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Historical HSA photo

Handicapped Scuba Association Celebrates 30th Anniversary

(DiverWire) – In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of scuba training organizations working with those with physical challenges. But long before SUDS, Diveheart, Dive Pirates, Wounded Warriors and others, there was the Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA). This year, this ground-breaking organization celebrates three decades of specialized scuba diving instruction.

Historical HSA photoHSA’s diver education programs now span over 50 countries and membership in the organization has grown to more than 5,000 worldwide.  For 25 years of its 30 years in existence, HSA International, as it is now called, has functioned as an independent diver training and certifying agency.

This was a substantial achievement at the time for an organization that had its beginning as a pioneering research project in 1975 at the University of California Irvine campus where Jim Gatacre, HSA’s Founder and President, was a student.  He worked with the University veterans office on an innovative project that focused on self-image enhancement through the sport of scuba diving. Participants in the study included wounded Veterans from the Vietnam War as well as non-military handicapped and able-bodied students. The situation is not unlike what’s happening today with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

With the unprecedented involvement of Jean-Michel Cousteau and The Cousteau Society, the HSA has produced two classic films, “Freedom In Depth,” and “To Fly In Freedom.” These films feature people with disabilities learning to dive then exploring underwater adventures as HSA certified scuba divers on dive holidays to exotic destinations.

In “To Fly In Freedom,” Jean-Michel conducts an historic interview with his father, Jacques Cousteau, revealing emotional glimpses into the famous ocean explorer’s role in the evolution of scuba, especially how diving enabled him to overcome physical challenges of his own.

The HSA started training its own Instructors in 1986, followed in 1998 with the debut of the HSA Course Directors Training Course (CDTC). Currently, there are over 3,000 HSA Instructors and 60 Course Directors throughout the world. One of the newest and increasingly popular programs taught by HSA Instructors is that of “Dive Buddy,” designating specifically trained able-bodied divers who want to dive with disabled divers.Handicapped Scuba Association

Over the past 30 years Gatacre has constantly refined the programs he created and revised the training materials, continuing HSA’s reputation as the world’s leading authority on scuba diving for people with disabilities.

To help celebrate this milestone, HSA will be hosting a special event titled, “International Conference on Diving for Disabilities“. According to HSA officials, the roster of presenters and seminar leaders includes close to 50 Medical Doctors and other healthcare professionals.

The Divi Flamingo Resort in Bonaire will be the host resort for the program which will take place June 25 through July 2.  Designed as a forum, presenters plan to share with one another new ideas, concepts, teaching techniques and personal experiences relative to diving with people who have physical disabilities.

For further information please visit HSA’s web site:

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