Appeared in DIVER August 2007

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John John Bantin has been a full-time professional diving writer and underwater photographer since 1990. He makes around 300 dives each year testing diving equipment.

BC ZEAGLE ZENA

ONCE, TO THE CONFUSION of a British importer, I tried out a BC expressly aimed at women divers. It wasnt that it was pink, or anything so effeminate as to attract strange looks from those insecure in their sexuality. It just had a very comfortable bodice.
In fact it was so accommodating that I was able to use it even though it was supplied in size XS, and I would normally wear slightly bigger BCs than that.
However, I might have drawn the line at using the Zeagle Zena wing-style BC myself. It may not be named exactly after a warrior princess (that Xena is spelt with an X) but I felt I needed a lady of equal confidence to Lucy Lawless who would be able to stride out confidently wearing this particular item of diving equipment.
I got that in the shape of Malin Svedberg, a dive guide with Tornado Marine. When I showed the Zena to her, she couldnt wait to try it on.

Comfort
Although I had suggested a wetsuit, it was her idea to try it wearing only a bikini, and very fetching she looked too. Who was I to argue
The Zena has a teddy-style front that is closed with a zip but adjusted for fit with the aid of a couple of straps and buckles that attach it to the padded backpack.
Its available to suit waists from 60cm to 95cm and busts from 60cm to 105cm. It is also adjustable for torso length.
Malin said she found it very comfortable indeed. The soft towelling-like inner side made sure it didnt rub on her skin.
It was at this point that she asked me how I was going to write about it. I had to confess that I had been dressing up in womens clothing (again) and trying it out extensively, yet in welcome privacy, in Ocean Colleges 4m-deep pool.

Efficacy
One of the unique features of Zeagles BCs is the rip-cord release for its integrated-weight system. You simply drop up to 7kg of weights into zipped pockets either side, and the rip-cord unthreads the bottom of the pockets, leaving the weights to fall free. The rip-cord is marked by a large red toggle.
There is a shortage of pockets but a simple drop-down net pocket is retained inside a pouch, rather like that of a utility belt, until the time comes for you to deploy it.

Control of ascent
Like all Zeagle wings, the buoyancy was always in exactly the right place. During an ascent, air could be dumped by pulling on the corrugated hose to operate the top-of-the-shoulder valve, while a valve at the lower rear takes care of head-down evacuations.

Surface support
Surface support was admirable, because of the two trim-weight pockets that sit either side of the double cam-bands. These can take 4kg in lead each. The buoyancy cell expanded nicely outwards to give plenty of support. Otherwise, it was normally restrained by some elastic cord threaded through it.

Ease of removal
When the time came to hand the BC up to someone out of the water, the weight-release system was not ideal. I had to either climb out of the water wearing it, or unzip the pockets and pass the weights up one by one.
I often forgot that I was zipped in, but that amounts only to regular practice. The shoulder straps unclip in a conventional way.


Divernet Divernet Divernet Divernet
SPECS
ZEAGLE ZENA

PRICE £350
STYLE Wing BC
DRY WEIGHT 2.6kg
POCKETS Drop-down net
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, with trim-weights
D-RINGS 4
MAX LIFT IN ALL SIZES 14.5kg
SIZES XS to XL
CONTACT zeagleuk.com, 01435 874440
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