|THERE WAS NOTHING MICKEY MOUSE about the attendance level at the international DEMA show held in Orlando in November. Florida is the premier state for the US diving industry and dive-centre and dive-shop owners turned out in strength. |
Although this annual show was started by the Diving Equipment Manufacturer's Association, every year more and more exotic diving destinations choose to showcase their holiday offerings. At the same time, some of the bigger equipment manufacturers have abandoned the idea of showcasing new products here, which leaves more opportunity for their smaller competitors to get star billing.
Aqua Lung launched the 'intelligent' British-made Apeks XTX Status regulators. Though shown at the Birmingham Dive Show a few weeks previously, they were new to the international market represented at Orlando. These regulators have electronics that tell you, via an LCD, whether they are working correctly, have developed a fault or just need a service.
Alongside was the new Aqua Lung Kronos range of regulators, notable for an interesting exhaust-T that gives a single sideways routeing for exhaled air without the wet breathe often associated with regulators that have their diaphragms positioned at the side.
Atomic displayed its latest ST1, the stainless-steel version of its acclaimed turret-style, piston-type regulator already available fashioned from different metals as the M1, B2 and T2.
In the BC department, Cressi-sub showcased its new Aero range and its first wing-style product, the Back Jac, a big departure from its traditional designs.
The long-established Italian family-owned manufacturer revealed that it was heading in the direction of what is fast becoming the standard way to include an integrated-weight system on these products, with weight-pouches that work in conjunction with quick-release buckles.
Aqua Lung unveiled its Seaquest-branded corrugated-hose-free BC, which uses a rather neat inflation/deflation control employing pushrods to connect to the low-profile dump valves. It's called the Pro QDi3.
All Ralf Tech BCs are now equipped with the brand's unique weighted direct-feed control that never floats out of reach - it showed two new models. Oceanic had a new
BC aimed at women, the Hera, while Zeagle showcased a new wing-style BC cut for curvier divers.
On that subject, a new Spanish/English-language diving magazine, Exploradores, was launched with the help of a bevy of sexily dressed lovelies who danced the show away, easily outmatching a gaggle of girlies who strolled around giving almost as much exposure to a new website for Nature's Wing technology as they did for themselves.
The girls from the diving and surf-wear manufacturer Exceed Wetsuits fought for attention too.
Less sexy but more practical, the British company Weezle launched an undersuit initially designed for easy donning by disabled diver Fraser Bathgate, but available for everyone looking for an undersuit that is less of a struggle to get into. We'll feature it in divEr Tests soon.
In the fin department, inventor and creative manufacturer Bob Evans, the man who brought us Force Fins, was there with the NOGI Award for Sports and Education (a sort of diving Oscar) that he received from the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences the night before.
As usual, he had even more revolutionary ideas in the split fin department. His latest fins are not simply split - they rotate too. We hope to persuade him to allow us to try a pair of his revolutionary prototype fins in the ocean soon.
Cressi-sub showcased the full-foot version of its well-received Reaction fin, the Reaction Pro. It should be just what barefoot divers are looking for.
Oceanic revealed a split fin called the V16, and a full-foot version of the popular Caribe snorkelling fin.
Israeli manufacturer Omega Aquatics demonstrated the production version of a folding fin, the Amphibian, a design shown in prototype form some years ago. It enables a diver
to walk about freely when out of the water but still wearing the fins, folded up.
Oceanic, like all the other well-known brands, has a new range of masks, but more interestingly can now supply its expensive military-spec model, complete with head-up display, to leisure divers.
Big news on the computer front comes from Finnish manufacturer Suunto with its all-new Vyper 2 and Cobra 2 gas-integrated-by-detachable-hose units. These include the same electronic compass as the top-of-the-range D6 and D9 computer watches, together with gas-switching for two nitrox mixes during the dive.
A titanium bracelet will be available soon for the D9.
Cressi-sub has a neat little EDY computer watch, and Delta P showcased the multi-cell monitoring accessory for use with its VR3 computer in combination with a closed-circuit rebreather. Oceanic has a new and colourful watch-like Geo computer.
Still unchallenged in the field of mass-produced closed circuit rebreathers, Ambient Pressure Diving exhibited a sexy all-black limited-edition version of both its Inspiration and Evolution models. OMS showed an ambitious work in progress that promises to be a very well constructed Tesseract CCR.
This, unusually, features solenoid-operated diluent injection alongside normal O2 injection. A mass-produced version will be something to look forward to in a few years' time.
Moving to diver propulsion vehicles (DPVs), Silent Submersion showed a neat little unit to take on successful newcomer X-Scooter. Oceanic exhibited its Mako DPV, the back end of which seemed common to all the other DPVs on show, other than the mini Chinese-made Seadoos and the maxi military-spec STIDD. The latter needs a six-wheel buggy to transport it on land.
Most of the usual drysuit manufacturers were present, including Typhoon and Hunter (now part of Trelleborg Viking). Otter showed a lightweight version of its Britannic suit, complete with separate trainer-type boots worn over sock-ends, together with a minimum-weight undersuit.
It's designed for those who travel long distances by plane before diving.
Plenty of manufacturers were at DEMA to help meet the demand for digital underwater photographic equipment. Epoque showed an interesting couple of housings, one for the Sanyo Xacti HD video camera and another for the Sony DSC-T9 and T10. It also showed its own-brand EHD-Ai, a tiny 6Mp camera with a housing to suit.
Israeli company Fantasea-Line had a range of new entry-level products such as housings for simple Nikon Coolpix cameras together with popular small iTTL flashguns and mounting arms. These promise to get people into the hobby at minimal cost.
The Japanese company Inon showed new flashguns and a camera housing for the Canon EOS 10D/30D series of DSLRs. US manufacturer Ikelite offered economic housings for the latest entry-level Nikon and Canon digital SLRs, featuring in-built electronics for real TTL flash control.
Submarine housing manufacturers Seacam, Subal, Nexus, Light & Motion and giant producer Sea & Sea exhibited products for serious underwater photographers. Sea & Sea also showcased its true TTL auto-exposure converter for use with digital SLR cameras and its flashguns, but not forgetting its popular entry-level digital cameras.
Divers have never had such a choice of underwater lighting gear. The Belgian company GreenForce showed, among other products, its massive HID 250 lamphead, bright enough to shine the length of the exhibition hall. This has instant on/off capability and a friendly colour temperature of around 4300-5100Ã?Â?K, a new advanced feature in HID design.
Swiss manufacturer Keldan lit its stand entirely with its own top-level products, including the all-new Luna 8 WA.
This made for an oasis of bright white light - or were the stands around it simply gloomy?
These lights are certainly not cheaply made. Expect the Luna 8 WA to retail for more than Â?1000, and note that it is not the company's most ambitiously priced lamp.
Among interesting miscellaneous products were a diver-held magnetometer, the Diver Mag 1, from JW Fisher, and the colour-coded Adventure Medical Kits designed to provide instant access to the appropriate materials in an emergency.
The Personal Retriever surface water rescue device, from Life-Saver Inc, can be thrown Frisbee-like to a person who needs it, unwinding its line as it goes. Both the US Coastguard and Britain's own RNLI are apparently showing an interest.
There were plenty of international and home-grown diving magazines exhibiting too, but guess which one proved most popular with the American audience for its independent point of view? Britain's DIVER, of course!
|RalfTech weighted direct-feed control |
|Aqua Lung Kronos regulator |
|Omega Aquatics' folding Amphibian fin |
|Oceanic COR mask with head-up display |
|Keldan Luna 8 WA light |
|Bob Evans and Force Fins staff with some of the latest models |
|The Exploradores launch team |
|Aqua Lung Apeks XTX Status regulator gauge |
|Cressi-Sub EDY computer-watch |
|Suunto's Vyper2 and Cobra 2 computers |
|Zeagle women's BC. |
|STIDD military-spec DPV |
|Life-Saver Personal Retriever rescue device |