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January 2006 Vol. 21, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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DEMA Bounces Back

… viva Las Vegas

from the January, 2006 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Diving Equipment and Marketing Association trade show, held in Las Vegas last October, rebounded from the previous years calamity. In 2004, DEMA staged its annual show in Houston, one of several ill-conceived decisions that led to mass defections by exhibitors and buyers alike. Scrambling to salvage the worlds largest diving expo, DEMA hit upon what may be a winning formula: from now on the venue will rotate between Las Vegas and Orlando, FL.

Last year many key manufacturers boycotted the show, many saying the cost of exhibiting wasnt worth the return. This year Scubapro and Mares/Dacor remained among the missing, but the Sherwood Scuba Group (Sherwood, Genesis and Akona) returned, along with Cressi- Sub, Aqua Lung, and Underwater Kinetics.

Compared with Houston, the aisles of the Las Vegas Convention Center were as packed as a Florida Keys cattle boat, with buyers checking out displays of scuba gear, travel operators, and ancillary dive services. More than 5,000 buyers registered for the show, according to Nicole Russell, DEMA Communications Manager. (DEMA tries to exclude lookie lous, who they believe get in the way of bona fide buyers.) Although attendance may still have been down from DEMAs peak years, exhibitors I spoke with seemed pleased with both the quality and quantity of this years turnout.

Eight booths displayed rebreathers or related equipment. Silent Dive Systems, maker of the popular Inspiration rebreather, introduced the lightweight Evolution CCR with a head up display for monitoring the system mounted on the mouthpiece.

Thermal protection continues to evolve. Pinnacle Aquatics showed off its line of wet suits with linings woven from soft Merino wool, which retains its insulating properties when wet. Pinnacle claims its Merino suits go on easier and stay warmer than traditional lined suits. Henderson Aquatics introduced Insta-Dry wet suits with a nonabsorbent outer skin of durable micro mesh and two layers of neoprene around a hyper-stretch material. With a black version of Hendersons proprietary Gold Core lining, the suit can be towel dried, then reversed and hung up to dry the interior quickly, so traveling divers dont have to pack a damp suit. Henderson claims the material loosens with use to fit the owners form; even the joints have a memory. Thirty brands of wet and dry suits were displayed including UTC Sports ultra-felxible Northern Diver THORD Vulcanized stretch rubber dry suit.

New fin designs were everywhere. The Mor-Fins two-part blade patterned after a fishs tail may look weird but Scuba Diving Magazine awarded it Best Innovation in Gear Design, at the show. Other finnovations were even wilder, such as FreedomFins, with wings that attach to the lower leg rather than the foot, supposedly allowing them to operate in undisturbed water and to absorb body drag. Deep Outdoors Six Gill fins feature gill-like slits in the blade to channel water. For those more into appearance than performance, there are Funky Fins, with clear blades imprinted in a choice of colorful designs; theyre packaged, as you might expect, in a clear plastic bag. Well just stick to our Mares Plana.

A host of unique diving accessories also debuted in October, some more practical than others. Aqua Sketch is an underwater writing and drawing device, similar to your old Etch-a-Sketch. But if you want to save your doodlings, you can scan and print from it. Another offbeat communications aid was a DVD from Sea Signs teaching an underwater signing system. For emergencies, Scubuzz offers a two-way signaling device that pages your buddy with both vibrations and flashing lights. Imagine the fun you could have with that.

Food products tailored to divers also made an appearance. Dive Bar is not some crummy beer hall, but a tropical fruit flavored snack item that promotes digestive health. Diversitea is an herbal supplement that allegedly helps reduce nitrogen in the body. Well ....

Stan Waterman graciously autographed copies of his memoir, Sea Salt. John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, who burst into national prominence as the central figures of the book Shadow Divers and now cohost the History Channels Deep Sea Detectives, were everywhere. But Joe Burnworth, author of the best-selling No Safe Harbor about the fatal capsizing of the live-aboard Wind Dancer, found himself locked out. Burnworth told Undercurrent hed arranged to share booth space to sign copies of the book, but found when he got there that DEMA had banned its sale. A DEMA board member stopped by the booth and commented that the book, which is highly critical of the captain of the Belize-based Wind Dancer and Dancer management decisions during the blow, was not in the best interest of the diving industry.

Is this form of censorship really in the best interest of the industry? Of course not. Especially when Burnworths book pointed out serious judgment errors made by the captain of a live-aboard and what the passengers might have done to prevent their ultimate deaths. Maybe the atmosphere will be more hospitably Disneyesque next November 8-11 in Orlando.

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