Once again readers have been generous with their time and filled in the voting forms either in DIVER or online.
Only properly completed entries are included in the tally, of course. While we recognise that answers in a particular category may be omitted here and there through unfamiliarity (if you never use liveaboards, for instance), if only one or two categories are completed that might well disqualify the entry.
The Awards – which have a new blue look this year to mark that 18th landmark – were set to be presented in public at the London International Dive Show at the ExCeL?Centre in early February.
The winners and runners-up will collect their trophies and certificates, but what really counts for everyone is being able to claim with every justification that they are a top choice of the readers of Britain’s best-selling diving magazine – the diving community.
That has to be worth its weight in new and repeat business!

PRODUCTof the YEAR
1st: Suunto EON Steel
2nd: Fourth Element Arctic Expedition
3rd: AP Diving 2020 Vision

Last year a certain action camera was sweeping the board in this category, but the GoPro has perhaps now become part of the scenery.
So first place this year goes to last year’s Newcomer winner – Suunto’s EON Steel dive-computer. Complete with high-definition customisable backlit colour screen, the model became very popular last year, premium price-tag notwithstanding.
In second place is a one-piece thermal undersuit from Fourth Element, the Arctic Expedition. The manufacturer used an innovative combination of hi-tec fabrics and bio-mapping to create a garment suitable for extreme conditions.
AP Diving came third with the 2020 Vision rebreather handset. Its liquid-crystal display, conditional colouring of text and graphics and other features clearly had a big impact for a CCR accessory to make the top three.

BRAND of the YEAR
1st: Scubapro
2nd: Suunto
3rd: Apeks

It’s been a few years since Scubapro topped this category but now it’s back, one of the few remaining “one-stop shops” for divers. It’s still innovating, too, as it shown with popular products such as the Mantis M1 computer, MK25 EVO / A700 Black Tech regs and Evertec drysuits and Everflex semi-drys.
Suunto, last year’s winner, drops to second – still a highly creditable result, one reason for which must be the EON?Steel computer. But everything from the entry-level D4 up wins the company admirers, not forgetting its enviable reputation for customer service.
Apeks is back in the running with a good third placing. Long a popular choice with UK technical divers for its commitment to quality, innovation and reliability, we see a lot of XTX 200s about – we’ve also seen a lot of those “limited edition” Black Sapphires about!

RETAILER of the YEAR
1st: Simply Scuba
2nd: Mike’s
3rd: UnderwaterWorld

After so many years as top dog, Simply Scuba is the dive retailer everyone else must look to beat. Not that simple, apparently, because this is its seventh straight victory!
It stands out in that it isn’t simply a successful online retailer with a very wide range of products on offer but also has a physical presence in the form of its shop in Faversham, Kent.
Mike’s hasn’t featured in the Awards for some years but it has come storming in at number two after running what was clearly a very effective campaign among satisfied customers. Its outlet is in west London – Mike may be gone but Scuba Steve is flying the flag.
And into third place comes Stoney Cove’s retail outlet UnderwaterWorld, which naturally benefits from being a shop that’s actually near diveable water.

TOUR OPERATOR of the YEAR
1st: Scuba Travel
2nd: blue o two
3rd: Oonasdivers

As with Retailer of the Year, one company has virtually claimed ownership of this category – Scuba Travel already has 10 DIVER Awards in its showcase. How does Tony Backhurst do it, in a sector in which the success or failure of a diving holiday can be dictated by conditions beyond human control??
It has to be sheer hard work to engender that consistent level of loyalty among clients, and that goes for all of our top three.
In fact, the hierarchy in the travel sector of the UK dive trade appears so set in stone that not only does Scuba Travel retain top spot but blue o two retains second and Oonasdivers third. It was the same in 2013 too.
All three companies continue to diversify their offerings to reflect shifts in demand – and their skills and knowledge will no doubt be tested to the full in 2016.

LIVEABOARD of the YEAR
1st: blue Horizon
2nd: Whirlwind
3rd: blue Melody

We take liveaboards for granted but it takes a lot of savvy and skill to keep a bunch of divers happy, safe and fulfilled, to the point where they’re thinking about rebooking even before they’ve disembarked.
So we don’t underestimate what it takes to score consistently in this category. blue o two had a good DIVER Awards result in its role as a tour operator, and has done even better with the liveaboard fleet with which it started in business.
Its Red Sea vessels have established themselves as firm favourites with divers, and blue Horizon takes the title yet again (it’s getting to be a habit). And it also takes third slot with blue Melody.
Rival Scuba Travel also has its feet in both camps, and its liveaboard Whirlwind repeats its runner-up performance of 2014.

DESTINATION of the YEAR
1st: Egypt
2nd: Maldives
3rd: Malta

No changes in this category, though perhaps for the first time the heat is really on the perennial leader now. Egypt still scored highly in 2015 but if travel restrictions to Sinai remain in place for any length of time, and if the diving public decides to vote with its feet, who knows what will happen in 2016?
However, with liveaboards and faster day-boats accessing prime sites from the mainland and access via Hurghada and Marsa Alam at present unaffected, the country has every chance of overcoming the problems that beset its tourism.
The Maldives has its own political turmoil but can only have gained ground in its position as second favourite. Malta has made third spot its own recently, and with the climb-down over the weird homicide charges that threatened to make it very unpopular with divers (see News) there is every reason for it to remain a top dive destination.

DIVE CENTRE of the YEAR
1st: Camel Dive Club
2nd: Stoney Cove
3rd: Red Sea Diving Safari

Camel is a long-established dive centre in Sharm el Sheikh, but it took quite a few years before it attained top spot in this category of the divEr Awards. Once there, it has shown no inclination to vacate its lofty perch, and has now won the past three titles.
Leicestershire’s Stoney Cove, the National Diving Centre and Britain’s best-known inland dive-site, came third last year and now steps up to second. Its retail outlet also scored a direct hit this year.
Red Sea Diving Safari is the “eco-diving adventure” in quiet southern Egypt with camps at Marsa Shagra, Marsa Nakari and Wadi Lahami giving access to a number of desirable sites. Divers clearly like it, as it slipped smartly into third place.

NEWCOMER of the YEAR
1st: Atomic Venom
2nd: Santi Ladies First
3rd: FIT Pro 2500 Flare

This category covers everything from products to companies that emerged in the past year, but once again it is products that made the impact. Atomic’s Venom frameless mask used a new material the Americans call “Gummy Bear” silicon, and DIVER’s Technical Editor Nigel Wade reckons that combined with ultra-clear glass in the frameless mount it has set standards for fit, seal, comfort and design. Genuinely innovative.
A close runner-up was the Santi Ladies First Drysuit. “What sets it apart from its contemporaries is its flattering, feminine cut, enhancing not only its appearance but the overall comfort factor,” was DIVER’s test verdict.
The versatile FIT Pro 2500 Flare unit functions effectively as a video light for action cams, stills camera focusing, fluorescence shooting, emergencies or as a torch. Add long burntimes and it’s a worthy third.