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February 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 39, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The DEMA Dive Show

a slightly irreverent review

from the February, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Last month, John Bantin reported on the range of gear, good and bad, that he saw at the Dive Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) show in Las Vegas in November. I'll give you a slightly different take.

By my calculation, to make one complete tour of the DEMA floor, I traversed 2.38 miles of aisles, past an endless number of booths hawking every last thing a dive store might consider selling. I found bad underwater art, aromatic inhalers to "ease the quese," and waterproof iPad covers. I've always like the bright Rum Reggae batik shirts from Indonesia that get displayed each year, but it's hard for me to figure out what kind of diver wears the Goth look that Surface Interval Clothing peddles. Scuba do-rags appear every year, but the only divers I've ever seen wearing a do-rag are aging, bulging men trying to look youthful and hip, but they're fooling no one. There's hardly a funky dive resort that doesn't have a three-inch ring hanging on an overhead string that you try to launch in an arc in order to catch a hook screwed into a wall in its bar. Anyone can make one, but I'll be damned if Mellow Militia was trying to sell them for $29.95.

There was Body Glove peddling paddleboards, looking to get dive resorts into another water sport. And there were mooring buoys, dive boats for sale and courses to teach you how to captain one. Some booths sell only one product, like Frog Spit, a mask defogger, while others, like Trident, sell an endless number of accessories, from carabineers to glow sticks. Even National Geographic is a wholesaler, peddling snorkels and masks. All the while, there were vendors trying to give me massages, urging me to test an electronic device to reduce my back or joint pain, and another selling insoles to make walking easier if I expected to cover the floor and then walk back to my hotel room.

The people manning training agency booths or selling equipment were overwhelmingly white males, with the exception of a number of booths manned (yes, manned) by Koreans, Malaysians, Japanese, Taiwnese and Chinese selling neoprene, wet and drysuits. Not long ago, these folks were behind-the-scenes-suppliers to American companies. Dive gear made in Asia, it once seemed, was considered inferior, so Tabata changed its name to TUSA, and now Asian companies are running the rubber show and have a rapidly growing presence in dive technology.

The travel booths were often staffed by people from the country represented (e.g., Bonaire, Fiji, Indonesia), and many were women, especially in travel wholesaler booths. And the buyers wandering the aisles? Largely retailers, men and women, but African Americans were rare. In America, divers and suppliers do not reflect our demographics

The dive destinations with booths were the ones you see advertising in Sport Diver, and each year, there are always new Indonesia destinations. Okinawa was pushing itself as a destination, and there was even Dive Oman. One unique property caught my eye -- Villa Dunbar, rising from a tiny island like a Mediterranean outpost -- but it is off the Honduran island of Guanaja, where fish life is subpar.

Behind the booths and on the tables, most resorts display pictures of their grounds, reefs and fish. The Caribbean pictures must be old (not one had a single lionfish) or carefully Photoshopped. There were a few seminars on lionfish, but not much optimism about stopping their proliferation.

Praying that our reefs will be saved (though they have only been here 6,000 years or so), Reef Ministries had a quiet booth. At another, folks from the Worldwide Christian Divers were selling T-shirts emblazoned with "Jesus is the Regulator of My Life." It brought to mind the 1976 song by Bobby Bare, "Drop Kick Me Jesus through the Goalposts of Life."

People behind the booths tried to pull me in with a simple "Good morning," or maybe "Have you ever dived Fiji (or wherever)?" Some offered candy; later in the day, some offered drinks. Malaysia served satay, spring rolls and white wine, while the Cayman Islands poured rum for anyone who asked).

Glo-Toob was the most innovative, offering eye candy in Nikki Leigh, Playboy's May 2012 Playmate. I didn't get the connection between her and the small emergency lights they sold, nor did many others, who were probably too old to much care. I saw her in the booth, with no one other than Glo-Toob people around, which is maybe why they hired her in the first place

- - Ben Davison

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