. County was the first to develop safety programs and
instructional standards in the United States.
In 1953, Al Tillman, Sports Director for the Department of
Parks and Recreation and Bev Morgan, LOS Angeles County
Lifeguard, put into action what was to become the pioneering
effort for diving safety.
With the help of Conrad Limbaugh, Diving Officer for the
Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the foremost authority
on SCUBA diving in the U.S., plans were made for the first
public SCUBA courses.
In July of 1954, two were held at Mayfair Park in Lakewood
and two in East Los Angeles, assisted by Ramsey Parks, L.A.
County Lifeguard. During this period Bev Morgan wrote the
first training manual "Underwater Recreation" which in an
updated version is still available today to L.A. County
In 1955, the first of the Underwater Instructor
Certification Courses (UICC) were held. Beginning in March,
then May, July, and finishing in September of that year. The
first three consisted of a program approximately 20 hrs.
long, 4 UICC was 32 hrs. and 5 UICC grew to 50 hrs. Today
the UICC consists of over 200 hrs. extended over a three
month period of weekend training. The program is conducted
In 1958 Neal Hess, an L.A. County Instructor with the help
of Skin Diver Magazine, introduced a column entitled
"Instructors Corner" to help with training concepts on a
In 1959 the title became the "National Diving Patrol", with
training outlines reviewed and accepted.
In I960, Al Tillman along with Neal Hess, organized the
National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) and
held the first instructor course on a national level in
Houston, Texas. Much of the material and concepts were
provided by L.A. County.
In 1964, the L.A. County Advanced Divers Program (ADP) was
founded, with courses running 8 months long and back to back
for the first two years. This was the first advanced program
in the U.S. Courses are now conducted yearly and staffed by
the L.A. County Instructors Association.
L.A. County was the first to offer seminars to keep their
instructors up to date. The general diving public was also
invited to attend.
A publication, the "Underwater News" was also offered to
keep the membership current and was popular on a national
In 1968, L.A. County organized the "International Conference
on Underwater Education" (ICUE). In 1969, NAUI assumed
control of the program.
In 1967, L.A. County was the first organization to require
open-water work for certification.
In 1968, submersible pressure gauges (SPG) became mandatory
for class use. We also introduced training in buoyancy
Over the years the L.A, county underwater instructors
Association (UIA) has functioned in an advisory capacity to
the Department of Parks and Recreation with an elected Board
of Directors who assist in maintaining the underwater
programs and standards.
L.A. County instructors have assisted in the development of
many national organizations: Al Tillman as one of the
founders of NAUI and their first Executive Director, Bev
Morgan as President of Kirby-Morgan Diving Systems
International, Nick Icorn as one of the founders of PADI and
their first Executive Director and organizer of the National
Scuba Training Council NSTC, Jon Hardy Training Director for
SSI and equipment expert and evaluator, as well as legal
expert in the diving field, Ed Petterson Director of
Aquatics for L.A. County and advisor for many years to (The
Underwater Instructors Association.
Through the years many pioneers have assisted to bring the
L.A, County Program to the forefront; E.R. Cross-a living
legend in diving, Andy Rechnitzer-Director of the
governments Deep Submersible Program, Jim Stewart-Diving
Officer for Scripps Institute, Glen Egstrom-Dept. of
Physiology UCLA, and many, many more who have contributed
time and energy to make the program what it is today.
Icorn, international dive legend, presents this article in the dive
legends series. Icorn attended the first instructor's course in the
United States at Scripps Institute in 1953. From there he has gone on to
an illustrious career in diving with many awards. Read more on
Nick Icorn, a legend at the Third Annual International Legends Festival
at the Portage Quarry in August, 2008.
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