SOME PEOPLE use their recreational dive-gear just once or twice a year but I’m so passionate about mine because with what I do every day I put it through the most rigorous testing you could ever imagine. If it comes through at the end of the day and I feel confident in it, it’s obviously a good piece of gear!
I don’t know if I’m marathon-fit, but I’m certainly diving-fit. I may not be able to run 3k but I don’t think there’s anyone who can keep up with me in the water! And a lot of that has to do with my equipment.

SUITS
The best I’ve ever owned is a 3mm Fourth Element suit. I would live in it for the rest of my life if I could, but I use it mainly when it’s not that warm in Mozambique. For the rest of the time I dive in a Sharkskin. I like the feel of it, kind of fuzzy on the inside, and it gives excellent mobility. If you’re not looking to stay that warm, it’s the best.
We’re diving in areas with a lot of plankton and a lot of jellyfish, so it gives you protection and keeps you a little bit warmer.
Another thing I really like is that it gives you lumbar support, all the way up and down the back, so it really helps with carrying cylinders and so on.
I’ve used DUI drysuits all my diving life, and I think they’re the best on the market. I use their soft ones and they’re absolutely fantastic – really well-made for females.
That’s another reason why I like my Fourth Element suit. People nowadays are starting to realise that there are enough women diving to make items that suit our body shape. It’s terribly uncomfortable to dive in items that don’t fit your shape, so I appreciate companies that make the effort.
I actually use stuff made for snowboarding underneath my drysuit, because I’ve found that it’s the warmest! I used to be a huge snowboarder, but then I went to Australia to do my PhD and later moved on to Africa, and there’s no snow in those places – sandboarding, maybe!

DIVE COMPUTER
No-one has every convinced me to change computers. I use Uwatec religiously, and I think my computer is my most important asset. When you dive every single day you need to ensure that your profiles are right, and the Uwatec for me has just been the best product.
It just switched over to a new model, the Galileo, and it felt to me very like what happened when I switched from PC to Mac. The Galileo has a bigger face, and a lot of people don’t like it because they think it looks too big, but I felt that all of a sudden Uwatec had simplified things, the way Apple simplified computers to make all the menus easy to access, all the things easier to change. I also find the bigger face easier to read under water.
Uwatec models have been very similar for many years, and the Galileo was a huge move away from that. I think it was a brilliant move.

BC
BCs are interesting. I’ve had a lot over the years and I’ve liked quite a few, but at the moment I’m using a Scubapro Ladyhawk. I like it because they’ve really cut down and streamlined it, and for someone like me who is, not chasing, but following animals quite often, it’s nice that there’s little drag.
I know a lot of people like more support and pockets and so on, but I like the streamlined effect, and it’s been working well for me.

REGULATOR
Anything Scubapro makes works really well for me – any of the higher-end regulators like the Mk10s are great. I try a lot of equipment, but I’ve really enjoyed Scubapro products over the years…

MASK
I use Scubapro masks too, the kind that are plastic and quite soft, and any mask that’s soft and has a black silicon surround is fine for me. I prefer to have black in the mask because we’re often being filmed, and there’s nothing worse than having snot in your mask when you’re being filmed! I don’t know why they make clear ones – no-one needs to see that.

FINS
Someone brought me the new Scubapro design the other day, and I didn’t like it! I’m very particular about fins, because I have to feel comfortable getting around, and nothing is more important than mask and fins to me.
I’ve been wearing the same fins solidly for 15 years, and they’re Scubapro Twin-Jets. A lot of people don’t enjoy them, but we do a lot of swimming every day – probably six or seven hours – and I used to get shin splints with other fins that offer too much resistance. With split fins I never get shin splints, and Twin-Jets work really well for me.
I have two pairs, and have had one of those pairs for 16 years – and they still look great. That’s probably bad for Scubapro in terms of sales, but it’s a true testament to some awesome gear.
I feel I can swim further without getting tired because they have low resistance. I need that sustained swimming power, and against a strong current most people end up getting tired, where I don’t.
I hear people saying that these fins don’t give you the same amount of punch, but if you’re swimming steadily for hours after whale sharks and mantas, you don’t need that.
I might not have the same power through a current, but I bet I can swim through it for longer than you can. I think about things very scientifically – maybe I’m wrong, but it’s my opinion.

REBREATHERS
There’s nothing better than my Evolution – I can’t say enough about APD and what it’s done. A lot of new rebreathers are coming out, and a lot of them are probably fantastic, but in terms of a company that was in the forefront of designing some really awesome and safe equipment, you can’t go wrong with the Evolution or the Inspiration – they’re rock-solid products.
I find it very odd that so many people are now plugging rebreathers for recreational diving.
I feel that sometimes people are using technology for no reason.
I dive every day on open-circuit for my normal-type research. If I need to go for long periods under water or stay at depth a bit longer, or if I’m trying to work with an animal that’s specifically shy, I will get my rebreather out, and only for those occasions.
It isn’t necessary to technical-dive every day for no reason – no point in slogging round with two tanks on your back or throwing your rebreather in the water if you don’t need it.
It’s the cool factor that everybody wants to try something that’s new, but I’m worried that there are going to be more accidents with people who don’t understand that the technology involved can be very dangerous if something goes wrong. You have to be quite focused when you’re doing that sort of work.
When used correctly, rebreathers can be very safe, but I hate that they get a bad name because people who probably haven’t been trained very well are using them. You can’t use it once and then not dive again for 18 months – it’s not that sort of technology.
You also have to be experienced on the model you’re using. I liked it back in the day when you actually had to go to APD to get certified, so that it could maintain some control.

CAMERA
I’m a Nikon girl, and I always used Seacam housings until the last few years, when as a researcher I find I’m no longer able to afford them. I’ve never found a housing that could compare to a Seacam but at the moment I’m using an Aquatica housing, because it’s all I can afford.
It gets the job done, even though it’s not durable and it lets me down in terms of its appearance, because it just seems to degrade really badly.

CUTTER
I don’t carry a knife, but I do carry a Scubapro sort of U-cutter to cut line, especially off mantas, when I have to.
I haven’t found a single knife that doesn’t end up corroding. I’m in the water every day – you stick a knife on your leg and don’t need to use it for eight months, then when you pull it out you find that it’s rusted. I just kinda stopped wanting to throw my money away!

DIVER LOCATION DEVICE
I just bought a Sea Marshall EPIRB, and I’m really excited about this new product. We do a lot of extreme diving while looking for animals offshore, and I worry about getting lost at sea. You keep hearing all these horrific stories.
If you’re diving out of Socorro or off Ecuador and get lost, you’re never coming back. I think it’s really important for divers to have an EPIRB, but I haven’t tried it out yet. I bought this one because you can register it somewhere like the UK and give local details of where you are. They will then pass on your GPS locations to people of your choosing, so I can send them to a few dive operators up and down the Mozambique coast, for instance.
Those people can go and look for me right away, instead of waiting for a coastguard to arrive from somewhere else.
The last thing I want is to be floating round in the Indian Ocean going: “I hope someone finds me!”

Andrea Marshall was talking to Steve Weinman