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Joe Cocozza at DEMA: Day 1

Joe Cocozza reports live from DEMA 2014 to find out what's new in the dive industry

The day started at 5:00 AM – 2 degrees Celsius in NYC. After taking the subway to the airport for an early morning flight to Las Vegas, where we arrived midday, we raced to the convention centre for day one of DEMA Show 2014.

DEMA, the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, is an international organisation dedicated to the promotion and growth of the recreational scuba diving and snorkelling industry. It’s the place where scuba manufacturers, dive resorts and tour operators, training agencies, instructors, underwater photographers and other professionals come to meet. DEMA is the once-a-year go-to event to see what's new on the dive kit market, attend training seminars, scope out travel sites, network with colleagues and spot the latest trends in the diving world.

My first DEMA was back in 1998, but I still feel a tinge of excitement when I walk through the main entrance. The familiar logos and banners of the scuba industry flying high like masses of medical armies. What new scuba stuff am I going to see this year?

My strategy day one at DEMA is to set up interviews for the rest of the show. It involves a lot of handshaking and saying Hi to old friends.

One of the biggest booths, located right at the main entrance, is PADI. As I walk in, the first person I see is my old cave dive buddy Karl Sheerves, the Senior Training Director at PADI. I asked him what was new at PADI. He told me about PADI’s new ReActivate programme which was designed for divers who, for whatever reason, haven't dived for a number of years. The ReActivate programme helps them to get back into diving without starting from scratch, using smart tablet technology and prescriptive teaching. The ReActivating students quickly re-learn the theoretic basics that they forgot and an instructor will review and evaluate their practical skills to help get them back into diving as soon as possible. As a PADI instructor, I myself have done this informally for returning dive students but this new PADI programme will make my job a lot easier.

One thing I did want to cover on day one was 'Diving Kit for Women'. As the father of a 20-something female diver I often get comments about the problems dive kit holds for women. The two most common complaints I have heard from my daughter and female students are about BCs and exposure protection.

I sat down with Susan Long, CEO of DUI. Talking about drysuits made exclusively for women she said, 'So you know, DUI was the first company ever to make drysuits for women and we have more styles for women than any other manufacturer.' This is a tread that is good for the sport. Making dive gear pink does not make women's gear fit or function better! Also 'unisex' doesn't do the job either, does it? Women seem to come in a wider range of shapes and sizes. Smaller feet and shoulders and wider hip measurements while at the same time their upper torso is not too big in the shoulders and small in the chest. By manufacturing the various components individually DUI is able to custom fit by matching component parts of the suit.

The standard DUI suits has multiple options for customisation: The materials range from trilam shell to crushed neoprene, and components are available for everything from deep-water wreck diving to long penetration cave diving. Susan also showed me the beta version of a new online tool that will enable divers (both men and women) to design their custom suit online.

My next stop was the Oceanic Booth and spoke with marketing director Doug Krauss about BCs for women. The Oceanic Hera BC was designed specifically for women. The unit was built around a hybrid air cell and a patented Custom Fit Harness that allows you to vary the shoulder strap length to match a woman's torso. A two-position sternum strap and adjustable depth-compensating cummerbund cinches the BC down snug, fine-tuning the fit. The bottom edge of the air cell is cut with indents for a woman’s hips and the back padding is thick and extends around the front to cushion the torso from the weight pouches. It also has narrow shoulder straps, narrow cummerbund, right-sized buckles, inflator buttons good for smaller hands.

I also spoke with Julie Andersen who is the global marketing director for SCUBAPRO. Scubapro has also developed a BC for women with many of the same features. It was designed with a 3D air cell with baffles that contours to a woman's centre of gravity, relieving back stress and providing a BC that helps the female diver to have better underwater trim. The back area was re-designed, keeping in mind a woman's wider hips so the BC does not interfere with fin-kicking.

In the next couple of days I will be meeting with The National Marine Sanctuaries to discuss marine parks and conservation, find out what is new in scuba kit with Hollis, Oceanic and DiveRite and will be talking diving in the Galapagos, the Azores, The Caymans and CCR diving in Grenada. I am also very excited to talk to CEO of Light & Motion about some amazing underwater torches and a new way of seeing underwater called 'Fluoro Diving'. 

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