100-year-old Texan set to break world record in scuba diving

A local doctor has cleared Arthur Graf Jr. for his last dive
San Antonio resident Arthur Graf Jr. (center) is set to become break the Guinness World Record...
San Antonio resident Arthur Graf Jr. (center) is set to become break the Guinness World Record for Oldest Male Scuba Diver come November.(Courtesy photo)
Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 1:47 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A San Antonio man is hoping to dive into the record books with the help of a local doctor.

Arthur Graf Jr., 100, of San Antonio, is set to become the world’s oldest male scuba diver on record.

“I’ve been in the water since I was about three-years-old, and it’s just progressed,” said Graf Jr. “I’ve seen a lot of things underwater that you don’t see on the surface, and you’re in a three-dimensional environment.”

Graf and his son first got certified to dive in 1984 and have been scuba-obsessed ever since.

“I’ve done a little diving--he’s been all over the world,” Arthur Graf III told KWTX.

From exploring shipwrecks in Italy to scouring sea floors in Jamaica, the patriarch has logged more than 700 dives.

“It’s easy...if you stay away from where there’s a big current,” said Graf Jr.

He did his 701st dive last Fall...but he’s not done.

Graf Jr. wants to make one more dive in November, and if he does, he’ll be the new holder of the Guinness World Record for Oldest Male Scuba Diver.

“Well, I didn’t want to be (the oldest record holder), I just, by age, I got there,” he chuckled.

To get that record-breaking, 702nd dive, Graf Jr. had to get cleared by a cardiologist and pass a pool refresher course, which he did through Scuba Schools International (SSI), to check on his “current state of capabilities.”

“He passed on that,” said Graf III, who took the course alongside his father.

Next, they needed to get his dad medically cleared by a doctor certified under the Diver Alert Network (DAN).

“You go to a continuing medical education conference that you attend in order to get certified to do medical clearance dives, also to evaluate people who have injuries or may have gotten sick while diving that may not even be related to the diving itself,” said Dr. John Joseph, a family physician with Baylor Scott & White Health. “You learn how to clear somebody for scuba diving, evaluating decompression illness, evaluating medications for how they can be affected by diving, things like that.”

Joseph, who works out of Killeen, says he gets re-certified about every five years.

He’s the only doctor between Dallas, Houston and Austin currently giving medical clearance for dives.

“To my knowledge, there’s nothing specific about being 100 that would disqualify him,” said Joseph. “But the most common cause of fatalities in divers is the same as it is on land, which is heart disease, so we wanted to make sure that he had a good-functioning heart.”

Joseph worked hand-in-hand with Graf’s cardiologist who did a stress test on him and an echocardiogram.

“I also looked to see when he was in the office: did he have any significant narrowing in the arteries that go to his brain, was he able to move his arms and his feet in order to dive...was his lung function adequate, and so I was able to do that in the office by examination,” said Joseph.

The results were clear: Graf is in “great shape,” he says.

“He’s in amazing shape, in fact on his stress test they made a comment that he has ‘excellent exercise tolerance for age,’ so she did a very good workup,” said Joseph. “He has a better heart function that a lot of 60 and 70-year-olds.”

Joseph also happens to be an avid scuba diver.

“We’re blessed, he was the closest physician to San Antonio for dad to get a full dive examination by someone that was in the system with DAN, so it’s a specialty with a lot of experienced people behind it,” said Graf III.

They’re still deciding on a location for the dive, however, potential spots include Bonaire in the Caribbean, and the Cayman Islands.

If the Grafs choose Bonaire, Joseph will coincidentally already be there for a conference.

“I do feel comfortable with him getting in the water, in fact, I told the family...if he goes to Bonaire in November, I’ll be there, I’ll dive with him, I feel very comfortable getting in the water with him,” said Joseph.

Joseph would serve as one of the two witnesses required by GWR to make the dive count.

A certified dive instructor is also required to be there, and the dive must be filmed.

“It’s there (the book of GWR)...might as well get in it,” said Graf Jr.

Graf’s goal is to keep diving, not necessarily to set a record.

Dr. Joseph says his patient is an inspiration and proof that age should not be a deterrent from pursuing your passion...or from clearing someone to fulfill theirs.

“It’s almost like nervous excitement, no one has ever dove at his age: that means no one has ever actually cleared a diver at his age, so there’s a little bit of anxiety on my part, but it’s overshadowed by the excitement for him,” said Joseph. “He’s an amazing human being, both he and his son.”

The current GWR holder for Oldest Male Scuba Diver is an American named William Lambert: he broke the record at a lake in Illinois back in 2020 at the age of 100-years and two-days-old.

If he gets in the water to scuba in November, at 100-years and six-months-old, Graf Jr. will break the record.

“I’ll tell you one thing about diving: you better not be an old smoker,” he said. “You got to have a good set of lungs to do any depth, don’t smoke.”

Graf Jr. moved to San Antonio in 1955 after attending Texas A&M University in the 1940s.

“I think I’m in pretty good health for my age,” said Graf Jr. “I’m looking forward to this one.”