- Apprentice Course



Education of the student in proper cave diving techniques and procedures, cave awareness and conservation, dive planning and dive execution is emphasized at the Apprentice level of training. While the student shall be introduced to jump and gap procedures, skills and emergency drills previously presented at the Cavern and Intro to Cave courses are reinforced and refined. The student shall be encouraged to continue to develop safe cave diving techniques and practices, awareness of the cave environment and conservation of the cave environment through personal and dive team planning and technique.


The Apprentice Cave Diver course shall consist of a minimum of four dives over two days as a training level following Intro to Cave. This course may be taught separately or in a modular program consisting of Cavern, Intro to Cave and Apprentice Cave Diver with a minimum of twelve dives over five days. The Cave Diver Course, if preceded by the Apprentice program, shall consist of a minimum of four dives over two days.


  1. NACD Intro to Cave, or equivalent program; and
  2. 18 years of age.


Upon successful completion of Apprentice Cave Diver training, students shall have demonstrated sufficient proficiency in double tanks in the overhead environment to be permitted the use of doubles for cave penetration utilizing the gas management Rule of Thirds.

Limitations of this training level shall be:

•  No stage diving- decompression and safety cylinders are permitted.

•  Limited decompression only.

•  No DPV use.

•  No traverses and circuits are permitted at this level without the direct supervision of the cave instructor.

•  Simple jumps and gaps are allowed

•  No dive shall exceed depths of 130 fsw.

•  No removal of life support equipment shall be permitted within the overhead environment.

•  It is recommended that PPO2 shall not exceed 1.4 ATA for the working portion of the dive and 1.6 ATA for decompression

The Apprentice Cave Diver is considered a training level only and shall result in the issuance of a time-limited temporary card. Such temporary card shall expire of its own force and effect one year from the date of issuance. Upon expiration, the diver will be required to repeat the Apprentice Cave Diver program in full to subsequently dive at that level.


The same subject matter required for the four-day Cave Diver Course shall be presented at this level except to the extent that it has been previously covered at the Cavern and Intro to Cave levels.


The following drills are to be conducted as part of the Apprentice Cave Diver/Cave Diver Course:

  1. Proper use of guidelines and reels.
  2. Techniques in following guidelines.
  3. Touch contact procedures.
  4. Lost line/lost diver drills.
  5. Use of line markers.
  6. Line entanglement and cut line procedures.
  7. Air share procedures.
  1. Jumps.
  2. Gaps.
  3. T's.
  4. Use of line markers in the above applications.


These drills are required only at the entry level to the Apprentice Cave Diver/Cave Diver program. If these skills were not performed in the Cavern Diver or Introduction to Cave Diver courses, then they must be accomplished prior to any dives in the cave environment.

They are to include, but not be limited to:

  1. Use of guidelines.
  2. Following a line with blacked-out mask or loss of visibility:

Sharing air, first with vision and then with eyes closed;

Touch contact- may be incorporated with air sharing; and

Following line without mask.

  1. Use of reel.
  2. Satisfactorily demonstrate proficiency to the instructor of various techniques such as the modified flutter kick, modified frog kick and modified dolphin kick while maintaining correct cave position and buoyancy control.


Certification is based upon the satisfactory performance of ALL skills listed in these standards by ALL students regardless of prior training. Students without prior training are to complete the open water evaluation dive and a minimum of eleven (11) cave dives for completion of the Apprentice Cave Diver training level and a minimum of fifteen (15) cave dives for certification to the Cave Diver level. A minimum of eight (8) dives must be completed in double tanks.

  1. Credit from previous courses.

• I. If entry to the Apprentice Cave Diver course is Cavern certification, three dives may be credited to the Apprentice Cave Diver training requirement of eleven dives.

• II. If entry level to the Apprentice Cave Diver course is Intro to Cave certification, seven dives may be credited to the Apprentice Cave Diver training requirement of eleven dives.

NOTE: Regardless of course progression, a minimum of FOUR dives must be done in double tanks for Apprentice Cave Diver course completion and a minimum of EIGHT dives in double tanks for Cave Diver certification.

  1. Students who have not completed all the performance requirements for this course within the minimum number of dives may not be certified until the remaining skills are successfully performed during an additional dive or dives.
  2. Equipment matching and S drills are required during all training dives at all levels of training.
  3. Pre-dive briefing, bubble checks, proper dive team skills and post-dive critique are required during all training dives at all levels of training.
  4. A recommended three (3) minute safety stop should be performed on all dives.
  5. The number of dives is a minimum with more dives performed at instructor discretion.


  1. At both Apprentice Cave Diver and Cave Diver Levels:

• I. Proper finning and propulsion skills.

• II. Proper body positioning and buoyancy control.

• III. Use of reel and guideline.

• IV. Touch contact.

• V. Air sharing.

• VI. Communications with light/hand signals.

• VII. Familiarization with the cave.

• VIII. Use of gap/jump reels.

• IX. Use of line arrows.

• X. Lost diver/lost line procedures.

• XI. Dive planning.

• XII. Conservation- behavior and techniques.

• XIII. Multiple jumps/gaps, requiring the use of several reels on the same dive.

• XIV. Circuits and/or traverses- if not performed due to environmental constraints, must be simulated. While circuit and traverse procedures may be reviewed at the Apprentice Cave Diver level, it must be emphasized to the Apprentice student that both are beyond their limits of training.

• I. Share air while exiting the cave on two occasions.

• II. Lost visibility, touch contact, team line following.

• III. Lost visibility, out of air, touch contact line following.

• IV. Diver lost from team/diver lost from guideline.

• V. Primary light failure, exit on smallest backup light.

• VI. Line entanglement.

• VII. Air/gas management. Diver practices turning own valves off/on, simulate various regulator/valve failures. (Must be done in open water at start or end of dive.)


  1. 130 feet maximum depth.
  2. 1/3 air rule. This represents the maximum allowable air rule. It is up to the discretion of the instructor to determine if more conservative air rules are appropriate for a given set of circumstances.
  3. 20 feet of minimum starting visibility.
  4. A minimum starting volume of 116 cubic feet of gas.
  5. Simple jumps and gaps only - no circuits or traverses.
  6. No stage diving.
  7. No DPV use.
  8. Limited decompression only.
  9. PPO2 of 1.4 ATA for working portion of dive/1.6 ATA for decompression.
  10. Minor restrictions acceptable. (A minor restriction is when divers are prevented from traveling side by side, forces them into single file travel). No major restrictions.


  1. Double tanks are mandatory, minimum volume 142 cubic feet, manifolds are recommended.
  2. Mask, low volume type recommended.
  3. Power fins with straps taped, if applicable.
  4. Suitable tank harness.
  5. Two single hose regulators, one with a seven foot hose, one with submersible pressure gauge attached. Some recognized method of securing the seven foot hose must be provided.
  6. Exposure suit suitable for the diving environment.
  7. Buoyancy compensator with auto inflator. (CO2 emergency inflation devices must be rendered inoperative.) A back mounted BC is highly recommended, but not required.
  8. Dive computer and backup dive computer or bottom timer and depth gauge and submersible dive tables.
  9. Slate and pencil.
  10. Knife, preferably small and sharp, or line cutter acceptable to the instructor.
  11. Three lights per diver:

• I. A primary light with an illumination and burn time sufficient for the dive undertaken.

• II. Two backup lights with suitable burn time for the dive undertaken.

  1. One primary guide reel per team and at least one safety reel per diver. Specific dive planning will dictate additional reels required for executing jumps and gaps.
  2. A minimum of three directional markers and one non-directional marker per diver.


  1. Perform all skills listed.
  2. Perform the minimum number of specified dives.
  3. Maintain an appropriate awareness of safety and safety procedures, as well as demonstrate an appropriate respect for conservation of the cave environment. A reckless or cavalier attitude may constitute grounds for denying certification regardless of technical ability.
  4. Demonstrate knowledge of pertinent information required by passing a written Full Cave examination with a minimum grade of 80%.
  5. Submit all appropriate records as required.
  6. Pay all appropriate fees.
  7. Recommendation for certification by the cave instructor.
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