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March 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 41, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Aqua Lung Recalls All BCs with SureLock II Weight Pockets

from the March, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In the April 2013 issue, we reported that Aqua Lung was doing its second recall of BCs with SureLock II weight pocket handles. It recalled 110,000 of them because the company received more than 200 reports of the rubber handles detaching from the pockets. (Its first recall was in fall 2012). Now there's a third recall, and Aqua Lung has expanded it to cover all SureLock II handles, because it received 50 more complaints from divers of detached weight pockets. The recall is for its BCDs sold since September 2008. Whether you have an original rubber handle or one of the revised rubber handles from the previous recall, Aqua Lung wants to replace it with the latest generation handle. Bring it to your dive shop for an on-site replacement. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission notice lists the BCD models affected, and you can call Aqua Lung for more information at (855) 355-7170.

When we asked Aqua Lung for more background on the recall, marketing manager Lauren Schuil simply pointed us toward the company's general press release about it, which stated, "While there are no known occurrences of this happening underwater, and there have not been any reported injuries, Aqua Lung believes that a recall is the safe and prudent thing to do. The newest generation of handle does not rely upon rubber and is considered much stronger and safer."

What does this say about the safety of weight-integrated BCs in general? Even the dive veterans we regularly ask for expert opinions are split on this one. Ken Kurtis, owner of the Reef Seekers dive shop in Beverly Hills, CA, says he had never been a fan of them. "The addition of the weights, along with a tank, BC and a regulator make the unit incredibly heavy if you (or a helpful crew member or buddy) are lifting it. And the argument of 'Well, just put the weights in AFTER you've donned the unit' is simply not the way people in the real world dive it. And because the weight pockets sit higher up than a weight belt, it changes your center of gravity, which I don't like."

But John Bantin, our London-based dive equipment tester, is a fan. "Including the weights within the BC means that the upward force of the buoyancy is countered by the downward force of the ballast, resulting in an absence of the stress on the diver's body that is encountered when using a separate weight belt, plus superior comfort. However, this brings with it design problems in order to make emergency weight jettisoning possible."

The first integrated weight designs relied on Velcro that lost its stickiness properties as it got older, resulting in lost weights. Many different brands of BC have come up with different weight-retaining solutions since then, but Aqua Lung has been caught in the spotlight because its design was paired with bad manufacturing issues. "Other companies have not been so unlucky with their design and manufacturing solutions," says Bantin. "Don't let this problem send you back to the old-fashioned discomfort of a separate weight belt."

As for me, I've never liked weight-integrated BCs, and find no discomfort in the old-fashioned weight belt. Also, the crew on board hauling up my unweighted BC offered a big smile for me, not for Bantin.

- - Ben Davison

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