Appeared in DIVER MAarch 2009

EVERYONES A WINNER

The DIVER Awards have become an established part of the diving industry over the years. Your votes decide the winners, and changes in taste are gradual - so gradual, that one might sometimes be forgiven for thinking that the same winners take away the coveted bronze trophies every year.
To some extent they do, because success breeds success. But while its natural that the brand leaders in each category are the best loved, past winners cannot afford to sit on their laurels.
Popularity with the diving public does rise and ebb over time - and every now and then newcomers arrive to shake up the scene...


hspace=3 DIVER Brand of the Year
Who would argue that a change at the helm of a company makes no difference Soon after Joe Stella took the reins of diving worldwide for Johnson Outdoors Scubapro Uwatec, the company emerged from the doldrums with a raft of new products that have put it consistently at the forefront of dive-gear sales, and have made the company a serial winner of Brand of the Year.
This is our fifth trophy in seven years, and confirms that our products continue to find favour and to be thought of with high regard, said Andy Shears from Scubapro UK.
We have more new and exciting products due for release in 2009, and that should do a lot to help us win it next year, too!
Suunto, the Finnish manufacturer of diving computers that is now part of Amer Sports, and which prides itself on its service both before and after sales, was probably limited in this category only by its more specialised product line-up. It took second place, as it did last year.
Mares, with its full product range, came third. Well have to watch to see if this Italian company, part of conglomerate HTM and with a new distribution arrangement for 2009, can fight its way back to the front next year.

hspace=3 DIVER Product of the Year
Last year, on hearing that a Suunto product had won this category, Ryan Crawford of Suunto UK admitted that the staff were ecstatic to have won the award, having been bridesmaid so often.
This year Suunto is both bride and bridesmaid. The Suunto Vytec DS three-nitrox-mix-per-dive integrated diving computer was voted Product of the Year, closely followed in second place by its sibling rival, the Suunto D6 two-mix-per-dive nitrox computer-watch.
Were more than ecstatic - its fantastic, said Ryan. Were very proud to have captured two winning places in the same year. Were speechless! Suunto has not looked back since it introduced the original Vyper diving computer, and its a pleasure to work for a company that has such an excellent range of products that have evolved from it.
The Fourth Element Sub Xero hi-tech two-piece undersuit was in close contention in third position.

hspace=3 DIVER Tour Operator of the Year
Theres a lot of turbulence in the world of air travel at present, with a certain amount of readjustment and consolidation. Nevertheless, three well-known names dominated the voting, and it was no surprise that the the renamed Scuba Travel Worldwide Holidays,
headed by one Tony Backhurst, should win the trophy yet again.
A huge thank-you to those who not only voted for us but travelled with us last year, said Scuba Travels Angela Mackintosh. Its a privilege to win for the fifth year in succession, and I feel it reflects our teams constant efforts to make sure all our customers have a stress-free trip, from the moment of booking until they land back home. Were always trying to provide better and more choices for their diving holidays.
Explorers, now part of travel giant TUI, was second, with Longwood Holidays not far behind in third, as it was last year.

hspace=3 DIVER Destination of the Year
Last year the Maldives upset the status quo by suddenly displacing Egypt as our most-voted-for diving destination, but this year it was the UKs nearest clearwater coral-sea location that once again took the most votes - and once again put clear water between it and the competition.
Its hardly surprising when you realise that not only is Egypt a mere five hours flying time away but that the Egyptian Red Sea still represents the finest value for money when it comes to diving holidays.
The Maldives were still there, haunting the shadows in second place and perhaps denied the title only by being that little bit more distant and hence that bit more expensive.
The big surprise was the renaissance of the Mediterranean island of Malta, a popular destination for divers in the past. It attracted enough votes this time to bring it out into the limelight in third place.

hspace=3 DIVER Dive Centre of the Year
With the massive popularity of Egypt’s Red Sea as a diving destination, when it comes to a popular vote what chance do dive centres situated elsewhere really have What we found interesting was that the three finalists were all based at or near Sharm el Sheikh, which just goes to show that the area retains its crown as the favourite Red Sea resort among DIVER readers.
Red Sea Diving College emerged out in front, with rivals Ocean College and Camel Dive in that order snapping at its heels. This was the third year running that Red Sea Diving College had won.
On hearing the news that it had amassed the most votes, CEO Alain Sobol (pictured) said: “Three in a row, brilliant! Thanks to all our guests, DIVER readers and all our team!”

hspace=3 DIVER Liveaboard of the Year
We often have to explain to fans of the various excellent liveaboard dive-boats that cruise the oceans of the world that it is popularity and the numbers of readers votes that win DIVER Awards. So it will tend to be those vessels that ply the waters of the Egyptian Red Sea that win because, when it comes to DIVER readers, Egyptian boats simply have the volume market. This is not to decry Red Sea vessels, however, because some fine liveaboards can be found there.
Last years winner, blue o twos Blue Horizon, came third this year, while Emperor Fleets spacious Superior came second. The undisputed winner, however, was the ever popular Tornado Marines most recently built vessel Whirlwind. Angela Mackintosh, for the UK operator, told me: The team aboard this boat have worked hard to keep up the standards we have come to expect from this exceptional liveaboard. It was pipped at the post in previous years, but Whirlwind well-deserves this award.
She represents liveaboard diving as it should be - relaxing, luxurious and fun.


hspace=3 DIVER Retailer of the Year
What a surprise it was to find that none of the usual contenders was present in the final line-up of winners this year. Mikes in Chiswick, west London came third, and online retailer SimplyScuba.com took second place.
First place was a reversal of conventional thinking. Last year Dive Pursuits, an online shop, won the Newcomer of the Year title, and this year its the turn of its parent company, Midlands dive retailer Scuba & Outdoor Pursuits, to win Retailer of the Year.
Your verdict may well reflect the fact that Scuba & Outdoor Pursuits Cannock store (its others too) stocks nearly every brand available, as well as providing training courses under the auspices of both PADI and IANTD. It is therefore well-place to give unbiased advice and put in regular Dive Show appearances.
On hearing of the victory, proprietor Mark Turner said: Superb! Wed like to say a huge thank-you to all our customers and students for their votes and support on this one - thank you!

hspace=3 DIVER Publication of the Year
If ever a film deserved an award it would be Sharkwater, and the recently released DVD of that film cleaned up the votes in this category. Rob Stewarts film-making started as an underwater adventure but turned into a beautiful and dangerous life-journey, exposing the exploitation and corruption surrounding the worlds shark populations in both Cocos in Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands. Its an emotionally moving production, from Canadas Sharkwater Productions.
Second place was taken by the book of the BBC TV series Oceans, written by presenter Paul Rose and Anne Laking. Third went to commercial diver Tony Groom for his anecdotes and experiences, packaged in the popular volume entitled Diver, from Seafarer Books.

hspace=3 DIVER Newcomer of the Year
This is a category that can be won by a company, a person, a product,
a service or even an idea! The only proviso is that it has to have emerged in the past 12 months.
The very fact that it is new can make it difficult for readers to identify, so likely andidates will be those that have been the subject of an effective marketing campaign.
Prime examples are the Canon Ixus 90is digital camera, which took third place, and a diving retailer in Surrey that now sports, along with many dive centres and diving operations worldwide, the Scandinavian Oxygene brand - Cranleigh Oxygene. It came second.
First place and the DIVER Awards trophy went to Suunto, however, for its latest entry-level diving computer-watch and free-diving instrument, the Suunto D4.
Were getting quite a collection of these bronze statuettes now and theyre starting to look really impressive lined up on my desk, said Ryan Crawford of Suunto UK. It really helps to win a couple in the same year!

hspace=3 And our £3000 prize-winner is...
Richard Powell from Waddington, Lincs (pictured) is the reader whose lucky day it was when the DIVER Awards Prize Draw was held in January.
Richard had filled in all the fields on the entry form (more than we can say for many of you) and his form was picked at random. As a result, he will soon be heading for Bali and Lombok in Indonesia to enjoy an 11-day diving jamboree with his wife Karen who, he says firmly, will be a diver by the time we go!
The prize includes return flights and transfers. In eastern Bali Richard and Karen will spend five nights in a beachside Lotus bungalow, diving with the Gangga Divers centre at sites that include the USS Liberty wreck and Kubu, known for its critter diving.
They then transfer by Gilicat to the secluded Gili Trawangan island in Lombok for a five-night stay at Villa Almarik, also run by Lotus Hotels, with another six dives with Gangga Divers. Turtles, reef sharks, manta and sting rays and moray eels are expected to turn up. The prize will be arranged by UK tour operator Snooba Travel (www.snooba.com, 0870 162 0767).
Richard Powell has been diving for 10 years, in the UK and wherever I can get wet. A BSAC Advanced Instructor and PADI Divemaster, he became a BSAC First Class Diver last year, winning the Kowalski Lighthouse Award in the process, though he says of the DIVER Awards prize: I have never won anything in a competition before now, not even a premium bond.
Station Commander of RAF Waddington, Group Captain Powell is also Chairman of the RAF Sub-Aqua Association, and has undertaken several military sub-aqua diving expeditions in the UK and overseas.
Its been a really good morning, he said when we rang him to tell him the good news - he was in a taxi on his way back from meeting his Air Commodore Prince Edward at Buckingham Palace!