The Professional Scuba Association International is one of the oldest technical scuba training agencies in the world. For many years it was a small, specialized organization that was predominantly involved with dive training associated with extended range deep air diving. Virtually all of the early history centers on the founder, Hal Watts.
The Professional Scuba Association (PSA) was originally founded as the Florida State Skin Diving Schools in 1962 by Hal Watts in Orlando, Florida. Hal’s experience with scuba had begun in 1955 while he was attending college, earning a Master’s Degree in law.
During the 1960′s Hal became devoted to extended range diving and developing proven, effective diving techniques for dives to depths greater than the normal recreational range of 40 meters (132 feet). In 1967, using methods he developed, Hal set the World’s Depth record by diving to 119 meters (390 feet) on air and was recognized in the Guinness Book of records. It should be noted, that as time went on, it was accepted that extremely deep air dives were indeed hazardous and the current records represent remarkable achievements. Unfortunately, the record is also at the very extreme edge of human physiological tolerance and so Guinness no longer publishes deep air records or attempts.
In 1970, Hal wrote and copyrighted the first manual for Extended Range Deep Diving for instructors and conducted specialty classes for those interested. One of the projects that Hal wanted was a film, so he commissioned Ned DeLoach of New World Publications to produce a 16mm color film “Deep Diving” on location at Wakulla Springs, Florida.
Hal Watts formed a specialty diving club known as the “Forty Fathom Scubapros” that was very active diving all over Florida especially at a sink hole that just happened to be 40 fathoms (73 meters, 240 feet) deep! Many of the other divers and organizations simply were not prepared to understand the desire of these early pioneers, so the Scubapros continued largely in quiet. During the 1970s they continued refining techniques and skills to improve in deep diving activities.
PSA was in place as the “mainstream” technical agencies burst onto the scene in the mid 1980′s. PSA continued their program of careful selection of instructors and adherence to safe diving techniques. Many of the agencies recognized PSA programs for their quality and afforded direct cross-over certification.
During organizational meetings in early 2005, the PSA course structure was reconfigured into course offerings. It was set up to include logical paths of their normal extended ranged programs, a traditional path of technical deep diving from Nitrox to Trimix and a Rebreather path. This technique gives the prospective student the direction and courses that fit their desired training objectives, without having to do unnecessary out of scope work. At the same time, every PSA student will receive the highest quality training from the highest quality instructors. PSA training and instruction is PRFORMANCE BASED!
In 2006, Gary L. Taylor became full partners in PSAI with Hal Watts. Gary has written many manuals for three different certification agencies: NASDS, IANTD & PSAI. His first experience with SCUBA was in 1969. During the 1970′s Gary was involved in much deep and cave exploration that took him beyond the standard norms of recreational SCUBA diving for the time into what we now call Extended Range Diving. Gary pioneered the use of Nitrox at Altitude and developed the Theoretical Ocean Air Depth (TOAD) methodology for the use of EANx at altitude, as well as co-developed the “SRF” (SAC Ratio Factor) method of Gas Matching. Gary has trained thousands of Sport & Technical divers, instructors and instructor trainers from all corners of the globe.
Hal and Gary have been friends for decades. They both were among the very first Trimix Instructors / Instructor Trainers in the world, taking their training together. With similar philosophies on dive education and training, it was natural for them to join forces. During the beginning of PSAI’s global expansion, Gary and Hal both saw the opening for the development of innovative educational / training materials for PSAI. Shortly after, Gary was put in charge of the Americas for PSAI. Within a year, Hal appointed Gary as the PSAI International Director of Education. With both Hal and Gary having such an in tune outlook and vision for the future of PSAI, it was natural that they take the next step of combined strength by joining in partnership in the push to continue to make PSAI the premier technical certification agency. PSAI is rapidly developing the next generation of Sport Diving material. We may not be the biggest, but we are the oldest and there are none better!
PSAI Global Headquarters operates its Administrative Offices out of Sand Point, Michigan. The new generation of programs and materials developed by PSAI have caught everyone’s attention. PSAI continues to grow at a fast pace internationally, with our expanding number of PSAI Country Licensees.