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January 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 26, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The 2010 Dive Equipment Show

something for (almost) every diver

from the January, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The Diving Equipment & Marketing Associations November trade show was the usual mixed bag with products ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Registrants totaled 9700 an 8% increase over last year. But the number of booths (1,178) and non-exhibitor attendees (3,925) were both down from 2009. So it seems the exhibitors sent more folks, while dive shops may have been a little less enthusiastic. Wandering the aisles in the Las Vegas Convention Center, I was struck by some new product trends, and a few oddball items that made me ask, What were they thinking?

Catch Your Breath

Why it’s taken so long to
realize there’s big money
in assuring divers can find
their way home surprises me.

Freediving booths and products popped up everywhere, perhaps in hopes of opening new markets for traditional dive shops. Since the freediving field is dominated by howdeep- can-I-go competitors or spearfishermen, this category has limited appeal to everyday scuba divers. Nevertheless, training schools such as Freediving Instructors International (www.freedivinginstructors.com) and Performance Freediving (www.performancefreediving.com) were prominent, as were specialty wetsuits from Australias Sharkskin Suits (www.sharkskin.com.au) and lots of other models in those oh-so distinctive camouflage-style designs, as if divers are deer hunters. Even SeacSubs Shout full foot-long bladed fins come camo-colored (see www.seacsub.com/product.php?ID=857).

For those who think that depth matters, the Xen freediving computer/bottom timer was unveiled by Liquivision (http://liquivision.com/xen_freedive.php).

Safety First

At last, more than lip service is being paid to diver safety, with 45 booths offering safety and rescue products or services, including a couple of snazzy GPS gizmos. SHB Instruments introduced the Navimate wrist-mounted GPS with an MSRP of $700. (www.shbinstruments.com/Navimate/info.html). Nautilus Lifeline (www.nautiluslifeline.com) booked more than 3,000 orders for its compact depth rated GPS, combined with a marine VHF radio ($299 retail). Why its taken so long to realize theres big money in assuring divers can find their way home surprises me, but then add another $300 to what is already about the most expensive individual sport around, and we have part of the answer. The other part, of course, is that the technology is a 21st century thing.

Even low-tech safety gear is getting spruced up. The Halon Corsair combines up to four primary and backup LED dive lights and choice of dive knife into one compact tool, complete with sheaf and retractable lanyard ($189.99 at http://divehalon.com/Products.html). How or why you could use four lights is up to your fertile imagination. The Innerspace dive watch (www.momentumwatch.com/pages/products/list-of-products/innerspace.php) manages to be low tech and high end at the same time. With a 300m/990ft depth rating, the watch features a bi-directional rotating bezel with orange numbers. The indexes and hands glow in the dark. Priced from around $795, it clearly qualifies as diver bling, just the kind of thing to outfit your personal posse.

Three new computers sported jazzy full color interfaces. The Mares Icon HD (www.mares.com/product_detail.php?id=496®ion=deu) features a high definition LCD color display similar to those on cell phones. Plug it in and recharge wherever you are, unless youre on a hang line . . . An air integration upgrade will be available next spring.

If the new fins are any
indicator, it looks like my old
split fins are going the way of
white bucks and saddle shoes

The Atomic Cobalt Air/Nitrox Integrated computer (www.atomicaquatics.com/computer.html) boasts an OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) color display and a 3D digital track back compass. It also includes a rechargeable lithium ion battery. For tech divers, Liquivisions XEO Trimix Computer also sports a full-color OLED display, tap-interface, userreplaceable battery, strap or bungee mounting options and the Buhlmann-GF (ZHL16C) algorithm.

Oceanic displayed prototypes of two highly anticipated product upgrades: the Atom 3.0 wrist computer and VT 4.0 puck-style model. Theyre so new, as I wrote this they still werent on the Oceanic website: www.oceanicworldwide.com.

Conversely, 26 booths touted rebreathers and related products or services (instruments, instruction, etc.). An impressive showing, despite an inbox full of recent bad publicity, and even calls for rebreathers to be banned (see Undercurrent, November 2010).

Watch Your Hands, Buddy

Video shooting mask

Video shooting mask

Scuba divers were offered a number of hands-free devices, including Light & Motions Sola Dive lights with neoprene padded wrist mounts and adjustable straps. A D ring on the light offers alternative BCD or wrist clip options. Three models are listed at www.uwimaging.com/sola1200d.html from $379-$679, depending on light power.

Liquid Image (www.liquidimageco.com) released the latest in scuba camera masks. The Scuba Series HD Wide Angle model shoots HD video and five megapixel stills. The new lens offers a 136-degree viewing angle, more than double the field of view of prior masks. The mask uses four AA batteries and expands with up to a 32GB SD memory card.

Of course, these innovations raise the question of why divers need to weigh down their heads and keep their hands free in the first place. . . to grab coral? Pet fish?

To Layer or Not to Layer

Dry suit models abounded, with radically different approaches to insulation, supported by plenty of claims from the manufacturers. Whites Fusion Bullet and Ladies Fusion Tech suits have a Drycore loose fit shell incorporating latex seals, dry zipper, air intake and exhaust valves to create the waterproof barrier. An over suit made of durable stretch fabric is attached to the Drycore at the wrists, ankles and dry zipper to form a streamline fit. Its available in three color combinations. MSRP is $2098 at http://whitesdiving.com/sport-diving/fusion-bullet-drysuit.

BAREs new SB System Trilam dry suit (www.baresports.com/en-US/Dive/Products/Drysuits/SB-system-drysuit) combines three lightweight layers that provide stretch for freedom of movement, and breathability to move moisture away from the skin and to exhaust trapped humidity, so they say. BARE guarantees seams and workmanship for the life of the suit. Even if youre not the original owner, youre covered.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, go to www.waterproof-usa.com to check out the D1 Hybrid with a patented 3-D mesh inner lining designed to keep insulating air between the diver and the water. Waterproof claims that constant insulation at all depths evenly distributes water pressure and makes buoyancy control easier. The lining stays dry, and supposedly eliminates the need for heavy underwear. We shall see.

The biggest gripes about dry suits -- leaky and flimsy seals, which seem to require attention on virtually every surface interval were addressed by two manufacturers. Waterproofs new Silicone Seal (www.waterproof.eu/index2.html) is said to have 40% better stretch than latex, to facilitate donning the suit and sealing with your skin. SI Techs Quick Cuff System (www.sitech.se/pages/default_uk.asp?SectionID=3569&ArticleID=7945) enables a quick exchange of seals, in case one gets ripped or the diver needs different size seals.

Waterproof also introduced a line of wet suits. (Doesnt the name Waterproof contradict the concept of a wet suit?) OK, so they are not waterproof, but with a choice of color accents, theyre trs chic.

Also on the fashion-forward front, Exceed Wetsuits (www.exceedwetsuits.com/index.php) introduced Electro Mens 3/2mm full suits of E-stretch neoprene in black with orange insets. Theres even a contoured crotch for freedom of movement and comfort, thank you very much. The Eclectic womens model in shocking pink is also contour cut . . . presumably for different contours, but in our travels weve seen more contours than the Alps, so if everyone gets a good fit, its magic.

Get Your Kicks

Fish tail in a fin

Fish tail in a fin

If the new fins are any indicator, it looks like my old split fins are going the way of white bucks and saddle shoes. Take the APS Mantaray (www.apsmantaray.com) with a patented dual water channeling system claimed to add blade surface on the down stroke and reduce resistance on the up stroke, while improving blade stabilization. A scoop expands and contracts during kick cycles to create a pump action and channels focus the thrust off the blade tip at the same time. Mantaray claims the shorter blade design is reef-friendly and travels easily.

My nomination for Weirdest Fin Design since Force Fins goes to Predator Power Fins (www.predatorpowerfins.com). With the tag line Do you want to swim like a predator or like their prey?, these babies feature aquatic wing shapes that supposedly mimic ocean-going predators tail fins. The current model, Power Elfins, retails for about $160.

Make it Snappy

Expensive, cutting-edge camera gear bristled from 48 different booths, but as a casual shooter I was struck by the Seashell Universal digital camera case. Two models fit more than 800 digital cameras. The stylish clear plastic cases come trimmed in a choice of colors, theyre waterproof to 40m/130 feet, and they retail for less than $218. They looked cool until I read the fine print on the website: http://seashell.hk. Turns out theres no zoom lens control, and the camera flash causes internal reflections within the hard plastic body. Instead, manufacturer Zear Corp. of Hong Kong suggests using high shutter speeds (ISO800 or above) and external lighting.

Getting Around

The 2010 Dive Equipment ShowInto the world of self-propelled underwater vehicles and submersibles, enter one of the shows goofiest product launches: Aqua Stars sea scooters, which are ridden like underwater bicycles. Two Models (the AS1 one-seater and AS2 two-seater) were created to provide the underwater experience to virtually anyone no certification, no attached gear, and no experience required. The users head goes into a precarious-looking open-bottom helmet thats integrated into the scooter body with the breathing apparatus mounted onboard the bike. Traveling at speeds of up to 4 mph, with a basic operating depth down to 40 feet, riders have access to shallow reefs without requiring a weight belt or back strapped tank. Sounds like a cruise ship or family resort novelty. Check it out at www.aquastarscooters.com and on YouTube.

For surface support, Conquest Dive Kayak offered a line of inflatable kayaks with 40-gauge PVC viewing panels that allow paddlers to spy on underwater features and sea life. The hulls are constructed with four air bladders made from 20-gauge PVC, covered by a 1,200-denier marine polyester shell that resists punctures and tears. Nevertheless, a repair kit is included, so I wonder how well they would hold up as dive kayaks. Solo and tandem models can be seen at www.conquestkayaks.com.

Oh, My Aching Dogs

The last surprise at DEMA was the proliferation of foot and joint care products. Wheelchairs and scooters the terrestrial kind -- were available to help attendees negotiate the cavernous Convention Center, and a number of booths offered pain relief products. A Neox Invasion Therapy Massage chair gave me a deep tissue rub while humming like the scary sound effects in Jaws. To make it through my second day on the floor, I picked up a pair of Happy Feet massaging insoles, to boot. They helped, but I still found myself dreaming about weightlessness.

– Larry Clinton

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