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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
"Best of the Web: scuba tips no other
source dares to publish" -- Forbes
March 1998 Vol. 13, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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DEMA At Disneyland

more than one Mickey Mouse product

from the March, 1998 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

I’m in Anaheim, California, not to see Mickey, but to review the annual Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) show. Standing in front of the registration desk I’m asking myself “What exactly is DEMA?” because, you see, I can’t convince anyone to let me in. It doesn’t matter that I’ve attended eighteen shows in a row, or that Undercurrent is a dues paying member of DEMA, or that I have identification, or that we registered in advance and they can’t find it. The problem, I am told, is that I don’t have a business card.

No one understands that I have no need for a business card -- I don’t arrive at a resort and hand them my card, announcing that I’m there to write an anonymous review. Nor do they understand that if I don’t get in, there would be no one to ferret out the candidates for the best -- or worst -- products of the show.

Mouthpiece Condoms

Who else would write about the margarita-flavored mouth piece condoms for regulators (with salt for sea dives, without for freshwater?). Or hollow paper tubes to stick into your ears after a dive (light them and the smoke will dry out the inside of your ears and prevent infections) or three-dimensional, “intelligent” neoprene used to make stress-free wetsuits (every diver movement your wetsuit reacts and performs as if it were alive.) Yup, these products were all on serious display.

After an hour of faxes to and from my home base I’m finally given the secret handshake and allowed inside. The first thing that catches my eye is a BC gadget that, at a predetermined depth (like 130 feet), kicks in and automatically inflates your BC so you don’t go deeper. As I stare in disbelief, the creator of the S.A.V.E.R. explains to me that it’s the wave of the future: In a few years,” I’m told, ‘OSHA will require every diver to be equipped with this device.’ Not me, I say.

We will report more on equipment in the next issue, so for now let’s talk travel.

One of the major problems facing the Bay Islands, Honduras, is unreliable air service. Before going under, Sasha Air was renowned for canceled flights, lost luggage, and taking off for one Honduran city and landing in another. (“Sorry, we are not flying to La Ceiba today, but you can take the bus.”)

TACA, of course, has carried on the tradition. Fed up with lost luggage, overbooking, and changed schedules, several resorts have formed their own airline; Honduras Air Tours, with nonstop jet service into Roatan. Weekly flights from Miami began in December and start from Houston in May. The new air service’s motto? Divers and their bags arrive on the same plane. (Dive travel agent or direct at 800-599-0014 or 305-871-1062; e-mail

The Burma Banks

Fantasea continues to branch out from its home port in Phuket, Thailand. After just adding the exploration of the Mergui Archipelago in Burma to its itineraries, the 15-passenger, 92’ Fantasea heads for Borneo’s East Kalimantan region (July through October), where it will dive around Derawan, Kakaban, and Sangalaki. Eight to eleven day trips include two or three days with land-based diving at Derawan Resort (see June `96 In Depth) with a price range of $1770 to $2350. The Fantasea is returning to the dive with the big pelagics in the Burma Banks, which has long been off limits for political reasons. (Call any dive travel agent or direct at 011-6676-340- 088, Fax 011-6676-340-309; e-mail

Solomon Exploration

Exploration is in: the Solomon Sea is heading to the remote regions of the Solomon chain up to the Shortlands, near Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville Island. There’s nothing special about the ten-passenger, 80’ Solomon Sea -- it’s comfortable enough -- but owner-operator Fred Douglas is always up for adventure and exploration. (Dive travel agent or direct at 011-677- 39129, fax 011-677-25300: e-mail:

The Pacific side of Panama may be opening up to diving. The Coiba Explorer, based in Panama, is scheduled to begin trips to the Panamanian islands of Jicaron and Montuosa this year. (Call Coiba Explorer Executive Expeditions at 504-871-7181, fax: 504-871-7150)

The Izan Tiger, which has been departing from Costa Rica for the big-creature action spots of Cocos Island and Colombia’s Malpelo Island, recently made a run into Panamanian waters to scope out the diving but ran into difficulties, which we’ll report on next issue. (e-mail:, fax: 011-506-775-1078)

Last issue we noted that Fiji’s Loma Loma is without a dive operation now that operator Dan Grenier picked up his toys. Dan’s Crystal Divers has landed on Nananu-i-Ra Island off the northernmost tip of Viti Levu. His first exploration dives turned up a few hammerheads. “I’m getting a scooter so I can cruise the reefs and cover some territory, but from what I’ve seen so far it looks very promising,” he told me. (011-679- 307-333 or fax 011-679-307-334)

The other side of PNG

Looking hard to find something really new and exciting, I spotted a guy wearing a sweatshirt that said Dive Irian Jaya, carrying a color brochure that read New Guinea, and telling me that his trip departed from Indonesia. He has three small, land-based camps near the remote Waigeo Island at the northwest tip of Irian Jaya.

So far hosting only a few European divers, he moves them from one base camp to the next, depending on the type of diving, which runs from weird-creature muck to big-pelagic reef to untouched wrecks. (Claims there is a Japanese plane wreck in 18 feet of water with skeletons still seated in the cockpit.) The real kicker is that you can get there by jet, flying into Manado (Sulawesi, Indonesia) and connecting with daily jet service to Sarong on mainland Irian Jaya, where he will pick you up in a boat. Will it be worth the trip? If you’re interested, don’t let your subscription expire. (Book through Island Dreams, 800-346- 6116; fax 713/957-0311)

Still walking the miles of aisles, I discovered a booth with a sofa in it. I sat down next to Ms. America. “Would you like your picture taken with me?” she asked. I politely declined. On the walls were largescale bad photos -- one of a dive industry figure mooning the public, another of photographer Jim Watts beating on his camera housing, which imploded after a 140 foot dive at Bikini, and another of John Jackson, of Odyssey Publishing, and Steve Drogin in condom hats. I asked a guy sitting behind a desk, Steve Drogin, what he was promoting. He said he had dived the world in the company of many well-known underwater photographers and his booth was “Just for fun -- a place where anyone can come in, sit down, visit, relax, and have their picture taken with Ms. America.” I asked him about the photos. “Just for fun.” And, I wondered how he justified the thousands of dollars for a booth, DEMA attendance, etc. “I have lots of money!”

Oh, what is DEMA? A nonprofit trade association encompassing the entire dive industry: manufacturers, retailers, publications/media, travel, resorts, education, and certification agencies, as well as a host of associated and supporting businesses and services.

And what is DEMA’s mission? To promote and provide sustainable growth in safe recreational diving while protecting the underwater environment.” That’s all well and good, but we need a few more Steve Drogins.


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