Having attended DEMA in Las Vegas a couple of years ago, I had high expectations for DEMA's return to Vegas in 2010. The annual conference was held November 17-20 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas. This was the 34th gathering of the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, and a gratifyingly large one at that, with about 550 exhibitors and almost 1200 booths pretty much filling the South Hall of the giant Las Vegas Convention Center. The purpose of DEMA, of course, is to support and promote diving-related businesses, and their promotional efforts include the "Be A Diver" campaign, the "Ships to Reefs" program, all sorts of marketing help and assistance, and, as each year's climax, the annual DEMA show. Despite the economy's still unsteady emergence from recession, DEMA 2010 was a most uplifting event. Registrations were up almost 10% from last year, though still down some from the heady pre-recession days. As you can see on the picture below, there was quite a crowd!
We first went to the press room to pick up our credentials and were greeted by Patricia Rowan of Adams Unlimited, the one who pulls it all together on the PR end of things. It took her all of about 18 milliseconds to identify us and our coverage of two years ago. Talk about memory! We picked up the superbly done DEMA 2010 show catalog, took a quick pass through it, and it was off to the show floor.
Covering a massive trade show like DEMA requires planning, and so we decided to start with a stroll down the main drag, which seems to go on for miles. Go all the way down, then return, and then start stopping at booths, picking up literature, examining the latest and greatest, greeting friends. That was the plan, anyway.
Attendance seemed good, everyone seemed excited, milling around, greeting friends. Though the show itself was huge, it was also very well laid out, and presented in an interesting, engaging manner. That's actually pretty difficult, but the DEMA organizers got it just right, with an inspired layout, the right mix and grouping of vendors, lanesthat were neither too wide or narrow, and no obvious glitches. Traffic flowed nicely, there was enough space and even room to sit down, and the overall vibe was great.
We almost immediately got sidetracked to say hi to our friends at the CocoView booth, where manager Mitch and tour rep Liz caught us up on all the news at the charming dive resort on Roatan (see our full review), and then we also saw Doc Radawski, the legendary expert on all things Roatan. We got the latest on the lionfish invasion, the scoop on (avoided) hurricane damage, etc.
On the way back to the main drag we ran into Jose Luis Sanchez, owner of the Solmar V operation. We simply have got to go on the Solmar V, which is a four-season live-aboard, do Socorro, San Benedicto, Roca Partida and see all the pelagics there. (www.solmarv.com)
Back on the show floor we saw Carol's video playing at the Bonica booth (we had reviewed Bonica's underwater HD video system with a JVC Everio GZ-HM550BU HD on a recent dive review trip (see here). We were greeted by our old friend Kenneth Ho, president of Bonica, and also met Tim Chan and Gary Cross who both have been very helpful in making revieq equipmnent available. We're familiar with the excellent lineup of reasonably priced underwater video and photo gear, and Tim showed us their latest: a universal housing that provides basic operation functionality for a large number of compacts, Great idea. (www.bonicadive.com)
On we went, and saw Stan Waterman, the grand old man of scuba diving and one of the most delightful individuals ever. Stan was at the Gates Housing booth, signing a very excellent scuba DVD (Sensational Seas Two -- Rare Sights From Under The Sea) that he narrated, with all proceeds going to charity. The picture shows Stan and Wendy, as well as marine fish identification authors (see fishid.com) and underwater photographers Ned and Anna DeLoach.
Sealife had its usual massive booth with what seemed like dozens of reps busily chatting with customers. We had done a big review on their very impressive DC1200 (see full review of the SeaLife DC1200) and hoped we'll be able to catch our contact, the very helpful Joe Ivy. Sealife showed their new 500 lumen photo/video light with about 3-foot range for video. The light can be removed from its mount and you can also use it as a flashlight. So now you can use one standard flash and one combo light. That's very clever as almost no one else has light, arm, base all together. It uses 4 AAs and has a sensor that turns off video light when flash goes off. There's an overdrive mode for extra light, depth limit is 300 foot depth, and it runs US$369. (sealife-cameras.com)
After an absence at DEMA for several years, Scubapro was back! And with a big booth, too, showing their entire lineup. Almost all of my own scuba gear is Scubapro, and has been ever since I got certified. Scubapro always seems a bit less trendy, flashy and colorful than some of their competition, but they must be doing something right as they have managed to remain at the very top in scuba equipment, and they keep setting trends with their Uwatec computers, fins, masks, and new BCs. Their totally different Seawing Nova fins, for example, caught the entire industry by surprise, and now everyone's copying them. (www.scubapro.com)
SubGear was right next to Scubapro with full line of equipment, and that's appropriate as both Scubapro and SubGear are owned by Johnson Outdoors. SubGear, a German company that was acquired by Johnson in 2007, was introduced to the US market March of 2010 and its product lineup is geared towards younger customers. The idea here is to provide high quality but in a lower price range than Scubapro, and without Scubapro's lifetime warranty. SubGear is only sold through Scubapro dealers. (www.subgear)
We've been seeing a lot of Aqua Lung recently. Their stuff seems cool, youthful and trendy, and at the boot there was a lot of emphasis on their lightweight travel package, with the Zuma BC, Micron octopus and second stage, micromask, hotshot fins, all fitting into a small, light bag. Lightweight gear, in fact, was all over DEMA, what with airlines and the TSA making it ever more difficult and expensive to travel. They also showed, however, some serious gear for the military, like the Amphira multi-mission rebreather, the Crabe semi-closed circuit mixture breathing apparatus, etc. (www.aqualung.com)
Whites is a big name in drysuits, and they showed their latest gear and models, both in the Fusion and Legacy lines of dry suits. There was a hot lady's pink tech and also a green/gray suit that showed a trend towards high quality but more colorful suits with soft material over the interior shell. They also showed a very snazzy red/black model, all with their unique curved self-entry zipper design. (www.whitesdiving.com)
KELDAN advanced light technology specializes in special purpose lighting and demonstrated an impressive LED light with dome and special reflector for wider angle light. Sure comes in handy. The company is Swiss, started by an electrical engineer who'd graduated from my alma mater, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, and so we chatted a bit in Schwyyzerduutsch. (www.keldanlights.com)
Stopped by at Brownie's and marveled at their Tooka dive systems. They are now distributors for the Contour camera and housing. They also do the Triton submarine that is now in production and can handle substantial depths. Their hose-based system sits in a rubber tube and lets people dive to 40 feet or so, and max about a hundred. (browniedive.com)
Nauticam..... Wow! What an incredible array of high quality housings with domes for just about every underwater photography requirement. Carol became enamored with Nauticam's Canon T2i housing (she owns a Canon T2i). A lot of thinking goes into these housings and it is very clear that those folks first study a camera and all its controls and then make certain that all controls are easily accessible. They showed an extreme closeup wide angle setup that looks kind of bizarre, but sure gets the job done. This way you get the small subject up close, but the lens still captures a lot of scenery for a truly unique effect. (www.nauticam)
Shark Savers, headed by Julie Anderson and sporting an impressive Board of Directors, tries to raise awareness of the hideous practices of shark finning. Anderson lives in South Africa where there are numerous large shark populations to study. The group is incorporated in New York, and has had some recent successes with their Shark Sanctuaries program. A very worthwhile cause, and they are sponsored by Aggressor. (www.sharksavers.org)
Stahlsac has long been one of our favorite vendors for travel and meshbag gear that is practically indestructible. They showed a whole line of redesigned bags with new colors, a redesigned regulator bag, and it looks like their newest bags are lighter than ever. They even had a scale to demonstrate the light weight (it was obvious). They now have very light, durable travel bags, with the Caicos Cargo pack particularly impressive. (www.stahlsac.com)
Intova is a name few know, yet they make some nice inexpensive underwater cameras with simple but very functional housings, and also a number of very cool divelights. They are the source of the LiquidImage divelights that we often use on our dives. We also saw Intova's new widebeam lights. They seem to have inexpensive lights for everyone and every purpose. (www.intova.com)
A few months ago I read an excellent book on treasure hunter Mel Fisher's life and treasure operation. Now I saw them at DEMA. Attractive booth with plenty of gold that they claimed was real. They let me put a big chain around my neck and it sure was heavy enough. Interestingly, everyone at the booth displayed the kind of charming, easy demeanor I expected from them after having read the book. (www.melfisher.com)
Stopped by at Mares and admired, once again, their ultra-cool Icon HD color dive computer. One of the issues there had been availability of an air integrated version. That was supposed to be available about a year ago, but there were delays. It's now supposed to be out by April 2011. Apparently, there were some wireless technology licensing issues and so Mares decided to set out to develop their own, adding two-way communication in the process (they showed me a prototype of the sending unit). The resolution of the display is wonderful. On the demo, they used it to show off wreck maps.
At Atomic Aquatics, the Cobalt dive computer with its stunningly brilliant color OLED display also shows the way of things to come. The battery is said to last 50-60 hours, alleviating one of the main concerns about next generation color displays in dive computers. Now if they only offered air integration and a wristmount version. (www.atomicaquatics.com)
DAN, the Divers Alert Network, had the usual large display showcasing all their various safety and life saving gear. They are an essential part of scuba today. More and more we find that dive operation require DAN insurance, or you can't dive. I hope I'll never need their services, but it's good to know that they are there, and I truly have never heard a bad word about DAN and their work. (www.diversalertnetwork.org)
Right next to them was NAUI Worldwide, still one of the world's largest and most respected non-profit diver training organization in the world. They had a nice booth, but I wish they'd take a higher profile. Carol is a NAUI instructor and diehard NAUI fan, I've had my advanced open water training through NAUI, and NAUI does seem more thorough and more technical. But these days PADI seems to walk all over them, even at DEMA. They even had a giant sign outside on the wall of facade of the convention center. (www.naui.org)
Our old friend Frances was there, the manager of the Best Western in Crystal River, Florida. What would the manager of a Best Western do at a dive show? Well, she was here because her hotel caters to divers like few others. And a good part of her business is divers. There should be more like that. The Best Western there also has a dive shop and is withing walking distance of several manatee encounter tours. (www.crystalriverresort.com)
We spent a lot of time at Ocean Reef, the folks who specialize on full face masks and integrated communication systems. I've been fascinated with full face masks for a while now, had a chance to try one, and just can't wait to see how it all works on a real dive. The ability to talk with your dive buddy underwater is invaluable, and I got a taste of it all when I recently watched BBC's "Oceans" where all the divers always wore full face masks with radios. Ocean Reef full face masks now come in many different colors, and there are many models. Neptune Space is their recreational model and runs about US$599 including regulator. Comms add about US$499, with a 100 foot range.
Also offering full face masks is Ocean Technology Systems. Their Guardian Full Face Mask with a variety of available communication systems is truly amazing. (www.otscomm.com)
For the past few years I have been wearing a scuba do-rag. It keeps my hair from getting tangled up in my mask, and my dive buddy always knows wherever I am. It started one year at CoCoView on Roatan when first one guest, then another, then almost everyone was wearimg a do-rag, clearing the stock of the resident dive shop. So the very colorful ScubaDoRag display certainly caught my eyes. Their latest designs are more eye-catching than ever, and they now also have colorful socks and hoods. (www.scubadorag.com)
There was an almost endless number of booths from resorts and liveaboards from across the world, including the most exotic locations. My only regret is that there were so many that it was utterly impossible to get to meet and know them all. Which is a real shame as many representatives traveled wide and far and gad stories to tell. As is, al, we could do is pick up brochures and DVDs, talk for a bit with a few and hope we, and you, might get to see and dive some of those marvelous places.
Best idea of the show clearly goes to Scuba Stik for its Vindicator valve handle. The Vindicator addresses the problem of divers, boat crew and dive masters never knowing if the air is on. The Vindicator is a brilliant, patent pending replacement tank valve handle that mechanically shows if the air is on! It shows green when the air is on, and red when it is off. The Vindicator is inexpensive and available for many tanks. Invented by a rescue diver, it's really just a couple of pieces of plastic, ingeniously put together. But it can, and will, save lives. Very highly recommended. (www.scubastik.com)
Liquid Image was there, showing all of their masks and related other products. Liquid Image got on the map a few years ago with a snorkel mask that had a built-in camera, and that evolved into a whole lineup of scuba masks with HD video (see our full review). They now also make swim goggles and video masks for skiing and such as well, and they have been lights that attach to the masks (we have been using the setup with lights extensively in wreck diving). (www.liquidimageco.com)
Pelican had an eye-catching display with a bunch of their gear in a water tank. They make cases for just about anything, including lights, computers, cameras, etc. The company has such a good reputation that a "Pelican case" has almost become a synonym for a rugged waterproof case. And they are not a one-trick pony, having a vast lineup of cases for just about everything. Then there's their "forever" replacement guarantee. (www.pelican-case.com)
Report by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer; photography by Carol