The N.O.G.I. statuette was modified from an award formerly bestowed at the reknowned NewOrleans Grand Isle Fishing Tournament, which had an underwater division. The first recipients were world-class spearfishing champions in the 1950s. The Underwater Society of America was approached by Jay Albeanese and Louis Cuccia of New Orleans, who sought sanction of this award to annually recognize leaders in the field of skin and SCUBA diving.
The NOGI statuettes were originally designed and carved by the reknowned artist Vero Puccio of New Orleans. They were hand carved out of mahogany. In later years, he made a mold to produce them from polywood. The beautiful Lucite statuettes given today were designed by Wyland in 2005.