Big ideas & one-show wonders
THE WORLD TRAVEL MARKET might have been held in London during the second week of November, but what was effectively the world’s dive travel market took place in Orlando, Florida, the previous week.
The annual Diving Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (DEMA) show has evolved, and what it has effectively become is a diving travel show.
The equipment manufacturers have cut back enormously on the big competing stands on which they once proudly exhibited their wares. They have also cut back on many of the new products that they used to reserve for a big launch at this trade-only show.
Some, like Halcyon, appeared not to be in evidence at all, although the company’s guru
leader was seen haunting the aisles.
Those of you who went to DIVE 2011 or indeed keep an eye on DIVER new product pages, would have been able to see the majority of the new products for next year without the cost of travelling across the world or paying the entry fee ($150) to what is fast becoming an anachronism.
In fact, if it wasn’t for those selling the diving experiences to be had in different parts of the world, there probably wouldn’t be a DEMA show at all.
Even PADI seemed to be present in reduced circumstances, although the biggest news of the show was the advent of the PADI Recreational CCR Diver course, and several closed-circuit rebreather manufacturers were racing to meet the PADI criteria for this sector of what may prove to be an emerging market.
The training programme covers CCR diving without off-board open-circuit bail-out to 18m deep, or with bail-out to a maximum of 40m.
Diver intervention is kept to a minimum, with the simple instruction to switch the mouthpiece
to open-circuit and head to the surface if a red light shows on the head-up display (HUD).
It seems that PADI has taken the existing Poseidon Discovery Mk6 as its template rebreather for this programme, and Poseidon enjoyed a sudden and buoyant increase in sales once PADI had underwritten its concept.
Ambient Pressure Diving showed its modified PADI Rec units, with simplified software and auto switch-on combined with existing OC bail-out valves.
Kevin Gurr of VR Technology looked happy. In view of this PADI development, the vast manufacturing capacity of those companies headed up by Bob Hollis had taken up his Explorer Sport ESCR concept, shown at DEMA last year.
With CE-compliance by next spring, this Hollis hybrid unit is set to go into mass production and become available to us in Europe.
The design dispenses with the fixed pO2 idea, and uses a semi-closed/closed function from a single cylinder of nitrox – all that is necessary for dives shallower than 40m.
It doesn’t matter which nitrox mix is pumped into its cylinder – it automatically analyses and adjusts accordingly, and doesn’t allow the mix to become hypoxic, even during a fast ascent.
It’s styled so that the diver is open to the opportunity of buying a dive suit in the style of a Star Wars stormtrooper to go with it – should such a thing become available. We hope to be using and reviewing an example of the Explorer Sport soon.
At the same time, Hollis has finally brought to market the revised and perfected Prism 2 rebreather, with its radial scrubber and Shearwater computer with independent HUD. It may seem less exciting today than it was as the prototype (called the Topaz) that we used and reviewed all those years ago, but it has been fine-tuned into a highly finished piece of engineering.
More crucial is the fact that Hollis Industries can demonstrate the manufacturing economies of scale to offer retailers a decent mark-up on sales, rather than the small commissions to rebreather-course instructors that have become a feature of the CCR diving world.
Cottage-industry manufacturers must be concerned, because this will certainly give Hollis a marketing edge. We’re sure that the folks at Scubapro must be watching the Hollis success or failure in the CCR market with interest, because we are aware that it has had a closed-circuit rebreather ready to launch for some time now.
Poseidon may at last be about to enjoy the success it has long awaited in the CCR field, but the rest of its diving-product business will take a back seat no more. The company is re-launching a complete range of equipment, from fins to suits.
Atomic Aquatics, now combined with Bare under the same ownership, showed the new mask it didn’t want us to photograph last year, for fear of copying in the Far East. At the same time Bare showed the flexible drysuit it had previously demonstrated in Birmingham.
Two other interesting suits, both light in weight, were shown by Trelleborg-Viking. One replaces the traditional rubber suit, while the other uses hi-tech fabric to make a lightweight membrane design.
Long-established Italian manufacturer Cressi revealed its new and lightweight high-performance regulator, along with a range of revised BCs, suits and fins, as did nearby rivals Seac and equally well-established Beuchat from France.
The underwater photography sector appears to be keeping interest in diving fresh. Most of those connected with photographic products were collected in the busy Image Resource Centre.
Sales of equipment are evidently booming, and the use of DSLR cameras suitable for making HD movies is becoming almost commonplace. Hugyfot showed a large, easy-to-view monitor and housing for connecting to such a DSLR (in its own housing) for use in live-view mode.
Someone noted that there seemed to be more competing flash-mounting arms at DEMA than are probably yet in use in total all over the world.
Seacam, the Austrian manufacturer of high-quality bespoke camera housings, broke from normal practice to exhibit an electronic flashgun that competes in price with those that we of humbler spending power can afford.
Keldan, the Swiss manufacturer, now has a British distributor and has seen the light (pun intended). It too has a lamp at a more attainable price. The Luna 4V pushes out 4000 lumens.
Wisedive from Scandinavia, after a painful climb up the learning curve on first coming to the diving market, promises that its immensely powerful 10,000-lumen lamp will at last be available this coming year. Watch out for a DIVER Test soon.
At the other end of the market, Epoque debuted its economically priced polycarbonate housing for the Sony NEX-C3 interchangeable lens compact digital camera. But the star of the show had to be the little Hero GoPro HD harsh-environment camera.
Each day, long queues formed to buy the product, and people were strictly rationed to a single sale each. Nevertheless, the stand sold out of its daily supply of 200 GoPro HD cameras within the first hour of the show opening each day.
Strangely, we were told on the stand that the model that was selling so energetically does not focus effectively when totally under water, and that a so-improved model of its underwater housing was on display but not quite yet available.
Besides CCRs and cameras under water, the other noticeable theme was the increasing popularity of side-mounted tanks.
Aqua Lung (which also showed its new Legend regulator), OMS and some minor manufacturers showed rigs to rival Hollis’s SMS100, while Hollis countered with a new lightweight SMS50, alongside the lightweight Hollis Ride wing.
Sister company Oceanic had a new computer with an algorithm that should satisfy European divers. The Hollis connection with VR Technology was evident in its trimix/CC/OC DG05 computer, which looks very much like a VRX OLED.
Among diver-propulsion products, Submerge Scooters showed the Minnus, a reduced-size 15kg DPV, while the Pegasus Thruster, the unit that fits to the diver’s tank, was exhibited not only on its own stand but on underwater photography equipment suppliers’ booths too.
One surprise was that an old DIVER favourite had been resurrected. Jetboots are back in business, through Patriot 3 Inc.
Someone is always convinced that they can build a better mousetrap. At either end of the vast hall were two hopeful manufacturers that believed they had in their own ways made a quantum leap in the design of the scuba diver’s fin.
One bore the promising name of Aquabionic Warp 1, “the world’s most advanced fin”. We hope to have a pair to try soon. Alternatively, we took a pair of Predator fins away with us to try out in the ripping currents of Blue Corner in Palau.
There will always be what we like to call the One-DEMA product, brought in by some hopeful exhibitor but never to be seen again.
This year it could have been the product of the gentleman selling tank-valves featuring an indicator to show whether they were open or closed.
In previous years, we’ve seen the two-tube snorkel, the weight with the hole in it for fitting over the neck of a tank, the LED indicator that told other divers if a diver’s tank was getting empty, and a complex automatic buoyancy controller for the BC.
This year we were amazed to see the last item re-introduced, after a gap of around 15 years. Evidently the previous hopeful’s patent has run out.
We wanted to photograph it, but were banned because the manufacturer, also known evidently for a rebreather that has been the subject of a lot of speculation, was worried that some canny Chinese manufacturer might copy it.
The Chinese are too canny for that. It’s offering a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist!