ORLANDO, THE DEMA SHOW 2011 – The DEMA Show is the scuba diving industry’s largest trade-show of the year, where equipment makers, tour operators, travel agencies and dive professionals gather to preview what’s in store for the coming year, in this case, 2012. Each year the DEMA Show alternates locations between the Eastern and Western regions of the United States. This year’s show was held in sunny Orlando, Florida.
Last year’s DEMA Show featured cutting-edge dive computers, powerful and user-friendly dive lights and a revolutionary semi-closed rebreather. This year’s DEMA offers previews of shiny new dive gear slotted for release in 2012, including remarkable advances in underwater photo & video products, lightweight travel gear, gas analyzers and rebreather technology. Let’s dig in.
SEA & SEA YS-DI Compact Strobe
Japan’s SEA & SEA plans to release a new, powerful and compact underwater strobe, the YS-D1, in January 2012. This is a long sought after model and here’s why: the YS-D1 strobe offers the underwater photographer a balance between power and size. The YS-250PRO strobe, which I shoot, is the standard of reliability and power when it comes to underwater lighting for still photography. Yet, I have to admit that it’s no lightweight to transport around the globe in my carry-on luggage. The YS-110α is a compact and serviceable option for the prosumer photog looking to get his camera wet, but some have opined that it lacks the “throw” needed for larger subjects and for temperate waters, where the visibility can offer challenges. The new YS-D1 is the perfect compromise between the two existing models in the SEA & SEA line of underwater strobes, and I can’t wait to start seeing the photos that are produced by photographers using the YS-D1.
Hollis, based on San Leandro California, showcased it’s latest iteration of the Prism Closed Circuit Rebreather (CCR). In a rapidly growing sector of the dive gear market, the CCR has become one of the most competitive and innovative product categories in recent years, with units like the Megalodon and rEvo leading the charge toward a more efficient and dynamic way of diving. The Prism was actually one of the earliest models of modern rebreathers, but did not capture a dominant share of the market. Now, a couple iterations later, the newest model Prism comes screaming out of the gate looking very refined and capable. Also new for 2012 is Hollis’ Explorer “Sport Rebreather”, a model aimed at recreational divers who desire longer bottom times and greater gas consumption efficiency, without the complexity and inherent dangers of a full closed circuit model rebreather. Both of these units look very impressive in person. I saw a prototype of the new Prism at American Underwater Products’ headquarters in California last Summer, and I was impressed at all of the thought, design and engineering that went into it. As an Megalodon diver myself, that means a lot.
Submerge Scooters is based here in Florida and they have been making underwater propulsion devices since 2000. Many cave divers prefer Submerge scooters because of their long runtimes – achieved by lithium-polymer batteries, and their diminutive size, which makes for good cave diving. I was able to check out Sumberge’s newest addition to the family, the Minnus. Weighing in at a lightweight 33 pounds, this cutting-edge DPV is also super compact, at only 22 inches in length. The build quality seen in Submerge Scooters is also very impressive.
Backscatter Wahoo HD Monitor Housing
Backscatter, America’s leading underwater imaging equipment retailer, is now trying its hand at producing gear of its own. The company unveiled a sexy new underwater housing for the Sony CLM-V55 Portable Monitor. In a nutshell, this combo makes for an absolutely stunning display for a still or camcorder based underwater cameras. The housing allows for connections via HDMI, and Sony’s portable, 5-inch display packs in a staggering 1.1 million pixels that can render super sharp signals in either 780 or 1080 resolution. I’m looking forward to more smart products from Backscatter, a company that has it’s pulse on the underwater imaging products like no other.
Oceanic Wants to be Your BUD
Another product that I’ve had the good fortune of previewing is the Oceanic BUD (Back-Up Device). It’s a simple-yet-invaluable safety device that you clip on and forget about – sort of like a seatbelt. The old adage in scuba diving goes: “if you don’t need it, don’t bring it. If you do need it, bring two.” A dive computer is definitely something that you don’t want to be without. So, it makes a ton of sense to have two dive computers with you. However, dive computer generally are not cheap devices and so not everyone has the means to own more than one. Enter the BUD: it’s simple. As in… dead simple.
The BUD tracks your bottom time, depth and decompression limits. It allows for nitrox mixes up to 50% and has a user-replaceable battery. The icing on the cake is that the BUD features Oceanic’s Dual Algorithm, allowing you to match the BUD’s decompression calculations as closely as possible with that of your primary dive computer, and the specific type of diving that you’re doing (i.e., repetitive dives in warm water, versus one or two deep dives in cold water). Ever since Oceanic introduced the Dual Algorithm technology into its dependable and well-designed line of dive computers, I’ve been convinced that every recreational dive computer should have this versatile feature.
I recently spent a month in Micronesia and Palau, using the BUD on every dive. I highly recommend it for any diver keen on redundancy as a safety measure.
Santi is a Polish drysuit manufacturing company, and they have been on fire lately with a string of successful and innovative new offerings. I was glad to see that they had some good distribution partners in the US, representing them at DEMA. Chris Borgen did a nice review of their Enduro drysuit last Spring. The most noteworthy new drysuit from Santi is the E.Lite – which has cavernous side pockets, well thought out panel design that affords the wearer maximum mobility in the water (or alternatively, turns mannequins into John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever), and extremely durably-made waterproof seams.
Bring the Heat! Santi is blowing the competition out of the water with it’s new heated undergarments. Worn under a traditional drysuit, these undersuits keep the user toasty warm when switched on. Santi started with a heated vest last year, and now have released the Extreme 400 heated undergarment, which runs heating elements all the way down to the knees and wrists, inside of a thick layer of insulation that by itself would keep the diver warm even in the chilliest of waters. Since the Santi founders are based in Poland and do their diving in the Baltic Sea, I trust their judgment in the design and operation of the heated undersuit technology.
In addition to the heated undersuits, Santi has a variety of integrated components that allow divers to easily swap out the parts that route power from outside to the inside of the suit. This waterproof wiring connects at the suit inflation valve and leads to a canister-style battery that can do double duty as a canister light battery (complete with dual switches). I really like what the company is up to and hope to review more of their products in the future.
Scubapro Reinventing Itself
Scubapro is one of the most storied franchises in the history of the dive industry, yet many would say that the company has rested on its laurels in recent years, becoming satisfied as a complacent stalwart rather than an innovator. This is no longer the case. The company is displaying a renewed sense of vigor in reinventing itself into a company that once again pushes forward the boundaries of the dive equipment business. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think it has a good chance of succeeding.
The first and foremost area of interest that Scubapro has been recently gaining traction is in its technical line of buoyancy compensators, the X-TEK Systems series. These BCs are primarily aimed at divers who are crossing the chasm from recreational diving to tech diving (some call this “techreational”). The build quality of the X-TEK line is exactly what you’d expect from Scubapro, A-grade. Beyond the construction, the design of these tech-rec BCs is clearly thought out by actual tech divers (as opposed to marketing folks). I could really tell that the line of BCs was well thought out and no attention was spared on the details. I think that Scubapro will give companies currently occupying the space of techreational gear a run for their money (e.g., Zeagle, OMS…). I look forward to seeing more to come on this front from one of the most trusted names in the history of the dive industry.
This may sound strange, but the product I am most excited about trying after attending DEMA is a Scubapro BCD, the GO. This featherweight BCD is a new iteration of the GEO, which Scubapro introduced over a year ago, but with integrated weights. ‘Innovation’ you thought I said? Well, yes. In a world of ever-increasing airline baggage fees and steadily decreasing baggage allowances, weight and bulk is everything to the traveling diver. While a travel oriented BCD is nothing new, the GO is innovative in that it weighs in at a paltry 5.7lbs- yet offers many of the features and conveniences of a full-size buoyancy compensator. Isn’t it innovative when a computer maker produces a laptop that does everything its predecessor did, while weighing in at a fraction of the former weight? I think so, and you might agree when you read my upcoming full evaluation of the Scubapro GO BCD.
Also of interest is a new, segmented mask skirt that allows for a customized, comfortable fit on a variety of face shapes and sizes, and a wetsuit that features a single zipper along the collarbone, allowing for greater flexibility and comfort over traditional suits with a back-mounted zipper.
Good Show, Good Parties
In parting, I’d like to thank my good friends at Sam’s Tours Palau, the fun folks at PADI (yes, they are a hoot to hang out with) and fellow underwater photographer Todd Essick for a fun night out on the town, including a chilly visit to Orlando’s Icebar. See you all next year in Vegas.