THE GIANT US-BASED INTERNATIONAL DIVING EVENT known as DEMA could hardly have been closer to the sea this October, the venue being Miami Beach.
East Florida has some good diving, South Beach has its own unique attractions, and Miami International airport is a useful hub for those flying on to other diving destinations. So surely diving professionals from across the continent would pour in.
It didn't happen.
Whatever the organisers might claim, DEMA 2003 turned out for many to be an exhibitor-to-exhibitor (E2E) show. The upside for those who did attend was that it was easy to stroll the aisles, and to get standholders' attention.
There were long faces in the booths of many of the international diving destinations at DEMA. The US public still seems disinclined to travel in vast numbers. Group bookings anticipated from US-based dive-stores did not happen and many put this down to the poor performance of diving against more "accessible" sports.
However, the show still provided a useful showcase for equipment manufacturers. So what was new?
It was more a case of evolution than revolution. Talking of which, the APD Evolution was shown at last in the form in which it is likely to be sold. This second-generation closed-circuit rebreather will undoubtedly follow in the success of the original model. Refinements include a far more sophisticated cross-referencing double computer system that does away with the old master/slave configuration, and on-board decompression monitoring, including use of trimix gases. Its smaller 2-litre cylinders will also make the Evolution more attractive to some divers.
A single handset, redesigned scrubber unit with scrubber-efficiency monitoring and a head-up display with LEDs also distinguish the Evolution and next year's top-of-the-range Inspiration from the original. Existing owners will be able to purchase upgraded components.
Elderly astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a confirmed Inspiration user, was seen browsing the booth. I suppose CCR diving comes easy to a man who has travelled to the moon atop an extremely large firework!
Peter Readey, who is behind the rival Prism rebreather, demonstrated a neat little head-up TV monitor display for all its CCR functions at DEMA. I would be surprised if this was not offered as an option on later APD units, such is the cross-fertilisation that happens with an E2E show.
Kevin Gurr, on Delta P Technology's booth, revealed his sophisticated Ouroboros rebreather, though I believe that the beautifully machined example shown is unlikely to go into mass production for a while. Delta P also showed its nitrox-only multi-function VR2 technical diving computer.
Among other new computers were the entry-level Suunto Gekko; the air-integrated Dacor Darwin and M1 Airlab; the watch-like Mares Nemo with its avant garde styling; and a more conventional watch-style Nitek.
The two-nitrox-mix DiveRite Nitek Duo bore a striking resemblance to the current single-mix Cressi Archimede.
Oceanic showed a watch-sized computer, but this Atom 1.0 is a full-function three-mix nitrox computer that will integrate with three different tanks of gas through separate (and optional) transmitters, taking computers to a new phase of development.
Among the regulators, Scubapro showed a mixed-metal MK25 made with a combination of aluminium and stainless steel called the AFSA.
Cressi-sub showed its new mini-sized high-performance Ellipse, Atomic displayed the improved B2 with a swivel connection that is claimed not to impede air-flow, and Mares revealed improved metal versions of the Proton.
Every BC manufacturer seems to have caught on to the idea of fitting some sort of retaining buckles to integrated-weight systems, and corrugated hoses are in demise, replaced by the sort of direct-feeds associated with drysuits.
SeaQuest revealed its new concept, the Fusion BC, which uses both these ideas plus a progressive inflation system with an internal bladder constructed using internal ligaments to give a wing effect under water and an armchair effect at the surface.
Oceanic showed a personal safety device in the form of a signal sausage that can be converted into a life-preserver by using an integrated zip. DUI meanwhile launched its innovative Zip Seals, which can be used to swap seals on both the neck and wrists of a drysuit instantly.
Among semi-dry and wetsuits, Scubapro's range was enhanced by a new, extremely stretchy material called Everflex, which should add comfort and a close fit. Seacsub was proud of its range of specialised diving-knives, the Rip series, with one for every conceivable purpose.
All the major underwater photo-equipment manufacturers were represented. Digital cameras were big news, as usual, with a new professional digital SLR, the E1, exhibited on the Olympus booth with the much improved sibling C5060.
Sea & Sea showed a vast range of underwater housings for all the major professional SLRs that use either film or a silicone chip, with flashguns to suit.
There was also the Motormarine III amphibious stills film camera, with an extended range of accessories including a fisheye dome lens. Sea & Sea also now makes a huge range of video camcorder housings.
Perhaps the biggest news was the very simplified entry-level amphibious digital camera, the Sea & Sea Aquapix DX-3100, which supplements the dearer DX3000G as a digital camera with virtually no shutter lag. Bonica also revealed a new amphibious digital camera with simple-to-use controls.
NiteRider showed a lamp system, the SwiftWater 800, which used long duration LEDs in both red (for improved night-vision) and white, and a high-intensity halogen bulb for intense long-distance spotlighting. Rescue services are the main target. NiteRider also displayed a HID Pro Video twin-lamp set-up.
Every main manufacturer seemed to be offering new masks. Most were of the large-lens, small-volume style pioneered by Cressi with the Big Eye, but there was little to catch the imagination.
Apollo showed some stainless-steel coiled fin-straps that will please DIR divers, among others, while Mares exhibited the newly modified Volo Power, which combines features of both the Volo and Plana Avanti.
In the realms of the preposterous, fin-inventor Ryszard Fechtner was paddling his own canoe with a range of ideas including the tiny Impulse fin, the Impulse Monofin, and the Underwater Paddle and Vertical Fin. These last two allow divers to take up kayaking without needing a kayak!
The people at Freedom Fins seemed very serious about their proposition of fitting a complicated dolphin-style fin to the calf instead of the foot, although no example was in production.
Probably the biggest news came from MiniBreather, with a sophisticated yet simple second-generation product that combines with a new training scheme conceived to attract that part of the audience that was not expected at DEMA - the non-diver.
The MiniB and products like it could prove the saviour of future DEMA shows, in that they promise to get more people to put their faces in the water.
DUI Zip Seals allow quick swapping of wrist and neck seals.
Scubapro's MK25 AFSA regulator combines aluminium and steel.
Apollo spring straps could please DIR divers.
Cressi-sub claims big performance in a small package with its Ellipse reg.
Sea & Sea's Aquapix DX-3100, a digital camera claimed to have minimal shutter lag
Scrubber unit for the new APD Evolution rebreather
the "much-improved" Olympus C5060 digital camera
the air-integrated Dacor Darwin, one of a number of new computers
the sophisticated Delta P Ouroboros rebreather.
The Oceanic Atom 1.0 nitrox takes computers to a new level.
Latest thinking in BCs is shown in the SeaQuest Fusion.
The DiveRite Nitek Duo is a two-mix nitrox unit.
Honey, I shrunk my BC - the MiniBreather is set to help get new blood into diving