One of the high points of our year is The DEMA Show, where we meander among booths and revel in shiny new gear. This year we noticed exciting trends in drysuits, fins, BCs and LED lights. In the gallery above you'll see the models that particularly caught our eye. We can't wait to take them into the water for some test dives.
Fins - Say Bye-bye to Splits?
Split fins appeared on the diving scene some 15 years ago. ScubaLab tested its first split in 1999 — the Apollo Bio-Fin — and it was an instant hit. In no time at all, more split fins were being brought to market than paddle fins, because when it came to kicking performance, most traditional paddle fins simply couldn’t keep up. Paddle-fin makers just hated hearing ScubaLab report this, so they put their R&D departments into high gear and emerged with some innovative fin designs now referred to as “modified” paddles. These fins were fast and responsive, and didn’t trash leg muscles — and divers ate them up. By the late 2000s, more modified paddle fins were coming onto the market than splits (this was also due in part to the complex licensing requirements that have dogged split fins from the start, plus caused them to be pricey). Fast-forward to 2013: Based on what we saw at DEMA, for the first time in more than a decade, not a single new or redesigned split fin is slated to be released this year. Not a one. While a number of high-performance split fins continue to maintain a firm grasp on the fin market (Apollo’s Bio-Fin Pro, Atomic Aquatics’ Split Fin and SCUBAPRO’s Twin Jet are three of the best), modified paddles are definitely in ascendance.
BCs - The Trend Toward Rec/Tec
Virtually everyone who has successfully made the transition from floundering beginner to seasoned recreational diver will at some point get the urge to take the adventure just a little bit further. This might mean jumping with both feet into technical diving; more likely, it will mean preparing yourself, when the opportunity arises, to maybe go a little deeper, stay a little longer, or carry more equipment. Let’s call it rec/tec diving — an experience more aggressive than typical recreational diving, but not as specialized or complex as full-on technical diving. Rec/tec divers are growing in number as they log more bottom time and start looking for new ways to keep their diving fresh, whether it be through photography, wreck penetration, or greater depths. Gear manufacturers are responding by building equipment better suited to a heavy-rec/light-tec style of diving — especially BCs. While simple and comfortable enough for recreational diving, rec/tec BCs are much more rugged than standard BCs, they provide lots of buoyant lift, and they offer large ballast pouches and cargo pockets, and heavy-duty D-rings — all good to have when it comes time to take it to the next level.
Drysuits - Can you say Bulletproof?
Experienced divers spend a lot of time in the water, shelling out big dollars for their gear, so they expect a lot from it. This is especially true when it comes to drysuits. After dropping from $1,500 to often more than $3,000 on a quality fabric suit, you want to know it will stand up to aggressive use —and, yeah, even abuse — dive after dive, well into the future. If what we saw on display at DEMA is any indication, drysuit manufacturers are definitely listening. Heavy-duty materials designed to withstand virtually anything short of a nuclear explosion are all the rage this year. And we’re not talking about simply laying on more Kevlar; on the contrary, the mission is to use materials that can withstand lacerations, abrasions and punctures better than anything currently on the market, while still being lightweight and stretchable. This seems like a daunting task, but a number of drysuit manufacturers have come up with some truly amazing high-tech materials: strong yet lightweight, flexible yet resistant to chemicals, all packed with convenience features and designed for easy maintenance.
LED Lights - Powerful, Versatile, Dependable
Multitasking — it’s the way of the modern world. And now it seems to have invaded the underwater world. A dive light is no longer necessarily just a dive light. The push today is to be multipurpose, and some of the models being released in 2013 have this in spades. Powerful enough to be used as a primary light for night diving, compact enough to be stowed in a BC pocket to be used as a backup light, with beams well suited for photographic applications — and an additional trick or two up the proverbial sleeve — you won’t find better examples of tomorrow’s dive lights today.