The club was founded in 1953 and at its peak in the mid-1990s had over 50,000 members declining to over 30,000 in 2009. It is a diver training organization that operates through its associated network of around 1,100 local, independent diving clubs and around 400 diving schools worldwide. The old logo featured the Roman god Neptune (Greek god Poseidon), god of the sea. The new logo, as of 2017, features a diver with the updated BSAC motto "Dive with us".
BSAC is unusual for a diver training agency in that most BSAC instructors are volunteers, giving up their spare time to train others, unlike many other agencies, in which instructors are paid employees, or self-employed.
Given that UK waters are relatively cold and have restricted visibility, BSAC training is regarded by its members as more comprehensive than some. Specifically it places emphasis on rescue training very early in the programme. BSAC also maintains links with other organisations, such as NACSAC.
15 October 1953: BSAC founded by Oscar Gugen, Peter Small, Mary Small, and Trevor Hampton. Jack Atkinson, an aero engineer, was appointed as the club's first national diving officer. He wrote training bulletins which built up to form the club's training doctrine and was used later as the basis for the BSAC Diving Manual
Assistant Diving Instructor: Trained but unqualified. Must be supervised when instructing
Theory Instructor: Qualified to instruct unsupervised in the classroom
Assistant Open Water Instructor: Qualified to teach open water under supervision
Practical Instructor: Qualified to instruct unsupervised in open water
Open Water Instructor: Qualified to supervise other instructors in classroom and open water training
Advanced Instructor: Trained to teach advanced skills, such as boat based skills and group diving techniques
Instructor Trainer: Qualified to staff Instructor events
National Instructor: Leads Instructor Training courses and BSAC National exams
Grades no longer awarded
The following grades which are no longer awarded may still be encountered:
Novice I: A diver who has completed the extensive sheltered-water (i.e. pool) training of the BSAC syllabus of the time, but has not yet dived in open water.
Novice II: A Novice I diver who has completed two open-water assessment dives.
The distinction between Novice I and Novice II was mostly for practical reasons to do with the difference between hiring a pool and travelling to the coast. A Novice I diver would normally complete the two open-water dives as soon as possible, but if this were not possible straight away (perhaps over winter) they would at least have a specific grade within the club. The lengthy and club-oriented Novice syllabus was replaced with the Club Diver and Ocean Diver syllabuses in the late 1990s. (However, some argue the Novice description was usefully accurate and aided diver safety because nobody with such a qualification would attempt dives beyond their capabilities.)
Club Diver: This is more or less the same as Ocean Diver; originally the two were operated in parallel with Ocean Diver awarded at schools and Club Diver at clubs.
Club Instructor: An instructor grade junior to Open Water Instructor, but allowing the holder to instruct practical and theory lessons without supervision.
Third Class Diver: This was the entry-level grade prior to the splitting of its syllabus during the mid-1980s to create the Novice and Sports Diver grades. Divers who held this grade at the time were awarded the Sports Diver grade.
Second Class Diver: This was the immediate grade prior to the splitting of its syllabus during the mid-1980s to create the Dive Leader and Advanced Diver grades. Divers who held this grade at the time were awarded the Advanced Diver grade.
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