The Diver Awards:
have we got news for you!
Steffi Schwabe (above)
accepts the Diver of
the year Award on behalf
of Rob Palmer (right).
|The Diver Awards 1997: The Readers' Choice
Brand of the Year
Diver readers were in no doubt about their favourite brand of dive equipment when it came to the vote. Apeks was third, Mares second but Buddy was the popular choice. David and Angela Parker of AP Valves (left, with David Bellamy) were very happy to be taking the trophy back home to Cornwall.
David started making emergency breathing valves for the direct-feed unit of horse-collar BCs (or ABLJs, as they were known) in 1969 - in his garden shed!
He set up full-time production of his own Buddy ABLJ in 1974. Within four years the company had moved to Helston in Cornwall, expanding to occupy a bigger factory next door in 1989. Today AP Valves has "a massive slice" of the UK market in BCs and is expanding rapidly in Germany.
It is very much a family business. David made way for son Martin to take over as managing director in 1994. Now, Martin, a keen diver, personally oversees development of Buddy products. "It is particularly pleasing to win this award, because it is the divers themselves who voted for us," David said.
Besides a wide range of BCs for both leisure and technical divers, AP Valves has put the Buddy brand on the Auto Air emergency breathing valve, lifting bags, SMBs, tank twinning bands, and now the Inspiration closed-circuit rebreather, a possible contender for Innovation of the Year in 1998!
And what does "AP" stand for? Angela Parker of course!
Dive Centre of the Year
Stoney Cove Marine Trials Ltd started in business as an inland diving centre in 1978, when Alan King (right) and Harry Chapman saw the potential of this flooded former granite quarry in Leicestershire. They were joined on the management team ten years later by Martin Woodward.
Today, Stoney Cove is the largest inland diving site in Britain. It can store 85,000 litres of air and nitrox, and has a dive shop and rescue support facilities, including fast boats and its own emergency recompression chamber. The Cove waterside pub is also much appreciated after a hard day's diving.
Many thousands of divers every year safely enjoy the challenges of being underwater at Stoney Cove. Regrettably there have been three fatalities this year, and this drew the attention of the national media and criticism of the management, although a coroner later exonerated the centre. The enduring popularity of "Stoney", as evidenced by Diver reader's votes, perhaps helps to put these problems into perspective.
Fort Bovisand deserves mention for coming a close second, but Alan King was obviously deeply touched to receive the award for Best Dive Centre. He said he wished to say a sincere thank you to the readers of Diver for voting for Stoney Cove in what had been a difficult year.
|Innovation of the Year
Mares Abyss MR22 Ruby
Innovation of the Year was hotly contested between the Scubapro G50/Mk20 Ultra Light regulator, the AP Valves Buddy Late-Deployment Surface Marker Buoy, and the Mares Abyss MR22 Ruby regulator. In the event, the Abyss Ruby came out on top and Mark Jenkins from Blandford Sub-Aqua accepted the trophy.
Italian manufacturer Mares has been at the forefront of research and development in diving equipment recently. The Ruby takes forward the top-of-the-range Abyss regulator with a retro-style second-stage design. This avoids the free-flows associated with fast head-first descents down shot-lines and the effects of the diver being head-on into a fast current.
The first stage has a unique patented design in which a precious ruby replaces the conventional high-pressure valve seat. The gem is perfectly smooth and corrosion-resistant. It cannot be etched by oils or grease and suffers no wear. The seat connector, made with a special high-tenacity technopolymer, guarantees water-tightness.
The combination gives a life-cycle far longer than that of conventional valves, with no special maintenance. Even a busy professional should not need to service this regulator more often than every four years - and for the amateur "a Ruby is forever".
|Publication of the Year
Top Dive Sites of the World
The book Top Dive Sites of the World received a glowing review in Diver in October. It is a sumptuously illustrated coffee-table book in which a team of 11 writers, including Jack Jackson as principal consultant, Lawson Wood and Guy Buckles, describe the joys of diving at 27 plum locations around the world.
Martin Oestreicher, Sales and Marketing Manager of the book's prolific publisher New Holland, collected the Publication of The Year award, won against stiff opposition from Lizzie Bird's The Wreck Diving Manual from Crowood Press.
Thanks also to the many of you who voted for the Diver Guides, particularly Dive South Cornwall; it was decided for reasons of modesty not to include those votes in the final tally!
New Holland was established in 1989 and is owned by Struik Publishers of Cape Town, South Africa. In 1992 it published a one-off diving title (Dive Sites of South Africa) and its Dive Sites of the World series of guides was developed in the UK and launched in 1995.
There are now 12 titles in the series, with three more to follow this year. Other books published by New Holland include Dis-
cover Underwater Australia, The Diver's Handbook, The Underwater Explorer and The Underwater Photography Handbook.
|Travel Operator of the Year
A youthful Andy Telford, fresh out of the Royal Artillery where he held the rank of captain, started Regal Holidays in 1986. It has since grown to a size that enables it to send more than 6000 divers away on trips every year.
While still in the Army, Andy used the Royal Diving Centre in Aqaba, Jordan, for adventurous training projects, and this was the overseas destination that he first promoted. The hiccup in bookings caused by the Gulf War in 1990 allowed him the opportunity to rethink and restart his operation, and Regal now covers all the Egyptian Red Sea destinations like Sharm and Hurghada. There are also selected worldwide destinations, each of which has been personally vetted either by Andy or a trusted company representative.
Regal won the Travel Operator of the Year award at a gallop; only Hayes & Jarvis came anywhere near in our readers' poll, and Regal's vote was twice as big!
Andy says Regal's business is driven by the demands of satisfied customers. There are close links too with BSAC branches and PADI dive stores to provide locations for warm-water training. "We like to say: no problem! We try to undersell and over-provide."
Based in Sutton-in-Cambridge, Regal Holidays employs ten people, including Andy's wife Maggie (above) who accepted the award. It has been ATOL-bonded for more than five years, and is also a member of the Association of Independent Tour Operators.
|Retailer of the Year
Arthur Balderson, an enthusiastic amateur diver of many years standing, started SDS Watersports of Sheffield in 1989 with his redundancy money when he was paid off as a mine maintenance worker by the National Coal Board.
It was originally known as Sports Diving Services, or sometimes Sophie's Dad's Shop!
In 1992 the business received a cash injection when Arthur merged his operation with that of Stuart Bramall, a local Sheffield businessman. This allowed them to take on premises of around 560sq m, said to be the largest dive shop in the UK. There are also purpose-built workshops for stainless steel fabrications from tanks-bands to boat bottle-racks.
Besides offering BSAC, Draeger rebreather and PADI diving couses, SDS sells everything a diver might need, from an O-ring to a fully fitted RIB - a boatyard is attached to the premises.
Above all, Arthur is proud of the service he offers his customers: "We don't believe in selling grey imports and we tell our customers we recommend everything we stock. We don't like to sell one item over another in case the differing profit margins have an influence on us. We tell our customers that fact. We give them all the information and leave them to decide."
It was a close thing - Mike's Waterfront Warehouse's main store in Twickenham was breathing down SDS's neck in the poll, and Divers Warehouse in Bradford also has a lot of fans. But Arthur said he was delighted to win the award, and would definitely win it next year too!
|The Diver Awards 1997: The Judges' Choice|
|Conservationist of the Year
You know the figures by now - 10 per cent of the world's coral reefs degraded beyond recovery, 90 per cent showing signs of wear and tear. International conservation groups got together in 1997 to organise the International Year of the Reef, a response to the grievous threats facing the reefs.
Such ideas can be empty exercises unless someone forces the pace. If the Year is to be counted a success in terms of fact-finding and awareness-raising, much of the credit must go to Dr Elizabeth Wood of the Marine Conservation Society. She was instrumental in taking an idea that had been launched with much enthusiasm, and using her energy to give it a real sense of direction.
The MCS had expanded its reef research programme, conducting surveys in the Red Sea and Sri Lanka, which is where Liz Wood was during the Awards ceremony. And nobody, as David Bellamy pointed out, had worked harder than her to help the cause of marine conservation, not just this year but over time.
|Photographer of the Year
Linda Dunk I'm a wide-angle freak," says the very modest Linda Dunk. "I love to see the light in the water." She was surprised to win the Photographer of the Year title, but renowned underwater cameraman Mike Portelly, who chaired the judging panel and presented Linda with her award (right), was in no doubt about the quality of her work.
The field was a strong one and the finalists, Hilary Driscoll, Peter Hince, Mike Jeffries, Ann Smithson, Stephen Smithson and Ken Sullivan, all won praise from Mike.
Linda uses two sets of Nikon 801s in Subal housings, a single Nikon SB25 flashgun and Fuji Velvia film, usually at 1/60th. Much of her work, including the six pictures in her winning portfolio, to be featured in a forthcoming edition of Diver, is done in the Red Sea. The picture on the left is of a reef at dusk.
She has, however, also photographed in Sipadan and the Maldives "and we mustn't forget under Swanage Pier!"
This year she is planning two or three Red Sea trips, the first teaching a photography course aboard the Coral Queen. On her list of subjects she would love to capture on film are underwater Papua New Guinea and Ningaloo's whale sharks.
"I would like to go to the Galapagos, too, but I'm not sure the Galapagos would like me, because I do get horribly sea-sick!" she says.
|Advertisers of the Year
Apeks Marine, Cayman Islands
The Diver Advertising Awards were launched in 1996 in recognition of the efforts being made by the diving industry to produce more effective advertising. The aim is to encourage all companies to improve the presentation and originality of their advertisements in Diver magazine.
Once again the awards were judged by a panel of experts drawn from the first division of the advertising industry. It comprised Peter Gausis, Senior Art Director from Abbott Meade Vickers BBDO; Dawn Heuston, a Senior Art Director from J Walter Thompson; Rupert Sutton, Creative Director of RPM3; and Andy Blackford, Creative Director of Grey Direct and regular Diver contributor. They looked for advertising with good clarity of message derived from the use of an uncluttered idea and a "unique selling proposition".
Uwatec UK won first place in the award for the Best Campaign or Series with its ads for the Aladin Air X computer. It was closely followed by Sea & Sea's editorial-style campaign and Aqua-Lung UK with its series for US Divers.
Apeks Marine won the Best Single Page Ad award with its copy line: "Who wants to be the best on earth anyway?", followed by Hydrotech and AP Valves.
The award for the Best Use of Part of a Page went to the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, with an ad bearing the memorable line: "How I shot a Russian destroyer down in Cayman Brac".
Rupert Sutton presented the awards and gave guests an insight into how to catch readers' eyes - he is pictured (right) with Uwatec UK's John Sinclair.